It’s Just What I Wanted!

Whether it’s for a close relative or a favorite teacher, we always want to find that special gift, the one that shows we shopped from the heart.

We talked with four local shops about how to personalize our gift giving this season, and find the gift that will make each recipient  say … It’s Just What I Wanted!

They say it’s the thought that counts; what’s the thought behind the best gifts?

When you know your friends’ interests or likes, you can choose the best gift for them, says Julie Majkowski, owner of Make It Your Own Boutique in Apex, which offers handmade scarves, purses, jewelry and more.

“Try to recall things that the receiver enjoys — where  they like to shop, if they have a favorite theme,” agreed Jenn Keane, a shop manager at The Doodling Bug in Apex, which sells an eclectic mix of specialty items from jewelry to wall art, much of it locally made.

Marnie Cohen, owner at Gone Stitching Gifts & Monograms, also in Apex, adds that gifts that are unique are always a hit. Something that’s made locally has  a unique flair to it because it can’t be found elsewhere. Even a single monogrammed letter can add uniqueness to a gift.

Above: Fabric and surface designer Caroline Kinne creates original designs that are printed on wrapping paper and clothing. She operates her business, Soreno Designs, out of Make It Your Own Boutique in Apex.

What’s the added value of a handmade gift?
Tammy Preston, owner at Color Me Mine, a paint-it-yourself ceramics studio in Cary, says that while monetary value can be placed on any gift, when families come in together to create a ceramics piece to give, that time spent together is a special added value.

“You have something in hand to remember your time as a family,” she said.

Keane points out that “handmade” can also mean  a gift basket of items put together with the receiver in mind, something that  reflects  that person.

“I do love handmade gifts,” she said. “They come from the heart. They are usually exactly what the person wants.”

Customers at Color Me Mine can create their own ceramic gifts, and include personalized signatures like hand or foot  prints.

Meanwhile, Majkowski adds that special one-of-a-kind flair to every handmade piece she creates. No two pieces are alike.

“Women like compliments,” she noted. “They want that one-of-a-kind piece that people will notice. It makes them feel special.”

What are some trends in this year’s gift giving?
One trend we heard over and over is burlap. Cohen has seen burlap bows, wine bags, table runners and more flying off the shelves.

The same is true at The Doodling Bug, where Keane says anything having to do with North Carolina is also huge, from House of Swank  T-shirts  featuring  the state’s outline  to North Carolina hand towels, and palette wall hangings with North Carolina on them.

Tracey Koepke of Doodling Bug in Apex holds North Carolina-themed gift items, including House of Swank clothing and collegiate towels.

“People have such a strong connection to this state; it’s not like that in all places,” she said.
At Make It Your Own, Majkowski likes to be aware of new color trends for the season, but she has a different focus.

“I’m not about trends; I’m more about art to wear,” she said. “Trends come and go. Our pieces are timeless, which is of added value.”

Handprints and footprints are always in vogue at Color Me Mine, says Preston, such as an infant handprint on a plate for grandparents, or using kids’ handprints to create a Christmas tree design on a ceramics piece to give to family members.

What are some ways to adda personal touch to a purchased gift?
Consider a person’s likes, and perhaps their favorite colors, says Majkowsi. If Grandma’s favorite color is blue, then the fact that you had a scarf made and remembered that detail will make it even more meaningful.

A single letter or full monogram can add personalization as well, says Cohen, an idea that Keane seconds.

Gone Stitching Gifts & Monograms in Apex specializes in personalized stationary and acrylic monogrammed gift items.

“To give it that personal touch makes it really special for them,” Keane said.

 Keane believes that if you take a moment to think about the person you’re shopping for, the little ways to personalize a gift will become clear.

“It really needs to reflect the receiver; that’s really how you make a gift personal,” she said. “Talk to them and see what they like, or think if you’ve shopped with them earlier and you’ve been able to see what they like.”

From your experience, are there other tips you’d offer?
Browse early: think about quality versus amount spent; and shop local were unanimous answers.

“You can get really neat and unique gifts and you don’t need to spend a lot of money,” said Cohen. “It truly is the thought over the cost.”

Cary, Apex and the surrounding area offer dozens of unique shops featuring  hidden gems. Take the time to browse  and ponder your gift list.

“Take yourself out for a treat early, and wander,” said Majkowski. “It is a gift you’ll love for yourself.”

Left: Lisa McMillan, owner of Presence Jewelry Designs, fashions aluminum and sterling jewelry at Make It Your Own Boutique in Apex.

Some people find the holiday shopping experience to be  stressful. What  advice can you lend to them?
Relax and don’t over-think,  is the No. 1  piece of advice from shop owners.

“People aren’t disappointed when they receive a gift,” said Keane. “They’re going to love it because it’s from you.”

Preston offers guidance when needed, but tells her customers not to worry.

“We show them there’s no mistakes in pottery,” she said. “For a teacher gift, for example, we tell them to let the children be their own (artist); don’t try to correct them. When they’re done, we can always add some finishing touches.”

Burlap, left, a popular material this season, makes an appearance in festive wreaths. Make It Your Own Boutique owner Julie Majkowski, right, specializes in making one-of-a-kind scarves and purses, like this one, which is recycled from a skirt.

Make It Your Own Boutique
219 N. Salem St., Apex
(919) 279-5447

The Doodling Bug
116 N. Salem St., Apex
(919) 584-1BUG

Gone Stitching Gifts & Monograms
106 N. Salem St., Apex
(919) 629-7187

Color Me Mine
316 Colonades Way, Suite 215
Waverly Place, Cary
(919) 307-4351

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