Wrap made from festive fabric prevents Christmas becoming a throwaway season
Sisters-in-law Nicky Rajska and Louise Oldridge have got Christmas all wrapped up. Dismayed by the stack of wrapping paper discarded at their family Christmases, they set about creating a gift wrap which can be used over and over again.
Nicky and Louise are married to two brothers who have two siblings, and they all have children. So present opening each Christmas, resulted in an impressive mountain of crumpled paper.
"There was just paper everywhere," says Louise, who recalls one particular occasion when more than 20 people were ripping off their paper at once.
That crunch point came about three Christmases ago, when Nicky and Louise, who live close to each other in the South Devon countryside, were already thinking about going into business together.
Louise was working as a consultant anaesthetist in the NHS, but, as someone who made all her own clothes, longed to be doing something more creative.
"I wasn't very happy in my job and I was looking for a way out really," she says. "At first we didn't have any clear idea of where we were going to do. We were just concerned about the way everything has too much packaging.
"I think it was Nicky that came up with the idea of gift wrap, and when we looked further into it, we thought that this would be a possibility.
"It combines all the things we were looking to do – the design side, the more creative side, as well as the feeling that we were doing something that was benefiting the wider world."
They did some research and discovered that most wrapping paper from Christmas ends up in landfill – 8,000 tonnes in the UK – because it often has sparkly embellishment on it of some sort which means it cannot be recycled. Also, it is generally made of poor quality fibres which made the paper itself unsuitable for recycling.
So Nicky and Louise turned to fabric for their idea of a gift wrap that could be used time and again, with the recipient holding on to it and using it to wrap their own presents the next time around.
The Wrag Wrap is made from recycled polyester which turned out to be the "greenest" option, more so than cotton which is pesticide and dye hungry in its gestation. Polyester has the attraction of not creasing, too, and it can be washed clean in low temperatures.
Louise and Nicky anticipate it being used over and over again.
"We think either people will keep them with the family decorations to bring out every Christmas, as part of the ceremony, or people will give them away to friends, who will start to accumulate their own stash, as you do with gift bags," says Nicky.
Recycled polyester is made from the squishy cola and squash bottles, which we throw in our recycling. Most of these end up being sent on container ships to China to be turned into recycled polyester, and sold back to us as fleeces and other garments.
Nicky and Louise stress that recycled polyester – in which the bottles are melted down to liquid form, then spun into a thread – is much greener than just making more polyester from scratch, using oil.
"As we found out more and more information, we realised that people who wanted to do the right thing in textiles were concentrating on recycled polyester."
Their Wrag Wrap fabrics are woven at a factory in Nanjing in China, close to where the recycled polyester is made.
Because the whole idea behind the wrap is that you don't cut it to size, Nicky and Louise have provided different sizes and types of wrap to cater for any present eventuality.
There's "tube", which is designed for bottle-shaped gifts; "stretch", which accommodates all kinds of awkwardly shaped presents within its ruffles, and the bag, a stylish upside-down triangle shape with handles. Then there's "crackle", the flat sheet which bears the closest resemblance to wrapping paper, which has a plastic mattress stitched within its layers to provide a crackle.
"We did some research and found out that what people most liked about wrapping paper was the crackling sound it makes," says Nicky. The wrap is secured with a length of satin cord, wrapped like an old fashioned parcel, secured by a button, with a gift tag which takes a new paper tag each time the wrap is used (more can be printed from the Wrag Wrap website).
"No sticky tape, no scissors and no rubbish afterwards, that's our slogan," says Nicky, demonstrating how to wrap a parcel, Wrag Wrap style for our photoshoot at beautiful Dartington Hall near Totnes. "With paper and sticky tape you can't redo your parcel, but with this you can carry on practising getting it right."
All the wraps come in three sizes, apart from "tube". The two women worked with a designer to come up with Christmassy images of winter trees and reindeer, in festive colours, red, gold, green and midnight blue.
"We wanted something that was really natural, inspired by Christmas, but still celebratory because that is what people expect in gift wrap," says Louise.
In one design, reindeer roam among snowy trees. This print also looks magical in the midnight blue colourway.
"That is Christmas Eve in our mind, the midnight blue with the moonlight shining and the snow falling is our interpretation of Christmas," says Nicky.
Earlier this month, Louise and Nicky last week took their wrap, and some cardboard boxes to wrap around them, for the switching on of the lights on the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, the start of London's Christmas.
And right now, with five children between them, they are preparing for their own family Christmases. It goes without saying that all the presents will be wrapped in Wrag Wrap. "The children will definitely want to know why otherwise!" says Louise.
Wrag Wrap starts at £5.99 with a 'starter pack' of three different sizes of wrap – small, medium and large – costing £19.99 in the crackle. There is 20% off a different colourway each week. Visit www.wragwrap.com to buy online.