’Tis the Season to be Crafty

Do-it-yourself Christmas presents have come a long way since Aunt Millie’s gaudy knitted stocking caps or the dreaded hard-as-a-rock fruitcake.
Today’s gifts of the handcrafted type are thoughtful and oftentimes meaningful in a personalized way. They can be pretty or practical, or both, a precious keepsake for years to come. And, as many people veer away from procuring more stuff, in some instances gift giving is transitioning to the collection of memorable experiences rather than material goods.

One way to do this is to provide the recipient with a lesson in which to learn a new skill set. Another is to gather as a group to share a fun, creative event together.

In Northern Colorado, both opportunities abound in a variety of venues. With hand’s-on tutorials and your imagination, holiday giving at Christmas becomes pure magic. There’s something for everyone’s wish list. Here are several suggestions to help you along the way.

Painting
Loaded Lumber Creative Studio of NOCO offers wood sign parties, where attendees paint custom, shabby-chic designs from scratch onto wooden pallets. Enjoy an adult beverage while creating a final product intended to be taken home. Do-it-yourself workshops are available or host a private party. They are fully mobile and provide set-up and cleanup at a location of your choice, from breweries to local craft rooms.

Looking for a painting tutorial on canvas? Picasso & Wine in the New Windsor Marketplace is just the ticket. From novice to those more adept, this is a nice way for all to spend a few hours learning from real-time artistic instructors. You will be guided through the process of recreating an original painting while enjoying a complimentary beverage amid music, pleasant chatter and laughter.

Great for a lady’s night out or a Saturday family day, there’s a large selection of themes to choose from in order to satisfy a variety of preferences. It’s not just for the gals and kiddos, though—Bronco logos, mountain skylines and hero motifs offer something of the masculine.

Textiles
The Sewing Circle, in Fort Collins, is a haven for those who love to sew and quilt. For anyone who needs a quick fix, zip into the shop to join in on Lunchtime Lessons for a half-hour Make & Take project. Other workshops and classes are conducted on a regular basis. Beginners can get started with Christmas tree trivets for a simple, budget-conscious quilted curio.

Have a personalized project in mind? Shop for unique fabric, including garment fabrics and fabric panels, notions and other supplies.

In Greeley’s Market Square, find Sew Downtown, a sewing store and so much more, owned and operated by mother, Dana, and daughter, Shelly—a team with a passion for sewing which began at an early age for each in turn. They host Ladies Groups, Kid’s Crafts, Quilting and beyond.

The tactile feel of both wool or cotton yarn, plus the almost meditative state of knitting and crocheting, are why these pastimes are considered akin to Zen moments. Whether you already have know-how or are a newbie, gatherings bring together like-minded people in a state of camaraderie.

Case in point is My Sister Knits in Fort Collins, which has evolved into “a passionate community of creative minds,” according to their website. At their classes and workshops, learn to knit or crochet everything from basic mittens to an intricate Golden Hair Shawl.

Another good choice for fiber arts is The Black Sheep Wool Shop in Windsor, a veritable candy store of quality materials. They carry hundreds of wool applique patterns and over 300 colors of Perle cotton. Products include Wooly Lady wool in vibrant colors using gorgeous Pendleton wool, kits in fresh, modern patterns,

100 percent cotton soft-brushed flannel, rich hand-dyed Mary Flanagan Woolens
in a wide range of textures, and embroidery supplies.

Or visit Northern Colorado Weavers Guild, a membership-based nonprofit. Meetings and workshops feature a variety of programs related to fiber arts. Guests are welcome.

Wood & Metal Works
Woodworking is a time-honored tradition. Custom-crafted frames, cutting boards and furniture, as well as both indoor and outdoor décor, can be gleaned from beautiful natural materials such as pine, oak and maple. Even game boards like Chess, Chinese Checkers and the new, trendy Jokers and Marbles are gifts that keep on giving with hours of entertainment. Add in toys for the tots as items to play with and cherish, often for a lifetime.

Woodcraft of Loveland has a full range of supplies, tools and accessories. They also carry kits for bird and bat houses, ukuleles, a plethora of 3-D mechanical puzzles, in addition to plans and how-to carving books. Take one of the many classes offered to build unique objects or give the instruction to someone else who wants to master a wonderful, classic ability.

The appeal of fire is elemental—mastering flame to forge with accuracy and intent is another matter. Look to Forge With Intention by the David Norrie Blacksmithing School, Berthoud, to do just that. Class sizes are limited to eight people for a controlled learning experience. Both men and women are welcome. Start with the Flirt with Fire class for basic blacksmithing techniques. From there, construct rustic camp tools or ornate metal sculptures. Once proficient in introductory methods, the option exists to tackle bladesmithing to make Viking knives. All materials and safety equipment are provided.

Jewelry
Right up there with handmade clothing, one-of-a-kind wearable gems strike a fancy as lovely endowments. At NoCo Bead & Metal, in Loveland, find classes and top-brand supplies for jewelry making, as well as pre-made items. They also offer e-gift cards to easily take advantage of their available treasure trove.
At Artisan You, also in Loveland, find pre-made unique jewelry, along with glass fusing and pottery painting.
Chain hobby stores such as Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabric and Crafts, and Michaels also carry cloth and sewing notions, as well as jewelry supplies. Check out each store for classes.

Ceramics and Glass
Glass of Art in Berthoud is a place to play with assorted expressive aspects. They are locally owned, offering ceramic, wood and wine bottle glass painting, along with jewelry making. The full bar is an added attraction.

Prefer the feel of clay between your palms? Try Greeley’s The Clay Center of Northern Colorado. Serious pottery instruction teaches how to throw your own cups, bowls and platters. Or choose to delve into sculpture for the garden. Combine the two concepts for distinctive objects to match that special someone’s discerning style.

Today’s gifts of the handcrafted type are thoughtful and oftentimes meaningful in a personalized way.

Plantology
The Gardens on Spring Creek, in conjunction with the City of Fort Collins, will host a Make Your Own Holiday Wreath workshop on December 7 at two different times. Utilize evergreens, berries, grasses and ribbon to make a natural centerpiece for the holidays.

Also in Fort Collins, visit Golden
Poppy Herbal Apothecary to discover the world of herbology. Sign up for a class
on herbalism, aromatherapy, natural health, botany and more.

Or plant a kitchen windowsill herb garden for the chef on your list; the freshness will truly be appreciated throughout cold winter months.

Cuisine
Ah, food! The best is saved for last. There are nearly as many edible treats as there are people to relish them.

Specialty fare is certainly a big part of any holiday celebration, and Christmas cuisine is no exception. Cookie platters are a hit, as well as pastries, jams and jellies. For those who’d rather have savory over sweet, options are abundant.

Make your own munchies from market bulk bins with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate candy nibs, sesame sticks and pretzels. Let your taste buds be your guide. Dry jerky from beef or wild game meat in a variety of flavors. Layer nonperishable ingredients—beans, lentils, rice and spices—for a hearty soup mix in a sealed canning jar labeled with instructions. Go with cultural classics or pick a theme. Southwestern chili, Cajun, BBQ and vegan are popular selections.

Attend a cooking class with family members or friends. The Cooking Studio in Old Town Square, and Come Back to the Table, also in Fort Collins, have a plethora of classes—some public, others private.

If you are an avid cook, share your own wisdom by helping someone less experienced to prepare balanced, nutritious meals. Or compile a written collection of your most beloved recipes, which have heretofore been only oral. Handing down ancestral folk dishes is a simple, yet authentic gift of the heart.

Which, after all, is what we strive for during this season of giving and receiving—to open ourselves to wonderful possibilities while keeping it engaging.