Saturday, November 21, 2009

Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Tags

Yesterday I discussed alternative ideas to buying holiday gift wrap and ribbon. Today I'm continuing the topic, but this post is all about gift tags. We need gift tags, otherwise your Uncle Bernie can end up opening the lingerie intended for Sister Sue!

What we don't need is to buy gift tags. Using little bits of this 'n' that, you can make beautiful, unique gift tags for almost nothing.

And yes, you could use those adhesive tags you get in the mail from charities. The tags are cute but not very personal. They're also not at all creative on your part. With a little bit of scavenging and planning, you can do far better than this:

First, start collecting paper.

I'm talking leftover bits of gift wrap, clean cardboard, greeting cards, that sort of thing. I found a gold mine at my local independent art store. In the back of the store is the big guillotine of a paper cutter they use to cut customer's orders. Next to the paper cutter, I discovered a treasure trove of beautiful, quality paper. It was all the bits left over after employees cut paper to measure for clients. One polite question later, and I was happily digging through the most beautiful card stock, tag board, and corrugated papers, in a rainbow of colors!

Here's just a small sample of my haul:

The colors boggle the eyes!

Art stores, stationery stores, and office-supply stores all produce paper scrap like this. If you ask, they may be happy to let you riffle through their clean-paper trashcan.

But if you can't find a place that produces paper scrap, look for beautiful boxes and bags at your local mall. This gorgeous, sturdy card stock came from a popular retailer:

Oh, the color! The shine! The possibilities are endless.

This lovely bag, below, came from a local Asian gift shop. Usually I use my own cloth bags when I shop, but when the store is putting my purchases in paper bags this beautiful--and for free!--I take the bag:

This delicate, two-tone scrollwork, below, was on the front page of an annual report. The top part of the brochure is covered with type, but look how pretty this bottom part is:

Sometimes you'll find beautiful paper in the most unexpected places. My cold-weather long johns came in packaging colored a gorgeous grey-blue:

And nothing beats corrugated cardboard for textural interest. This one is a finer corrugate than the usual stuff that boxes are made of. It's perfect for gift-tag projects:

And starting this season, please save all the pretty greeting cards and invites you receive. They are the start of some terrific gift cards for next year:

Okay, here's one thing I bought. But what a deal it was! Several years ago I found this nifty box at Michael's, a craft-store chain. The plastic box is packed with a rainbow of small cards, about an inch and a half square. I've used them for many gift tags, school posters, and other craft projects over the years:

And the edges are decoratively cut in different patterns, for extra visual appeal:

Any good art store carries beautiful, handmade papers for sale. These are pricey, maybe $5 per sheet and up. But if you use the paper sparingly for small things like gift cards or small gifts, one sheet will last you a long time:

So, let's get started!

Gather your tools together. Here I have a cutting mat, a straight edge, an X-Acto knife and fresh blades, a hole punch, rubber cement, scissors, reinforcement circles, and some plain white labels:

Use an X-Acto knife, straight edge, and cutting mat to create perfectly straight-sided squares and rectangles. If you don't have these tools, a good pair of scissors and a steady hand will do just fine.

To begin, cut up a bunch of squares and rectangles to create the "base" of your cards. Use a fairly stiff card stock so the tags won't crumple or wrinkle.

Next, use a punch to create the hole in the card, before you start decorating. That way you can plan your design around the hole:

NOTE: If you have children, they can make these gift tags, too. Just pre-cut the card stock and pre-punch the holes, so they aren't using dangerous X-Acto knives or getting frustrated if they don't have the hand strength to use the hole punch.

Now, cut out little bits of this and that, and just start gluing! Here's an evergreen made out of a bit of aluminum foil, accented with a bit of silver star twistie stuff. The star stuff is pricey, but you only need five or six inches to make a tie that will fasten the card to any package you want:

By the way, all the cards I'm showing you are blank on the back side, so you can write your "To" and "From" sentiments there.

Egad! The orangey Thumb of Death has showed up again. But I love the card, which is just nine reinforcement circles in a grid. On the blue card, they remind me of snowballs or a modern take on snowflakes. I added a pale ribbon to keep in the same color family, which makes the gift tag look more modern, too:

Here's a little bit of that expensive, hand-made Japanese paper, which I've torn on two sides and cut on the other two, with a bit of coordinating cord to form the tie:

For this card, I cut out a bit of the Christmas invitation you saw above, and glued it to a card stock with a pearly sheen. Instead of the expected red or green ribbon, I used a bit of sage green satin:

If you have stickers, or if you have kids (who invariably have stickers!), you can create some fun and easy gift cards in a snap. Here, I glued a skinny green ribbon down the length of one of those little pre-cut cards from Michael's. Then I just pressed the menorah sticker on top of it all:

I love this idea, below: Cut out a series of triangle shapes in one color (here I'm using green) and arrange them on a piece of card stock, gluing them down just at the fat part of the triangle. Overlap them, and you get a stylized evergreen forest. Not gluing the tops down gives the "forest" a slightly 3-D look. I paired a quiet, light-green ribbon with the card, but a bright green or dark green would be beautiful, too.

So, put on some holiday music. Gather all your materials around you. Pour yourself a cup of something soothing to drink. In 30 minutes, you can turn out a flurry of beautiful, unique, and festive gift tags for all your gifts.

If you work for 30 minutes more, you can turn out enough of these tags to give as a gift to somebody else!



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