Maybe it’s the chill in the air, the splashes of crimson in the trees, or the sound of a familiar melody you haven’t heard since, oh, about a year ago.

Do hints of the impending holidays send you straight to the nearest mall, where you fight fellow frenzied shoppers for mass-produced presents?

This year, forgo the status quo. Instead, take a deep breath, peruse the following pages, and then do some shopping you can really feel good about.

Like an army of Santa’s helpers, many of your creatively gifted neighbors are busy in their workshops crafting one-of-a-kind items that are sure to garner many oohs, ahhs and heartfelt thanks from your loved ones this year.  


Design Roots Cards
Artistic endeavors were in the cards for this landscape architect turned stationary scripter.

Heather Bloem’s crisp and contemporary greeting card graphics have grown so much in popularity that, about a year ago, she turned it into a full-time gig.

“I’ve always loved graphic design and card making, but until last year it was just a hobby,” she says. “I love playing with textures, fonts and color, and I’m inspired by nature in a lot of ways.”

The former is evidenced by birds perched on straight tree limbs, thick symmetrical grass blades and rows of elephants — in pleasingly unnatural elephant colors — that appear on her Design Roots cards.

Bloem recently took a short break from card making to give birth to a little girl, but she’s now back in full swing, accepting custom orders and drawing up ingenious new concepts.

WEBSITE: design-roots.net
CONTACT: hbbloem@mac.com or 214.724.1087

Big Boy Bones
Good news for those furry family members who love to chew on everything. (No, not your crazy cousin Eddie). This neighborhood-based line is dedicated to the dogs. Samantha Abedin, who as a child learned to sew from her grandmother, was happily in the business of crafting fashionably feminine and nostalgic-looking purses, when a donation of high-end sample fabrics got her thinking outside the handbag and about the bones that her schnauzer Snoopy, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, liked to chew into an unrecognizable rawhide wad.

“I decided to make him a dog bone [from the fabric samples] to comfort him,” Abedin says. “He seemed to love it, so I made my terrier Yahoo one as well.”

That marked the birth of her company, Big Boy Bones.

Now, if you’re thinking that letting dogs chew on expensive fabrics is extravagant — think again. At just $10 each, these bones are built to last.

“Yahoo usually destroys any toy you give him the very first night and his bone lasted him over a month, which was amazing.”

The handmade bones come in a plethora of patterns fit for all breeds from the frilliest little pups to the biggest toughest hounds. After Abedin started making them for friends’ dogs, the brand took off.
 
Big Boy Bones are now available in six area stores, and Snoopy, who was feeling pretty bad back when this all started, has bounced back into life.

“He serves not only as the inspiration for Big Boy Bones,” Abedin says, “but also as the CEO, traveling with me for as long as our Texas summers will allow.”

WEBSITE: bigboybones.com; samanthaabedin.com (purses)
IN STORE: Unleashed, 5151 Samuell; Green Pet, 315 N. Bishop
CONTACT: 214.503.3455; Samantha@bigboybones.com

What goes well with a Big Boy Bone?

Delicious stocking stuffers. Flying Doggies makes homemade oven-baked dog treats from organic ingredients — your pup will woof ’em down. And co-owner Joe Reider will deliver the prettily packaged canine cookies to your door. Visit myflyingdoggies.com

Margaret Hargis
Lake Highlands resident Margaret Hargis was born into an acutely creative family, she says, so it’s only natural that she found her niche in the world of handmade products.

Food- and nature-inspired necklaces, hair clips and pins are her thing.

“I thought about studying culinary arts … I love to cook — that’s another thing my family loves to do.”

Hargis’ bright designs — sushi rolls, shrimp, fish and fruits to name a few — are evocative of a sampler platter at a posh Japanese restaurant, only they last longer, and at $9-$12 each, are probably less expensive.

Hargis works closely with her crafting cousin, Emily Adams, who alongside husband Matt sells funky handcrafted buttons and button jewelry under the moniker “Manhandled”.

“I picked the name ‘Manhandled’ because I figured that was the best way to keep my husband involved,” Adams jokes. “But really, this has become something we enjoy doing together for fun.”

Most of the buttons and jewelry are inspired by sci-fi subcultures or classic movies such as “The Wizard of Oz”. Whether you want the world to know you’re a Barbie fanatic, or that you’re into recycling and eating organic, Manhandled likely offers a button that proclaims it.

And if they don’t have it, you can ask them to make you a custom button beginning at $1 a pop. They also offer dangling button earrings, hairclips and rings.

And because the rings are magnetic, you can switch out the buttons to change up your look.

WEBSITE: etsy.com/shop/stitchslap 
CONTACT: hargis.margaret@gmail.com

Three Yellow Starfish
This might be your last opportunity to buy hand-sewn garments for the baby on your gift list — because next year, the little guy will no doubt demand a toy.

Neighborhood designer Margaret Weimer launched her Three Yellow Starfish children’s clothing line about three years ago, when her newborn boy Dakota needed some cool-looking duds.

“That’s how it started out, anyway,” Weimer says, adding that it turns out there’s a reason why little girls get all the cute clothes — girly fabrics and designs are both ubiquitous and irresistible.

So, with great success, she tried her hand at feminine threads, which include uniquely patterned pinafores, a throwback to 1970s kids’ fashion, which can be worn as a dress with matching bloomers or tunic-style with jeans.

Don’t worry boys — she hasn’t altogether neglected her masculine offspring. In fact, Weimer has a collection of boys’ bloomers, a.k.a. “Manly Diaper Covers” (because American boys aren’t necessarily down with the “bloomer”) with far-from-wimpy features such as guitar, robot and skull patterns.
 
Three Yellow Starfish fashions also boast a why-didn’t-I -think-of-that feature — reversibility.

“Everything is reversible. It just made sense,” Weimer says. For starters, “if you are out and something spills on the clothes, you can just turn it around.”

It also means that every outfit you buy is a two-for-one. 

WEBSITE: threeyellowstarfish.etsy.com
PRICE RANGE: $11-$13
CONTACT: threeyellowstarfish@gmail.com

Old Craft Arts
Let the scent of plum and lemongrass mingle with those aromatic “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” this season, when you give gifts of handcrafted soaps, scrubs, balms and other body treats from neighbor Kim Godlewski’s Old Craft Arts collection.

Godlewski, who says her husband encouraged her to start the business, makes the sort of soaps you want to display and never use — they are chunks of soft, sudsy and fragrant stained glass.

She works closely with customers to create personalized gifts from natural ingredients.

“Someone might want a certain style and smell. I’ll find out what they want, and I can custom-make things. I really enjoy making gifts with unique packaging and labeling that makes it personal,” she says.

“I research and purchase all high-quality ingredients and packaging. I don’t add a product until I’ve figured out if it’s safe, effective, and the cost will be reasonable for my customers.”
 
Godlewski enjoys brilliant colors and intoxicating scents —“soap can add color and fragrance to our lives,” she says — but her most popular items are color-free, scent-free Oatmeal Milk and Honey products (hint: makes a good “guy gift” because men also need to moisturize, but sans the flowery aura).

WEBSITE: oldcraftarts.com
PRICE RANGE: $4-$15
CONTACT: kim@oldcraft.com