As a kid, I loved wrapping packages — I loved it so much that a highlight each year was volunteering during the winter holidays, along with my mother, to wrap packages for young Marines. The service was free and the appreciation they showed was genuine — apparently not everyone enjoyed the challenge of artfully arraying boxes of all shapes and sizes as much as I did.
Once I had my own family, I still enjoyed wrapping. But when my daughters were young, Christmas morning would come and, before I could shout “Read the card so you know who it’s from!”, the carefully chosen papers and bows were ripped asunder. And each year, a big, black trash bag, filled with smashed ribbons and wrapping, shows up in our holiday photos.
A similar scene plays out in millions of households each year. According to the Sierra Club, if every American family wrapped just three gifts in reusable wrapping, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. That statistic was the starting point for Ruby Star Wrapping, a book of re-useable wrapping projects co-authored by Allison Tannery and Melody Miller.
Melody is a designer known for the cheeky Ruby Star fabrics she designs for Japanese textile company Kokka. But she describes her writing style as less than reader-friendly. “It’s too Dwight Schrute, all formal and fussy,” she says. So she joined forces with her friend and communications guru Allison. “The projects are all Melody’s,” says Allison, graciously. “My one claim to fame is that I did spray paint some bottles. I’m proud of those bottles.”
The book intersperses Allison’s amiable stories with Melody’s how-tos for creating packages from vintage fabrics, cereal boxes, cast-off game boards, and Chinese take-out containers. The packages then serve a second life as plant holders, storage bins, purse pouches, and soft toys.
“Allison and I pass them back and forth — these same packages have been cycling through our homes for a couple of years, now,” says Melody.
Allison’s and Melody’s complementary skill set and sense of aesthetics was the starting point for Ruby Star Wrapping, but the project was actually a two-family affair. Melody’s husband Gregory Miller shot all the book’s photos, while Allison’s husband, Blake Tannery, served as the art director. The foursome spent numerous long weekends passing the manuscript and layouts back and forth.
“Between us we have six kids and two dogs and we’d get together, often at our house,” says Allison. “We hunkered down over the proposal, then over the photos and layouts. We’d have the sewing machine going, and we ate loads of take-out.”
The resulting volume includes anecdotes and quotes layered over artfully photographed vintage objects. Along with its emphasis on sustainability, beauty and the pleasures of gift giving remain at the forefront.
The book reminds us there is pleasure to be had in melding creativity with making a difference. Last year I stitched a few re-useable bags to hold Christmas gifts, and the satisfaction of choosing just the right fabric and ribbon ties reminded me of those packages I tied for Marines so many years ago. As Allison writes in the book’s introduction, “While so many problems around us feel depressingly insurmountable, this is something we can do. I will not single-handedly end world hunger, but by putting just a little more thought into how we wrap our gifts, we can help lessen the amount of waste we produce.” What a pleasure it would be to look back at my holiday photos and notice that for once, there’s not a big, black trash bag under my Christmas tree.
Ready to get crafty today? Check out this amazing altered book how-to, perfect for giving gift cards or tickets this holiday.
A lifelong sewer/knitter and former weaver/spinner, Linzee Kull McCray, a.k.a. lkmccray, is a writer and editor living in Iowa. She feels fortunate to meet and write about people, from scientists to stitchers, who are passionate about their work. Her freelance writing appears in Quilts and More, Stitch, UPPERCASE, American Patchwork and Quilting and more. For more textile musings, visit her blog.