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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, December 13, 2001

Christmas craft makers hit stores early

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Audrey Shiotsu was planning to have her Cub Scout troop make holiday pins from a variety of mini wreath supplies.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Thing about do-it-yourself Christmas crafting is you have to hit the stores before the commercial guys do.

"I try to get everything ahead of time," says Sylvia Ching of Punchbowl. "Don't go close to Christmas time because people who sell crafts buy up all the reds and greens. It's hard, you know."

Ching doesn't sell her crafts, but if she did, she'd probably mail order her supplies.

"My biggest gripe is that I can't find the stuff that I need," Ching says. "All the craft stores here carry the same things, but there isn't a lot of variety or quantity."

What Ching needs today is speed crochet cord for the macramé necklaces she intends to give as Christmas gifts for friends this year. And she is not finding it.

Ching is one of several dozen craft makers anxiously milling about Ben Franklin Crafts, Craft Supply, Flora-Dec and other craft shops on a humid Saturday — a few days until Christmas and counting.

In craft-time, this qualifies as last-minute shopping. By the first week of December, crafty Santas who intend to stitch, sew, glue, paint or knot their way through their "nice" list can expect some problems acquiring the necessary raw materials.

And so Ching scans long aisles of straw wreaths and craft batting, tacky glue and styrofoam balls, stencils and stem wires in a vain search for cord.

"I'm going to the hardware store after this," she says. "They have thicker cording there that I might be able to use. I'll have to use my imagination."

Ching says she took up macramé just a month ago after reading up on it at the library.

"I guess I'm getting older and I want to relive those '60s," she says. "I heard it was back in vogue on the Mainland. Wal-Mart carries supplies now, but not here. I called. I think it takes a few months for us to catch up."

Delia Almares needs one little item before she can start on her big Christmas project, a handmade pillow with a red-and-green anthurium design for her mother in California.

Almares bought an all-in-one kit from My Little Secret in Ward Centre only to find that the "all" did not include an appliqué needle.

"This is the first time I'm doing something like this," says Almares, who has been sewing for more than 30 years. "But I'm home recovering from back surgery so I have some time."

ETA on that pillow?

"Good God," she says. "I hope not too long. I don't think my mother will get it in time for Christmas, but let's say she will get it sometime in the future."

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and her mother, Laura, are also haunting the craft aisles.

"I always like to do something homemade," Hirono says. "But really my mother is the ultimate craft person."

Hirono cradles a shopping basket loaded with little nylon pouches, which will be used to hold the découpage ornaments she has prepared as favors this season. She is also looking for something to match the butterfly motif she has selected for the 8-foot willow branch that will serve as her holiday tree. (Her cat is a little too eager to munch on the real stuff.)

Audrey Shiotsu of Mo'ili'ili is a regular at Honolulu's craft shops. It is here that she gathers the goods needed to recreate all those overpriced trinkets she sees in retail gift stores.

"I see something that sells for five or six dollars and I say, 'Oh, I can make that for $1.25,'" she says, laughing.

Shiotsu is at Ben Franklin Crafts shopping for her Cub Scout troop. She holds up a handful of tiny unadorned wreaths.

"I'm going to have them wrap these with ribbon, decorate them with beads, then make a small bird out of polymer clay and put it in the center," she explains. "We'll put a pin in the back so they can wear it."

Clearly, Christmas craft makers here have evolved past rocks with google eyes and beer-can hats.

"There are so many great ideas out there," says Carol McHenry of Waikiki. "It doesn't have to be so 'crafty' anymore. There are so many unique things to work with. My creative juices just go crazy at this time of year.

"It's always last minute," she says. "You always say you're going to get ahead of everything, but ..."