Monday, November 17, 2008

Handmade Gifts Make a Holiday Comeback

(ARA) – Instead of battling crowded shopping malls and rising prices, Kim Jacobson is spending time in her garage, building holiday gifts in her home woodshop.

For several years, the Minnesota-based occupational therapist has been handcrafting holiday presents as part of her husband Gary's family's unusual -- and refreshing -- annual gift exchange.

"There's only one rule," Gary explains. "Everything has to be homemade. You draw a name at Christmas and have the next year to make that person a present."

It's a tradition Kim says cuts through the commercialism surrounding the holidays, to the core of what the season is all about.

"A lot of love goes into what you make," she says.

It's also part of an emerging trend, according to Ann Rockler Jackson, chief executive officer of Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, one of the nation's largest suppliers of woodworking tools and equipment.

Jackson has seen her company's gift-related supply sales increase steadily over the past five years and believes more consumers are seeking a back-to-the-basics approach to gifts.

"People are getting tired of the shopping-mall mentality surrounding holiday gifts," she says. "Building your own can be so much more personal. There are a lot of creative people out there making incredible, meaningful gifts they couldn't buy at a store. And that do-it-yourself population is growing.

"Plus, it's a nice way to save money," she says. "When you have the skills and ability to eliminate labor costs by doing something yourself, it pays dividends -- particularly in a tough economy."

As the number of people building gifts increases, so does the flow of ideas. Rockler has organized an extensive handmade gift list on its Web site,

Some of the more popular projects on the list are relatively simple to build -- things like small jewelry or keepsake boxes. Dominoes, cribbage boards and wooden Sudoku sets are among the many options for beginners. And for those with wood lathes, hardware kits for hand-turned pens, Christmas ornaments and even ice-cream scoops bring the quality of homemade gifts up to -- or beyond -- the store-bought level.

For the Jacobsons, high-quality homemade gifts are nothing new. With several accomplished woodworkers in the family, they have seen some amazing creations over the years.

"Probably the most impressive was a dining room table my cousin made for his sister-in-law," Gary says. "That will be an heirloom, for sure."

Still, the beauty of the Jacobson's tradition -- and one of the driving forces behind home gift-building's burgeoning popularity -- has as much to do with fellowship as it does with craftsmanship.

"It's definitely brought us all closer together," Kim says.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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