Gift Wrapping Ribbons, Ties, and Gift Bows

A look at gift wrapping ribbons and ties,
plus ideas for using them
to enhance your well-dressed gift.

Gift wrapping ribbons - curly
Before we jump into how to tie gift bows, let's consider the ribbons and other ties, and explore some interesting alternatives that may or may not be made specifically for gifts.

A truly amazing variety of ribbons is sold in stores and online, providing dozens of choices:

  • fabric or non-fabric, natural or synthetic materials, with or without metallic threads
  • woven or not; tight weave or mesh/net/lacy open weave
  • flat, round, tube, braided/twisted; wide, narrow or in between
  • satin finish, or grosgrain, moire, taffeta, velvet, embossed
  • sparkling, iridescent, holographic - or not
  • sheer, opaque, or both (e.g., organza/satin stripes)
  • wired, reversible, stretchy, curly, waterproof - or not
  • solid color or patterned; designs printed, woven-in, or raised
  • ... well, you get the idea!
And if not, the collection of gift wrapping ribbons at The Container Store will show you what we mean.

Alternative Gift Ties

Gift ties - cord, printed ribbon, beads on a string
Whether or not they are sold as "gift" ties, many products can be creatively used in gift wrapping. You can find substitutes for gift wrapping ribbons among everyday and holiday displays in stationery or giftwrap departments:

  • curling ribbon
  • stretchy metallic loops or cord
  • tinsel garland (matte or metallic colors)
  • glitter wire/garland - sprays of shiny cutouts (stars, hearts, etc.) attached to metallic-covered wire
as well as fabric and knitting shops:
  • seam binding, rickrack
  • satin blanket binding
  • ribbon-like lace
  • decorative braid, fringe
  • curtain tiebacks and other cord; tassels
  • yarn: very thick - or thinner yarn can be chained or braided, or several thin strands used together
  • novelty yarns - e.g., very fuzzy like a boa
also in crafts/scrapbooking, and art/office/party supply stores:
  • wide, colored elastic bands
  • crepe paper streamers
  • twine or macrame cord
  • strings of beads, sequins, or small figures.
and even in clothing/accessory stores:
  • fancy shoelaces
  • silky scarves

Tips & Techniques
for Gift Wrapping Ribbons

Choose the right ribbon for the bow - First, read through the instructions for any tips about the best ribbon for a particular bow. The gift tie and/or bow will set the tone (e.g., natural, elegant, cute) for your gift's costume or express the theme of the gift or the occasion (e.g., holiday prints).

The ribbon width and bow size should be in proportion to the size of the gift box. On a quite small gift box with a round or square top, a classic-style bow that fills the entire top looks good. But don't let the bow overpower the gift - or the design on the gift wrapping paper.

A bow that's way too small for its gift looks a bit silly. A quick fix: push two ready-made bows together side by side, intertwining the loops as best you can. Hold the bows together with the self-stick cards at the bottom of each one, adding tape if necessary. If you use three bows, you can arrange them side by side or in a triangle. Feel free to mix and match colors, too!

Gift wrapping ribbon and ties: box with holly, tied with tulleShipping a wrapped gift? Choose gift ties that resist crushing, such as tulle, cording or yarn. Wired ribbon is a good choice, for the wire can be re-shaped, and the bow fluffed, when the package reaches your recipient.

Or, forget bows entirely and use sturdy trimmings such as silk flowers, or flat embellishments such as metallic seals, decorative stickers and fancy gift tags, or ...

Strips of gift wrap substitute nicely for gift wrapping ribbons. Wrap one or more contrasting strips around the wrapped gift box and tape flat. You can interweave horizontal and vertical strips where they cross, and use different colors and/or widths for a plaid effect.

Or, layer a wrapping paper strip over a wider contrasting strip, and wind around the gift in just one direction. You might use a paper craft punch to make fancy shapes all along the top strip, so the underlying paper can peek through. Or, you can add a ribbon tied with a simple bow. Let your imagination run free!

In place of a bow, try knots: use a soft, wide ribbon (or perhaps a silky scarf) and make a row of loose knots that will lie across the top of the box when you wrap the tie around it. Add a favor or decoration to one of the knots, if you wish.

Shred the ends of the ribbon to add a flourish. Gift wrapping ribbons made of a polymer rather than woven fabric are easy to shred. They can be curled, too. In fact, most gift ribbon that can be split lengthwise, such as raffia, can also be shredded. A few little evenly-spaced cuts in the end of the ribbon will get you started. Or, an inexpensive ribbon shredder makes the job easy and curls the ends, too.

For an easy-open gift, make a rip cord with a narrow ribbon or string tie. Lay the ribbon inside the wrapping paper so it goes around the gift, with an extra 2"-3" protruding at the seam of the gift wrap. Make two tiny cuts in the paper, one on each side of the ribbon, to get the rip cord started. A rip cord opener is good for little kids' gifts, and for grannies with stiff fingers.

How to Tie Gift Bows

Gift wrapping ribbons: Fabric gift bow in the classic puffy style
Tying a gift bow is one of those skills that are easier than they seem ... provided you use an appropriate gift ribbon for each kind of bow.

Oh yeah, and practice just a bit!
Here are illustrated instructions:

Tie a Gift Bow in the Classic Style
Tie a Gift Bow: The Crisscross Loop
Tie a Gift Bow with Graduated Loops

Beautiful gift ribbon, gift ties, and gift bows
(or unexpected substitutes) are perfect
accessories for the well-dressed gift!

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Logo and curled ribbon photos by Jane M. Sawyer, courtesy of
Spools and gift bow photos courtesy of Libby Graphics, all rights reserved.
Gift box photo courtesy of Microsoft.