Wrapping Up Christmas
by Caroline Kent, Illustrator and founder of the stationery brand, Scribble & Daub.
Nothing is more tantalising and festive than the sight of a beautifully decked tree on Christmas morning with a drift of stylishly wrapped presents beneath it. In our house, that means piles of carefully wrapped parcels in painted brown paper, or layers of contrasting coloured tissue, tied with satin ribbon and a hand-written label.
Beautiful wrapping can transform even the humblest gift into something very special to receive. My recipe for wrapping changes little with the seasons; it works as well at Christmas as at any other time of the year. Simple, easily available materials tied with vivid coloured ribbon, and an unexpected or hand-finished element, combine to create presents that are a gift to unwrap, never mind what is inside! For a truly unusual and decorative parcel, tie on an extra treat – a beautiful tree ornament, a candy cane, dried flowers and seed-heads, or a gingerbread heart or star threaded with ribbon (you will find a great recipe by Skye McAlpine below).
To make the joy of unwrapping even more delightful, you could borrow from the traditional party game of ‘pass the parcel’ and hide little sweets, gold coins, confetti, jingle bells, or tiny favours like a Fortune Fish between each layer of tissue to create a magical experience for little children, or perhaps add cinema tickets, a sweet note, or a lovely photo as treats in the layers of a grown-ups’ parcel.
Creating brown paper wrap is a fun festive thing to do with children, and very easy: procure a champagne cork (tis the season!) lay out a large piece of brown paper on your kitchen table, and pour your choosen paint colour onto an old plate – we like to use white poster paint to make ‘snow’, or gold, just because it’s gold! Dip the flat, fat end of the cork into the paint, and use it to print spots at intervals all over the surface. Leave to dry and then wrap away…
If you don’t have time or inclination to create your own papers, there are some exquisite ones available that will transform your gifts into gorgeous objects instantly, my favourites are Choosing Keeping’s marbled wrap – and Esme Winter’s decorative papers with understated geometric designs. And as before, finish each parcel with a bright bow of satin ribbon – available in a delicious array of gorgeous hues, also from Choosing Keeping. This Christmas I have chosen the appropriately-named shade of Clementine…(See here). I have also built quite a collection of wonderful old ribbon from Wayward a vintage haberdashery in Hastings who also have a stall at Portobello Market every Friday.
Every parcel under our tree will have a letterpress printed and hand-painted Scribble & Daub gift tag – I will write everyone’s name on Christmas eve with a traditional dip pen and coloured inks. You can find these at Caramel’s London stores, and at www.scribbleanddaub.com, but if you would like to create your own, then old-fashioned luggage labels make stylish gift tags – keep it simple and elegant with the recipient’s name handwritten in a bright ink, or use the champagne cork plus a smaller wine cork and the technique above to create a snowman – finish off with a black top hat!
Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas!
Gingerbread by Skye McAlpine of From My Dining Table
Recipe loosely adapted from the Biscuiteers Cookbook. Makes 24 gingerbread biscuits
350g plain flour
100g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
125g salted butter
125g golden syrup
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Combine both kind of flour and the sugar in a food processor, then blitz a few times to get rid of any clumps. Now, roughly chop the butter and add to the processor along with the golden syrup. Crack the egg into a small bowl, lightly beat with a fork and pour into the mix, along with the ground ginger and cinnamon. Blitz until you have a smooth, pliable dough. Divide the dough into two chunks and roll each one out between two pieces of greaseproof paper (this will stop the dough from sticking to the kitchen surface). Wrap the dough in clingfilm or greaseproof paper, and set it to rest in the fridge for 30-45 mins – you can even leave it overnight if you like.
When you are ready to make your biscuits, heat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out the dough – you want it the thickness of a one pound piece – and use a shaped cookie cutter to cut the dough into biscuit shapes, then gently lay each one on the baking tray. Bake for 15-25 mins until golden brown. After 15 mins check on the biscuits, and while the dough is still quite soft, use a chopstick to punch a hole into each star (so you can thread ribbon through the hole later), then put the biscuits back into the oven to harden if needed.
Allow the biscuits to cool on a rack, before stringing them on ribbon.
Photography by: Eva Vermandel