Valentine's Day is almost upon us and what better way to show that you care than with a handmade gift? There are plenty of choices, of course, but one of my favorites is a handknit scarf.

Everone -- male or female, young or old -- has a neck, and unless your loved one lives in the tropics, that neck will have to face a few more weeks of cold weather.

Scarves are quick and easy to knit and one size fits all. If you're an experienced knitter, try an intricate cable scarf. You might experiment with knit and purl combinations. If you're a rank beginner, a simple flat knit stitch (knit one row, purl one row) makes a nice scarf, too.

Play with yarns and colors. A mohair yarn makes a fuzzy, almost lacy scarf. Using a fuzzy mohair yarn together with a fine, baby-weight solid in a different color gives an interesting tweed effect.

Or simply alternate colors for a rug-by-stripe effect.

Or you can let the yarn do the work for you, if you find just the right one.

For instance, Lion Brad has a new yarn called (Unique, which makes a hazy stripe effect, similar to the patterns from the Italian designer, Missoni.

Don't hesitate to make your gift personal. If you're good at graph work, you can knit in an initial of monogram.

Or, alternately, use the finished knit stitches as a "canvas" to work initials, nicknames or any personal message on the scarf in duplicate or cross stitch.

And since it is Valentine's Day, you might want to knit in a red heart -- or a row of red hearts -- using a graph. Following a chart is easy if you think of each square as one stitch. You can from the hearts as you knit the scarf itself, by dropping the main color and picking up red for the heart stitches.

Or you can add the hearts to a completed scarf using duplicate or cross stitch. Just thread a blunt needle with red wool and make a duplicate knit stitch in red on top of the stitch underneath.

Or work a cross stitch on top of each knitted one, slanting your needle behind the knit stitch for extra strength.

You can run basting threads down your completed scarf to mark placement of the hearts, or work out the spacing first on a piece of graph paper

Any way you do it, a row of red fringe will make a nice finishing touch and, unlike a lacy card, this Valentine will be treasured and used for years.

Q. I have completed a needlepoint eyeglass case. the background color is quite light.

Would it be a good idea to spray this item with Scotchgard in order to keep it from soiling?

A. for something that will get constant handling and use like an eyeglass case, I would recommend dry cleaning, when soiled, instead of using soilresistant products.

Stubborn spots can seep down in between the stitches and be difficult to remove if the surface has been sprayed with a protective coating.

I have a friend who has a lovely leather and needlepoint handbag that has withstood dry cleaning for four years and still looks fresh and new.