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3 crafty ways to wrap holiday gifts from Etsy's trend queen (and celebrity TV judge!)

Merry Making: Christmas crafting from Dayna Isom Johnson, judge on the hit NBC TV show "Making It."

When it comes to holiday gift giving, it really is the thought that counts. And without adding too much stress to that already overloaded to-do list, it’s possible to create pretty, personalized packages that are as much fun to make as they are to receive.

On a recent visit to the Los Angeles Times studio, Dayna Isom Johnson, trend expert for online indie shopping site Etsy and co-judge of the hit NBC crafting show “Making It,” demonstrated three ways to decorate brown, kraft paper gift boxes with charming, easy-to-make 3-D designs.

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Isom Johnson, who is nonjudgmental in her approach to crafting, said the resurgence of all things handmade is hotter than ever. (Her open-mindedness no doubt contributed to the success of the upbeat show, which stars hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman and is being brought back for a second season.)

For some of us, making something can be intimidating. But it’s not about perfection, it’s about personal touch.

“Nothing has to be perfect,” said Isom Johnson. “I think technology is wonderful, it’s great, and we can’t live without our phones, but we have lost some of that human connection and making and crafting is a human connection.”

Here are three easy ways to make the outside of your gifts just as special as the inside:

#1 Clip on a clothespin

Clothespins help add a creative touch to your gift wrapping.
Clothespins help add a creative touch to your gift wrapping. (Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Materials:

Kraft box

Festive ribbon

Wooden clothespin

Decorative paper straws

Mini bow, star or pompom (for a tree topper)

Glue or hot glue gun

Scissors

Start with a basic kraft box. “I really like the beauty and rawness of this box,” said Isom Johnson, “it also eliminates the extra work of wrapping.”

Wrap a festive ribbon around the box and tie it in a bow.

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To make the decorative clothespin:

Cut a paper straw into five pieces in graduated sizes so that when they are laid out side by side they will form a triangle shape. “I just cut measured slices against the clothespin,” said Isom Johnson, “it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

The triangle shape will form a little Christmas tree.

Use a hot glue gun to apply a decorative bow, star or pom pom to the handle end of the clothespin (not the snappy end) to represent the top of the Christmas tree.

Then, glue the cut straw pieces from shortest piece to longest from the handle-end of the clothespin toward the tip of the pin.

Last, glue the trunk on to the bottom of the “tree.”

After it has dried, attach the clip near the bow on your gift box and use it to hold a gift tag or small card.

Pro tip: A clothespin-making session will create a supply of cute clothespins to use all season long.

#2 Put your stamp on it

Fun stamps can spiff up a gift box.
Fun stamps can spiff up a gift box. (Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Materials:

Kraft box

Striped baker’s twine

Pickup truck wooden stamp (the bigger the stamp, the better)

Ink pad

Small bottle brush Christmas tree

Scissors

On the top of the kraft paper gift box, stamp a pickup truck with the top of the truck near one edge of the box.

Allow the stamped ink to dry.

Then place the bottle brush tree on the side edge of the box top near the top of the truck (as if the truck were carrying it — cute, right!), and use the baker’s twine like ribbon, wrap it around the box — which will tie the tree in place.

When you turn the package on its side, you will see a little truck carrying a bottle brush tree.

Pro tip: This method looks especially cute on a smaller package because it is meant to look like the truck is carrying the tree.

#3 Oh, Christmas tree

Use decorative straws to create a Christmas tree motif that turns a gift box into its own special present.
Use decorative straws to create a Christmas tree motif that turns a gift box into its own special present. (Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Materials:

Kraft box

Decorative paper straws

Mini pompoms

Glue or hot glue gun

Scissors

On the top of the box, use a pencil to lightly trace the outline of a triangle.

Use the triangle outline as a guide, and cut the straw into graduated lengths that will fill the triangle (this will form a Christmas tree shape).

Cut two short, equal lengths of straw for the tree trunk.

To cut the straws, flattened them out a bit, press them back into shape before applying to the box.

Use a hot glue gun and, working from the top of the tree to the bottom, glue the straws into shape.

Now, “add the jazz.” Using the glue gun, place mini pom poms, or small bows, rhinestones, buttons or glitz onto the paper-straw tree, like ornaments.

Optional: Use baker’s twine to tie around the box and make a bow.

Pro tip: Pull off any the glue “strings” that trail from your project and the glue gun.

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