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Ruby Star Wrapping: Creating Packaging to Reuse

Dec 12, 2012

by Linzee McCray handmade and vintage goods

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.

Gregory Miller

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.”

Gregory Miller

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.”

Gregory Miller

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.


Be sure to check out Ruby Star Wrapping: Creating Packaging to Reuse, Regive & Relove, available from Amazon or an independent bookstore near you.  

Ready to get crafty today? Check out this amazing altered book how-to, perfect for giving gift cards or tickets this holiday.



  • silversamba

    Alana from silversamba said 7 years ago

    Lovely post and inspiring!

  • ExLibrisJournals

    Meaghan from ExLibrisJournals said 7 years ago

    This is something I want to try this Christmas when giving gifts to my family and friends! I have the same memory each year of a giant garbage bag stuffed with torn wrapping paper and ribbons. Not only are these ideas better for the environment, I think they show a lot more creatitivity, personalization, and thoughtfulness than traditional wrapping paper does!

  • tamilopez

    Tami Lopez from TamiLopezDesigns said 7 years ago

    I loved this feature. I love this idea because it is also something that you can do with children. Making memories of wrapping things together and of passing back and forth the sturdy ones. We have done this a little bit, but this feature really gives me a lot of ideas on doing it with much more purpose. Great Etsy feature, as usual!!!

  • cherrytime

    Mojca from cherrytime said 7 years ago

    Excellent ideas!!!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 7 years ago

    Wonderful! Great ideas. Taking a page from the Japanese.

  • MissLucyA

    Lucy Ashby from bylucy said 7 years ago

    This book looks fantastic!

  • quotationmarks

    Quotation Marks from quotationmarks said 7 years ago

    There are some great ideas here! I'll start this year!

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 7 years ago

    What a great idea for a book. I'm always reusing unexpected items to wrap gifts. Half because I'm creative and love the unique look of it and half because I'm always a last minute gifter. ♥

  • greengrass2

    Liz from greengrass2 said 7 years ago

    ooooh - this book is going on my Christmas list right now!!!

  • PenFelt

    LeBrie Rich from PenFelt said 7 years ago

    Such gorgeous ideas! I love the creative challenge of wrapping presents with just the scraps that I have on hand.

  • xZOUix

    Zoui from XZOUIX said 7 years ago

    these are amazing wraps! one gift for me, please, dear Santa :)

  • KrystynPecora

    Krystyn Pecora from QuirkAndSparkle said 7 years ago

    I love unique, reused Christmas wrapping; one of my favorite wrapping papers is a little trick I picked up in the Coast Guard... We sometimes take old nautical charts and use them as wrapping paper. It's always fun to see what has been wrapped up in the port of Miami or San Francisco... or better yet, the Panama Canal!

  • aisglass

    Aiste from Aisglass said 7 years ago

    Very nice wrapping ideas! :)

  • paintmydog

    Justine Osborne from paintmydog said 7 years ago

    Great Ideas, I'm inspired!

  • SimplySleek

    SimplySleek from SimplySleek said 7 years ago

    This is so close to genius!!!

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 7 years ago

    The wrapping is half the gift -- the wrapping and decoration is what creates the anticipation of what lies within. It is this excited anticipation more than the gift itself that is what our holiday memories are made of. Long after "the thing" has gone, our memories of the excitement stay with us.

  • slacey152

    Stacy from HappiestCrafts said 7 years ago

    Perfect! Cant wait to try myself!! Upcycle, reuse, its the only way to go!! Great job :)

  • threecuteflowers

    Nata from threecuteflowers said 7 years ago

    love it! great ideas!

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    Lana Manis from SimpleJoysPaperie said 7 years ago

    As long as I can remember, my mom reused gift wrap from year to year. Long before recycling became the thing to do and people hadn't thought much of the quickly growing landfills, mom was telling us to carefully open our gifts so she could use the beautiful paper again. We even reused the sparkly bows! After all, what a pity to pay so much for the gorgeous foil paper and the lovely patterned sheets only to toss them away after a brief debut under the tree. Great article and book!

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    Lana Manis from SimpleJoysPaperie said 7 years ago

    P.S. Perhaps that's where I got my inclination to recycle paper and books... :)

  • BlumeAndJensen

    Tina Jensen from BlumeAndJensen said 7 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. Both the ideas for giftwrapping itself and the idea of recycling.

  • sandrostumpo

    Sandro Stumpo from GalleryDiModa said 7 years ago

    !!! SUPER IDEA !!! Thank you for this blog. I tell my family all the time, "My gosh we are always throwing away so much stuff that could be reused." I was so fed up one year that I wrapped all the presents I was giving in my sweaters and towels. I saved paper and we had a good laugh.

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka said 7 years ago

    beautiful ideas!!!

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry from pinksnakejewelry said 7 years ago

    Wonderful Post!!! Very Creative Ideas!!! Sounds like a plan for next years gift wrapping!!!

  • emwi

    Emily Wirt from emwi said 7 years ago

    Fun! I love this! I'm always looking for new ways to wrap.

  • HandiworkinGirls

    HandiworkinGirls from HandiworkinGirls said 7 years ago

    Clever idea! We, too, just started making our own reusable gift bags two years ago. Mainly for birthdays, because we buy the Christmas paper for the next marked waaaay down after Christmas, but the bags make everything we wrap with them that much more special. Plus, you get to keep the bag after you open the gift - two for one! ;)

  • GourmetHandbags

    Sonya from GourmetHandbags said 7 years ago

    So many wonderful ideas!

  • HoneyThistle

    Wei from HoneyThistle said 7 years ago

    love this :) I personally don't wrap my gifts at all. I usually give it in a gift bag that's usually reused later, or just hand them the gift as is.

  • dannylion

    Lauryn Quinn from thefrolickingfrog said 7 years ago

    Love coming up with alternative gift wrap ideas! The big garbage bad filled with paper is the worst!

  • CurlyGator

    Molly Ford-Coates from CurlyGator said 7 years ago

    Great ideas! I'm inspired to start... now! :)

  • annetteewert

    Annette Ewert from thebloomingcornercom said 7 years ago

    great ideas..I love to make reusable bags and boxes!!

  • kgpaintings

    Kirsten Gilmore from PaintingsByKEGilmore said 7 years ago

    I agree re-useable wrap or recycled items that become wrap are good goals. One note of caution: as a seller, I would also avoid using non-archival recyclables that might damage the original paintings. For me, re-purposing only involves clean items and outer packaging. But, that leaves plenty of creative potential materials. :)

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 7 years ago

    This wrapping is so stylish! Just goes to show that a good sense of design is more important than fancy materials. I love how contemporary and playful everything is. Wonderful ideas for reuse. Thank you, Linzee, for a good resource.

  • PiacereMioPaperie

    Nancy from PiacereMioPaperie said 7 years ago

    I love this kind of wrapping. I have loved wrapping since young, myself. I love discovering new wrapping ideas. Thanks for the tips!

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns said 7 years ago

    I love it! I thought I was a freak for my selfish pleasure of wrapping things. Wrapping gifts has always been more enjoyable to be than opening them. (Okay, maybe not when I was a little kid). I especially love wrapping things with found materials. It's how I package most of my Etsy sales. I hope people don't mind - I've never heard any complaints. I figure that people ordering from Etsy understand the importance of DIY chic and reusing materials.

  • thomaswinter85

    Thomas Winter said 7 years ago


  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 7 years ago

    I have in the past bought more substantial gift boxes that I occasionally 'refill' for people, or maybe things just magically appear inside!

  • fineartstoneware

    fineartstoneware from fineartstoneware said 7 years ago

    These are wonderful ideas.

  • valeriephoto

    Valerie from valeriestitchery said 7 years ago

    These are really amazing examples of wrapping. I envy the recipients of your gifts. The wrapping is like another present!

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 7 years ago

    A pretty package adds so much to the excitement of receiving a gift! Being able to reuse a creative wrapping just extends that excitement on to the next recipient!

  • butikonline83

    Hendri . from butikonline83 said 7 years ago

    Yippie! Finally a potter is featured!

  • LeelaPurse

    Jeeri Ph from LeelaPurse said 7 years ago

    Great ideas! Thanks!

  • thevillagecrafter

    tammi from thevillagecrafter said 7 years ago

    i love the wrapping papers and i remember my grandma carefully folding them up to reuse for nest year! i have slowly been working on the reusable gift wraps gaining a little more each year, i can't wait to dig into this great book for more inspiration !

  • ForeverTangles

    NIA THOMAS from ForeverTangles said 7 years ago

    I love wrapping presents to make them look a bit different! Thanks for sharing!

  • ehstarr

    Es Griffith from EstherGriffith said 7 years ago

    This post is very good. I've bookmarked for future reference and inspiration on wrapping. :)

  • youngfolk1314

    Ribo Flavour from riboflavour said 7 years ago

    good inspiration!

  • amantrakelly1

    Amanda Riddle from ProlificArt said 7 years ago

    love this blog post. Useful info

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