Crafty gift ideas the whole family would love

The next time a loved one throws herself a pityparty, pay attention. You may actually get clues forholiday gift giving.

Complaints like, “I’m spendinga fortune on cosmetics,” “Myneighbor has the same scarf I justbought,” or the classic, “I’m totallystressed,” all point to the samething.

Your buddy could use ahobby.

Hobbies allow people to masterskills, alleviate tension andsave money by making thingsthey might otherwise spend asmall fortune on, such as jewelry.

Hobbies like knitting give individualsa sense of accomplishmentand purpose, says MaryColucci, executive director ofGastonia, N.C.-based Craft YarnCouncil of America. Knittingallows makes a fashion statement.

“Regardless of their reasons,[knitters] all find the process ofworking with their hands satisfyingand relaxing,” she says.

What’s more, learning a hobbydoesn’t require any special talentor aptitude. Genuine interest isall that required.

To give a great hobby gift,match your friend’s interests witha craft or handiwork. Once youmake a suitable connection,assemble a gift package thatincludes an instructional book,DVD or magazine and usefulaccessories to get started.

To help you plan, here are tipson some top hobbies and how tocreate a gift package for the buddinghobbyist in your life… andperhaps even for yourself.


This is the ideal hobby to helpwhittle down the stacks of snapshotsmany people cram intodrawers or archive on computerhard drives.

“It’s for folks who take lots ofpictures but never get around toputting them in an album,” saysJulie Sturgeon, who recentlylaunched Creative Resort, a studiofor paper crafters and otherhobbyists in Indianapolis.

“Scrapbooking gives addedvalue to the photos and it’s anentertaining way to get a handleon your memories,” says Sturgeon.

“It’s not about being perfect,”she says. “It’s aboutstorytelling, not fine art.”Kristin Degnan, spokeswomanfor the Craft & HobbyAssociation, Elmwood Park,N.J., agrees. “Every beginnershould know that there are nomistakes when it comes to creativity,”she says.

A prime reason people participatein crafts like scrapbookingis to express their creativity,according to the CHA’s 2006Attitude & Usage Study. Degnanadvises that beginners visit theirlocal craft stores to explore theideas and options that comewith the world of scrapbooking,and to also consider takingadvantage of the classes that moststores offer.

Gift ideas for beginningscrapbookers:

    “The Complete Practical Guide toScrapbooking” by Alison Lindsay(Lorenz Books, 2007), “601 GreatScrapbook Ideas” by Memory Makers(2007), or “Creating Keepsakes” magazine
  • A scrapbooking class or series ofclasses at a local crafts store
  • Ripping rulers (rulers with patternededges so you can rip the paper edgesinto different shapes)
  • Rub-on alphabet letters in variousfonts
  • Buttons
  • Silk flowers

    Herb growing

    Herbs are prized for their beauty,scent and flavor – they “add somuch color and fragrance,”explains Kathi Keville, director ofthe Nevada, Calif.-based AmericanHerb Association, not tomention the possibilities theypresent when using them in culinarydelights.

    During the summer, herbs area welcome addition to the garden,“enhancing your landscapeand cooking,” Keville says. Asthey bloom, their flowers can beused as garnishes for food, indried flower arrangements or toflavor homemade or store-boughtvinegar.

To narrow your selection,think about your friend’s culinarypreferences and gardening skills.Basil, mint, chives and cilantrowill probably get the most use incooking. Esoteric herbs, such ashyssop, might be fun for anadventurous garden neophyte.Hyssop, with a slightly bitter minttaste, is often paired with fruit.Like other plants, herbs vary inthe degree of care they require.For example, rosemary can bechallenging, especially if broughtindoors for the winter. Mint, bycontrast, is so hardy that gardenersoften complain that it takesover the yard.

Gift ideas for beginning herbalists:

  • “The Pleasure of Herbs” by PhyllisShaudys (Garden Way Publishing,1988), which provides month by monthtips on preserving and using herbs incrafts and cooking, or Keville’s recommendation,the definitive “IllustratedEncyclopedia of Herbs” by ClaireKowalchik and William H. Hylton(Rodale Press Inc., 1998)
  • “Holly Shimizu’s Video Guide toGrowing & Using Herbs” DVD, 2007
  • Windowsill herb pots
  • Sets of seeds
  • Soil mix
  • An assortment of small herb plants
  • A mister
  • An apron
  • An herb-drying rack


    If you have a Type A friend inyour life, start shopping for knittingneedles, says Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a Toronto resident whohas written several instructionaland humor knitting books.

    “It’s a terrific outlet for peoplewho have to have everythingexactly their way and have tomake things perfect withoutgoing into therapy as the result oftheir actions,” says the author.

    According to the Craft YarnCouncil of America’s ongoingresearch initiatives that started in1994, there is a growing numberof women craving this therapeuticand enjoyable outlet.

    As of January 2005, 36 percentof the female population(or one in three –53 million –U.S. women) knew how to knitor crochet. This was a 51-percentincrease since the study’sinception.

    “For someone picking up needlesfor the first time,” says Colucci,of the Craft Yarn Council ofAmerica, “we always recommendstarting with a smaller projectthat requires little or minimalshaping,” like a scarf.

    “Beginning knitters oftenbegin with cheap, yucky yarn,but it’s uninspiring. Start withbetter quality and end with betterquality,” says Pearl-McPhee.

    And if your friend fidgets, knittingmay be the solution.

    “People who are wound upare the ones who most benefitfrom knitting. People who can’tstand waiting in line or beingbored, find value in their knitting,”Pearl-McPhee says.

    Gift ideas for beginning knitters:

  • “Getting Started Knitting” by JenniferWorick (Interweave Press, 2006), orPearl-McPhee’s book, “Knitting Rules”(Storey Publishing, 2006)
  • Wooden knitting needles
  • “Good smooth wool” in worstedweight

    Handmade cosmetics

    “This is a fantastic hobby. It’sextremely gratifying and soul nurturing,”says Stephanie Tourles, alicensed holistic aesthetician andcertified aromatherapist in BlueHill, Maine.

    “I like to cook, and this is away of cooking cosmetics,” saysTourles.

    Although you’d think thatmaking body-care productsseems most appropriate for selfindulgentwomen, Tourles saysthe opposite is also true.

    “It makes a great hobby forpeople who don’t do a lot of selfcare.

    It’s an indulgence. You canput yourself first,” she says.

    A guide to homemade beautysupplies will be welcomed byanyone with sensitive skin or otherwiseconcerned about theingredients that go into skin-careproducts.

    “If you’re allergic to somethingyou can leave it out. Youcan customize products accordingto your skin type,” saysTourles.

    Gift ideas for beginningcosmetic crafters:

  • “Natural Beauty Recipe Book: How toMake Your Own Organic Cosmeticsand Beauty Products” by Gill Farrer-Halls (Rockport Publishers Inc., 2006),or “Organic Body Care Recipes” byTourles (Storey Publishing, 2007)
  • Cobalt blue glass bottles and jars tostore creams and lotions, which areavailable in antique stores, craft supplystores and some natural food stores
  • Attractive sea shells to act as scoopsfor facial scrubs


    Having jewelry for every outfitcan be pretty pricey. So savvywomen are just as likely tobrowse the jewelry aisle of adepartment store wonderinghow they can make their own.

    That’s where beading fills aneed. Hobbyists can producetheir own glamorous accessoriesfor a fraction of the cost of a purchase.

    Beading can be as simple asstringing clay beads on yarn or aselaborate as knotting strands ofsemi-precious gems. Althoughthe options depend on the person’sskill and budget, there’s acraft project to entice anyone.

    Ora Harris, a Chicagoan whoorganizes a monthly get-togetherfor beaders, suggests beading canbe a social occasion as well as ahobby.

    Gift ideas for beginning beaders:

  • “Beading: 8 Easy Projects” withSharyn Pak DVD, 2007
  • “Stringing” magazine, a quarterlypublication from Interweave Press
  • An assortment of glass beads in varioussizes and shapes
  • Round nose pliers
  • Crimping pliers
  • 30 feet of elastic cord
  • Head pins and ear wires to make earrings(these can be found in any beadshop and most craft stores)
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