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As an avid quilter, I have a vested interest in this subject, so let me just start by making my bias (and self-interests) known up front.
I do believe that those who love us are plentiful, and have all good intentions when it comes to honoring our passion by choosing a craft-themed gift. However, the proverbial road (if not to hell, then to the garage sale pile) is paved with good intentions. I have over the course of time been given inferior quality raw materials, tacky mass-produced, but meant-to-look-homemade plaques, and even some obviously re-gifted items.
I feel duty-bound to help you avoid these missteps.
The Gift of Time:
In all likelihood, the crafter in your life is shortest on time - time to dedicate to a project already in progress. One money-saving gift idea is to offer to run errands, cook, clean house or provide childcare while Crafty Cathy escapes to her workroom. Take the idea one step farther by booking a weekend "retreat" for that creative someone and friends at a getaway hotel or rental home in the region.
Another thought is to "make a day of it". Head out some scheduled Saturday to take in an antique show or auction, hopping from shop to shop en route. There are numerous knitting, quilting and stained glass supply shops, and an internet search and your favorite map site can help you organize a leisurely and productive trip. Needless to say, as the organizer, you pick the restaurant for lunch.
The Gift of Inspiration:
Inspiration needn't be expensive. Regardless of the craft, free project ideas and patterns abound. Invest a little time to collect links and tear sheets from craft shops, or download and print a few of the patterns you like most. "Wrap" them in a colorful plastic project file from the office supply store. Your crafting parent, sibling or friend will be pleased at the active interest you took in his or her obsession, and you may even be a recipient of a future product.
Another affordable source of inspiration are Dover Publications (http://store.doverpublications.com/), which feature a lot of copyright-free artwork and patterns in books of all sizes. Remember too that a creative person often draws on designs from outside his or her exact specialty - stained glass designs can often be adapted by quilters for example. Bargain books can also be found at half.com, and you can help your crafter establish a great library of older titles this way.
Here are some free pattern resources:
The Gift of RelaxationOh, my aching back. Crafting comes at a cost, and sometimes our necks, hands or back suffer for our art. Why not a gift of a back rub, or a pedicure - at home or at the local day spa?
The Gift of ChoicesGet creative with the gift card. A gift card can be a safe - if uninspired - gift. Instead of a gift card to that major crafting chain or home supply store, consider an eBay gift card, allowing the recipient to search for treasure (vintage supplies, discounted notions, an unfinished project just calling her name). Another option is a gift card to either an organizational or office supply store, to help the crafter organize, store and best utilize his materials. Numerous sites sell discounted gift cards, helping you get - and give - a little more for you money.
When in doubt, shop where your crafter does - and find out the return and exchange policy before you commit. True, you may pick a project or materials outside his or her comfort zone. That may challenge them to take their skills to a whole new level, or could result in something for the aforementioned garage sale pile, but you have to admit... it's better than re-gifting!
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