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11.26.08

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Phaedra

OH DEER: Spray-painting a figurine black and adding decorative balls is within our skill set.

Net Knit

Using the web to warp, weave, stitch, craft and make your own gifts

By Paul Davis

Long before Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson took the global economy for a cruise on the Fail Boat, there was plenty of talk among market analysts that this would be a lean holiday season. And now here we are, with the holidays upon us, and the reality is dimmer than any analyst could have predicted in the halcyon days of June 2008.

This doesn't mean these holidays have to be a complete blowout. There are plenty of DIY gift ideas floating around there that can allow you to treat your loved ones without having to resort to any more toxic loans. And thanks for the wonders of the Internet (you are still paying those DSL bills, right?), just about anyone can whip up some homemade holiday cheer that has no resemblance to those itchy knitted sweaters Granny used to make.

The DIY revolution has reached critical mass online in recent years, with tons of sites offering tutorials and inspiration for gift items as far-flung as screen-printed T's and knitted iPod cozies. Here's a sampling of some of our favorites. Who knows, with the skills you hone going the DIY route, you might just find a recession bailout plan of your own.

Curbly should be your first stop if you want to enter the world of DIY gift-giving. An online community for both pro crafters and wannabes, the site is full of inspiring ideas alongside incredibly helpful video tutorials for items such as art nouveau birdhouses and old books that have been repurposed into small works of wall art. The site offers a robust discussion forum where crafters trade tips and talk shop, and the overall ethos of the site favors finding economical solutions to grandiose visions. [ http://www.curbly.com/ ]www.curbly.com.

If Curbly is your first stop, make Instructables your second. A veritable clearinghouse for craft tutorials, if you can't find the perfect homemade gift here, you're probably not sold on this whole DIY thing to begin with. The wealth of tutorials on the site, ranging from classy homemade lamps to USB memory sticks encased in Lego bricks, is mind-boggling, and a bit overwhelming. Since the tutorials are user-submitted, their quality can vary, but user ratings allow you to quickly find the best submitters to the site. [ http://www.instructables.com/ ]www.instructables.com.

'Make Magazine' Both an online magazine and quarterly print digest, Make Magazine is like a virtual Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory to nerdy DIY-ers, with a preference for projects that are technical and eccentric. You'll find tricks to make bizarre and wonderful devices out of typical off-the-shelf items, and if you have the will (and a bit of technical or engineering prowess), the magazine is full of ideas that will make the face of the plugged-in iconoclast in your life glow. Word of warning: the projects in Make are rarely for the faint of heart, and the materials of choice may end up being pricier than an off-the-shelf gift. [ http://www.makezine.com/ ]www.makezine.com.

More accessible than Make, in both tone and project difficulty, is its sister publication, 'Craft.' Craft offers tons of tutorials for homemade knitted gear, ornaments and what-have-you. Keep the Bedazzler in the box, though—the overriding aesthetic of Craft's projects is cutesy, hip and urban. The site's updated-daily blog serves as a fount of idea inspiration, displaying the most impressive DIY projects from around the web, and the tutorials are sure to help those who suffer from fumbling finger syndrome. Unfortunately, a subscription is required to view the tutorials, but they are hard to beat for sheer thoroughness and user-friendliness. [ http://www.craftzine.com/ ]www.craftzine.com.

Lifehacker is the granddaddy of productivity blogs, generally focusing on simple solutions for mundane office tasks, but in recent weeks has ramped up its coverage of hands-on holiday gift hacks. The site is more likely to offer a new system to efficiently manage email than play host to a slew of homemade gift how-tos, but the handful of homemade solutions on offer are refreshingly simple, preferring resourcefulness to flash. [ http://www.lifehacker.com/ ]www.lifehacker.com.

Still can't find inspiration? Try hipster-centric craft discussion forum Craftster (www.craftster.com), or head over to the Holiday DIY Gift Ideas Flickr Pool (www.flickr.com/groups/3021811@N00), which includes hundreds of photos of homemade gifts by members of the Flickr community. And if you just can't bring yourself to pull out the glue gun, or are just impossibly clumsy, you can always fake it and head over to Etsy (www.etsy.com.), an eBay of sort for crafters, to find a slew of affordable gifts by DIY pros.


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