book recommendation: Ruby Star Wrapping

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One of the perks about being an editor of a magazine is that publishers generously send preview copies of forthcoming books in the hopes that you will promote the title. There's quite a stack of books awaiting my review—now that issue #15 is off my plate, I'll start sharing the best titles here on the blog (read about Louise Fili's new book here). Ruby Star Wrapping: Creating Packaging to Reuse, Regive & Relove by Melody Miller and Allison Tannery is a standout and was moved right to the top of the pile. The submission included a letter from the book's publicist, Jennifer Campaniolo at Roost Books, but also a handwritten note from Melody and some actual finished crafts from the book. The book preview sent was just a black and white printout, but even from that (and without the goodies), I could tell that the book is beautiful. (Flip through a digital preview over here.)

In reading the book, I quickly discovered why the book is so beautiful... Of course it features the bright and quirky textile designs of Melody Miller, but the book's stunning product and style photographs are by her husband, Greg Miller. The book's design is by writer Allison Tannery's husband, Blake Tannery. Ruby Star Wrapping is obviously a labour of love for everyone involved. Each has brought their exceptional talents to this book, a publication that is all about giving gifts in beautiful packages.

The projects in Ruby Star Wrapping are really easy to accomplish. Those who are naturally crafty might not necessarily need a book with instructions on how to, say, sew a drawstring bag or turn a cereal box inside-out and decorate it... However, I think much of this simplicity is on purpose; this is a book about making the packaging for gifts, so a quick and easy assembly is actually an asset. Perhaps when the gift itself is less creative, like the ubiquitous gift card, then the presentation can become more elaborate, like this Gift Card Truck Softie.

This pillow with pocket is a double gift: the pocket is meant for a gift card.

This pillow with pocket is a double gift: the pocket is meant for a gift card.

The use of vintage and repurposed fabrics emphasizes the ethos of the book: why give a gift in wrap that is thrown away? Give something where the entirety, packaging included, is the gift.

The use of vintage and repurposed fabrics emphasizes the ethos of the book: why give a gift in wrap that is thrown away? Give something where the entirety, packaging included, is the gift.

While the crafts might be simple, the gorgeous styling and photography elevate the content from just a how-to book into a lifestyle book. This is the kind of pretty craft book that you just enjoy looking through... it gives you that joyful boost of encouragement: "yes! I can do this at home!" As a book designer (and publisher) this is the kind of book that I personally love to see; where all elements have been considered and come together seamlessly.

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I have seen Melody's typewriter print fabric a lot lately; it seems a favourite with Etsy sellers. Melody included a length of fabric inside a gift box covered with the design. I asked Melody about the typewriter motif:

I don’t currently own a typewriter, but I’m always looking for objects to include in my designs that are meaningful and nostalgic without necessarily being kitschy. The typewriter just happened to strike the right chord. I still remember the rare occasions when my mother borrowed and brought home a typewriter from the bank where she worked. I felt supernaturally strong carrying it around in its case (I had never been allowed to pick up something so important!), and would beg to use it when my mother was finished. Sitting at a table hitting all those keys fulfilled my every fantasy of being grown up and busy and important.
— MELODY MILLER

Ruby Star Wrapping is available here.