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Easy holiday gift-wrapping tips from Long Island style experts 

In the video: Michael Russo, of Made by Michael Russo in Cold Spring Harbor, shows an easy and affordable way to wrap Christmas gifts with a shopping bag and string. Credit: Photo credit: Michaels Stores Video credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Hunting for holiday gifts may have taken on a kind of unsentimental, impersonal bent this season, with fewer of us hitting up the stores and more of us turning to online shopping because of the pandemic. But while all the touch-feel-try aspects of hands-on gift buying may be waning, there’s still the opportunity to elevate your gifts with creative and whimsical wrapping.

"People love anything with a personal touch," says Michael Russo, who recently starred as a judge on HGTV’s "Holiday Crafters Gone Wild" and owns the MADE by Michael Russo gift boutique in Cold Spring Harbor. Russo says, "Even just putting someone’s name on it or an ornament with a first initial takes away the commercialism. It can be an emotional lift for both the giver and the receiver."

So, how to amp up a package?

"Go on a scavenger hunt in your own house," he says. "Basic things like brown paper supermarket bags are a great base."

Then, dress it up with everything from yarn (glued into the shape of a first name initial or shredded to make a tassel), red and white straws, baker’s string, remnants of old flower arrangements and even loose buttons (these make great little ornaments on an illustrated tree).

"No one really has photos anymore; they’re all on your phone, so print out a great shot of the recipient and tape it to the box or a tag." Russo’s wrapping must-have is a low-temperature hot glue gun. "It’s obviously hot, but a little safer and the glue dries faster," he says.

At craft central, Michaels Stores, the rush to more elaborate, homemade wrapping has been noted. "For the 2020 holiday season, we are seeing growth in the trend of personalization with consumers dedicating more time to personalizing and making their own wrapping," says Mallory Smith, the public relations manager there. "The extra touch shows you care." Here, find package embellishments such as dried fruit, stamp pads, pine cones and pom-poms that DIYers are snapping up both online and in-store.

Turn gift wrapping into crafting

Marisa LaScala, an editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine where loads of creative wrap ideas are offered, asks, "Who isn’t cheered up when they see a beautiful package?" And she says, due to the pandemic, this holiday season is a good time to work on producing original gift wrapping. "People are definitely at home, so they can use that time to putting in the energy to do a wrap craft."

Her advice is to tailor the level of your crafting ability to the job at hand. If you’re not feeling particularly arty, go premade with ornaments like a silver bell or add-ons such as a candy cane. Or she says, "You can go all out but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Wrap with sheet music or maps and cut tree shapes out of it."

And she recommends getting the kids into the act. "I have a child who always wants to help and it’s a great time occupier. Go on hikes and walks and pick up your treasures — sprigs of pines, berries and herbs." Also, she adds, "People are into sustainability, so consider bags or dish towels that tie and you can use again."

Finally, she says, there are extra benefits to becoming a holiday wrapper. "It really puts you in the holiday spirit. Maybe you would’ve been going out to the party, well, at least this is still a holiday activity."

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