So you lost your cushy dot-com gig last May and decided to take the summer to "find yourself." Now the unemployment checks have run out, the job market looks like the Gobi Desert, and you can't shower your loved ones with the latest high-tech gadgets this holiday. Don't panic—there are plenty of inexpensive presents you can make yourself, and you don't need to be a whiz with a hot glue gun to do it.
While that extensive remodeling is on hold, spruce up the kitchen with something decorative and practical: pot holders! You can buy a metal pot holder loom for under 10 bucks—if you're feeling extra chintzy, a plastic model costs half that—along with enough cotton loops to make two pairs. Those are enough supplies to put stars in your sweetheart's eyes and get back at your aunt for all those socks and underwear. When you're done with your handiwork, you can put the loom back in the original packaging and recycle it as a gift for your little niece or nephew; it's never too early to learn a trade.
The grocery store is a swell spot for gift ideas. Next time you're at QFC, pick up some oranges and a jar of whole cloves. Puncture the skin of the oranges with an ice pick, stud the surface of the fruit with cloves, then dry them in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes. Tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth or old panty hose with some festive ribbon and make a loop at the top. Voil୭you've got a gay pomander ball to hang in the clothes closet, the perfect thing to keep those power suits smelling sweet while your best friend waits interminably for his next job interview.
A diamond is forever, but the Shrinky Dinks Funky Jewelry Activity Kit costs a lot less (only $10.95) and comes with enough supplies to make two necklaces, six bracelets, two pairs of earrings, two key chains, and three rings. That's 15 people you can cross off your list! Rekindle childhood memories as you trace images onto the sheets of clear plastic, color them in, and bake them in the oven till they reduce in size. Too cutesy? Eschew the traditional butterflies and unicorns and trace some grown-up pictures; those dog-eared copies of Torso and Barely Legal under the bed should spark your imagination.
The International District is also brimming with possibilities. Show your mail carrier or favorite bartender you still care by slipping them an origami swan or flower—packages of origami paper, complete with basic directions, cost as little as 99 cents. If that feels too cheap for a former high roller like yourself, dig out those discarded 1,000 peseta notes left over from your Barcelona vacation, color photocopy 'em at Kinko's (it's only counterfeiting if you xerox American bills), and use those instead.
Epoxy a clothespin to anything solid and tell Mom it's a recipe-card holder. Bypass the Hallmark cards and knock out a round of potato prints on construction paper. Use up those boxes of promo T-shirts from your failed start-up, plus the rubber bands you hoarded from the office supply closet, by tie-dying the lot of them. Ultimately, all you need is a little imagination and free time—lord knows you've got enough of the latter—to send folks the message they really want to hear this Christmas: "I didn't really let that six-figure salary turn me into the materialistic jerk I pretended to be last year."
POT HOLDER LOOMS and SHRINKY DINKS are available at Top Ten Toys (104 N. 85th, 782-0098).
ORIGAMI PAPER can be found at Uwajimaya (600 Fifth S., 624-6248).
OTHER ARTSY STUFF can be found at Michael's Arts & Crafts (5959 Corson S., 762-0900).