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DIY holiday gift ideas and the classes to take to make them

Your dad has everything, and what he doesn't have - the Dream Vision Virtual Reality Smartphone Headset, for instance - you couldn't afford, anyway.

Jena Croxford (right) works on a fingerless mitten in the knitting 3 class at Loop.  Her daughters, Rodanthe, 9, (left) and Adon, 11 Croxford are also shown.
Jena Croxford (right) works on a fingerless mitten in the knitting 3 class at Loop. Her daughters, Rodanthe, 9, (left) and Adon, 11 Croxford are also shown.Read morePhotographer: CHARLES FOX

Your dad has everything, and what he doesn't have - the Dream Vision Virtual Reality Smartphone Headset, for instance - you couldn't afford, anyway.

Your sister loves bags, but you just realized you've gotten her one in each of the last two years, and having a mother with very specific taste means a trip to the mall is really a trip through self-doubt and anxiety.

Good thing crafting isn't just meaningful and thrifty, but a sign you are part of the zeitgeist.

"We see a return to and romanticization of simpler times and simpler ingredients," said Courtney Scharf, vice president of research services for Trend Hunter in Toronto. "DIY gives a way for consumers to hyper-personalize their gifts, making them more sentimental and meaningful."

Buoyed by Pinterest, YouTube, and lifestyle bloggers, the handmade movement also has inspired countless classes in which you can make a gift pitch-perfect for your person.

Here are some great ideas (with some classes to help):

Hand-lettered wood-frame signs. Think monogrammed wall print with the date a family was established, a funny bathroom reminder - "wash, brush, floss, flush" - or even a holiday greeting: "Merry and Bright."

"That's been the most popular workshop consistently for the last year," said Jessica Jackson, owner of the Craftery in Dublin.

Though practice makes perfect, you can learn all the skills you need to know in a two-hour workshop for $40 to $55, including materials.

"The key to a great hand-lettered sign is having patience, producing an original design, and being able to view any imperfections as the charm of doing things handmade," she said.

7-9 p.m. Dec. 13, the Craftery, 123 N. Main St., Suite 256B, Dublin, 215-435-6416,

Knitted neck warmers (and socks, fingerless mittens, and baby booties).

Knitting is an easy skill, insists Craig Rosenfeld, owner of Loop in Center City - easier still with expert instruction. Loop's most popular class, Knit 1, teaches knitting and purling to beginners and offers a refresher to those who haven't tried in a while. For three hour-and-a-half classes, the $90 workshop includes materials to make a button neck warmer.

"It's like learning to write in cursive, building muscle memory," Rosenfeld said. Fingerless mittens take about two weeks to make, a hat just one week, and the cost of each is $10 to $25, depending on the yarn. That's comparable to store-bought ones, but the quality will be far better, he said.

Knit 1: A Neck Warmer: 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 10 and 17, Loop, 1914 South St., 215-893-9939,

Homebrewed beer.

Who wouldn't want to receive good beer? It takes only two or three hours to learn the skills, given the right instruction.

"The process can be overwhelming, so we help you get started," said Meredith Rebar, owner of Home Brewed Events, a beer-education company in South Philadelphia. "We go over the history of beer, the ingredients and steps that go into making beer, and you actually are brewing while we're talking. It's a hands-on activity and you get to keep the beer that you brewed."

Taught in public classes or as a private party, the instruction runs $35 a person. "We can go really in-depth or really general, depending on their beer-level knowledge," she said.

Clients can also customize their labels.

Home Brewed Events Introduction to Beer Brewing Class, 6-7:45 p.m. and 8-9:45 p.m. Dec. 13; optional dinner for additional fee; Balboa Catering & Supper Club, 2109 E. Susquehanna Ave., 610-212-0843,

Calendars, cards, and gift wrap. DIY gift accessories have come a long way from those childhood days of glitter glue, sequins, and feathers. Now you can incorporate heat-embossing, washi tape, and stamp-carving, all techniques introduced in card-making workshops at Paper Source locations.

"We try to get everyone interested in different types of crafting, but there might be one thing that they fall in love with," said Jewelan Cleveland, manager of the Ardmore store.

Though the card-making workshops have ended for this holiday season, the gift-wrapping class - two hours at $30 - teaches techniques to rival any professional wrapper. "It's beautiful, seamless, and makes everyone jealous," Cleveland said.

Also popular is a calendar-making class, where a blank calendar can be personalized for gift-giving or given as a gift so the recipient can attend a January workshop to personalize it.

Gift-wrap workshop, 4-6 p.m. Saturday; calendar-making, 6-8 p.m. Jan. 12 (calendars can be purchased now for a 2017 class), 103 Coulter Ave., Ardmore, 610-642-2027,

Floral centerpieces.

In a collaboration between Greensgrow West and Snapdragon Flowers, holiday enthusiasts can make festive centerpieces. Learn traditional and nontraditional looks and design practices that will incorporate winterberry, greens, holly leaves, red twig dogwood, pinecones, and fresh flowers.

The key is using greens and natural materials, said Bryn Ashburn, graphics and media coordinator for Greensgrow in Kensington and West Philadelphia. "Our audience in particular wants to know where their food comes from, cares about sustainability, and doing it yourself means you aren't dealing with all the packaging and the things that go along with what you buy."

The experience also allows you more than the chance to check an item off your to-do list. "You can come to the farm, see the pig, go to the farm stand. You're in a place that's really green - it's a nicer atmosphere," she said.

Though it helps to have an eye, the professional florist will share insider tips on balance, textures, and arranging.

Holiday centerpiece workshop, 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Greensgrow West, 5123 Baltimore Ave., 267-244-4441,

Herbal remedies. Give your loved one the know-how and materials to beat the winter blues or flus with personally crafted herbal remedies. Rather than having the gift-giver create the blends and tinctures, Terra Luna, a small-batch apothecary company in Kensington, offers kits with ingredients that giftees can use to make their own concoctions. Called CSA for Community Supported Awareness, three, six, and 12-month shares costing $120 to $480 contain fresh and dried herbs from the Terra Luna garden for personalized tea blends and other recipes.

Boxes will be available for pickup at various Philadelphia locations, with surprise products from other local small-batch companies. Terra Luna, 719-229-9963,