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:
* Onion skins
* Oak bark
* Juniper berries
* Berries (strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and probably random poisonous berries as well)
* Red cabbage
* Crab apple
* Rose hips
* Hibiscus flowers
* Marigold blossoms
* Celery leaves
* Daffodil flower heads
* The flower heads on cut flowers after they've died
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.