Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gifts for Crafters

Giving the gift of crafting can be a unique present for any occasion. Whether you're exchanging gifts with an experienced crafter or someone you just think would enjoy a new pursuit, there are many possible ideas.

Buying gifts for an experienced crafter can be difficult because it seems like they already own everything they need. If you don't mind ruining the surprise, ask them what they would like. There may be an accessory they've been wanting to make crafting easier, or a supply they're always running out of. You could also buy them a higher quality of supplies than they might buy for themselves. Get them a high-end paint brush, or a luxurious fabric. More expensive doesn't always mean better, though, so if you don't know enough about the craft to be able to judge the quality of the materials, ask for help at the store.

If you think someone would enjoy a craft they don't already participate in, you could create a gift basket filled with all the materials they need to get started. A gift basket for cross-stitching might include a simple chart, fabric, all the embroidery floss needed to complete the design, a hoop, and a needle. A collection for plaster painting could be assembled with an assortment of brushes, a few small plaster figures, and a variety pack of common paint colors, keeping in mind the colors you'd most likely want to use on the figures you've included.

While some people are equal opportunity crafters and will engage in any project that allows them to use their hands and creativity, others specialize in a particular area, like sewing or painting. Know which kind of crafter you're dealing with before buying a gift. Even the best crafting gift idea will lose a little of its luster if it's just not something the crafter is interested in doing.

The diversity in crafters allows for a great gift idea, though. You usually might shy away from giving an accomplished crafter a completed craft, thinking, "Why give them a gift they could just make themselves?" But why not give people crafts they would never do on their own? Give the devoted seamstress a clay-bead necklace or knit a sweater for the potter. As crafters, they'll appreciate the craftsmanship behind a piece, and if you make it yourself, they'll be especially understanding and appreciative of the time you invested in creating your gift. If you're not crafty yourself, there are always craft shows available throughout the year, and especially around the holidays. Just keep an eye out for signs, flyers, and announcements in the local paper.

If you're trying to encourage a young crafter, there are many pre-made kits available to help them in their pursuits. Kits for young crafters usually focus on helping the user make something decorative or useful. For instance, they may be making "stained-glass" suncatchers or a set of friendship bracelets. A kit will usually include enough materials to make at least two or three of the project, but in many cases you can easily replace the supplies. If you want to make sure the kit can be used time after time, look for projects that use readily-available materials like yarn and embroidery floss.

You can find these kits in the toy department as well as in craft stores. Look at the suggested age range on the box for an idea of how complicated a project may be, but use your best judgment. A project that's recommended for ages 5 and up because it doesn't have any sharp edges or parts that can be swallowed still might not be appropriate for a five-year-old who doesn't know how to color inside the lines yet.

Gift certificates always make a good gift for crafters. Some popular craft stores include Michael's and Jo-Ann Fabrics/Jo-Ann Etc. You can also readily buy craft supplies at discount retailers like Wal-Mart, but if you truly want your friend or relative to go all out in buying craft supplies, it can be too easy to spend a gift card at a place like that on everyday essentials instead of the intended purpose. Don't forget about local stores, too. If your favorite crafter frequents a small cross-stitch shop or ceramics studio, look into getting a gift certificate there. You'll know it's a store he or she enjoys, and you'll also be supporting a small business.

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