Getting picture-perfect gifts is easy when you have the right tools

By Megan Moser

Even those with limited fine-motor skills can usually wrangle wrapping paper around a box for at least a passable presentation. But to give holiday gifts the professional look, it helps to know a few tricks of the trade.

Enter Penny Cochran, an employee — though she prefers the term “Santa’s helper — at Kansas Kollection, which has a gift-wrapping kiosk in Manhattan Town Center.Cochran got her start as a professional gift wrapper in Cole’s Department Store, which was on Poyntz Avenue in Manhattan until about 1960.

She said the most difficult thing she has ever been asked to wrap was an ottoman.

“It was rather tricky,” she said. “We ended up building a box for it. What else can you do?”

So if you have furniture to wrap, consider hiring a pro. But if you’re a DIY wrapper, Cochran suggests keeping it simple.

“There’s not a lot to gift-wrapping; just make it as easy as possible for yourself,” she said.

Here are Cochran’s tips for staying organized and giving presents that professional touch.

Prepare your wrapping area

Cochran said it’s important to set up an out-of-the way area for wrapping. Use your dining room table or a card table, and gather all of your paper, ribbons, tags, scissors and tape.

“I set up a gift wrap table in my basement in an area that I don’t use,” she said. “Otherwise it’s a heck of a mess if things get strung all around the house.”


Take advantage of freebies

“Any chance you get, take a free gift wrap,” if the store offers it, she said. “That’s the economical way.“Reuse and recycle

In addition to re-using bags and wrapping paper, Cochran suggested using old Christmas cards as gift tags as another way to save money.

Just cut out a portion of the front of the card, and write the recipient’s name on the back, she said.


Add an embellishment

Find pre-made bows or use curly ribbon to make “a little fringe,” Cochran said.

“That’s always easy for older people or people at home, bags of bows and what have you.“Get ribbon that coordinates with many types of wrapping paper to keep costs down.


When in doubt, use a bag

If you’re not at all talented in the gift-wrapping department, Cochran said there’s nothing wrong with using a bag.

“If you don’t want to be bothered, it works beautifully,” she said. “They are my solution. And people don’t care; it’s the thought that counts.”

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