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Creative Gift-Giving and
 No-Hassle Holiday Shopping

Lisa Cahoon, Virtual Advantage New Media & Marketing Inc.

 

Imagine spending a relaxing holiday season at home this year! Your shopping done, gifts wrapped, mailed or delivered, you’ll have time to decorate your home and make special treats and gifts for your loved ones. Does it sound too good to be true? Well, maybe a little—but no-hassle holiday shopping is fast becoming a reality with the advent of the World Wide Web and the Internet!

If looking for the perfect gift for your spouse, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers or children drives you crazy each year, you’ll be amazed at the online resources that can guide you to the perfect presents. If you haven’t yet found a compelling reason to get on the Internet, this might be it. Shopping and/or researching your holiday purchases online can save you time. No more waiting in long lineups, dealing with tired and overworked sales clerks or searching all over for those special gifts! And with the time you’ll save, you can make the holiday season more memorable—and save money—by utilizing all the free craft projects and directions you’ll find online!

If you don't have a computer and online access, visit a friend or a relative who does, and have fun! It's easy to do, even for a first-time user. I guarantee you’ll be hooked once you see all the great things available over the Net. Our glossary of high-tech terms (see sidebar below) will help you understand the basics, if this is your first time.

Once you get online, the hardest part is, knowing where to look first. If you just want to browse, try using a directory or search engine like Yahoo www.yahoo.com, Excite www.excite.com or Alta Vista www.altavista.com   Each of these has millions of indexed web pages that you can access by typing in a few keywords or descriptive phrases. The only drawback is that unless you use a very specific search phrase or words, you may get a list of thousands of pages to look at. The other problem is you might end up looking at a web site halfway around the world, when you want your gifts delivered next door. The above-listed search engines are regionalized so you can specify your search to just include sites within the country selected.

However, to make it even easier, GetCreativeShow.com has a listing of companies in their Exhibit Hall that have an array of great gift ideas for the sewing and crafting enthusiast on your list. I've listed some sites here in a few popular Get Creative shopping categories.

* Books are wonderful gift -- you can mail them anywhere, and they don't break or spoil. Try out any one of our quilt shops  for a great selection of various titles or  Sew & Quilt.com. All of these sites have impressive lists of titles as well as many other sites on the Exhibit Hall list.

* Looking for something for the kids? Instead of battling other desperate parents and grandparents trying to find the season's perfect toy, try The Secret Workshop for some great gift ideas to make for kids. Purchase everything you need for your project all at one time -- online.

* The Quilter would appreciate the wide variety of wonderful designs available from many of the designers on our Exhibit Hall list.

* Notions and Accessories are always an appreciated item for the avid sewer, there are always new ways and techniques to try. A selection of unique items of many kinds can be found  or  keep those glasses close at hand with Deborah Gayle’s Spec-Keepers  

* If Dolls are what you’re looking for go to Keelings Krafts Doll Cottage http://www.getcreativeshow.com/keelings_krafts_dolls.htm  

* For those Embroidery enthusiasts try Sandra Betzina’s, Power Sewing http://www.getcreativeshow.com/power_sewing.htm.  Sandra has created several embroidery designs for Amazing Designs. Wheeler Art http://www.getcreativeshow.com/wheeler_arts.htm is another embroidery design company that has a multitude of Quick Art designs. From these sites you will also find links to several other embroidery art designs. 

Ordering from most of these web sites is easy. Many sites accept credit cards electronically through secure e-mail. Almost all have telephone and fax numbers through which you can place orders. Shipping-and-handling charges are calculated and added to your order. You can choose a different shipping destination from your billing address for direct delivery to the recipients! Check first before ordering from a different country (or for shipping outside the country), to see if taxes and duties are applicable and whether the vendor will ship to your chosen destination.

With all your holiday shopping taken care of, you can move to more exciting pursuits, like crafts! There’s a huge number of craft, sewing, quilting and needlework sites where you can access free projects, patterns, articles, tips and techniques. I've kept the following list down to a few sites that focus on holiday-related projects. Some of the web sites include lists of links to related sites, making them great starting points if you want to browse for ideas.

* The Internet Craft Fair's Christmas page www.duban.com/craft/christmas/christmas.htm contains a list of links to various projects, ideas, articles and other Christmas sites. The projects include everything from Victorian Christmas ornaments to methods of recycling last year's Christmas cards and ideas for making 101 different gift baskets.

* CraftNet Village's Seasonal Project Library www.craftnetvillage.com offers links to Christmas and seasonal projects from a variety of large craft manufacturers, retailers and magazine publishers.

* The Get Creative! Online Craft, Sewing, Quilting & Needlework Show www.getcreativeshow.com includes a list of seasonal sewing-and-craft projects like wire-ribbon angels and clothes-peg snowmen.  Look in the Conference Center section of the site. You’ll find lots of tips and techniques for the rest for the year here, too. A free e-mail newsletter keeps you up to date on the latest online projects and articles.

* Winter Holiday Links www.ameritech.net/users/macler/seasonal2.html includes links to Christmas and Hanukkah crafts, recipes, activities, games and other sites.

If you’re not too busy making gifts using all the great ideas you’ll find on these web sites, take a little time with the kids or grand-kids to visit Santa Claus in his workshop at the North Pole www.northpole.com Stop into Mrs. Claus's kitchen for a delicious collection of holiday recipes, and when the day is done, share your treats with friends while singing traditional Christmas carols.

Have a warm, wonderful, no-hassle holiday!

***************

Lisa Cahoon, Virtual Advantage New Media & Event Management

Lisa Cahoon is a dedicated crafter, sewer and Internet marketing and web-site design consultant based just outside Vancouver, Canada.  She publishes Get Creative! Online (http://www.getcreativeshow.com), an Internet magazine/show for crafting, sewing, quilting and needlework enthusiasts.  She also designs and develops independent web sites for associations, businesses and individuals, and  writes articles on Internet marketing and web design for a number of international craft and sewing publications. You can e-mail her at virtualadvantage@home.com with your questions and comments.

SIDEBAR

Don't let the high-tech terminology put you off—using the Internet is simple! Here's a list of basic terms and definitions to help you navigate the Information Highway.

Internet—The Internet is the collective term used for a worldwide network of many computers (sometimes called servers) that are connected via high-speed telephone lines.

Web site—A web site is a collection of computer files (graphics and text files) that are stored on one of the many computers or servers that make up the Internet.  The files or "pages" that comprise each web site are linked together. Links simply send the computer to the ”address" of another page, enabling you to jump from page to page within a web site or from web site to web site. Links can appear as text (the text is underlined and usually bright blue) or can be set to work when you click on a graphic.

Modem—A modem is a device installed in your computer that hooks up to your telephone line.  A modem allows you to dial a local number to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), which lets you access web sites anywhere in the world.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)—A company that functions as an ISP usually owns and maintains a number of server computers that store web sites and link to the rest of the Internet through high-speed telephone lines. You must purchase Internet access through one of these providers, usually by paying a monthly flat rate for a certain number of hours of access (not including the cost of the telephone call). To use the service, you have your modem dial the ISP's phone number through your computer, and from there you can get into the Internet.

E-mail—E-mail is the ability to send messages electronically. Each message is relayed from your computer to your ISP, and from there transferred to the recipient's ISP and finally the recipient’s computer. This usually takes only a few moments!

Web Browsers and URLs—A web browser is a program that acts like a window, so you can view web sites from anywhere in the world. Viewing web sites is often called "browsing" or "surfing." To view a web site, you must know its address or URL (uniform resource locator). This address tells the computer where the web site you want to look at is located, allowing you to retrieve the files to view the site. Web addresses usually look something like this: http://www.getcreativeshow.com. It’s important to copy a web address exactly as typed, using the same upper and lower case letters as shown. Notice that I haven’t used the prefix http:// in my sample web addresses in the accompanying article. This is because the use of http:// is assumed, much like you add an area code to a phone number when dialing long distance.

Bookmark—Most web browsers allow you to save the addresses of web sites you’ve visited in a "bookmarks" or "favourites" list. This is helpful because it means you don’t have to remember or write down the complicated address!

Security and encryption—If you plan to shop online, it’s important to ensure that the site where you’re submitting credit-card data is secure.  Sites that are secure use encryption technology to safely and securely transfer your credit-card numbers via e-mail, so no one can access the information except the intended merchant. Sites will state when they are secure. If a web site isn’t secure, you can still order products but you should do so by fax or phone, instead of sending your credit-card number over the Net.

Shopping cart—Some web sites use programs called shopping carts, which keep lists of items you want to purchase (you select each item as you view the online catalog).  When you finish making your selections, you can review the items in your shopping cart. The program totals your purchases and adds taxes and shipping costs. Usually at this point you are asked to fill out a form and submit your shipping and payment information. The information is then encrypted and transferred via secure e-mail to the merchant from whom you’re making the purchase. The merchant’s computer then processes your order, much like the merchant would process any mail-order sale. Less sophisticated web sites may not have shopping carts, but usually have order forms that you can print and send by fax or mail.

Cookie—This is not the chocolate chip variety!  Cookies are small files of text characters that are automatically stored on your computer when you access certain web sites.  Your web browser can be set to tell you when cookies are being stored. Cookies are not harmful.  They cannot access any information from your computer's files or any information about you, other than what you provide. Cookies allow web sites to “remember” certain information you’ve used on your first visit, like whatever registration name and password you’ve specified.

Search engines and directories—Search engines and directories are databases or indexes of many sites across the globe. Information like the URLs, page titles and keywords from these web pages is kept in a huge database that is continually updated. When you use a search engine, you type in a specific product name, phrase or keyword, and the program sends you a list of search results that shows the best choices for your search term. If you use a general term like "crafts," you’re likely to get several hundred thousand pages, so it’s best to use more specific terms. Directories include categories to help you narrow down your search.

 


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