The joy of making—and giving

A guide to local stores that specialize in DIY gift-making

Janette Willingham demonstrates a wire jewelry technique at String Bead.

Janette Willingham demonstrates a wire jewelry technique at String Bead.

Photo By meredith j. cooper

“Oh, just make me something!”

How many times have you heard that response from one of your relatives to the question, “What do you want for Christmas?”

Well, take them up on it this year. (And don’t just limit your do-it-yourself gift-giving to family—do the same for your friends as well.) It’s as good a year as any—actually better, given the current state of the economy—to save some money by putting in some of your own labor on Christmas gifts. And people really do appreciate it.

If you know how to knit or crochet, you can always whip out some scarves from super-bulky yarn, or you make the traditional fudge and cookies and put them in decorative containers that you can pick up on the cheap at any dollar store, or you can put together a “coupon book” that can be redeemed throughout the year for your services. Who doesn’t appreciate getting the leaves raked when they’re ankle-deep, or going out for a cup of tea and some good conversation on a cold day?

But maybe those ideas don’t appeal to you, or maybe you don’t know how to knit or cook.

We’ve got you covered.

The following local businesses not only offer great ideas for DIY gifts, but they’ll give you the help you need to make them, too.

Bead mecca String Bead (2201 Pillsbury Road, Ste. 142, in the Almond Orchard Shopping Center, 894-2323) is offering a three-hour beginning beading class on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from 6-9 p.m. for $20. They guarantee that you will “walk away with a bracelet, a corded necklace and a pair of earrings all made by you!”

All Fired Up Ceramic Art Center (830 Broadway, 894-5227) is offering holiday gift workshops at which participants of all ages can learn to make Christmas ornaments, photo frames, candle holders, tiles and ceramic angels. Two three-week classes are offered, from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Dec. 2, 9 and 16, and from 1-3 p.m. on Saturdays, Dec. 5, 12 and 19. Cost is $80, plus a $20 materials fee, with a discount offered if two or more people sign up together.

Owner and widely known ceramicist Janice Hofmann says that workshop-goers can expect to complete two or three of the five projects over the three-week course. Maximum number of participants per three-week class is 12, so sign up soon.

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Downtown copy shop Mr. Kopy (119 Main St., 896-1804) is offering a special holiday deal on letter-size, 12-page, 12-month photo calendars (with Christmassy cover page, clear plastic oversheet and durable coil binding) for $18.95—down from its usual price of $24.95.

Make a personalized photo calendar to send to Grandma and Grandpa on the East Coast or to give to Mom to put in her office. What a great way for your custom-made gift to have a year-round impact (and not get tossed in a drawer to be forgotten).

“We do hundreds of them every year, literally,” said Mr. Kopy owner Don Kidd. “We also have the ability to create an 11-by-17 calendar for $24.95, or a single-page, 12-by-18 or 11-by-17 laminated calendar with just one photo for $5.95.”

Bring in 12 of your favorite color or black-and-white photos of any size (“Most people bring in standard 4-by-6 photos and we enlarge them,” said Kidd), or a flash drive with 12 photos, and the folks at Mr. Kopy will do you right. They’ll even put extra photos on a page, for an extra charge.

“We can do pretty much anything you want for an extra charge, which is not that much,” Kidd said.

“But tell them the sooner they get [their photos] to us, the sooner we can get their calendars back to them,” he advised. “If they want to guarantee that they’ll get it in time for Christmas, we pretty much need to have their orders by the 11th of December.”

Back to those of you who don’t know how to knit or crochet—or quilt or sew, for that matter (or maybe you’re a beginner and are hesitant to test your new skills on somebody’s Christmas gift). There are several places in Chico that offer classes over the holiday season that will net you some crafty, classy, handmade gifts to give.

Honey Run Quilters (1230 The Esplanade, 342-5464) will host a quilted-bag-making class on Friday, Dec. 18, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., suitable for total beginners as well as those with some quilting experience. The cost is $25, plus purchase of a pattern and material (sold on-site). That, and time spent on a sewing machine (which you need to bring) will net you a well-constructed, attractive, roomy quilted bag suitable for taking to the farmers market.

GreenDot Designer’s Lounge (530 Broadway, 345-1664) is offering three Christmas workshops for children and adults of all sewing-skill levels (including none). Learn to make Christmas ornaments at one of two “Sew Cute!” workshops on Dec. 3 and 10, or go to GreenDot’s “Holiday ‘Catch-All’ Workshop” on Dec. 12 from 12-2 p.m. and learn to make Christmas stockings, hot-water-bottle covers, hats, mufflers, mittens and more. Access to fabric and trim from the remnant bin is free. Cost: $30 per two-hour workshop. Patterns and sewing machines on premises.

Both the Yarn Basket (2015 Palm Ave., 345-2187) and Heartstrings Yarn Studio (1909 The Esplanade, 894-1434) offer knitting and crocheting lessons. The Yarn Basket’s regular Saturday morning class (10 a.m.-noon) costs $10, and will teach a newbie how to knit or crochet a scarf or hat. Heartstrings’ private lessons are $20 per hour, and “most of the time, after the first class [hour] they are capable of doing a scarf,” said Heartstrings teacher Dawn Leeseman.

Finally—it’s not exactly cooking, but the Chico Home Brew Shop (1570 Nord Ave., 342-3768) has everything you need to cook up and bottle a batch of beer or homemade root beer (or ginger beer, sarsparilla or cream soda).

Mr. Beer kits—which will produce two gallons of beer—cost $49, and Mr. Root Beer kits are $25.

Owner Dawn McDonald advises that “a beer requires three to four weeks’ time to be drinkable” in time for Christmas giving, “but soda’s a lot faster—it’s ready within a few days.”