A crafty plan for gift-giving

October 28, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

Christmas is less than two months away. That's enough time to make your loved one a more personal gift.

Not everyone is good with a sewing machine or has a flair for painting, so here are some gift suggestions:

A personalized wall calendar

If you don't have the software and scanner at home to create a calendar, you can pick the art and take it to a business such as Copyquik Printing or Wal-Mart to have one created.

Planning ahead gives you time to sneak any photographs you need out of the family photo albums or create art such as paintings or drawings for each month's illustration.

For the art or photos, keep in mind the art for each month should fit within an 8 1/2-inch-high-by-11-inch-wide space, leaving a 1/2-inch margin at the bottom of the page and a 1/4-inch margin on the other edges, according to Copyquik Printing employees. An image can be enlarged to fit that size or two vertical images can go side-by-side to fill the space, says Barry Martin, owner of Copyquik. Pictures with a copyright cannot be used if you go through a commercial operation.


A collage of pictures also could be used.

Or you could go old-school and make the entire calendar by hand. A calendar can be made that hangs, unfolded, with art at the top and the calendar grid at the bottom.

Use heavier, bigger paper such as 60-pound cover stock that is 11 inches by 17 inches and punch a hole in the middle near the top for hanging. You can even note specific family holidays such as birthdays and anniversaries.

A song you can perform or a story or poem you can read

To get ideas for lyrics for a song for someone else, first list information about the person, such as likes, dislikes, hobbies, adjectives to describe the person's personality, an event/time the two of you shared and what makes your relationship with this person special, says Nicole Swartwood, songwriting teacher at South Hagerstown High School.

Then think about what viewpoint you are singing from - first, second or third person.

People don't have to know chords to create a melody. Just make up a tune.

Listen to artists you or the recipient like for inspiration for melodies and, when you think of a melody, record it on a tape recorder, Swartwood says.

You want to connect with the person you are giving the song to, perhaps a parent, so keep in mind what kind of music that person enjoys, Swartwood says. You might try fusing or mixing the styles of music that you and the recipient like.

When writing a story or poem for someone, pick a subject you know well, use descriptive words and phrases, avoid clichs and revise often, suggests Peggy Pugh, supervisor of Secondary English Language Arts for Washington County Public Schools.

Poems usually focus on one thing - a feeling, a person or an event, Pugh wrote in an e-mail.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, including something you've read, or something you see on television or when you are traveling, she says.

If you find writing a poem from scratch intimidating, pick a poem you or the recipient like and change some of the words to fit the situation, recipient or event you want to describe, Pugh suggests.

If you need help being descriptive, consult a dictionary or thesaurus. Tutorials about writing poetry also are available online, Pugh says.

A handmade or customized frame

Relatively inexpensive picture frames can be purchased these days or you can make one for a loved one's favorite photo or picture.

Depending on your skill level and the tools you have, you can use a miter box and router to create the grooved pieces or shop for molding that already has grooves to hold glass.

After sanding the wood, apply polyurethane so the wood's grain is still visible, or paint the wood, says Jeff Stouffer, who used to teach woodworking and now is principal at Washington County Technical High School. He still makes frames.

Use 4d or inch-long finishing nails to fasten the corners. Stouffer suggests drilling holes first, using a 1/16-inch drill bit, so the wood doesn't split apart, and then carefully tapping the nails in with the hammer.

Cardboard can be used for backing. Duct tape will lose its strength, so Stouffer recommends using brass or aluminum brads to hold in the picture and backing.

If creating the frame from scratch sounds too challenging, some arts and crafts supply stores sell the pieces. Howard's Art Supplies & Frames on Dual Highway also has a free handout explaining how to make a frame, co-owner Ellen Collins says.

Another option is decorating an existing frame.

People can glue objects on a frame or paint the frame using acrylic paint, says Collins.

Sand the wooden frame first to roughen the surface and help paint adhere.

For a beach-theme picture frame, Collins says gluing shells on the frame might distract from the art the frame is holding. She suggests covering the frame with white glue and dipping it in sand.

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