Making Simple Gifts
There are several easy ways to transform your soaps from simple bars to lovely packages. Here are a few ideas, but really the sky's the limit.
Cigar Band Wrapper
A simple “cigar band” wrapper is an elegant and easy way to wrap a bar of soap. The name of this style of wrap comes from the practice of placing a small ring of paper around a cigar to indicate the type and maker. You create a band of paper on a larger scale to fit around your bar of soap.
To decide the size to cut the paper, measure around the bar with a tape measure or wrap a piece of paper or string around the bar and measure that. You will have an easier time fastening the ends of the paper if they overlap by about ½ inch. Some times you will want to cover the bar end-to-end with a wide band, and other times you'll want a narrower band that doesn't conceal the soap.
The easiest way to fix the ends once you've wrapped the soap is with a small piece of clear tape. For a more finished look, used double-sided tape. Place the small piece of tape under one end of the band and press it down firmly to fix it to the other side.
You can also use a glue stick to fasten the bands. Wrap the paper around the bar, and apply a small amount of glue to the inside of the overlapping edge. Press the glued side to the other side and press firmly.
Plain paper and pretty ribbon is a good combination. Simple cord and extravagant paper is another. Choose a “signature” paper in which you present all your soap, or choose a style of paper that you vary in color to coordinate with the soap.
You can find beautiful mulberry and composed handmade papers at art supply stores. A large sheet of paper will make a large number of bands, so although the paper may be expensive, one sheet will go a long way.
Regular wrapping paper available at the drugstore can be perfect. Colored tissue is extremely useful. Try distressing it for a casual look or press with an iron on low temperature before wrapping for a more tailored look.
Try bands of varying widths until you find the one that looks good to you for each paper and soap. Try cutting with straight scissors as well as with decorative-edge scissors. Sometimes a fancy edge is perfect, but sometimes it's better saved for another use.
Your fabric store will have a myriad of options for ties. Yarn, cord, ribbon, rick-rack, and even seam-binding can be used to great effect. Look for specialty millinery supply houses for fancy, vintage, and unique ribbons. Raffia, which is available in many colors, is perfect for tying soap.
Felting is a way of treating wool fleece or yarn in such a way that it shrinks and gets fuzzy. Knitters everywhere knit huge purses then throw them into very hot water in the washer, then agitate them for an extended time, like what we used to call ruining a sweater. The result is a soft, woolly, normal-sized purse.
Felted soap is not only decorative, it is functional as a gentle, simple way to have an “all in one” washcloth and soap. The wool is gentler than loofah or plastic mesh “scrubbies.”
In this case, the wool is in “pre-yarn” form, and rather than an oversized knitted pouch for the soap — which you could do as well — you wrap thin sheets of carded wool around the soap, then shrink them into place by rubbing the wool-covered soap under hot water. The wool shrinks, and as you rub it in your hands and over an abrasive surface, it makes a tough fabric that continues to shrink as it is used.
How to Make Felted Soap
What You'll Need
- Fully cured and dried soap bar or sphere (Note: A hard, high-foaming soap works best for this project.)
- Wool roving or cleaned and combed fleece pulled into three flat sheets (Use sheets big enough to overlap around the back of the soap just a little.)
- Washboard, wire mesh, or other sturdy abrasive surface that won't be damaged by hot water
Wrap the wool or fleece sheets around the soap, one at a time, alternating directions.
Take the wool-covered soap to the kitchen sink and turn on the faucet, making the water as hot as your hands can stand for an extended time.
Turn the faucet down to a thin stream. Hold the wool-covered soap in the stream, turning it so that it's all wet, but do not use so much water that the wool slips off.
Turn off the water and begin to squeeze and rub the woolly soap, smoothing any ends of the wool that try to come loose. (It should start matting pretty quickly.) To enhance the matting, rub the shrinking wool on the rough side of the washboard or wire mesh.
Turn the water back on and work the wool-covered soap into a lather, squeezing and rinsing. It will have shrunk considerably and should have completely covered the soap on all sides.
When the felt is firm and there are no gaps, turn off the water and squeeze the felted soap in a towel to remove excess water. Place it out of the sun in a well-ventilated area to dry. Or if you are going to use it right away, just head for the shower!
Felting step one
Felting step two
Felting step four
Felting the fiber on washboard
Finished felted soap
Small boxes can be decorated to hold one or more bars of soap. Little boxes can be found in office supply, jewelry supply, and packaging supply stores. Small folded takeout boxes, such as those often used by Chinese restaurants, are very cute containers for bars of soap. Place a couple of prettily wrapped bars in the container and make a label for the container out of the same paper you used to wrap the soap.
Computer-Generated Labels and Tags
Whether your computer skills are basic or advanced, you can use your computer as a tool for creating professional-looking labels and tags for your soap. Even the most basic word-processing program can produce tidy printing in varying sizes.
To get ideas about how to create the layouts for your labels, refer to labels on food and cosmetic jars. For example, you can use a large font size for the name of the soap, which you want to be the main thing people see, and a smaller font size for the ingredients and notes for use. If you really want to get fancy, list a couple of things that make the soap special and list the ingredients in order of how much of each is in the soap, highest to smallest.
Plastic Wrap and Bags
You can use stretchy cling-film to wrap melt-and-pour soaps to protect them. Cut a square of wrap a few inches bigger than the bar. Place the bar in the middle, face down. Gather up the edges and gently pull it tight over the surface of the bar. Twist tightly, cut close to the soap, and fix with a piece of tape or a sticker.
Remember that plastic wrap is not the best packaging for lye soaps, since they need to have air circulation to prevent spoilage. If you shrink-wrap them, use wrap that has tiny circulation holes and leave the ends unwrapped.
Stiff plastic bags commonly called “cellophane” bags are an excellent presentation material. You can tie the top with raffia, decorative yarn, or ribbon or you can neatly fold the opening shut and seal it with a pretty sticker.
Another useful plastic wrap is shrink wrap. You can buy shrink wrap in various sizes at craft stores and through the Internet. Shrink wrap is placed around the soap, fixed with tape if necessary, and heated with a special heat tool. There are some shrink wraps that are designed to be used with the high setting on a blow-dryer. Shrink wrap can lend a finished look to your soap if it's done neatly.
You can purchase shrink wrap that will let you smell the bar of soap through it. Shop Internet soap supply houses for this and other shrink-wrap products created with the soapmaker in mind.