’Tis the Season: How to Spin Paper for Wrapping Packages

I’ve explored different papers over the years, some with more success than others. The length of the fibers in the paper, the thickness of the paper, and the intended purpose of the yarn all contribute to success . . . or . . . not so much.

Kate Larson Dec 23, 2019 - 5 min read

’Tis the Season: How to Spin Paper for Wrapping Packages Primary Image

I like to tie a knot in the end of the paper yarns so there isn’t any untidy loosening of the core spun yarn. Photos by Kate Larson

Have you tried spinning paper? Here’s my strategy for how to successfully spin paper for wrapping holiday packages.

how to spin paper

Starting with a half-full bobbin can make winding on a reluctant, stiff yarn a bit faster and easier.

The piles of bright tissue paper that so frequently get thrown away after a birthday party or holiday extravaganza are one of the things I must admit to hoarding. All of the beautifully patterned, colored, and iridescent-effect tissues available today—I can’t leave them behind! And it can be spun into a yarn that will beautifully decorate a gift.

This fragile paper is made up of short fibers. I’ve found that creating a core spun yarn out of it will help me to make a yarn strong enough to tie into a tidy bow around a gift.


Handspinner’s Gift Trimming

Most of the time spent spinning this yarn is in the preparation. I often find that torn tissue paper works better for me than cut. Here is a shortcut:

how to spin paper

- A. Choose a piece of tissue paper that doesn’t have any tears or holes. Crumple the entire sheet up into a ball. Open carefully without tearing and wad it up again. Do this several times, and the paper will start to feel more like cloth than crinkly paper. Smooth and flatten on a hard surface.

  • B. Fold the paper in half longways. Fold the paper longways again, but have the top sheets aligned one or two inches below the bottom. Fold again once or twice until you have a thick folded area with several inches sticking out.

  • C. I carefully turn the paper over at this point, so the thick, folded area is at the top. Begin tearing this thick pile of folded paper about every inch or so.

  • D. Open up the full sheet carefully.

how to spin paper

Tear into a Z-strip.

Carefully tear into a giant, continuous zigzag. Taking time to make this long strip means fewer joins when spinning, which can be particularly difficult when spinning paper. Finger twisting the end of the paper can help you get started when you go to your wheel.

Core Spinning Paper

Because we are starting with fragile tissue paper and want a yarn that can be tied into a tidy knot around a package, wrapping the paper strip around a strong core can make a much more successful yarn.

Tie a sewing thread core and the twisted end of your paper strip to a leader. Begin spinning, holding more tension on the thread, which will allow the paper to wrap around smoothly. Feed the paper against the thread slowly, which will allow it to wrap more tightly.

how to spin paper

Hold the thread core with more tension, allowing the paper to wrap around.

Most of my spinning wheels do not draw this paper yarn onto the bobbin very well, so I stop to wind the core spun paper yarn onto the bobbin every so often. I prefer this approach to cranking up the tension, which leaves me feeling out of control of my spinning. It’s a much slower process than how I usually spin, but I’m only looking to produce a few yards of handspun paper for wrapping gifts at a time. You can experiment with different ply structures, plying with metallic threads, bead insertions, and more!

Kate Larson is the editor of Spin Off and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.