Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

So, it is Christmas Day afternoon, and you are sitting there looking at the insane mountain of paper that you have just torn off the presents.  Did you know that in most places they don’t consider this paper recyclable?  Especially if it is shiny, or glittery or (worst of all) metallic.  So I’m going to show you a cool way to up-cycle this pile of used paper into a family heirloom.  Yep, you read that right.  An heirloom that will go on the tree year after year in the form of a garland like this.

So, you ready?

First off you are going to want to pull off any bows or other things that are on the paper.  To/from’s of the sticker type can be left on as can any stickers or tape.  But bows, ribbons, stuff like that needs to go!  Next try to get the paper as flat as possible.  This may mean cutting taped segments that didn’t get neatly opened during the unwrapping.  (After I started making these, I used a knife to open all presents. Drove my parents MAD as present opening took hours!)

If the paper is particularly mashed or creased, you may want to iron it a bit.  Word to the wise, make sure that the steam feature is off before doing this (ask how I found out that one!) and use pretty low heat.  We’re just trying to get it reasonably flat, not cook it.

So, after you get the paper flat, you are going to cut it into 1 and 1/2 inch (1.5″) by 3 and 1/2 inch (3.5″) rectangles.  You will need to measure around on the paper to see how you can get the most rectangles out of it.  This is great for kids of a certain age as it helps with math skills!  Take your time and play with the various ways to tetris more pieces out of the piece of paper.  When you are done, it will look something like this.

Cut out the rectangles using a normal pair of scissors.  We’ve tried using a paper cutter in this house to expedite things along, but found that it didn’t really make things all that much faster since most of the pieces of paper that we were trying to cut up were much too big to fit into it.  I’ve used scissors since I was 12 making these.  If you have kids that could handle a pair of scissors and can cut reasonably straight, then this would be an excellent activity for them!

At the end of all of this cutting, you should have a pile of little rectangles of paper and some little scraps from the edges.  Discard the scraps. (At this point, they are usually so small that I just put them in the recycling bin, but I’m naughty that way!)

Now repeat this process with the entire mountain of paper.  Trust me, you want as many different types and colors of paper as possible to make your garland interesting.  I know that this seems very boring, but if you have children of a certain age (and the parents out there will know that age [for me it was about 10 to present]) this job will completely absorb the kids for hours.  Anyway, make lots of these rectangles out of as many different papers as possible.  If a paper is super thin (like some sort of lovechild between tissue paper and wrapping paper) don’t bother with it as it won’t work very well and will make a weak link in the chain.

Belle the cat wanted in on the action.


To start the chain, take a single rectangle.

Fold it in half lengthwise.

Then fold one of the edges to the middle lengthwise again.

Then the other edge the same so that it looks like this:

Take the now very narrow folded-up rectangle and fold it in half the other direction, like this:

Then take the tips and fold them towards the center like this:

You should end up with a very small rectangle that looks like this:

Do the whole folding bit again with another piece of paper, preferably in another type of paper for contrast.  Then you will slide the first piece of paper into the second one like this:

It is going to be between the outer part of the tiny rectangle and the inner bits.  A word to the wise, try to do it on the side of the rectangle that has only the 2 folds rather than the 4 folds, it will be a LOT easier!

When it is done it should look like this:


To make more, just keep adding to chain going towards the right, like this:

With lots and lots of folding and sliding, you’ll have a garland that can go on the tree for years to come!  And, you can keep adding to it year to year if you chose (I could see a family adding a foot or so each year and getting to see the changes in wrapping paper over the years as a cool family tradition!).

If you aren’t big into Christmas, this works with really any kind of wrapping paper, or paper in general.  You could easily use birthday paper, or if someone just finished a thesis you could used printed-out rough drafts or magazine pages if you just want something to hang in the kids playroom, the ideas are pretty endless!

One thought on ““Up-cycling” Used Wrapping Paper

  1. Freyalyn says:

    OOh,pretty. I shall have a go at this tomorrow

    Bright blessings

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