Help is available through tips from expert gift wrappers and the national "Holiday Hotline: Gift Wrap 911." More than one-third of America waits until the last minute to wrap their holiday gifts, according to Hunter Public Relations. Ellen Timberlake of Arlington, Texas, is one of 16 wrapping aficionados deemed as "America's Most Gifted Wrappers," who will rescue callers from last-minute wrapping hysteria with creative solutions to every imaginable wrapping situation Dec. 23 and 24.
Most people who are down to the last minute wrapping gifts are challenged by the very large gifts, Timberlake noted about hotline callers.
"Last year someone called in wanting to know how to wrap deer antlers," Timberlake said. "And a lot of time, with items like this, I recommend putting it in a box or something, but if it's too big, maybe wrap it in fabric or colorful sheet or towel and tie it with a festive bow."
If the gift is really large, take a piece off of the gift and wrap it, such as a wheel for a bike, Timberlake suggested. Or if giving a mountain bike, buy a helmet and pads, wrap them up and hide the bicycle. And the same be done with a car --wrap up the keys, she said.
"That's what gift wrapping is all about -- building anticipation," Timberlake said.
Timberlake was crowned "America's Most Gifted Wrapper" for 2000 in a national gift-wrapping contest sponsored by the maker of Scotch brand tape.
"It's always fun to use all kinds of ribbons, but so many times at the last minute you don't have time so look around the house for things to make a ribbon," Timberlake advised.
Ribbons can be made out of construction paper or have the kids make construction paper links and decorate the package, Timberlake suggested. Other creative accents for gifts include cutting the front off of a Christmas card, using colorful leaves, acorns or pine cones from outside or using scarves or ties, she advised.
"Wouldn't if be cute if you were giving a shirt to someone and you used a tie as the ribbon? It could just be a cute, cheap Santa tie," Timberlake suggested.
Sandra Turner, a clerk at Personal Expressions in downtown Sikeston, recommended using tulle or organza to make bows for packages because it's very simple to do.
"You just wrap it around the item and tie a bow," Turner explained.
If requested, and to add a little creativity, sometimes Personal Expressions wrappers will tie ornaments to a package, she said.
Becoming a good wrapper is simply a process of trial and error, Turner said. She said: "And you just learn as you go."
Timberlake, who worked in gift-wrapping for 10 years, said she just dreams up her decorating ideas and some of them she may see in an article about gift-wrapping ideas.
"One of my famous ideas is using a flexible aluminum drier vent to put golf clubs and umbrellas in. Since it's flexible, you can shape it into a candy cane and wrap red ribbon around it as a candy cane."
Or use a funnel, Timberlake recommended. For example, put a small gift underneath a funnel turned upside down. Close off the bottom and wrap in aluminum foil. Put a tag on it and it looks like a Hershey kiss, she explained.
Other wrapping tips by Timberlake include:
-- Use balloons or crumpled newspaper inside the packaging and disguise it a familiarly-shaped object.
-- Use pop-up tape dispensers. They add a lot of convenience and the tape is right there. You don't have to hunt for the tape and you don't have to stop what you're doing.
-- When wrapping paper isn't available, use sheets, towels and bed linens, aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Wrap something in, for example, red tissue paper and then wrap it in plastic wrap. It gives it a shiny effect, Timberlake said.
-- Visit the hardware store to look for other kinds of containers to put gifts in.
-- For boxes at the last minute, check the pantry for cereal or rice boxes and coffee cans. A coffee can be wrapped up like a drum.
-- Look around the house. If giving a gift certificate or savings bond, put it in a piggy bank. Just make it creative, Timberlake said.
-- Use a two-yard piece of string with a knot at either end to measure how much paper to use and to also save paper.
Hotline hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 23 and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 24. During non-operator hours (until 11 p.m. Dec. 25) the Hotline will have prerecorded suggestions from experts on how to wrap several, odd-shaped gifts as well as what to do when wrapping supplies run out. The toll-free number is 1-877-872-6824.