Feature

10 innovative ways to personalize gifts

From The Idea Factory, our special report on bright ideas from around the world

Engraved tool belt

The days of bad gift-giving are gone. So long, ceramic figurines. Sayonara, cheap teddy bears holding hearts. Good riddance, socks.

Indeed, the internet — particularly the arts and crafts site Etsy — has freed us from thoughtlessness and granted us the ability to present our friends and loved ones with completely unique gifts suited distinctly to them. Behold:

1. The photo quilt

If you've never made a quilt, you probably don't know how much time, math, money, finger cramps, and eye strain it takes to make one. Therefore, any quilt is a treasure. But how much more so when that quilt is literally sewn from your own memories. AQuiltedJewel can take whatever is special to your loved one, from photos to T-shirts, and turn them into a beautiful, durable quilt. Or, if you know your own way around a baste stitch, DenimDawgs can turn your photos into quilting squares for you to assemble yourself.

2. Personal photo viewing reels

Image3D offers a great way to memorialize any special event in life, with its personalized photo reels and viewers. It's basically a View-Master (whose name is a registered trademark of Mattel, so don't say View-Master!) that takes you back to your childhood, wedding, vacation, or family reunion. Just send the photos, seven per reel, and receive the viewer and film in return.

3. Engraved tool belt and hammer

Etsy

Dads are just the worst to buy presents for. Maybe lookingglassmemory can help you out a little, with its heavy duty leather tool belts that can be personalized in any manner you choose. And if you're going to get a tool belt, why not include a special message on one of dad's most required tools with an inscribed hammer from HangerDesignCenter.

4. Text scarf

A gift doesn't need to have the recipient's name on it to be uniquely for them. Sometimes other names will do, like Shakespeare, or Austen. Literaticlub can take any text you want, from your own poetry to your favorite lines from The Simpsons, and create a beautiful artistic scarf. A fine gift for the fashionable bibliophile.

5. House portrait/ornament

Most people can point to one geographic place where their memories are sweetest. If you have photos of that place, September Studio can use them to create a beautiful hand painted watercolor, forever letting a loved one look on the home in which their heart dwelt. In addition, it might be nice to memorialize a house with a beautifully detailed clay ornament by JustForMeClay. A Christmas tree that can bring to mind every place your family has called home is going to be a very sentimental tree.

6. Embroidered family portrait and bag

Embroidery has never gone out of style, and probably never will. So you don't need to worry about a charming family portrait done entirely in thread by hebbedinge not aging well. It will always be a sweet and endearing way to remember loved ones. Or, if you would rather something more edgy and practical for your threaded face, try the distinctly Russian cosmetic bags made by oboora.

7. You're a doll

Mahinarium in Budapest is probably the winner in the personalization competition, with the ability to construct adorable dolls in caricature of the recipient. And they aren't creepy, they really aren't! All she requires is several full body photos and about a month, and your little doppleganger is ready to take the blame for eating the last of the ice cream in the middle of the night. We've seen the movies. That's what dolls do.

8. Maternity shirt with your sonogram

PinkPigPrinting supplies a unique gift specifically for expecting mothers (although Dads with beer guts are not excluded). Your child's sonogram placed over his relative position is a great way to introduce him to the world.

9. Customized game controllers

Once again we return to the male of the species; the ones who so often just get cash and socks because they seem to lack imagination in their gift requests. Zomboids knows how to tap into that buried creativity with his handpainted game controllers. Like a masterful sleeve tattoo, Zomboids can turn any controller into a piece of man-art that your guy will still be carrying around long after his platform is obsolete.

10. Book bracelets and prints

The shop baublesbeadsncharms is serious about its name. It can make a charm bracelet celebrating the theme of anything you've ever fancied. A particularly nice choice is a collection of tiny replicas of your recipient's favorite books, which is a great gift if you want to tell someone you really know them. Or, if your loved one's style is a little less glitzy, the same can be accomplished with a print of favorite reads by Garrard Prints.

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