Need a system for wrapping rectangular boxes? Here's one of the best: simple, beautiful, even kind of eco.

You'll save paper and ribbon with these directions from Wanda Wen, author of "The Art of Gift Wrapping: 50 Innovative Ideas Using Organic, Unique, and Uncommon Materials" (Potter Craft).

The cornerstone of her technique: accurately sized paper, eliminating the gaping and clumping that torment amateur wrappers. The flourish is a ribbon that looks clean and classic, yet goes on without an inch of waste and comes off with a single pull.

You wrap the box with ribbon without cutting it until you're done, ensuring "that you're not cutting a piece of ribbon that's too long or too short," Wen says, "because that's another pet peeve of people, especially if you're using expensive ribbon."

1. Put box down on the gift wrap. Cut a rectangle of paper large enough to comfortably wrap the present.

2. Trim the width of the paper: Place the rectangle of paper on the table; put the gift on top. Loosely wrap the paper around the box's width and depth and add 2 inches of overlap; trim.

3. Trim the length of the paper: Now place the box on the bottom edge of the rectangle of paper. Stand the box on its end and then push it down and away from you to measure out the length and depth. Again, factor in another 2 inches of overlap; trim.

4. Put box, bottom up, in the middle of the paper.

5. Wrap the width: Bring one side of the paper up and, using double-stick tape, affix it to the box. Take the other edge of the paper, fold it in about 1/2-inch (to hide the raw edge), and affix it with the tape to the top of the box. The seam should be in the middle, with no raw edges and no visible tape.

6. Finish ends: Press the paper in toward the box on both the left and the right, forming sharp diagonal creases on the top flap. Tape the top flap to the box. Now form the same sharp creases on the bottom end, but before taping this end to the box, fold in the raw edge about 1/2-inch to create a perfect edge. Tape to box.

7. Gently using your fingertips, create sharp creases along the edges of the box.

8. Now the bow: Don't cut ribbon off the spool. Take the loose end and pull out a length sufficient for one of the bow loops and a tail -- about 10 inches total. Take that 10-inch length and anchor it at the center of the box, with the loose end dangling off the left side.

9. Holding the spool with your right hand on the right side of the box, and the 10-inch tail secured with your left hand, wrap the ribbon around the width of the box one time, come back to the center, and hold the ribbon with your left hand; now turn the spool end down toward the bottom of the box and wrap the length of the box.

10. Bring the spool end of the ribbon back to the middle of the box, and hold the ribbon with your left hand. Use your right hand to cut another 10-inch tail.

11. Bring the new tail down to the bottom left corner of the box and thread it back under the intersection of ribbons at the center.

Tie a bow.