The Gift Wrapping Book by Caroline Birkett

This is a book review which first appeared a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to be a guest reviewer over on reviewsrevues


We all give presents but how many of us fail miserably when it comes to the wrapping?  All too often we resort to popping the gift into a shop bought gift bag or box.  Present wrapping is something we are just expected to be able to do.  There have been countless times I’ve ended up having to throw away ruined wrapping paper and there have been too many fights with sticky tape, just finding the end of the roll can be a nightmare.  However, a beautifully wrapped present can be a real joy to receive, even before you’ve seen what’s under the paper or in the box.

Understanding the various wrapping techniques, the range of materials available and the tools needed for the jobs can turn a necessary chore into something enjoyable, creative, and we can produce something special and personal for the recipient.

“The Gift Wrapping Book” is ideal both for those who haven’t a clue how to wrap a present and for those who are keen to try something a little different.

The book is well laid out and with clear photos and step by step instructions.  Caroline starts by showing the correct way of wrapping a box with standard wrapping paper and then goes on to suggest how this could be done with other types of paper.  We find out how to produce our own decorative paper using methods such as wax resist, gilding, stamping etc and then more elaborate bows and embellishments with gift tags and other items.  Patterns and templates are included together with information on the materials and tools required.  Importantly, she explains how to wrap those awkward shape parcels we all have problems with.

Caroline makes it clear that wrapping doesn’t need to be elaborate, doesn’t need to take a long time to prepare so long as it is neat and thoughtfully put together.  However, with an understanding of some basic techniques and a little imagination there are no limits as to how fantastic your presents can look.  Just make sure that the actual present under all that wrapping is worth receiving!

The best publications from Dover Books have a good combination of style and practicality.  This book may not be as lavishly laid out and photographed as books by some publishing houses and magazines but here the results are attainable.  This book, which seems to have been previously published by another company in 2002, will not date as it gives good clear instructions on how to develop gift wrapping skills.  There may be more fashionable coffee-table style books of this type around but this may very well be the one to consider purchasing.


Pure Soapmaking – Anne-Marie Faiola

This is a book review which first appeared a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to be a guest reviewer over on reviewsrevues


This is a book for people who want to move away from commercially produced soaps containing harsh and synthetic ingredients and make their own containing natural ingredients tailor-made for their skin type.  This is not a book for general crafters, there is no sitting around a table with your friends making up a few bars of soap over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  Here there is a lot of science, a fair amount of equipment required and a lot of ingredients.  At the beginning of each of the soap recipes we read the author’s mantra for Safe Soaping – to wear safety gear the whole time, to work in a well ventilated space and no distractions (no kids or pets around) so you can tell that hand-made soap making is serious (and slightly scary) stuff.

The first section of the books deals in detail with the ingredients used, the science, and importantly, with the dangers of some of the chemicals. The soap recipes are clear and well described, with lists of what is needed, ingredients, moulds, special tools etc.  The instructions are thorough but straightforward and the photos excellent.  In fact, the photos of the finished soaps are very seductive.  The bars you will end up making look like little works of art and a million miles from most standard shop-bought soaps.  It is clear that this is not really a book for a soap-making beginner but should provide inspiration and instruction for those with some experience and for soap aficionados.

Be warned though, this is an American book and there may be different regulations as to what you can do with your end products.  In the UK, I have found with a bit of research that you can make soap for your own use and to give to friends but you cannot sell unless you have a licence.