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Published December 21, 2010, 12:00 AM

Crafty gifts: You and your kids can make these fun presents

There’s something about a handmade gift that’s special.

There’s something about a handmade gift that’s special.

Maybe it’s the fact someone set aside time in a busy schedule to craft or bake something especially for you.

Perhaps it’s the good memories it represents: Every time you use that scarf, you think of the person who knitted it.

Those are some of the reasons why Violet Stephenson of Pelican Rapids, Minn., has made hand-crafted gifts for family members, friends and co-workers for years.

Her specialty is crocheted tree ornaments, doilies and tablecloths. She once spent six months crocheting a tablecloth out of her own mother’s fragile antique thread as a special gift to her. The piece meant so much to Stephenson’s mother that she asked to have it displayed over her casket before she died.

“I like it because (the handmade gift) is a remembrance of that person,” Stephenson says. “You take it out, and it brings back memories.”

The crafts listed here are a bit easier to make than a crocheted table covering. In fact, they’re so simple that kids can even try them – with a little parental help, of course. And they are bound to be warmly received when that special grandparent, friend or teacher opens them on Christmas morning.

Chalkboard Coasters

The beauty of these clever coasters, from http://thoughtfuldesigns.blogspot.com, is that they can also be used to label different buffet dishes or as fun place cards on the holiday table. Wrap them up in festive ribbon or raffia with a piece of chalk tied on top.

Tools and process:

Chalkboard spray paint (any color)

Four ceramic tiles (available for 30 to 40 cents apiece at home improvement stores; use black if you can so chips don’t show)

Thin cork board (available at Target and some craft stores)


Decorative ribbon

1. Spray tiles evenly with chalkboard paint.

2. Wait 24 hours to completely dry; then use side of chalk to rub chalk over entire painted surface (this will make coasters easier to erase in future). Wipe clean with a cloth.

2. Trace tiles and cut out cork board to put on bottom of each coaster. Attach cork with glue gun. Trim cork edges, if necessary.

3. Write the receiver’s name or a friendly holiday sentiment on the top coaster. Bundle together in a ribbon, with a piece of chalk tied on top.

Sewing Kit in a Jar

This ingenious sewing kit with built-in pincushion is ideal for a college student, a young single teacher or a grandparent.

Tools and process:

Mason jar, small or large

Jar’s screw cap and sealer, separated

Square of linen or cotton fabric

Glue gun

Thin cardboard


Small amount of stuffing or batting

Pins and sewing supplies

1. Trace around sealer on cardboard and cut out. Using a compass (or just eyeballing it, like I did), draw a circle, about 1½ inches larger in diameter than the cardboard, on the fabric.

2. Cut out fabric circle and make cushion by placing batting between fabric and cardboard. Turn screw cap upside down and apply hot glue to inside edge of rim; quickly press cushion into lid until cloth protrudes smoothly above screw cap’s opening and cardboard is flush against rim.

3. Apply hot glue around bottom edge of cardboard; fold over excess fabric and press down. Glue top of sealer to cardboard.

4. Fill jar with sewing essentials: spools of thread, needles, pins, a small scissor, seam ripper, measuring tape and thimble.

From: Marthastewart.com

Roasted, Spiced Almonds

Use scrapbooking and craft supplies to decorate a small tin; then fill it with smoked almonds or these yummy, seasonally spiced nuts.


4 cups whole, unblanched almonds or mixed nuts

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds in single layer in a jelly-roll pan. Bake 10 minutes. Place pan on wire rack; cool 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Grease another jelly-roll pan (15-by-10-inch); set aside.

2. With a whisk or rotary beater, beat egg white and water in large bowl till frothy. Stir in the sugars, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir in cooled nuts. Spread nuts in single layer in prepared pan.

3. Bake about 20 minutes or until nuts appear dry, stirring once halfway through baking. Transfer to waxed paper, separating into individual pieces or small clusters; cool completely.

4. Store in tightly covered decorative containers in fridge for up to 1 week. Makes 5½ cups.

From: Better Homes and Gardens

Sparkly Tree Ornaments

Tools and process:

Four Christmas tree

die cuts

Four types of holiday patterned paper

Glue stick

Diamond dust

Glass glitter

Paper punch

Ribbon for hanging

Embellishments: pom-poms, ribbons, trinkets, trims

1. Cover Christmas tree die cuts with holiday patterned paper using a glue stick.

2. Spread glue over the surface of the paper-covered ornaments and sprinkle

with diamond dust.

3. Glue glass glitter to

the boughs of the trees.

4. Punch a hole in the

top of each tree and thread with a length of ribbon

for hanging.

5. Embellish with pom-poms, ribbons and trinkets.

From: Better Homes and Gardens

Bath Fizzies

When combined with baking soda and placed in water, citric acid will add some snap, crackle, pop to your bath water. A common food additive, citric acid is available at wine-making supply stores and health food stores.

(I found mine at Tochi Products and Specialty Foods in Fargo.)

You’ll also want to invest in silicone ice-cube trays, which serve as forms for the pastel bath cubes. (I actually used a silicone bite-sized brownie pan from Michael’s in Fargo.)

The fizzies look great packaged in glass jars, but be sure to label

them as such so no one mistakes them for holiday candy!

Tools and materials:

½ cup citric acid

1 cup baking soda

¾ cup cornstarch

¼ cup organic cane sugar (I used regular beet sugar)

About 6 drops food coloring

10 to 15 dropsessential oil

Special equipment: silicone ice-cube or brownie tray; 2-ounce, travel-size spray bottle; plastic pipette; storage jars

1. Stir together citric acid, baking soda and cornstarch in glass measuring cup.

2. Pass mixture through a fine sieve or flour sifter into mixing bowl. Stir in sugar.

3. Fill spray bottle with water and add food coloring. Spritz mixture lightly (it should be damp but not fizzy) until you can pack the mixture with your hands.

4. Using pipette, add oil, 1 drop at a time, until strength of scent is as you like it. Using a metal spoon or your hands, mix ingredients until color is evenly spread throughout (if mixture dries out, spritz until packable again).

5. Spoon into ice-cube tray, pressing firmly. Let dry at room temperature overnight. Gently pop out of tray and transfer to jars.

From: Marthastewart.com

Bling It On Photo Books

One of the easiest and most personal gifts is to simply embellish a plain frame or photo book. For this one, we used felt and plastic snowflakes, sequins, faux gems and self-adhesive scrapbooking letters – all available at craft stores. A black-and-white image “pops” against this bejeweled backdrop.

Photos by David Samson / The Forum

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525