Ask An Expert: DIY Gift Ideas

December 16, 2014 7:00 AM

The Christmas holidays are the hardest to shop for especially for girlfriends and their children,” sighs Alexandra Wallace-Currie, who has a passion and a talent for designing, making and teaching others how to craft hand-made treasures. “Sure, it’s easy to go to Target and get the latest toy, book or puzzle,” explains Alexandra, who built and runs her own design studio and craft house in Fairfield, “but I must say having something hand made really sets the tone for the holiday celebrations.” Here are some crafting tips and ideas from Alexandra, whose charity, the Pink Pom-Pom Project, offers comfort, solace and support to cancer victims and their families through crafts.

Alexandra Wallace-Currie
a little square boutique
1981 Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 955-1099

Host a Crafting Party

Sitting down to make a craft alone can be fun, but it can also sometimes feel like a chore. To make it more of the former and less of the latter, especially when kids are in the picture, why not host a crafting party? A party is also the best way to get kids involved, especially “tweens,” whom Alexandra believes “are the most difficult to buy for – NOTHING ever works! My suggestion is to get some of their friends over and throw their very own crafting girls’ night out! Crafting and a movie, how fun would that be?”

Message Board (Courtesy of Alexandra Wallace-Currie)

Custom Made Message Boards for Your BFF

Every kitchen, office or even kids room can use a message board, a place to stick art, reminders, phone numbers, pictures and the like. Message boards are easy to make and even easier to personalize. Here is a list of the supplies Alexandra suggests amassing for the project, along with instructions on how to make a message board “for your BFF” (or anyone else for that matter).


16”x24” framed cork board, thumb tacks, 1/4” batting, 1 yard of fabric, decorative butterflies and flowers, glue gun with glue sticks, pencil, yard stick, jagged tooth hanging bracket, scissors, ribbon of choice approx. 3 yards


Place yard of fabric on a table face down and trace cork board out, cut out and set aside. On leftover fabric, trace another rectangle with 1.5” overage, this is the front cover of your cork board, set aside. Take your batting, trace the inside rectangle of the front cork board and cut out. This will be glued down with glue gun. Once dried, place your fabric on a table face down as well as cork board batting face down. Glue the overage to the back of your cork board until fabric is all glued down. Take a smaller piece of fabric and glue down face up. Lastly, the jagged tooth hanger bracket should be glued down first with a glue gun, and then place nails through to secure to back.

Ribbons can be cut and glued down at diagonal or straight up. Butterflies can be glued anywhere on the board. It’s all a matter of personal choice.

Related: Top Spots For Unique Christmas Ornaments In Connecticut

Star Toppers

Children always want to make a contribution to the holiday décor,” says Alexandra, “and ornaments seem the most popular craft. Personalized ‘Star Toppers’ are always a great ‘Wow’ factor for any tree!” For this craft, Alexandra purchased a basic plastic star topper at IKEA in New Haven. She found them in the holiday décor section right before checkout (“these toppers are less than $5 each so stock up!” adds Alexandra). To personalize the topper is easy and also inexpensive, and everything the crafter needs can also be found at IKEA, adds Alexandra. “There are a gazillion decorations at such great prices. They have Christmas paper there too!” As for the glue needed for the project, she suggests Modege Podge brand, which can be purchased at her own shop or at a local art store.


Plastic Star Topper, Christmas or holiday wrapping paper, Modge Podge glue, paint brush, 2 disposable bowls, 1 plastic spoon, glitter, scissors, newspaper


Pour about 2 oz of glue into disposable bowl. Place glitter in the other disposable bowl along with plastic spoon. Place star topper on newspaper. To prepare crafting, cut strips, squares or triangles to glue down on the star.

Use the paint brush to glue sections of the star and place paper in appropriate places. Keep going until the star is covered. Allow to dry for approximately 20 minutes. Then take your Modge Podge again and repaint the entire surface of the papered star with glue. Set to dry another 20 minutes. Once dried, apply glitter where desired and set to dry another 10 minutes.

Hands on Pottery
1700 Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 319-1273

Personalize a Pot

Not every crafter is a potter – nor can they learn to be a good one in time for the holidays. But fortunately, there are places that have pots and other pottery pre-made and ready to paint and glaze. Hands on Pottery is one such place, and it is right down the street from Alexandra’s own store. This spot has “countless unpainted pottery items to paint and glaze,” she adds, and it helps kids and other visitors to the store do it all right and properly. The resulting personalized pottery items make “excellent holiday gifts” for kids to give to grandparents, aunts and uncles, adds Alexandra. (Hands on Pottery also hosts pottery parties for adults and for children, and has “to-go” kits for those who want to take their pottery home, paint and glaze it, and then bring it back to the store for finishing.)

1700 Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 955-1550

Beadworks – A DIY Crafter’s Happy Place

For those who do not want to work with glue, pottery or paints, Alexandra recommends working with beads. And what better place to start than Beadworks, which is also conveniently located right near Hands on Pottery and her own store, a little square. Beadworks has semi-precious and gemstone beads, lampwork glass and other types of beads, as well as the chains and other materials to help the DIY crafter make their own work of art. Beadworks also has a store in nearby Norwalk (its headquarters shop).

Related: Top Christmas Tree Cutting Experiences In Connecticut

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at