Theme baskets make good last-minute gifts

This week’s Craft Corner focuses on one of the best last-minute gift items around: the gift basket. They can be customized to suit just about anyone, and you can often get all of the components in just one shopping trip.

Fill the basket with pricey goodies if you have the budget, but a lovely basket can be put together on a shoestring with a little bit of imagination.

For our samples, we made up a movie-night basket and a poker-night bowl. One worked out perfectly, but the other can serve as a warning when it comes time to plan your own basket.

Let’s talk about the good one first.

Our movie-night basket consists of a serving tray, a couple of plastic popcorn buckets, popcorn, plates and napkins, cups, a tablecloth, a party game and some individual popcorn containers.

You can include a couple of DVDs or movie tickets in your basket, but we were doing this one on a budget.

We put the popcorn (unpopped, of course) in the bottom of the bucket to serve as filler, and then we arranged the other items into a presentation suitable for wrapping.

When filling a basket, try to make everything fit snuggly so that you won’t have items flopping around once the basket is wrapped.

You can use a large cellophane gift bag or cellophane wrapping paper to wrap the basket. Secure it at the top when all the goodies are safe inside and add a festive bow.

Now for the “don’t let this happen to you” segment. It wasn’t a disaster, but keep it in mind when planning your basket.

Actually, the only problem with our poker-night collection is that we tried to add too many ingredients. We couldn’t get everything into the bowl or on the base tray, so when we wrapped the basket, we had to just fit things into the bag around the bowl and hope for the best.

Since we are giving this basket to a good friend, we’re sure she’ll forgive us for a less than perfect presentation – and she’ll probably have a good time giving us a bad time for messing up.

That said, we offer below some suggestions for other baskets and hope that they will help you come up with some ideas of your own.

Knitters’ Basket: Use a basket or make a knitting or crocheting carrier and fill it with needles, small scissors, yarn, patterns or instruction books, and a variety of small knitting or crocheting accessories. Browse through a yarn shop and ask the staff what’s popular. For example, bamboo needles are great to work with (but a bit pricier) and jumbo needles (sizes 35 and 50) are very popular these days. Or why not include a gift certificate for knitting or crocheting classes?

Poker Night: A serving tray and bowl, such as we used in our sample, make a nice base, and fillers can include themed napkins and plates, poker chips, playing cards and an assortment of snack items (chips, pretzels, nuts) and beverages.

Kitchen Basket: The possibilities for this basket are endless, and you can use a large mixing bowl, a serving tray or a basket as the container, filled with unusual gadgets, oven mitts and potholders, towels and dishcloths, small baking pans (especially the new flexible ones), cake or bread mixes, recipes and blank recipe cards.

Artists’ Basket: A large artist’s box with the lid open can serve as the container for this one, with a sketchpad as a base. Fill it with pastels, watercolors, drawing pencils, erasers, drawing aids, paint palettes, brushes, marking pens, art or instruction books.

It’s a Guy Thing: Use a galvanized bucket as a container and fill it with car-washing products such as special soap, wax, a chamois, a hose nozzle, a chrome brush, a squeegee, interior polish and other products that guys use on their cars. Or give the basket a barbecue theme with utensils, seasoning rubs, an apron, hot mitts and lighting accessories.

Walker or Runner: Fill a small basin (suitable for soaking feet) with socks, a sweatband, a pedometer, a scarf and a hat (for cold weather), gloves, and foot care products such as soothing soak beads, foot cream, a foot brush and a medium-size towel.

Birdwatchers’ Basket: Fill a picnic basket with binoculars, bird books and guides (suitable to the area), bird feeders, hummingbird nectar, suet blocks and holders, and visit specialty shops such as Wild Birds Unlimited for other items that might add a little pizzazz.

Contact Jonetta Coffin at jrocoffin@aol.com.

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