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SHOP TALK : Crafty Bargains : If you're planning do-it-yourself gifts or accessories, the savings should begin when you purchase supplies.


We have suggested before that the cheapest way to come up with gifts, party accessories, clothing and other items is to make them yourself. Drop by a craft store and stock up on supplies.

That's what we suggested. But what we haven't done yet is offer help in finding the best buys at these stores.

It's been three months since Michaels Arts and Craft Store opened its huge doors at Ventura's Donlan Plaza. And it's made a pretty big splash. How big? Well, Donlan Plaza is now Michaels Plaza.

Last week we ventured into the rather intimidating store--have a good, healthy breakfast before you plow your way through. We also dropped by Ben Franklin Crafts and Framing in Oxnard and House of Fabrics, also in Oxnard, to see how the three places compare in supply and price.

Some things we should mention right off the top. First, feel free to ask for help at all of these stores, and at any specialized arts and crafts stores. The folks tend to be pretty happy to lend advice. Also, the three stores we visited all offer craft classes if you're really planning to throw yourself into some projects.

Second, look for sales. At House of Fabrics almost everything in the store will be 40% off this Friday and Saturday. And Michaels has a big 25%-plus sale through Saturday.

Third, all three stores are loaded with Christmas craft items. If this is the year you're finally going to make those holiday gifts, now's the time to start shopping for the materials. There are a lot of discounted items around.

So much for the generalities. Let's move on to some random specifics. We'll start with eyes. Those glue-on black-and-white movable eyes used for dolls.

A bag of 144 10-millimeter eyes from Westrim Crafts was $2.29 (or about 1.5 cents per eye) at Michaels, a bag of 100 10 millimeter eyes from Fibre Craft was $1.89 (or about 1.9 cents per eye) at Ben Franklin, and a bag of 14 10 millimeter eyes made by the BTC company was 49 cents (or 3.5 cents per) at House of Fabrics.

Of course, not everyone needs 144 eyes.

In other facial areas, cotton-ball size pompons make great noses. A pack of two Westrim pompons at Michaels was 33 cents. A pack of two by Fibre Craft was 39 cents at Ben Franklin.

On to other crafts. We looked at several kinds of yarn. The familiar Red Barn brand of four-ply acrylic fiber yarn was $2.49 for eight ounces of solid color at House of Fabrics and $2.79 at Ben Franklin. Sixty yards of Aunt Lydia's 100% polyester, three-ply Craft & Rug yarn was 99 cents at Ben Franklin and Michaels, and 89 cents at House of Fabrics.

We also looked at some tools of the craft trade. An eight-inch wooden embroidery hoop was 89 cents at Ben Franklin, 69 cents at House of Fabrics, and 99 cents at Michaels. A five-inch pair of Fiskar brand craft scissors was $7.99 at Michaels, and an eight-inch pair was $6.99 at Ben Franklin. We found Rotary Fabric Cutters from OLFA for $9.99 at both Michaels and the House of Fabrics.

As for various other accessories:

A 1 1/2-quart bag of decorative Woodland Scenics lichen was $3.98 at Michaels and at Ben Franklin.

Most of the 4.54 gram bags of Mill Hill Glass Seed Beads was $1.20 at Ben Franklin and $1.49 at Michaels.

BeDazzler Rhinestone and Fashion Studs were $3.99 per package at Michaels and House of Fabrics, and $2.99 at Ben Franklin.

Now don't expect us to practice what we preach. We're buying all our stuff pre-made, and preferably with no assembly required.

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