Have you ever reached the point in the flurry of holiday gift shopping where you start to feel overwhelmed, wishing you could stay in the comfort of your home and make those last few gifts? Or do you ever have difficulty finding a gift that has a personal touch? If so, shops in the St. Croix Valley have a multitude of ideas for you to make a gift (or more) by hand. As many do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) know, making the perfect gift can be as much fun as giving it to someone you care about.
And if you think you have two left thumbs, read on for kits, books and experiences designed for the novice DIYer. Or, you may want to consider giving a great crafting book or supplies to the creative people on your holiday gift list. The ideas, and local inspiration, are endless.
1. Blown-Glass Ornaments
Patrick Casanova’s glass blowing studio at The Carriage House in Hudson will be open by appointment from mid-November to mid-January for individuals and families to create their own blown glass ornaments (opposite page). Participants choose colors while a studio representative prepares the glass and assists them in blowing a unique ornament, complete with a hanger hook. “People come in groups, often families,” says Casanova. “For some, it’s become a traditional holiday celebration.” Children are welcome, and the studio is wheelchair accessible. The Carriage House; call 715.222.8888 for appointment.
2. Woodworking Wonders
Looking for inspiration? Your local libraries or booksellers, such as Valley Bookseller and Chapter2Books, are perfect places to find how-to books for people of all ages and interests. For example, woodworkers may be interested in Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects by local author Spike Carlsen. Two of Carlsen’s favorite projects are the Houdini wine bottle rack (suitable for youth and teenagers to make, with adult supervision) and the Leopold bench. With the Houdini wine bottle rack, Carlsen says “the finished product stands at a slight angle—it kind of magically balances.” The Leopold bench, which seats two, is simply constructed of six long boards all cut at 30-degree angles. Valley Bookseller, 217 Main St. N., Stillwater; valleybookseller.com // Chapter2Books
3. Knit and Purl
If you’re interested in giving a gift that will keep someone warm this winter, consider darn. knit. anyway, a full-service needle arts and supplies shop in downtown Stillwater that offers knitting and crochet sessions and a plethora of needle arts classes for novice and experienced knitters. As a holiday gift idea, owner Aimee Pelletier suggests making handmade boot cuffs, which are a “fun, quick item worn by all ages,” or knit or crocheted necklaces that have beads worked into the pattern. Pelletier also suggests a Needlefelt Your Pet class, where participants ages 8 and older use a barbed needle to compress roving (fluffy, unspun wool) over a wire frame to create a 3- to 4-inch replica of their beloved pet. darn. knit. anyway
4. Paper and Ribbons
Rose Mille offers a treasure trove of unique DIY gift items. Photos on the shop’s web page alone are sure to inspire local crafters (and while you’re online, be sure to check out shop owner and designer Michelle Rose Jorgensen’s Pinterest account, “Made by mi.”) Rose Mille is a veritable museum of the highest-quality crafting materials, such as vintage millinery flowers, ribbons, glass glitter and buttons (it is also a brick-and-mortar shop in Stillwater, open by appointment, during special events and sales.) Standard kits are available for making a lovely wool rose pin, a pumpkin pincushion, and a pretty spring bracelet. Jorgensen is also reintroducing her popular clock kits. These are inexpensive, functional and attractive wooden blocks fitted with a working clock face, which Jorgensen can help crafters cover in vintage wallpaper for a delightful DIY gift that is sure to please someone on your list. Limited quantities will be available. Rose Mille
5. Arts and Crafts
At Alfresco Casual Living, you’ll find “Creativity for Kids” kits for making snow globes and ornaments. Meg Brownson also recommends Klutz books, which are known for their activity-driven arts, fashion and other giftable projects that will keep young crafters engaged through long holiday break. And look for dog-bone cookie cutters, which Brownson considers the DIY doggie gift of the year. Alfresco Casual Living
6. Baubles and Beads
While eclectic gift seekers are sure to enjoy shopping in Art ‘N Soul’s main level, DIYers will want to head downstairs to Stillwater Beads. There you’ll find both finished jewelry and a large variety of beads, rocks and fossils that are ideal for creating your very own one-of-a-kind jewelry and adornments. “Most of the time we’ll be hosting a group where all of the participants make a certain kind of jewelry,” manager Jackie Magler says. But if it’s not too busy, she says, “come down, pick out whatever beads and other elements you want, and we’ll help you put it together on the spot.” Private classes in jewelry making are also available. Walk in or call to arrange or join groups and classes. Art ‘N Soul and Stillwater Beads, Stillwater.
7. Paint with Santa
Children and adults paint together at Kari’s Create and Paint Studio, where participants can work on plaster items or create canvases of several sizes and styles, including ready-to-paint-and-fire ornaments, plates, wine glasses, beer steins and coffee cups, plus child-friendly options. For those who prefer to paint on a canvas, artist-instructed group sessions are popular, but artist/owner Kari Patsy says walk-ins and free-style painters are also always welcome. “Anyone can come in and make a gift. We even schedule a Paint with Santa event for children,” she says (check website for details). Off-site holiday group events can also be arranged at Stillwater locations. Kari’s Create and Paint Studio
8. Fused Glass Art
Pat Haug hears it all the time: “Oh, I’m not artistic or crafty.” Yet these same people exit her Alchemy Arts Studio with hand-crafted items such as colorful glass platters, candle holders, wine glass chains, wine bottle stoppers and pendants. Unlike stained glass and blown glass, fused glass is made by layering types of glass and melting them together in a kiln. The fused-glass product is then placed into or over molds to shape and fire into functional works of art. The studio provides all materials and tools for visitors to make their own creations. There are special classes for children, or you can opt for a unique family experience such as making fused glass quilts—fused glass tiles made by family members who come in for an evening of fun. Haug later epoxies them together and “hangs” the assemblage on a wooden bracket for the family. With a special-needs child of her own, disability access is important to Haug and her studio is open to everyone. According to Haug, there will be several walk-in days for ornament making; check the website for details. Alchemy Arts Studio
9. Holiday Gallery
Sometimes, in spite of the best of plans, we run out of time to complete those DIY gifts. In that case, ArtReach St. Croix’s executive director Heather Rutledge says you may want to consider the art organization’s annual pop-up gift gallery in Stillwater. Keep your eyes open for this temporary gift shop, which will feature the work of 45 artists from the St. Croix Valley—check the website for details and gallery location. You’ll find a nice price range of uniquely crafted pottery, jewelry, prints, cards ornaments and much more. Opening on Black Friday and running through December 24.
10. Paint with Cheer
At Cheers Pablo, winter and holiday themes abound for painters, including “adorable snowmen and the stunning black, white and red cardinals in snow,” artist and studio manager Stacia Zezza says. Artists might want to give a finished painting as a gift, or give a gift certificate for an aspiring artist to experience Cheers Pablo. Better yet, how about scheduling a holiday group session where members of your family paint an image with meaning to your particular clan? Once a month, they offer a kids’ painting class at 10 a.m. – check the website for details. The studio is fully wheelchair accessible. Cheers Pablo