When it comes to utterly charming, handmade eco-shopping, there’s nothing (anywhere!) like the outdoor Holiday Market at Union Square in NYC. I swear it’s worth flying in for this wonderland; the values are amazing. I just made a quick run-through tonight for some Secret Santa gifts, and I got the prettiest recycled fiber handbags and handmade paper notebooks, all from $5-$15 each. And I only had 1/2 hour. Think of the damage I could do in a couple. I’ve made a commitment to buy all handmade gifts this Christmas and to buy local. It’s my small act of shopping kindness. You only have until Christmas Eve to do shopping good. Learn more here.
Holiday Prep: Quick Handmade Gift Ideas December 8, 2008
By Julia Pantoga
This is the gift-giving season. But most years, I find myself fairly broke at the beginning of December, and certainly not in a financial position to spend January rent on holiday gifts. However, I like to give gifts to everyone: parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, spouses, and of course, my son. In my family, that’s a minimum of 20 gifts! Pretty daunting for my paltry budget, but I always find a way to do it.
My main strategy is to give the same gift to everyone in the same category. For example, all the adults, or all the children or all the nieces, etc. When I am out shopping during the year, I look for items on sale and buy several of them and store them on my “present” shelf. Last year, I found orange and lime green plastic shoe bows on sale for 50¢ at the hobby store and I bought four for my nieces.
One of the gifts I’ve made many, many times is a framed sheet of stamps. Every time I go to the post office, I peruse all of the current stamp designs. If you live in a major city and go to the philatelic counter at the main post office, you will find a spectacular array of designs to choose from. But, even if you live in a smallish town (as I do now) and the display is limited to the most-used denominations of stamps, you will be surprised at how wonderful and varied stamp artwork is. Over the years, I’ve framed wildflower, sports team, superhero, picture book character, famous author and movie star stamps. The stamps I’m using in the pictures below, were just regular 41¢ stamps I bought at my local small post office. Here’s the easy and fabulous way I turn sheets of stamps into artwork.
1. Buy your stamps in sheets.
2. Take your stamps to a craft store and buy a background sheet of paper and inexpensive frame that match the stamps. (I buy frames all year around when they are on sale.)
3. Use an Exacto knife to cut the paper to fit the frame. (OK, I’ll share my tip here—take the glass out and use it as a guide to cut your paper.)
4. Assemble the paper and the stamps in the frame (Here’s another trick— affix the sheet of stamps to the paper with little pieces of tape on the back, so the stamps don’t slide around under the glass). Consider the border markings from the post office, as something that adds charm and authenticity to your work and spare yourself the time of trimming it off or cutting a paper mat to cover the writing. Just put a piece of nicely covered paper behind the stamps.
Aprons (or whatever is most you)
Last year, plain children’s aprons were on sale at the craft store, so I bought one each for each of my nieces and nephews (and my son). Later, I bought paints, a paintbrush and stencils and painted the first initial of each of their names on an apron. That was one of my most expensive homemade gifts. I think I spent about $8 per apron.
Use What You Have Around
Some of the best gifts I’ve made have come out of times that I had almost no money at all and had to look around my house for ideas of things I could give for gifts.
One of those times came when my son was in kindergarten. I looked around the house, and all I could see was piles and piles of artwork he had come home with. Luckily for me, he went to a school where all the artwork was on identical paper. I selected the 20 pieces that I thought were the most appetizing and took them to my local copy shop and laminated each of them to make 5 sets of 4 placemats each. When I was looking for placemats to photograph for this article, I found out that most had finally disintegrated after years of use (my son is 21 now). My brother-in-law said, “That was one of the best gifts we ever got.” Luckily, my mother stored this precious artwork of her grandson carefully, so I am able to show you photos of what the finished product looked like:
Another year, I spied my collection of shells, which were taking up a lot of display space and were breaking one by one every time they were moved. The next time I went to the craft store, I bought a set of plain magnet disks (I’d imagine you could buy them at the hardware store too). I glued magnets on the back of my shells and gave each of my nieces and nephews a set of shell magnets. I only kept a few for myself.
Then, of course, there have been plenty of years when I’ve grabbed bars of cookie dough out of the freezer, put a bow on it and given that away. But me and frozen cookie dough is another story, for another time… (I now label and mold all my dough, but in the old days, I used to store it in wax paper and slap a bow on it before I gave it as gifts. No one ever complained about the humble wrapping.)
For a good laugh in tough times December 7, 2008
Excerpted from WickedlyChic.com
Do you need a laugh? You do? Skip on over to Shot Through the Heart to meet the hilarious Jenny from the Blog. Jenny has some recessionista ideas … including planting a chicken tree. Don’t miss her, http://www.wickedlychic.com/category/Shot+Through+the+Heart/. Read more Jenny from the Blog here.
This weekend: NYC’s Indie/Small Press Fair December 5, 2008
Get your literary on at the 21st Annual Indie and Small Press Book Fair at the New York Center for Independent Publishing in NYC this weekend. You’ll find more than 100 indie publishers from all over the world, selling books you can’t get at the big box bookstores. This is the literary event of the season for the independently-minded bookish set, and in the true spirit of Athena, it’s all free. Learn more here and get directions here.
With a tagline that says “Globalize Fashion,” NINETEEN74.com sets its sights to be a professional fashion networking web site that links people in the fashion industry from around the world. Created in 2008 by London-based fashion consultant Raoul Keil, this fashion network allows people to meet online, form partnerships, start projects, and advertise job vacancies. It’s like a Facebook for exclusively for fashionistas.
In a web site with a global travel theme, users can blog, create new fashion projects and events, and upload images and videos. And best of all, like Athena, it’s free. The best things in life are always free! Get back to Nineteen74 here.
Last chance puppy cam December 4, 2008
The puppies are leaving the litter this weekend, and I’ve been eyeing them wistfully. Come said ciao to the puppies.
Indie Jewelry: You’ll just love Grandma Marilyn’s December 3, 2008
Posted by Marjorie Cunningham, broken china jewelry designer at Marjorie’s Cracked Plate Jewelry.
One of the nicest jewelry designers you’ll ever meet online is Marilyn Southmayd of Freer, Texas whose jewelry is known as Grandma Marilyn’s. Always ready to help new jewelry makers with advice and encouragement, Marilyn is a delight to know. The slogan on her website is very true: “If it’s on this site, it’s handcrafted with love”. Marilyn shared her jewelry adventure with me.
“Back in the ’80s, my first husband’s mother was making some little dolls and had nowhere to sell them. I started making soft sculpture dolls, and we started going to craft fairs. I let her believe that she was tagging along with me. In reality, I was going to the craft shows so that she could sell her crafts and get a little pin money. Then I found some beaded earring books in the craft store. I started making some really pretty earrings to sell at the craft shows. They did fairly well. For some reason, we quit going to the craft shows and my beading fell by the wayside.
Then, around, September, 2005, I needed something to help me make some money as we had lost everything and my second mother’s husband was supporting us until we could get back on our feet. I started making Christmas Crystal Snowflakes since it was right before Christmas. Those sold pretty well. I sold at least 17 of them. I was so excited. From there, I graduated to making bracelets with wire and acrylic beads.
Then in December 2005, I found the internet bead groups and went wild. My first project was a bracelet by Glenda Payseno called the Fab 50’s Bracelet from her Beadchat group. Glenda is such a giving person and uploads quite a few of her patterns for her members as well as sells them on Lulu and ReadytoBead as patterns and kits. My beading continued to improve with this lovely roundlace necklace created from a bracelet pattern by Sandra D. Halpenny. Since then, I have created so many patterns created by wonderful designers that I cannot list them all here. You can see the pretties that I created either in my GrandmaMarilyns Etsy store, my Picasa Web Album, or my Flickr album. You will find the links to the patterns in the description if I used a pattern.
In March 2005, Loretta, a friend I met on Beadchat, and I started our own group called Beading Fanatics so that the new beaders could have a place to go where the really experienced beaders wouldn’t get mad at them for asking the same questions over and over. I have grown so much as I have learned new stitches. I have actually started designing some of my own patterns. I don’t have them up for sale yet but am considering it. My daughter has even suggested that I start selling kits. I still have quite a ways to go but I am enjoying every minute of it, and I am a beadaholic that doesn’t want to be cured.”
Marilyn told me a very inspiring story as to why she creates dainty jewelry. “I have always been heavy-set and I guess for that reason have always loved dainty, feminine looking jewelry. I had been told as I grew up that I shouldn’t wear dainty jewelry because it wouldn’t look good on me. I feel that anyone should have the right to wear beautiful jewelry if they like it. That is why I tend to lean towards patterns that have that look.”
What fuels Marilyn’s inspiration? “It depends. Lately, I have been inspired by many things—one of them being the challenges on the Etsy Beadweavers Team. I find inspiration everywhere … when I am doing a search for something on the internet and that special something catches my eye, in mother nature, and even in my pets or family.”
I asked Marilyn to tell us about the patterns for the Christmas decoration patterns that she and her daughter have on her website. “Earlier this year, Linda M. sent an email to the beading groups asking for volunteers to make beaded Christmas ornaments (approximately 1-2 inches) for small Christmas trees to be sent to our deployed soldiers. This project was being handled by a group called American Angels. I thought this was a worthy effort so asked my daughter to create some ornaments to be used for this purpose. I told her that I planned to put up a page with her patterns on my site that other beaders could access to make these also. They had over 700 little trees that needed to be decorated so the more beaders the better. Of course, the ornaments could be made in any way but since I love beading first, that is the type of patterns that I listed. This project will be going on every year so the patterns will stay there for as long as I have the website.”
Marilyn’s family members are also very creative. “My mother before she died passed on the love of crafts to me. I will always thank her for that. She loved crocheting. My father does leatherwork. I have started creating a website for his wonderful creations. He has made me a wonderful checkbook cover, belt, and a few fanny packs that are great for when I am doing a show or while shopping at craft shows. He loves doing special orders. My daughter is more into embroidery art than beading. She has a website started, but we don’t have anything on it yet. She has done some posts in her blog about her beautiful work and the inspiration. I want her to do some of her work for sale but she is going to college and that takes up quite a bit of her time. Hopefully someday her work will be for sale next to mine.”
Marilyn also told me why she liked selling on Etsy and gave some advice for newcrafters/designers just starting out there. “One of the major features that I love about Etsy is that it is international. They do advertising so that people can find Etsy. Etsy is picked up by the search engines so that your wonderful handmade items can be found. I love the fact that only handmade or Vintage items can be listed. There is also the fact that the fees don’t eat up all of your profit. It is easy to use and easy to sell. My advice for new crafters/designers just starting out on Etsy is:
1. Make yourself an avatar and banner that people can identify with your shop. Your avatar will show up in any of the messages you put in the forums or anywhere else.
2. Make sure you get good pictures of your items. Especially make sure that your pictures are in focus. Don’t have the pictures cluttered. Once you take them, make sure you crop them down to the item only and do any other editing that needs to be done. Make the first picture your best one showing your item.
3. When you write your description, sell your item. Make the potential buyer think that they have to have your item.
4. Make sure that you list colors in your tags.
5. Do not let your Etsy shop get static….spend time listing and relisting (at least 2-3 items per day is recommended), photographing (remember you need 5 pictures for your listing), editing, writing, learning, promoting, networking, blogging, checking the forums, mailing (if you get a sale), and keeping records.
Oh, one last word of wisdom, when you go in to edit an item, always click LAST at the bottom of the item and then click FINISH at the top. Otherwise your item will become inactive and your potential buyers won’t be able to see it. Been there and done that.”
Here are the links where you can find more about Grandma Marilyn’s jewelry:
Under $30: L’elephant Rose jewelry December 2, 2008
For sheer whimsy, you just can’t beat the earrings on the L’elephant Rose web site. Nor can you beat the price, which tops out at an average of $30, with most for much less. Think globally when it comes to your gifts and buy handmade. Check out L’elephant Rose here.