12/03/2013 04:43 EST | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 EST

No gift bags? No problem: Expert tips on novel ways to wrap presents

TORONTO, Cananda - For those who feel as though they don't have the time, inclination or creativity to wrap presents, don't reach for that gift bag just yet.

It's understandable many would opt for the hassle-free tote and tissue paper to meet their gift-wrapping needs. But a specialist in personalizing presents says flexing creative muscles while dressing up items can be enjoyable for both givers and recipients.

"Gift wrapping should be fun," said Corinna vanGerwen, a Toronto-based stylist who offers gift wrapping and paper craft workshops and shares wrapping tips on her blog, Corinna Wraps ("You want to do it on a level you're comfortable with. And if you're not comfortable getting all fancy, don't take it there.

"I think the main thing is to enjoy yourself and consider that you're giving a gift either because you're showing somebody appreciation ... you're saying thank you, you're showing that you love them, that they're part of your life. Giving a gift with the gift wrapping, you can continue that sentiment — and you can enhance it."

Here are a few expert tips on how to add innovation and festive flair to holiday gift wrapping:

1. Add pop with personal touches. If you've placed considerable thought in purchasing a present that speaks to the recipient, adopt the same approach when it comes to selecting the exterior wrapping, noted vanGerwen.

That could entail something as simple as selecting their favourite colour for wrapping paper, or channelling interests or hobbies for stylish inspiration.

"If there's someone who is really into baking and cooking, you use a set of measuring spoons or a whisk as the decoration on top. Or if they really like going fishing, you use fishing lure — with the hook cut off, of course. Tie that into the bow as a little decoration," said vanGerwen.

"A lot of it is about personalizing it to the recipient. And then you can get as complicated or keep it as simple as whatever you're comfortable with."

Unsure of what touches to add? Glitter is a holiday go-to, said vanGerwen.

"Any paper that has sparkle and shine to it is very festive. Just by virtue of it being sparkly you can use any colour. You don't have to stick to the traditional Christmas colours."

Or use glittery masking tape instead of traditional varieties.

"Use (it) in place of regular tape or put a band around the box or a couple of stripes around a plainly wrapped gift and boom! you have sparkle."

2. Play with alternative forms of paper. If you don't have sheets of gift wrap available, virtually any other form of paper can be substituted. Consider using wax paper layered over tissue to create a frosty look, said vanGerwen.

Reading materials — like an old map — can also have a second life as gift wrap.

"Everybody knows the standby — use the newspaper. But choose the nicest pages from it. Maybe that's the page with the stocks on it because it's a little bit more graphic," said vanGerwen.

If one magazine page isn't sufficient, tear out six from the same colour palette and bind them together using coloured tape to create a sheet large enough to cover the item. "You're almost quilting the pages together," said vanGerwen.

Wallpaper is considerably thicker and a bit harder to manipulate around the corners, but there are "amazing" patterns available that would work well for gift wrapping, she noted.

3. Have fun with fabric. Sourcing usable materials to cover presents could be as close as the fabric aisle.

Furoshiki is a form of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth used to transport clothing, gifts or goods, said Alicia Zoffranieri, design spokeswoman for Ikea Canada. Whether adorning cubic, rectangular or cylindrical gifts, the right pair of fabric-cutting scissors and a sufficient amount of material can be key tools for gift wrap.

"Depending on how much fabric you cut, as long as the recipient uses it for a similar type of gift, I think it's a great alternative to paper," said Zoffranieri.

"But of course, you have to take into account that (when) you're wrapping a much larger gift, it can get expensive because it's fabric. But I guess the alternative side of that ... is that it can be reused."

Taking wine to a festive gathering? Wrap the bottle in a new tea towel and it instantly becomes part of a host gift, said vanGerwen.

She also suggested writing a note on a label and sticking it on the bottle, or using alphabet stickers to spell out a festive-themed message — like "Cheers" or "Happy Holidays" — which will save having to wrap it. Another option is to tie a short strand of tinsel garland around the neck.

"Much more simple than trying to wrap it in paper and much more interesting than using a gift bag or wine bag."

4. Choose a cool container. From Mason jars to photo boxes, containers which may already be in your home could be repurposed to house gifts.

"You can either use vintage boxes, vintage tins, cookie tins — any metal tins you've gotten cookies in from the grocery store," said vanGerwen. "Either if they're nice on their own or you spraypaint them a solid colour, it makes them pretty, so you can reuse those.

"Then there's all of the decorative boxes that people use for organizing within their home. Those make nice containers as well."

5. Tie — or paint — one on. Colourful baubles used to trim Christmas trees or fill vases can be incorporated as part of gift decor.

"Ornaments are one of my favourite gift toppers because they won't get thrown out. People can then use them again, either reusing them for another gift or hang them on their tree or in their house. And you can get them for relatively inexpensive," said vanGerwen.

"I tend to stock up on the good old classic Christmas balls. You can get them in all sorts of sizes from really tiny to larger and usually you can group them."

She typically teams ornaments in clusters of three, loops a bow through and ties the decoration around the gift or the neck of a wine bottle to add "instant holiday sparkle."

With a focus on living with children and engaging youngsters in activities, Ikea offered a twist on presenting presents in its creative gift wrapping guide, showcasing conventionally wrapped gifts festooned with dangling ornaments, colourful canvases and painted handprints.

"I think it's not only unique, but it adds a nice thoughtful, personal touch to a gift and it gets the kids being creative," said Zoffranieri.