Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christmas is coming

They tell me there are only six weeks left to Christmas. I don’t want to listen to them, I find it hard to believe them but it is on television so it must be true, right? If you are like me and are frightened at the thought of the endless rounds of present shopping, then here are some handy ‘love’ presents you can make – and give – to the people you care about. I know that some of the best presents I have ever received would fall into one or more of the categories on this list. There is something about receiving a gift that has thought put into it that makes it truly special, rather than just some commercial object that you asked for on your list (not to say they don’t make fab presents too).

1. Write a book.
Writing a book for someone you love is a wonderful present. You can make them the protagonist, draw a comic, compile a photo book, make a recipe book, record a story that has been passed down through generations of your family or publish a personalised diary. The best thing is that your book doesn’t have to be long or well written, your loved one with LOVE it anyway because YOU wrote it and you did it for them. If you want to keep the rustic edge, you can print it out and bind it yourself but to be a little bit more professional I would recommend Lulu. It is affordable and you can print up as many, or as few, copies as you like. Set up is very easy as well and they do a wide range of styles including photo books and comics. Of course there are other POD publishers out there, but I would highly recommend Lulu to get the job done.

2. Make a calendar.
Have a handful of baby snaps from the year? Been on holiday with a friend and have the pictures to prove it? Perhaps you have doodles or collages that are fun and funk. Whatever it is, collect 12/13 together and you can make a calendar. Once again you can go to great trouble to make it yourself or put your photos in the hands of a number of Internet companies. I have used both Lulu and Vistaprint for calendars and would recommend them both for ease of use and value for money. Vistaprint often have free deals on their products where you only have to pay for p&p, which is an added bonus.

3. T-shirts.
Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Now you can MAKE the t-shirt! Most PC shops sell transfer sheets that are easily to print your photo or design onto and then iron onto a t-shirt. 100% cotton tees work particularly well, but I have found that the design tends to crack and fade after a couple of washes. You can also get paints and markers for doodling on t-shirts, but it is easy to make a mistake when you are hand drawing the design straight onto the fabric. Most towns have little shops that will print your t-shirt for you at usually affordable prices. There are also plenty of Internet sites that do this too. There is even one which will make your t-shirt with a little bling. For ease of use and quality of product I have found Vistaprint the best. Once again, it is sometimes possible to get your t-shirt for free as long as you pay the p&p.

4. Place mats.
If you are good at drawing or collage, making custom place mats is a nice idea and is something a little less twee than just putting your family photos on them. Once again there are many places that will make your place mats for you, usually associated with photo shops. I haven’t tried any on line places as I get my place mats made locally.

5. Clocks.
Design your own clock face with a photo of your loved one’s favourite TV star, their favourite verse or a picture you have made but don’t what ever you do put a picture of a topless man and a baby on it! Once again I have got my clocks made locally but there are many places you can get them done and it makes a great gift.
6. Customise a wine bottle.
If you can’t afford your own vineyard and you want to give a friend a small gift with a twist, why not customise your own bottle of wine? Make up your label on a computer programme such as PowerPoint or paintshop and print it out onto a large sheet of sticky label paper, easily available from your local PC store. Carefully cut out the label and stick onto the bottle of wine of your choice, covering the existing label. For extra opacity, cover first with a blank label then place your custom label over it. I found a website that did the same thing for considerable cost and with less successful results, so I would recommend doing it yourself.
Other present ideas building on the above suggestions – customise gloves, socks, slippers and caps with t-shirt transfer prints. The transfer doesn’t last that long on items like socks but looks well for long enough to make it worth while. Jigsaw puzzles – turn a simple or complex design into your own jigsaw puzzle. Once again the choices include buying simple to use DIY kits or paying a local company or Internet business a small fee to make it for you. Keyrings – buy printable plastic to make your own funky designs, but be warned, they shrink A LOT in the oven (which you have to do to set the design and harden the plastic). I have also found that the ink bleeds if it gets wet (which is very annoying). Online stores and local shops offer the much more durable but less unusual shaped rectangle keyrings. Pens – customise a pen with a favourite saying or funny title. Pens make cool yet functional gifts but be warned, you usually have to buy them in bulk, which can be expensive. Make your own monopoly, sort of. There are lots of DIY kits out there available to make your own versions of popular board games. A great present for anyone, especially for children. And finally, if you want to kill yourself in time for Christmas, make your own playing cards. All you need is good quality paper, a laminater and too much time on your hands. Make your card template on the computer. I found PowerPoint best for laying out the cards when it came to printing them. Print out your customised individual faces on one sided paper then print out the same pattern 52 times for the back. For best results print these on separate sheets of paper, cut out the designs and glue together before laminating. You can try printing them out on the back and front of the one piece of paper but it is a. VERY time consuming to work out the line ups so they print aligned correctly and b. you often have bleed through. You should get at least 6 card templates per A4 sheet of paper. When your cards are cut out and glued together, lay them out on the lamination sheet and laminate then cut out the cards when the sheets are cooled. It is a fabulous present but HARD WORK.


valpot said...

A lovely present, I agree, but difficult to do due to the time required.

Speaking of books, where is the next chapter...???

Inkpot said...

Books do take time to write, even short ones for family, but if you plan ahead and do a bit every day it is possible to get one written. John Boyne wrote his first draft of the boy in the striped pajamas in two days. Thanks Valpot.

Anonymous said...

there is only one item on your list!! write a book- a very difficult thing to do- believe me especially if you are not a writer. but spoken like a true author. of course what you should have said is : a GOOD book quite LONG and interesting.

Valpot said...

I was rather surprised myself at the length of the lsit the other day. Quality, not quantoity, I said - but glad to see you actually hav both!!

Inkpot said...

Oops, is my face red. Thanks Anon for the heads up on this post. I know I should have checked to make sure it posted ok but I forgot. Slap on the hand for me. I have fixed it up now.