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DIY: A Trio of Gift Wrapping Master Classes from the Doyenne of Presentation

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DIY: A Trio of Gift Wrapping Master Classes from the Doyenne of Presentation

December 19, 2018

Claudia Schwartz, the proprietress of Bell’occhio, a whimsical boutique on a tiny lane off Market Street in San Francisco, is a bona fide expert on the presentation of the gift. She teaches gift-wrapping classes several times a year ($125 for a three-hour class, sparkling wine and worldly treats included), and in the back room of her shop come mid-December, baskets full of gifts are stacked high, all awaiting Claudia’s touch before decamping by post (often to the famous and the fabulous).

She comes by the skill honestly: As a child, her father taught her to make boxes by hand, “sometimes in beautiful shapes and always designed for the gift inside.” She combined her early education with a lifelong passion for commerce and founded Bell’occhio more than two decades ago—and has been teaching San Franciscans the art of the gift ever since.

Today, Claudia shares three favorite wrapping techniques with us. Join us for a lesson:

Photography by Leslie Santarina for Remodelista.

Festive Wine Bottle Wrapping

A whimsical presentation for a wine bottle wrapped in tissue paper and topped with a French striped taffeta ribbon, English toy-print paper, and a hand-calligraphed Joyeux Noël card by the shop&#8
Above: A whimsical presentation for a wine bottle wrapped in tissue paper and topped with a French striped taffeta ribbon, English toy-print paper, and a hand-calligraphed Joyeux Noël card by the shop’s resident scribe Wendy Cook.

“If you wrap something in tissue paper with no flourishes, it can look depressing and cheap,” says Claudia. “This way looks jaunty and lovely.”

Materials:

A note on scissors: Many of Claudia’s wrapping techniques rely on Fringe Benefits scissors ($22), made in France of stainless steel. As with all things Claudia, there’s a story here: On a trip to France years ago, Claudia found some vintage French candy wrappers with fringed edges and bought up the lot. To re-create the finish back home, she used an electric paper shredder for years (the consistency of the fringe “depended on your reflexes,” she said). But after the shredder died, a friend gave her a pair of fringing scissors, and Schwartz realized they were the ideal tool for gift wrapping.

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Step 1: Fold the edge of a pile of tissue paper so it extends beyond the top of your bottle by a few inches.
 Step
Step 2: Use the fringing scissors to cut the top edge of the paper pile into an approximately 2-inch fringe.
 Step 3: Cut the decorative paper into a strip about 7 to 8 inches wide and long enough to wrap around the circumference of the bottle. (Bottles vary in shape and size, so gauge accordingly.) Then, cut the top edge in a scallop shape.
Step 3: Cut the decorative paper into a strip about 7 to 8 inches wide and long enough to wrap around the circumference of the bottle. (Bottles vary in shape and size, so gauge accordingly.) Then, cut the top edge in a scallop shape.

You can cut the scallop a few ways: Try it freehand, or do a quick online search for a scallop template and print it out and cut along. If you visit Claudia at her shop in San Francisco, ask for a free scallop template when you purchase decorative papers. Last, you can contact Claudia (the store’s email address is on the shop website) and she’ll be happy to oblige by sending you a template by email.

 Step 4: Wrap the tissue paper around the bottle, leaving the glass bottom exposed. Fold back the free edge and secure with tape or glue (see note below). Next, wrap the scalloped jacket around the bottle, fold back the free edge, and again secure with tape or glue.
Step 4: Wrap the tissue paper around the bottle, leaving the glass bottom exposed. Fold back the free edge and secure with tape or glue (see note below). Next, wrap the scalloped jacket around the bottle, fold back the free edge, and again secure with tape or glue.

Claudia uses a clear sticker (like these) to hold the tissue and scalloped jacket in place. When making her own wrappings, she applies craft glue (like this one) with a brush.

 Step 5: Firmly bunch the tissue paper around the neck of the bottle, then fluff the fringe so it looks like a rosette on top.
Step 5: Firmly bunch the tissue paper around the neck of the bottle, then fluff the fringe so it looks like a rosette on top.
 Step 6: Tie a ribbon around the neck, then trim the ribbon ends à la Schwartz: fold the end of each bow tab in half, and cut a curve on the diagonal about an inch deep.
Step 6: Tie a ribbon around the neck, then trim the ribbon ends à la Schwartz: fold the end of each bow tab in half, and cut a curve on the diagonal about an inch deep.
Surprise! The packaging can be used again and again (just save it once you&#8
Above: Surprise! The packaging can be used again and again (just save it once you’ve removed it). “This is an easy way to be festive with a wine bottle and it’s something you can make in advance,” says Claudia.

Jovial Fringed Ends

Like Santa Claus wrapping paper, but exponentially more sophisticated. In her finished product, Claudia tucked a bouquet of vintage miniature apples from Germany (similar to these Mushrooms; 50 cents each) into a bow of green Cotton Sateen Ribbons; $4 a yard.
Above: Like Santa Claus wrapping paper, but exponentially more sophisticated. In her finished product, Claudia tucked a bouquet of vintage miniature apples from Germany (similar to these Mushrooms; 50 cents each) into a bow of green Cotton Sateen Ribbons; $4 a yard.
“What I like about this one is that it’s quick,” said Claudia. “It’s kind of a shame to lavish hours on something someone’s going to rip open. This wrapping is plush but not too precious.”

Materials: 

 Step loading=
Step 1: Fold (or cut) a pile of tissue paper to approximately fit your box, leaving ample width for open, fringed ends on each narrow side. Stack the papers by color. (If your tissue papers are different sizes, put the narrowest tissue paper on the outside of the pile.) Snip two edges of the tissue paper with the fringing scissors. (Cut the edges that will become the short ends of the gift.) Above, Claudia wraps a large box of Marrons Glacés candied chestnuts from France (“the best I’ve ever had,” she says; $36) in red and white tissue paper.
 Step
Step 2: Wrap the pile of tissue paper around the gift, just as you would an ordinary present. Fold back the free edge so the fold aligns with an edge of the gift. Secure with tape, glue, or a sticker if necessary (Claudia just crimps the paper along the edges of the box to hold it loosely in place before adding ribbon).
 Step 3: Wrap a single, long piece of ribbon around the gift, starting with the closed edges and ending with the fringed sides. Wrap the ribbon right over the fringed ends, securing the open ends with the ribbon.
Step 3: Wrap a single, long piece of ribbon around the gift, starting with the closed edges and ending with the fringed sides. Wrap the ribbon right over the fringed ends, securing the open ends with the ribbon.
 Step 4: After the bow is tied, trim the tabs on a curved diagonal (as illustrated in the wine bottle wrapping, above). Fluff the fringed edges to your liking. &#8
Step 4: After the bow is tied, trim the tabs on a curved diagonal (as illustrated in the wine bottle wrapping, above). Fluff the fringed edges to your liking. “There’s no right or wrong way to do this,” says Claudia; she lets spontaneity be her guide.

Two-Toned Bows

Claudia invented a clever use for the ribbon scraps lying around her store: She ties the ribbons together end-to-end to make two-toned bows.
Above: Claudia invented a clever use for the ribbon scraps lying around her store: She ties the ribbons together end-to-end to make two-toned bows.

Materials:

  • Two colors or types of ribbon, preferably the same width (we used Cotton Sateen Ribbons in rouge and vert vapeur; $4 per yard)
 Step loading=
Step 1: Cut two pieces of ribbon, each a different color, and each a little more than half of what you’d need to tie a complete ribbon around the box. Tie the ribbons together at one end with a simple knot.
 Step
Step 2: Rest the knot somewhere intentional on the gift—it will function as a small “bow.” Then, tie the ribbon as you would any other.
 Step 3: Claudia wrapped the ribbon off-center and tied the loose ends into a large bow. Trim the tabs of both bows on a curved diagonal (as illustrated in the wine bottle wrapping, above).
Step 3: Claudia wrapped the ribbon off-center and tied the loose ends into a large bow. Trim the tabs of both bows on a curved diagonal (as illustrated in the wine bottle wrapping, above).

More Ideas

Claudia with a pile of freshly wrapped gifts, plus some classroom examples and items packaged just for the shop.
Above: Claudia with a pile of freshly wrapped gifts, plus some classroom examples and items packaged just for the shop.

Among the Claudia-wrapped treats shown here: Crystallized Flowers in pastel cones (they arrive from France in plastic bags, says Claudia: “not very poetic”), Sauternes-Soaked Raisins in red, and, in green tissue, Handmade Caramels by Little Apple Treats (a friend of Remodelista and past vendor at our holiday markets).

For more holiday decor ideas, see:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on December 18, 2017.

Product summary  

Christmas Decorations & Ornaments

Lacquered Tree

$6.00 USD from Bell'occhio

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