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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

Crafts on rise for holiday giving

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jana Sharlow shops in a Pittsburgh-area craft store for yarn to make hats to give as Christmas presents. Jana Sharlow shops in a Pittsburgh-area craft store for yarn to make hats to give as Christmas presents.
KEITH SRAKOCIC / AP Enlarge

WEXFORD, Pa. - Spread out on Clare Bello's work table is the evidence of what for a year-old has been a hobby and now is the means for this year's Christmas.

The beads, semiprecious stones, clasps, and string formerly kept Ms. Bello occupied as she watched TV and hung out with family.

This year, the jewelry she makes not only will be Christmas gifts for women in her family, but also wares she is selling to make money to buy gifts for the men and boys. So far, she is $200 toward her $500 goal.

"Christmas this year has just been really tough, and I think it's been tough on everyone," said Ms. Bello, 43, co-founder of a medical malpractice claims company.

"My husband's an attorney and I'm an executive and we're still feeling the crunch, significantly."

Clare Bello wraps her jewelry creations in star-studded gift bags. Clare Bello wraps her jewelry creations in star-studded gift bags.
KEITH SRAKOCIC / AP Enlarge

Robert Dye, a senior economic analyst with PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh, predicts a 6 percent to 7 percent decline in consumer expenditures for the fourth quarter - the biggest drop since 1980.

People will "shift the focus from gift giving, more to family reunions, catching up with friends," Mr. Dye said. "They're going to need to be creative making gifts, organizing events, things that are not going to require an outlay of a significant amount of cash."

Stephanie Nelson, the Atlanta-area founder of "The Coupon Mom" Web site, said this is the perfect climate to be creative. She suggested "gifts in a jar" - a simple canning jar with the layered ingredients for a cake or cookies or soup or bath salts - for less than $5, compared with about $30 in a store.

Jana Sharlow, 46, a human resources officer for a food-service company, has crocheted about hooded scarves in different colors for the women in her family and recently bought yarn for hats.

Her sister Beth has knitted seven scarves from wool she bought while vacationing in Iceland. The wool cost about $120, and Beth, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said it has gone into seven scarves. A store-bought scarf in Iceland costs between $75 and $100 a piece, she added.

The women estimated their crafts could save them hundreds of dollars this Christmas.



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