IT'S BEEN a while since I made a Christmas present. The scarf I began knitting for my little brother in his high-school colors remains unfinished in my closet to this day. My brother graduated from high school five years ago.
This year the task of making Christmas gifts is easier, thanks to a number Christmas books and craft classes. But this is the last week to start, if you're to finish on time.
Beginning Thursday the Junior League of Washington is holding it 22nd annual Christmas Shop at the Mayflower Hotel, continuing through Saturday. Admission is $3. More than 20 local artists will be there selling the gifts themselves, or providing ideas on how to go about making them.
The league's perpetual seasonal best seller, "Think Christmas," contains decoration, gift and holiday recipe ideas. The red, green and gold engraved spiral book ($6) covers front door and yard decorations, household trims for the walls and mantles, Christmas cards, as well as a special section on gifts children can make.
The "Christmas Cookie Drum" was contributed by Mrs. Chiswell Langhorne. She says: "Glue red or blue felt around a coffee can. Criss-cross velvet ribbon around the can to make it look like a drum. Glue the ribbon in place and fill with your favorite cookie recipe."
"Think Christmas" suggests using leftover wallpaper or extra fabric as wrapping "paper," tied up with a contrasting ribbon.
One of the fancier wreaths in the book is the "Fresh Fruit Della Robbia" (suggested by Mrs. Kent D. Thorup) -- more like a recipe than a decoration. The wreath requires a 15-inch (diameter) wreath form, magnolia or rododendron leaves, four small pears and four small apples, one box of kumquats, a dozen walnuts, a half cup of cranberries, a can of leaf Groom, florist wire and a wide velvet ribbon of whatever color you choose.For specific instructions, however, you'll have to buy the book.
Another book with excellent, and unusual, Christmas ideas is "The Gnomes Book of Christmas Crafts," by Carol Endler Sterbenz (published this year by Harry N. Abrams, $19.95). Gnomes, for those of you who don't know, are the miniature troll-like fantasy characters that Rien Poortvliet and Wil Huygen made popular in their book "Gnomes."
The 160-page book is full of instructions for more than 50 gnome-inspired decorations and crafts. The book is easy to follow, thanks to the nearly 100 patterns and 75 color illustrations (even the canvas book jacket can be cut out to make two gnome dolls) and the well-worded instructions.
Sterbenz, a former teacher of arts and crafts, is now a crafts designer. Her background is evident in this book, which includes a glossary of craft terms; a general directory on woodmaking, sewing, applique, embroidery, soft sculpture and fabric painting; and a guide to the crafts by technique and skill level.
For starters, the "Gnomes Book" contains directions for the "Forest Gnome Ornament" -- only elementary skills needed. The ornament requires one-third yard of muslin; graphite paper; acrylic paint in white, blue, gay, gold, yellow, red and brown; a radiograph pen; thread; fiberfill; and pearl cotton for hanging.
Opposite this -- a colored photographof the finished gnome and a page of pattern cutouts. Sterbenz suggests tracing these onto the muslin. Paint the muslin, following the photograph. Sew the front and back bodies together. Stuff. Finally attach the legs by slip-stitching.
Then there's the Gnomelife Quilt, recommended for advanced crafts people. Briefly, the quilt involves nine appliqued blocks featuring gnome designs. The blocks differ from each other, each requiring a seperate set of instructions, accompanied by a diagram. Once the blocks are completed, you're ready to assemble them into the quilt, which involves framing each block and machine-stitching them together. Further diagrams are provided for tufting of the quilt.
Barbara and Nadia Rosenthal have co-authored a craft book, titled "Christmas: New Ideas for an Old-Fashioned Celebration," (published this year by Clarkson N. Potter, $12.95). They plan their Christmas beginning with the summer months because, as Barbara Rosenthal points out, "When else would I have time to make all the presents I had planned for people, all the decorations for the house?" Since we're already into November, start with some of the Rosenthals' later suggestions.
By this time of year Rosenthals recommend making jars of marmalade and jelly (they provide the recipes) and if you're searching for handmade items, this is your last chance to select from a variety of mail-order houses (the Rosenthals list the addresses for their favorites).
Among the crafts they suggest, I like the "shoe mice." These alternatives to shoe trees are in the shape of the toe of a shoe and can be pulled out by their tails. The Rosenthals provide a three-part pattern and easy-to-follow instructions.
Another idea: Buy a set off sheets or three or four handkerchiefs. Embroider them in an original design, using the person's monogram or symbol of his/her favorite hobby.
Here's a partial list of area classes to complement your reading, simplify your shopping and perhaps even provide a pleasant pre-holiday experience.
Minnesota Fabrics is holding holiday table decorating sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the following locations: Beacon Mall in Alexandria, New Hampshire in Langley Park, North Mall in Parkville, Md., Springfield Mall, Reston, Lanham, Barcroft, Fair City, White Flint and Penn Mar. Free. For stores' addresses call 468-0228.
William Accorsi demonstrates ornament-making at the Renwick Gallery, Nov. 14, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Free. Accorsi will cut small figures on a jigsaw for the hand-painted ornaments.
The National Cathedral School, 3609 Woodley Rd., NW., offers evening and weekend workshops in decorative calligraphy -- great for making your own Christmas cards -- as well as techniques for matting and framing works of art, beginning this week. To register call 537-6348.
A series of workshops take place at Kettering Jr. High School, 65 Herringtong Dr. in Upper Marlboro, Md. starting Nov. 5 with "Gingerbread House Making." Other classes include candy making and ornament making. Call 249-9220 for details.
Glen Echo Park on MacArthur Blvd. in Glen Echo, Md., is holding a Christmas Patchwork Workshop, Thursday Nov. 13, 7-9:30 p.m., in their Chautauqua classroom. Quilter Elly Sienkiewicz will show you how to make wreaths, stockings, tree skirts and more. Call 492-6282 for details.
The Good Luck Community Center, 8601 Good Luck Road in Lanham, Md., sponsors a series of holiday workshops for kids, age 6-12, starting Nov. 24, 3:45-5:15 p.m. Fee: $1. Classes will meet every Monday and Wednesday unitl Dec. 22. To register call 552-1093.