Buy by hand

The art of shopping for crafts and customized gifts

What do you do when you want something personalized, handmade, and one of a kind but don't have a creative bone in your body (or the time to find one)? If the closest to DIY you can get is its lesser-known sister, SFIY (Shop for It Yourself), check out the following ideas for gifts that are made by loving hands — just not yours.

DIY help

Sometimes you know what you want but don't know how to make it — or there's simply no reason to start from scratch. That's where businesses that help you do some of it yourself come in.


One of our favorite examples of this concept is Castro–Duboce Triangle screen-printing favorite My Trick Pony, where you can print your own graphics onto a T-shirt — and even get help designing one.

742 14th St., SF. (415) 861-0595,


This Haight Street staple is the perfect place for a quick, down and dirty, trendy yet unique gift. Choose a plain T-shirt, messenger back, or pair of undies, then get it printed — within 15 minutes or so — with one of the dozens of images Bang-On has for you to choose from.

1603 Haight, SF. (415) 255-8446,

To get in touch with crafty types who might not have retail spaces, check out the communities at San Francisco Craft Mafia ( and Craftster (

Retail shops

Good places to look for handcrafted items are retail stores and shops that cater to them. These are the museums, boutiques, and galleries that carry the kinds of items you'd make for your friends and families if, you know, you'd gotten an art degree instead of wasting all of that time in medical school.


This institution dedicated to the art of making stuff has finally opened a store that sells that stuff. Stop by for gifts like stoneware vessels and candleholders by Lynn Wood, square marbles by glassblower Nicholas Kekic, and mottled glass "bubble wrap" vessels by California artist Bill Sistek.

550 Sutter, SF. (415) 773-0303,


The retail arm of this art gallery specializes in items like naturally pigmented beeswax crayons, leather steampunk watches, Czech stationery, toys, books, and all things arcane.

130 Eighth St., SF.


Everyone's favorite online mecca for homemade crafts has an office in San Francisco and a ton of designers who live here. Check out Quenna Lee ( for gorgeous handmade bags and wallets, Joom Klangsin ( for whimsical pillow designs, and Hsing Ju Wang ( for creative jewelry. Or simply use the site's search function to find other Bay Area artisans.


Don't believe clothes this stylie and accessories this striking can really be handmade? Then watch the artists create these one-of-a-kind goodies in the on-site studios. (Also, stop by Dec. 8 for the store's opening celebration.)

544 Haight, SF.


Sure, shopping events can be overwhelming. But the plus side? Someone's taken the time to assemble in one place all the cool shit from a bunch of different vendors.

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