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No Gift Receipt Required

Craft your way to a handmade holiday gift.
Monday Nov 20, 2006.     By Jennifer Wennig
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

More holiday fun.
Stumped on what to get Dad for Christmas? Our holiday guide is full of plenty of smart gift ideas, plus a few other deal-with-December tips. Skip the holiday hooplah with a little help from Centerstage.

Gift-giving was so much easier as a kid. Do you remember barely being able to contain your excitement when your parents were unwrapping that clay imprint of your small hand? How about the "Best Mom & Dad" t-shirts flaunting grainy, not-quite-centered photos from the family summer vacation? Those gifts were worth more, and cherished longer, than all the pennies in your piggy bank.

The good news: The fact you've outgrown your rigatoni belt and macrame pot-holder days doesn't mean you're too old for homemade gifts, treasured not for their trendiness or perfection, but for their lack thereof. Here are ways to put a personal touch your yuletide season offerings:

Nose your way to a delightful bouquet at Lincoln Park's Aroma Workshop
Don't give your lady perfume that's named for another, flex your olfactory prowess and create an essence just for her. Skilled perfumers will help you sample blends at the "scent bar" until you sniff perfection for the favorite women and men (masculine scents are aplenty) on your gift list. The fragrance is then labeled and sealed in your vessel of choice, ranging from roll-ons to 4-ounce bottles. Sniff that, Britney.

Bake your way to palate-pleasing homemade cookies and candies at Cooking Fools Cut-out cookies are a wonderful holiday tradition, but if you're looking to impress hostesses on your December party circuit, add this to your Crackberry (FYI, Webster's 2006 word of the year) calendar. On Sunday, December 10 the pastry whizzes at this Wicker Park storefront will advance your baking skills beyond slicing those Pillsbury cookie dough logs. The cooks will even demonstrate creative ways to transform a plain glass jar, vase, tin box and cellophane bag into a festive package for your sweet treats.

Jingle awake the artist in you with holiday gift workshops at Lillstreet Art Center
Nothing says thoughtful gift like a free-with-purchase Hallmark ornament. Think again, lassie. Take a hiatus from your Bloody Mary Sundays and increase your crafty quotient by making ornaments of fused glass, ceramic and metal perfect for office gifting, stocking-stuffing, and, you guessed it, tree-trimming. Other one day or night workshops throughout the month include making needle-felted cuffs and rings, silk-screening scarves and binding cloth and paper books. Visit Lillstreet's website for complete December workshop details.

Wrap a loved one in a stylish, cashmere scarf with knitting goods from nina
This sleek knitting shop is a relaxing refuge from the hectic holiday and welcomes newbies with open arms. Brush up on basics with nina's two-part beginner class taking place on Wednesday, December 2 and Saturday, December 9 for $50 (plus supplies). If you're a studious elf, you'll cast off (knitting'll catch on) the last stitch of your fiber-fabulous gift before that jolly old lad takes to the skies.

Create a handmade gift that may come back to you at Paper Source
Wouldn't you be tickled pink to find a lovely letter, hand-addressed in familiar penmanship, in your mailbox. Now imagine how much better it would be if the paper inside was made by you. In addition to instructing you on the art of paper-making, the elves at Paper Source's five Chicagoland locations will teach you to make a bevy of paper presents, including personalized photo albums, decorative boxes and wacky wallets. They'll even teach you tricks of the trade when it comes to wrapping. Your packages will look so pretty that your pals will want to leave them untainted under the tree as decoration.

Other Opportunities for a Homemade Holiday:

Caravan Beads of Chicago It's the candy store of beads. Make the holidays sparkle with a Swarovski crystal bracelet.

Making Glass Studio & Gallery Huff, puff and blow your way to striking drinking glasses, ornaments or paper weights.

Sur La Table The shop's "Gifts from the Kitchen" class will help you please all the foodies on your list.

T-Shirt Deli You're the creator, not the laborer at this shirt-making shop. It's not entirely handmade, but it comes with chips.


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