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LIANE HANSEN, host:

With the arrival of Thanksgiving this coming week, the holiday shopping season is expected to get into high gear. But the poor economy is making it difficult to get into the spirit of gift giving. So over the next few weeks, Weekend Edition will scout out creative ways to give your wallet a break. We'll also discuss ways to save the environment while you save money.

Today, Tina Henry-Barrus is here to help us get crafty. She blogs about handmade goods under the nickname Tina Seamonster. You can watch a video of her making a simple holiday gift at our website, npr.org/gifts. She joins us in the studio. Welcome, Tina.

Ms. TINA HENRY-BARRUS (Craft Blogger): Hi.

HANSEN: Why do you think making decorations and presents is a good idea for the holidays?

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: I think it's good because you can make something that you won't find in the store, first of all. I go into a store, and I sort of feel like I'm seeing the same things over and over again. And I don't know how many rustic snowmen you need. But I think that, if you can put your own spin on what you're going to put in your home, then it's much more special.

HANSEN: I'm afraid my craft-making skill basically ends with gluing cotton balls on to a piece of paper and making a snowman.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: What if you're not a crafty person? Is craft making for everyone?

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: I think it can be for lots of people, not necessarily for everyone. With the Internet right now, you can get so many different tutorials and instructions and even videos if you go to YouTube and get - search for what you want to make. You can find someone else making it and showing you how to make it.

HANSEN: Really?

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: Yeah, I mean, so many different things.

HANSEN: Well, like what?

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: I watched a YouTube tutorial this morning about silk screening. And I found a really great tutorialoninstructibles.com to make a laptop bag, which is quite an expensive item if you're going to buy it for real. And the tutorial seemed really, really in depth.

HANSEN: Now, what kind of projects would be good for beginners?

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: One of the materials that I love is felt, like wool felt, because not only can you print on it, embroider on it, but you can sew it without a sewing machine because the edges don't fray. And there's something that I call the everlasting button ring, which you can use to sort of - if you find some old buttons lying around in your house and some elastic and needle and thread, and you just take the elastic and measure it around your finger and sew it up into a ring. And then you can layer the buttons on top, and so they sort of look like a little cake or a little tree on top of the elastic.

HANSEN: How do you convince someone who says that they're too - I'm too busy to make gifts. I'm too busy to make decorations.

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: I think, if you do want to make something, but you think you're too busy, maybe just try to make a gift for one person. And trying one product really probably doesn't take that much time.

And the one thing I have to say about giving handmade is that, when you give someone something that you made, first of all, it shows them that you really like them because you did spend your time. But it also shows them that they could make something, too, and that's such a positive thing to give to someone.

HANSEN: So, even if there's still some of us that are convinced we're, you know, 10 thumbs, but we like the idea of handmade gifts - suggestions on how to shop for something unique.

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: The place to go is etsy.com - that's etsy.com - because there are over 200,000 sellers on there. And they are making it easy for you with different widgets on the home page where you can shop by color. You can shop locally. Even though I am a crafter, I do buy most of my handmade gifts for friends. I find that those things are the things that we keep in the house, and they are the things that we remember and the things that we use.

HANSEN: Tina Henry-Barrus, a.k.a. Tina Seamonster. Thanks a lot.

Ms. HENRY-BARRUS: Thanks for having me.

HANSEN: Tina has a podcast and blog about handmade gifts. And you can ask her questions live on our website today from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. Just go to npr.org/gifts to join the conversation. And you can also let us know what holiday tips you'd like to hear about. Once again, the website is npr.org/gifts.

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