Got some crafty people on your holiday gift list? Fear not — a present like one of these is bound to please even the pickiest of Do It Yourselfers. (And — self-interested bonus! — it virtually guarantees years of awesome knitted/crocheted/sewn or otherwise home-built gifts for you in turn.)
Photo via Vitaly Korovin/Shutterstock
A good pair of scissors suitable for the craft your recipient practices can make a very thoughtful, and necessary, gift. Bent shears are for sewers who need to cut out pattern pieces, a rotary cutter with a mat and gridded ruler will make a quilter's life (or the life of anyone who has to primarily cut straight lines) easier, and embroidery scissors have the razor-sharp precision demanded by embroidery. All-purpose scissors, as well as craft scissors whose specialty blades will produce zig-zags or other decorative cuts, are for paper crafts and scrapbooking. Leatherwork and bookbinding requires at least one kind of awl. Find out what sharp tools your recipient is currently using, what kind they need, and buy accordingly. As a sewer, I've had the same pair of Fiskars bent shears since I was a little girl, and my mum was sewing for me. They are still sharp. Other people swear by brands like Gingher and Kai. Pinking shears are also useful for some sewers — I personally find I almost never use mine (which are also by Fiskars).
And as commenter Martianchronicles points out, a gift of a precision cutting tool is perhaps best paired with a cheap pair of multi-purpose scissors, "so everyone else in the house will stop borrowing my good scissors to open packages and stuff."
Fiskars 10" Tailor Shears, $42.19
Gingher 8" Knife-Edge Sewing Scissors, $27.50
Kai 9" Professional Shears, $64.99
Kai 5" Double Curve Embroidery Scissors, $18.99
Fiskars 45mm Rotary Cutter, $7
Fiskars Set of 6 Paper Edgers Craft Scissors, $12
Tandy Craftool 4-in-1 Awl Set
Commenter Jessio suggests not buying yarn for any knitters you may know. "Even if it's nice yarn," she writes, "unless that person has said 'Gee, I sure would like 3 skeins of xxxx yarn in xxxx color,' it's weird. I have some really nice yarn that I don't have projects for that I feel bad about that I got as gifts." The same goes for sewers and quilters: don't get them fabric. There are a lot of considerations that go into picking a fabric or a yarn that you might not even be aware of — fiber content, weight, hand, color, nap, drape — and you don't want your gift to moulder at the bottom of a drawer.
Instead, as commenter Runemouri says, get a gift card from a local craft store you know your recipient likes, an online store like Knitpicks, Purl, or Marimekko, or an all-purpose national chain like Dick Blick, Home Depot, or Jo-Ann. For jewelry supplies, several of you recommended Fire Mountain Gems.
DIY store gift card, various prices, various retailers.
One permissible exception to the no-raw-materials rule of crafty gift-giving? Unique vintage fabrics and notions. "I am always asking my friends who live in different cities to keep an eye out for vintage fabrics/zippers/buttons, etc, when they are in consignment or thrift stores," says commenter Goodmannersbadmouth. "Anything I can't get at my local fabric store is gold!! (and cheap!!)" Buying old buttons also gives you materials that are vanishingly rare (or prohibitively expensive) in notions manufacture today — they-don't-make-'em-like-they-used-to stuff like glazed porcelain, mother-of-pearl, woven leather, and even (if you're lucky) Bakelite. Since 2004, I've been holding onto a set of carved crystal buttons from the 1940s that I found at an Iowa City second hand store for a skirt suit I (still) plan to make. (Well, I made the skirt part already. And the button looks great!) You can also find plenty of vintage buttons on Etsy and eBay. Vintage or deadstock ribbons, trims, and fabrics are also thoughtful gifts.
Vintage fabric notions and buttons, various prices, various retailers.
Photo of porcelain clock face buttons (now sold) from Etsy user Cynthiasattic.
For a serious knitter, a set of interchangeable needles is a lovely gift. Some of you like ChiaoGoo's metal interchangeable needles, others prefer Blue Denise (which is plastic), or Harmony (wood). Most knitters have definite preferences about using wooden, plastic, or metal needles, so be sure to find out your recipient's first. And interchangeable needles are all, naturally, circular needles, be sure your knitter likes using circular needles. (I personally avoid circular needles unless I'm actually working in the round.) If your knitter doesn't like circular needles, consider another knitting tool, like stitch markers or a ball winder.
A great idea for a person who is ecumenical in their love for DIY? Perhaps a class in a field related to a craft they already know. If you have a sewer on your gift list, maybe he or she would like to learn quilting or leatherwork. A leatherworker could put a lot of his or her existing tools to use in a bookbinding class. If you know someone who loves household tasks like painting and putting up shelves, maybe he or she would like to pick up the basics of building furniture. Perhaps a jewelry maker would like to learn stained glass. "See what all your local craft stores have to offer," suggests commenter Oldscrumby. "Shops host classes that relate to their products, so a yarn store can to have stuff on embroidery, rug-making, dyeing, and various multimedia on top of basic crochet and knitting classes. Look for something that has most, if not all materials included, and allows for rescheduling or refunds if the participant can't make the class." You might even be able to find a discounted class on Groupon.
A craft class, various prices, various retailers.
Photo of a sewing class via Make Workshop.
Lastly, a good reference book or magazine subscription dedicated to your chosen craft — or an art book to serve as inspiration — is always a great thing to receive from a loved one. Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques is probably the best book I've ever read about sewing. Anything with "couture" in the title sounds daunting, but I actually think it makes a great book for beginners: you may not need to know how to pad-stitch when you're just starting out, but knowing what pad-stitching is and why it's important will teach you things about garment construction and how fabrics behave that will stand you in good stead when you attempt your first simple A-line skirt. I just don't think it helps one in the long run to learn "short cuts" that will likely result in the kind of substandard final product that might turn a beginner off sewing altogether. Similarly, Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Knitting is the knitting book I turn to far more frequently than any faddish collection of patterns. Commenter Brenda Dickson's Vagine recommends Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi. Threads magazine is also a great option for sewers — every issue carries a good mix of beginner and advanced projects, sewing news and trends, and more esoteric textile arts like weaving, embroidery, and dyeing. For leatherwork, Valerie Michael's Leatherworking Handbook is a great place to start. For general inspiration? That depends on the field, and the recipient, but I would personally love to get the monograph from the Met's Alexander McQueen exhibition. Even though it came out last year.