Make covers for Post-it notes out of card stock, stamped and colored.

Put your stamp on it

Rubber stamps can be used
to create a wide variety
of customized gifts

The days of manufactured, packaged and impersonal greeting cards are over. Now that so many have access to copy stores, computers and digital cameras, it's getting easier and easier to create personal greetings. These days, those DIY'ers even have a choice of going high or low tech, whether through digital illustrations and photos, or the messier, tactile route that involves getting busy with any combination of paper, glue, scissors and rubber stamps.

The Post Office Suggests ...

The United States Postal Service offers greeting cards that you can personalize. Visit the site www.usps.com/netpost to select from a variety of traditional and modern cards, or create your own photo card.

Mailing Deadlines

While you're thinking of sending holiday greetings, here's a reminder that the deadlines for domestic mailing are as follows:

Dec. 15: Deadline to ship Parcel Post

Dec. 20: Deadline to ship first-class mail

Dec. 22: Deadline to ship using Priority Mail service

Dec. 23: Deadline to ship using Express Mail service

Creating a design takes the longest, said Debbie West, of Rubber Stamp Plantation. She suggests pre-cutting all papers and working in assembly-line style, which speeds up the process when repeating the same design over and over.

Over time, she's seen card designs become more elaborate, and to make an impact, many forms of embellishment may be used, including adding eyelet fabric, ribbons and photos help to create a three-dimensional effect. Use of photographic slide mounts also helps to enhance artwork and photos.

Rubber stamps can also be used as an affordable way to personalize gifts, and using them doesn't require much skill.

"Post-it notes make great office gifts. Who doesn't use them?" said West, who creates decorative covers for the note paper by using a piece of card stock. The simple instructions are to score and fold the card stock, insert the notes and secure them by applying a stick-on Velcro-style closure. The cover can be embellished with stamps, paint and other forms of decoration.

Debbie West of Rubber Stamp Plantation uses a huge collection of stamps to create individualized gifts. Above, a gift tag is adorned with a canceled postage stamp.

In the same way, composition books can be purchased for less than $1 and transformed into colorful travel or personal journals.

"I prefer to use the unlined books, so a person can choose to either write or draw," West said. "I took one when I went to the East Coast and used it to press leaves."

The journal covers, too, can be decorated with postcards, scraps of wallpaper, fibers, canceled postage stamps, tea wrappers, ticket stubs and matchbooks. The possibilities are endless.

Although it's rather late in the season to think about making your own gifts, you could be thinking twice about the alternative after checking out the prices at the malls. West said there's still time to put together thoughtful, quick and inexpensive gifts.

She said mint tins or plain boxes available from craft stores can be covered with fabric, decorated and presented as a box to store jewelry.

Gift bags are customized with stamped designs and various trims.

Bottle caps also represent a hot jewelry item, according to West, who says recycling the used metal has the additional advantage of helping the environment. Take a hammer to the inside of the bottle caps to flatten the edges, place photos or miniature artwork inside, and hammer the pointy edges of the bottle cap back in to form a frame around the image. If you're not keen on drinking all that beer or cola to get your supply of bottle caps, head for craft stores, which often stock the caps in several colors.

Bookmarks can be made by shaping sterling and copper wire. Use old beads to decorate them. Simple metal or wooden bookends can also be updated with paint, stamps and adornments.

If taking time to craft will only add stress to your holidays, there is always next year. West recommends starting in January and making a pact with friends to get together to work on projects one evening a month. "It's a fun thing to do with a few friends."

A rubber-stamped picture frame spells out the spirit of family.

Call 591-2122 for information on classes. West also works on a Web page that offers information on a variety of stamping projects, www.rubberstampingideas.com.

E-mail to Features Desk


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