Beautiful gift-wrapping the eco way with Arona Khan

Don't spend a fortune on gift-wrap. Gift-wrapping expert Arona Khan says we can all learn to wrap beautifully using paper off-cuts and bits-n-bobs we have lying around

Seashells for gift decoration

Arona Khan is pre-eminent in the world of gift-wrapping.. and she's very eco-conscious, preferring to re-use materials that come to us all..such as cardboard, paper, fabric, cellophane and odds and ends such as buttons and shells. Waste not, create more is her mantra.

We're urged to avoid becoming hoarders on the grounds that madness lies that way. But the good thing about not throwing out all the stuff that wraps the stuff we buy or receive is that IF we're organized, one plastic carrier bag should be enough to store over the year the off-cuts we'll need when we commit to saving money by becoming an eco-gift wrapper.

And once you get the eco-wrapping bug, you'll snort with derision at the idea of anyone paying £2 for a single sheet of Father Christmas paper.

Which isn't to say that eco-gift wrapping is an excuse for rolling up presents in a sheet of newspaper, oh no. Quite the opposite, says Arona Khan, Britain's doyenne of gift presentation, because with a little time and care, we can make our offerings look as tempting as anything that comes out of Harrods' gift-wrapping department. 


Cheat pleat wrap
Off cuts of paper can be used to stylish effects
Thin sheets of felt wool can be used for gift wrapping..make it festive with some eco glitter

The importance of gift-wrapping shouldn't be underestimated. From early on in childhood, we find the wrapped gift an object of intrigue that evokes contradictory desires to both keep it wrapped and tear it open. As adults, the more beautifully-wrapped something is, the higher our expectations of what lies inside. So the wrapping needs, to some degree, to reflect the item being wrapped if we're not to see a beaming smile become a downturned mouth as the object emerges into view.

Arona Khan, who is based in Brighton, runs gift-wrapping courses and works with businesses that use wrapping as a marketing tool, such as chocolatiers, jewellers, and purveyors of expensive lingerie. She's very aware of the emotions evoked by a beautifully-wrapped parcel and of the need to match the gift to the wrap, so to speak.

Which is where her eco-wrapping comes into play, because in these straitened times, we're more likely to be giving small, inexpensive gifts which when presented with a bit of care, become touchingly charming.

'We're all delighted to receive a jar of  chutney from a good deli, or home-made jams and biscuits. And if the person giving them to us has taken a bit of time to wrap, or dress them so they look pretty and it's not immediately obvious what they are, then our pleasure at receiving is all the greater,' says Khan, whose infectious enthusiasm for her work would enrol even those of us who think we're congenitally incapable of doing anything creative.

A jar of chutney becomes a charming gift decorated with a little moss
Cummerbunds for bottles
The run up to Christmas is the perfect time to perfect our eco wrapping skills
Brown paper packages tied up with string and decorated with stencil motifs
Cellophane wrap tied with a seaweed bow makes this hamper look delightful

'It's a mindset,' says Khan. 'You have to start looking at things and thinking how they can be recycled. Keeping wrapping paper makes sense because you can mix and match the different colours to create striking effects or overcome a shortfall of paper with my 'cheat pleat', which looks amazing and is so easy to do. Buttons that fall off cardigans are perfect for decorating gifts and greetings cards. And don't throw away ribbons, twine or cellophane that wrap up bouquets, because they are made for re-using,' says Khan.

She says she is fascinated by the psychological aspect of wrapping. 'Beautiful wrapping enhances the transaction for both the person giving the present and the person receiving it. We feel cared for when we're given a lovely parcel, whereas we all notice a present that has been sloppily wrapped and we don't get that exquisite sense of anticipation about what's in it.'

People who can't get to one of Khan's wrapping courses can watch short pay-for-view videos on her website or DVDs that take you through step-by-step how to achieve a certain effect, such as the cheat pleat, or how to wrap in a pouch - one of her favourite wrapping techniques. 

'Truly, anyone can learn to become better at wrapping, and once you start, you'll get the creativity bug. Dried flowers, seashells, seaweed, twine, leaves..all these things are perfect for decorating. You can wrap a gift in brown paper, but bring it to life by sticking on some shells or tying dried seaweed around it and finishing it in a bow. Don't be frightened of doing the unusual.

'And children will love to help with wrapping. When you're out for a walk, encourage them to collect pine cones, leaves, holly berries, then when you've got a cold, wet weekend ahead, get them to start wrapping up Christmas gifts using the bits and pieces they've gathered.'

Other handy hints from Khan include shredding tissue paper to line boxes, and putting a cummerbund around a wine bottle you're taking along to a supper party. 'It's hard to disguise a bottle. Instead simply cover up the label. I like to put a cummerbund around the middle of a bottle, using an off-cut of paper, recycled giftwrap or corrugated cardboard, tied with string, cord or ribbon. Simple but hugely effective in making the bottle look more like a gift.'