As Christmas approaches countless rolls of paper are being bought and ribbons are being tied around boxes of all shapes and sizes. By lunch time on the 25th (earlier if there are young kids in the household), most of this beautiful material will end up in large plastic trash bags, waiting on the sidewalk for the big old garbage truck to drive by. You CAN avoid this waste... just read on.
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Step 1: Decorative Shipping Stuffing
This works best with the double patterned kind of wrapping (with color on both sides) but it also looks great with regular wrapping paper. Save all your wrapping paper, even the most crinkled and ripped pieces, fold them up neatly for storage, then when you need some nice packing material, shred it all and stuff your package. This works better with old shredders which make long strips of paper, rather than the confetti, because the smaller pieces tend to make more mess -- but either will do a fine job protecting your fragile items during shipping.
You can also use this as decorative stuffing for gift baskets or other gifts like the scented bath salts I made for all my friends and relatives a couple years ago.
Step 2: Paper Bow
I made this bow with shredded pieces of paper (scissor-cut would work just as well) then gently bunched the strips together and dabbed them with tiny amounts of white glue. If you don't have the patience for that, a well-placed staple would work too.
Update: I just had to include this because is is so pretty and simple: Kelp_horse made a really nice Collage Paper Bow which is definitely worth a click.
Step 3: Cards
The main picture is a pop-up card you can make by following these instructions. The other three cards are self explanatory: you can either use the graphics of the wrapping paper for a simple cut and paste, or you can use a relatively plain paper to cut out (or tear) your own image.
Step 4: Paper Dolls
I've seen paper dolls sold in bookstores, and paper doll-making kits for sale in fancy paper stores, but they always depress me because commercializing them misses the whole point. I used to spend hours and days on end with my sisters, drawing little naked figures (with underwear -- we were a little unsure about anatomy) then designing, cutting, and assembling the most wild outfits we could imagine. You can make some pretty flashy outfits with wrapping paper, but our favorite in those days was cutting up the National Geographic to make illegal fur coats out of endangered species.
Buying ready-made paper dolls just sucks out all the fun, creativity and the pride out of making your own free toy -- so if you want to make your own and don't quite know where to begin, check out my paper doll instructable.
Step 5: Christmas Tree Ornaments
The possibilities for making cheap and very attractive paper tree decorations are limitless. If five people request instructions on how to make the two ornaments in the first picture I will post a separate instructable. The next two pictures you can read about here, and the final two are pretty much self explanatory: I found cheap, clear glass ornaments in a thrift shop, stuffed them with shredded wrapping and curled ribbon to make fun ornaments which look much cleaner and "professional" than they really are.
There are other excellent instructables by talented members of the community, including this one, by makedo-able, or this 3D star called a Fröbelstern by all_thumbs
Step 6: Make Useless But Beautiful Things
It's amazing the things you can make with a simple shredder (as long as it's the old fashioned, "insecure" type which makes stops rather than confetti. Fold the paper, shred it half way through, pull it out carefully and play to your heart's content. I just used regular paper for these but they would look great with wrapping paper.
Step 7: Paper Beads
This is one project I keep meaning to try, but I've never found the time. Making beads is an excellent way of re-using old wrapping paper, and here's an instructable by Mzuribeads which tell you how.
Step 8: Origami
There is absolutely no reason to buy expensive origami paper to make origami. All you need for origami is a square. Cut that out of any old wrapping paper and you can make all sorts of animals, vessels, or even gift boxes. I haven't posted any instructables on the subject but there are plenty of them on instructables:
Square origami gift box by sherrycayheyhey or her triangle box
Of course, there's the basic crane which d.i.y master illustrated with pictures (which I prefer to a video), or the Chinese vase by origamic12. These are just a few of the many origami projects here.
Step 9: Book Binding
If your wrapping paper is of high quality (and in good condition) then you might be able to use it as the lining paper in your own hand-made book. KaptinScarlet wrote a very nice, clear instructable on binding a hardback book. Or you can use the paper to embellish scrapbooks.
Thanks to susanrm for this idea posted in the comments!
Step 10: Just Use It Again to Wrap Gifts Next Year!
No need to be apologetic: flaunt the fact that you're re-using paper! You're not being cheap, you're being green.... Use bits and pieces and put them together in all their ripped, mis-matched, crinkled glory!