Held in December at New York City's Rockefeller Center, the competition pits eight amateur and professional gift wrappers against three oddly shaped items. This year's challenge included in-line skates, a charcoal grill and an all-terrain vehicle. Compared to those gifts, that football you bought your nephew is easy!
Three experts in gift-wrapping judged the contest, assessing the wrappers' creativity, technique and speed. Mariangela Petrone of the Bronx, NY, took home the $10,000 cash prize -- just in time for her 30th birthday.
After the tissue paper had cleared, contestants shared their wrapping suggestions with Holidash. Ready, set, wrap!
1. Measure your wrapping around the gift itself.
Second-place winner Susan Jakub, from Hingham, MA, tells Holidash, "I'm very big on putting the item on the paper and then gauging from there. It's shifting from the world of 2-D to the world of 3-D." While it takes a few extra minutes, it can save you from patching or redoing your wrapping.
Also, hold up your ribbon and loop it in a rough approximation of the bow before you cut. "It's important to plan," says Jakub. "There's a temptation to grab your scissors, grab your tape, go! But you wind up with something that's not as attractive as it could have been.... If you don't think first, you're going to be revising second."
2. Frame a gift card.
How do you make a gift card or certificate feel more personal? Contestant Will Shuler of Brooklyn, NY, suggests putting it in a picture frame. Not only is the presentation unexpected, but the frame itself is an extra gift.
3. Swap hot pink for the traditional red and green.
Several wrappers like to switch up the standard red and green Christmas color pairing. Slide up the color spectrum and go bright with fuchsia and lime green. For a softer look, try burgundy or eggplant purple with deep forest green. For an all-purpose paper, Jakub recommends a bright plaid pattern, since it works for both men's or women's gifts.
4. Create a new shape around an odd-shaped gift.
Champion Petrone used this technique on the competition's in-line skates. Rather than trying to work with the skates' curves, she folded together large paper triangles to enclose the skates, filling the shape with tissue paper. "I like to keep things neat and clean so I make a shape around [an odd-shaped item] or make a box around it," reveals Petrone. "If you go to touch it, it feels full. [Tissue paper] really helps keep the form of whatever you're doing." With this approach, it's also easier to keep the gift a surprise.
5. Find wrapping in your magazine or newspaper rack.
Pages from glossy magazines make great paper for small gifts. Look for pictures of exotic locations in travel magazines, colorful fashion spreads or striking ads in any publication with good-quality paper. Alternately, shred the magazine and use it as multicolored stuffing for a gift box.
Even newspaper can make a fun wrapping. Don't just grab the first section at hand, though! Jacob Dodson, a contestant from Austin, TX, emphasizes, "If you're wrapping it in newspaper, use the comics page, not the obituaries page." As a bonus: such repurposing is budget- and eco-friendly.
6. Use heavier paper for heavier gifts.
If your present is heavy or has several sharp angles, use thicker paper so that the wrapping doesn't tear. Some handmade papers are quite sturdy but you could also consider fabric or other untraditional materials. Contestant Sylvia Houston from Houston, TX, says, "I love to wrap with wallpaper. When you wrap a really tough present like the in-line skates, you need paper that won't go rrrrrip when you tie the bow!"
7. Go wide with ribbon.
For strong visual impact, use wide ribbon even on smaller boxes. "Wire ribbon is great for people who aren't used to making bows," notes Petrone, "but I like satin ribbon. I use a 1½- or 2-inch ribbon or larger. That will help you loop." A generous bow makes otherwise basic wrapping look luxurious... and it could also hide flawed paper or other goof.
8. Step outdoors for inspiration.
Judge Wanda Wen, co-owner of Soolip Paperie in Los Angeles, CA, and author of "The Art of Gift Wrapping," sees a trend of turning natural objects into memorable gift wrap. "People are turning more towards nature and being ecologically conscious about their use of materials," she tells Holidash. "I do see a lot of people stepping outside, being inspired by nature... [like] picking up twigs and wrapping them with twine and using them as a gift topper." Feathers, leaves and seedpods can all be transformed into beautiful embellishments.
9. Personalize with a gift topper.
Even the simplest craft paper wrapping will look thoughtful with a small, meaningful gift topper. Houston looks for little mementoes that remind her of each recipient's tastes or experiences they've shared. "That way there's already a smile before they even open the gift and it's a reminder of our connection," she explains. She recommends keeping your eyes open at museum gift shops and garage sales throughout the year. A bookmark, vintage button or other trinket might be just the thing that makes your gift wrapping special.
10. Don't skip the gift tag.
During the contest, wrappers had to include gift tags on their presents -- and they say that for usual holiday wrapping, these labels are just as important. "Instead of just saying 'to, from,' maybe write a little poem," says Petrone. "If you're not into writing, look it up! Quote someone; there's always someone who said it better. Write the quote and add 'love, Santa.'"
Now that you're revved up for wrapping, read on for how to keep the magic of Christmas alive!