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Oh Manzies, Hannukah Is Coming, Now I Have To Wrap Eight Presents, Part 1: Taking Newspaper To Classy Places

Answering these questions:
What can I use to dye paper?
What can I use to make all-natural dyes?
How do I dye paper?
How can I make homemade wrapping paper?
How can I wrap gifts with newspaper and not endure as much mockery?
How can I make compostable wrapping paper?
Where can I find a good stamp store in New York?
What did Steven give Heather for her 24th birthday?

Besides the fact that I am literally the world's worst gift wrapper and typically end up just encircling parcels in entire rolls of tape, wrapping paper is also irksome because it's kind of one of the most egregious wastes of paper you see all year (besides unnecessary Kim Kardashian pictures the hooligans would print off of the school computers), and it costs money, and hey, it's always a recession to me. But some ball sack always has to bring it to you when you wrap your presents with newspaper. Well, you don't need to let their sass bring you down. Because you can appropriate bougie people ideas on your hoodrat budget, and when all is said and done, you can even do it such that you can recycle or even compost your results.

Okay, so newspapers are wonderful because either they are something with decent content and you learned something, or you got it for free on your way into the subway, or they are The Onion and yield the Brooklyn equivalent of the Victoria's Secret-catalog-as-porn-substitute in the form of American Apparel ads with trannies in tights. As long as it is something in actual newsprint (not the glossy kind that is used for magazines and flyers), newspapers use a soy-based ink, which renders them safe for composting, so you can shred your hoodrat wrapping paper, add it to the pile, and it will balance out some of the wetter "green" materials. If you're not familiar with composting or don't do it, hey, it's casual, you can obviously recycle it as well.

Having passed these environmental qualifications of being repurposed and being again repurposeable, newspaper itself, duh aficionado magazine, can never be as beautiful as the garish red and green Santa head glittery affairs. Or can it? If I've learned anything in life, it's that you can always make things as gaudy as you need them to be. Being classy is tougher, but this too can occasionally be accomplished. The first step with newspaper is dying or painting it so that it isn't the stark black and white affair as per usual. Even if the dye or paint isn't wholly opaque, it will blur the writing enough so that it's less of a distraction (and you can add additional embellishments over it later). Depending on what you use, this may make the paper unsuitable for composting, and it's worth being mindful of the chemicals contained in various commercial dyes and paints in terms of your health, but if you've got leftover paint from another project, even a tiny bit of wall paint (eco-friendly, dare to dream?) or whatever, you might as well use what you have on hand, since theoretically you're not going to be eating the paper or anything.

If you don't have stuff lying around, oh manzies, do you get to have some environmentally friendly fun. You can use tons of things to dye paper (and fabric, actually). Most people did a project in fifth grade where they antiqued paper using coffee or tea, but the party does not stop there. You can also use:

* Turmeric
* Onion skins
* Carrots
* Pomegranate
* Oak bark
* Juniper berries
* Acorns
* Beets
* Berries (strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and probably random poisonous berries as well)
* Red cabbage
* Grapes
* Crab apple
* Rose hips
* Hibiscus flowers
* Spinach
* Marigold blossoms
* Celery leaves
* Daffodil flower heads
* Paprika
* Grass
* The flower heads on cut flowers after they've died
* Cinnamon

If you just look through the tea and spices you have, there are probably others that work too. I'm inclined to think that you can also use a tea bag you've already used once for brewing tea, because if there is anything wonderful in this world, it is double tea bagging? Oh, heavens.

To make the dye, follow these instructions from a website:
"To make the dye solution: Chop plant material into small pieces and place in a pot. Double the amount of water to plant material. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Strain. Now you can add your fabric to be dyed. For a stronger shade, allow material to soak in the dye overnight."

You can also marble paper using shaving cream and food coloring, washable markers, and rust, apparently (you stick some steel wool in water?). Some people suggest using a bathtub, but that would probably stain, so I think you could use a big ass pot or one of those aluminum foil turkey pans or something. I think after it dries you're supposed to keep it pressed under books and towels if you want it to lie flat, if you like that kind of thing. (For better/more detailed advice, click here.)

With the dye mission accomplished, you could just wrap your presents with it as is, and still be Real Fancy compared to newspaper in its natural state. But, if you want to kick it even fancier, and you've got a stash of Lisa Franks just languishing, you can stamp the shit out of it. This doesn't necessarily have to involve fuchsia unicorns or panda bears- you can go the Martha Stewart route, or even better, there is a stamp store Amalia took me to that is full of wonderful things. It's called Casey Rubber Stamps, and it's on 11th st between first and second, and no, it is not housed inside of rififi. The images come from all kinds of different sources- I have a stamp that is a nineteenth century rendering of what the artist thought a microbe looked like, and it is terrifying looking, which means it's the best. With the more neutral colors involved with using natural dyes, I like the idea of gold metallic ink.

Now we're getting into dare to dream territory. Since I'm notoriously sloppy, I'm nervous about the prospect of assembling a gift without an excess of tape, but technically the classy way is to use ribbon, and not just the cheap shreddy kind, right, but like actual ribbon? Although real ribbon is more expensive, it's reusable without looking tacky, both for wrapping and for any number of jewelry-type applications. You could get crazy adding embellishments to the ribbon, like an actual feather from Diana Ross' weave*, or vintage buttons, or boobie tassles like on the Martha website, or whatever.


Views: 77

Comment by georgia schweyer on December 3, 2009 at 6:25am
You have alot of knowledge going on, alot to give, alot to share and teach, wish I could appriciate it. But... it's just the way you share it on this site. It could... make me think ? and I am sure, alot of other people think ? that we are suppose to be stupid -ucking idiots ! Oh...excuse my French~Chinese, oops... Why am I appologizing, your'e probably eating this up ?
But who knows, maybe you'll ad this to your sophisticated, vulgar, Heather needs attention, vocabulary in your next representation of your new upcoming BLOG ! I am curious and do not look forward to your next XXX~ yahda~yahda.
Cut the crap girl, humble yourself and talk clean english......... You did'nt impress me, yeee-uck !
Comment by Cornelia on December 3, 2009 at 2:57pm
Yikes! That was a little harsh Georgia...what's up? Isn't there room enough for everyone who has something to say here?
Comment by Heather Flansworth on December 4, 2009 at 2:00am
Georgia, it seems there must be something in my writing that offended you, and I'm not entirely clear on what that was, but I apologize if I said something inadvertently hurtful. Having done a reasonable amount of specialization in language and sociology issues, I'd like to think that my use of various registers and colloquialisms is generally tongue in cheek but not discriminatory, and so if I crossed a line and appeared to comment unflatteringly on any group I am genuinely sorry.

The generally valley girl tone of my writing isn't meant to insult anyone in this community. It's just a dialect that I haven't outgrown yet when I'm not doing formal speaking or writing. Actually, it's a misconception that there is such a thing as a "clean," correct, "standard" version of a language. Languages are continually evolving, even in terms of what grammarians consider to be correct, and moreover, a "standard" language is just a dialect that has been privileged by the group in power. When I am doing formal work, I use "standard" English, but in other situations, I like using less elevated and more "authentic" (itself perhaps a problematic term) language, especially when I'm cognizant of the fact that I am not an expert in the area I am speaking about, and am approaching it as an awkward novice (like environmental issues). Perhaps the inherent self-deprecation didn't come through like I thought it did?

Finally, the truth is that in terms of what people will actually read, it is work with vulgarities and the like in it. Drier tomes in standard English about environmental issues will only be read by the people who already are committed to the cause. If you've ever been accused of "snobbery" and "elitism" when discussing local or organic foods with someone, you can probably see where I'm coming from. I try to write such that people who have grown up loving McDonald's and haven't been exposed to alternatives don't feel condescended to, because that's what puts a lot of them off to the myriad food justice issues out there. If I come across as prideful in my writing, that's curious, because I write from a place of supreme awkwardness, but you must have gotten that impression from something, and you should know that that wasn't my intention.


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