Don't worry if you've yet to find something special for loved ones this Valentine's Day. You can easily and inexpensively add extra heart to gifts by making them at home.
Popular homemade gifts include aromatic candles and bath salts, personalized photo frames and customized scarves. Jo Pearson, an expert with the national arts and crafts supplier Michaels, says vintage lace and traditional red hearts are trends this year, and can easily be applied as stamps, stickers and appliques.
"That's the beauty of homemade gifts -- they can be inexpensive, yet they show you care enough to put a lot of thought, creativity and effort into the gift," says Pearson.
Light up your holiday with beautifully shaped and scented candles. Many craft stores carry candle-making kits, some requiring only a few minutes of microwaving. You can choose the color of the wax and add scented oils to fit your Valentine's preference. Try scents such as chocolate fudge, sugar cookie, ginger, sandalwood or rose. Silicone molds are available in many shapes and sizes. Or, Pearson says, personalize a glass votive candle holder with scrapbooking embellishments such as beads, charms or other baubles -- which come in just about any theme. Glue dots allow for no-mess application.
A lovely bath
Making your own bath salts is easy. Use Epsom, kosher or sea salt, plus essential oils. Food coloring, dried herbs and flower petals can be added for more interest. Use three parts coarse salt to one part Epsom salt, and mix in a few drops of oil and a pinch of baking soda to soften the water. Allow the salt to dry on waxed paper, then pour it into apothecary jars or other attractive containers. Glass paints and adhesive silk screens can adorn the jars. Or wrap them in a square of vintage-looking lace, gathered atop and tied with ribbon for a fancier look.
What's more personal than a special picture of you and your loved one? To adorn a frame, use scrapbooking stickers to incorporate your Valentine's favorite interests. You can use a hot glue gun to adhere ribbon to the frame, or use a stencil and paint to add extra interest. Photo books are also a memorable way to tell your story as a couple, highlight special vacations, or show off children, grandkids or pets. Create one online at sites such as Shutterfly.com and Snapfish.com . Many photo centers offer a selection of small albums that serve the same purpose and fit into a pocketbook or briefcase. A bonus for last-minute Valentine's shoppers: They can usually have your prints ready in about an hour.
Easy iron-on appliques, pins and colorful tassels are just a few ways to gussy up and personalize a store-bought scarf. If you're feeling adventurous but don't sew, check out no-sew T-shirt scarf techniques online. For instance, there's a simple T-shirt shag scarf at snapguide.com. Cut a T-shirt off horizontally below the armpits so it becomes a tube, then cut vertical shag lines from the raw edge about one-third up the tube. After that, pull on each piece to separate and elongate, then wear it (shag down) or give it to a friend!
"Whether you're looking to try a new project, hop on a trend, keep warm or just adding character to a simple look, the fashion scarf is a great place to start," says Anna Olsen, a craft expert with Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts.
Wake up with love
For an extra perk in the morning, you can flavor coffee beans for your Valentine. Buy roasted beans and then add a few teaspoons of food flavoring oil per pound. Or use spices such as vanilla beans or cinnamon to add depth to ground coffee. Offer up the java in a mason jar or a new mug, which can be personalized with glass or ceramic paints.
Whether your gift is store-bought or handmade, make it even more appealing with a handcrafted card or wrapping paper.
Simply stamp a plain piece of paper and add ribbon for homemade wrapping. You can use a kitchen sponge and cut to your desired shape for a do-it-yourself stamp.
For a romantic flare, apply lots of lipstick and put your pout to paper. Then, create a colorful card or gift tag by using scrapbooking pages and embellishments.