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Handcrafted gifts add personal seasonal touch


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POSTED: Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas is only a few days away, and if you're scrambling around trying to buy last-minute gifts, consider making personalized items for those hardest-to-buy-for people on your list. Simple, everyday items can be transformed to reflect their personality and interests.

Embellishing a picture frame or photo mat can provide the perfect backdrop for a family portrait or one of the shots just sitting in your camera or on your Flickr site, just waiting to be printed. Materials such as sequins, ribbons, rubber stamps, seashells, foam pieces, old jewelry and more—use your imagination—can all be used to embellish the frame.

Gloria Arias, a craft coordinator at Ben Franklin, suggests taking a minimalist approach for ease. Even the noncrafty can get beautiful results by gluing a foam flower and some greenery on a wooden frame. Simple plastic frames can also be dressed up with an assortment of buttons (in a specific color scheme) and small charms.

Use a hot-glue gun or craft glue to attach the embellishment. A more elaborate choice might involve painting a wooden frame with flowers or other designs. Themes can reflect family, pets, travels or hobbies, among other things. Artwork created by children and put in a decorated frame can be the perfect gift for grandparents.

Scrapbook die-cuts and supplies can also provide the perfect finishing touches. Frames and mirrors can also be transformed by creating designs around the border by using broken pieces of tile and grout.

FRAMES ARE not the only item that can be embellished. Ben Franklin has a variety of unfinished wood products, from trinket boxes to pencil holders, waiting for your handiwork.

One small clutch ($2) can be covered in decorative or scrapbook papers, then finished with decoupage glue for a protective sheen. If you would like to make the clutch into a purse, drill holes in the sides to attach a handle or strap.

Painted glassware is another option. Wine and champagne glasses can be painted with special acrylic enamels, stained-glass paint or ceramic paint in a variety of colors. Stencils can be used as guides to create imagery similar to elaborate styles found in home decor stores. Blank ceramic tiles can also be painted to create coasters. Plain undecorated piggy banks or blank ceramic ornaments can be personalized the same way. Or, a ceramic plate could be decorated with the child's hand print and other adornments.

Memo boards are another quick and simple project. Sheets of magnetic, cork and dry erase sheets can be found in local craft stores. The sheets normally come in a 12-by-12-inch size and can be cut to fit in any standard frame that can also be embellished. This makes a nice teacher gift that could be used in the home or in the classroom.

Arias suggested using old items that can be rehabilitated to create gifts, as well. For example, old jewelry boxes can be painted or embellished.

Just figure out what supplies you might already have on hand, and use time you might spend looking for store parking to create memorable gifts cherished beyond the holiday season.

E-mail Nancy Arcayna at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).