Handmade for Christmas. Presents you can make yourself.

SURE, you can run to the nearest chain store and buy a something-or-other for that favorite aunt in Wichita. She'll undoubtedly adore anything you select. But that kind of gift is sort of like canned soup - good, but definitely standard fare. There's no personal touch.

For something really special, try making your own presents. A handcrafted gift always rates an A, even if it turns out a little crooked, or the color isn't what you had in mind. Know why? It's one of a kind.

Over the next few days, we'll show you how to make marbled paper, candlesticks, and cardboard prints. Today we'll do marbled paper. The patterns in this paper imitate the swirls and veins of marble. That's how it got its name. Although the paper has been around for centuries, no one knows who first discovered the process. It was used in Persia in the 1500s as a border for manuscripts. Europeans in the 1600s used it to make spectacular inside covers for books. In those days, all the marbling was done by hand. And that's the way you'll do yours, in a simpler procedure. What you'll need A shallow pan about 9 by 13 inches. Turpentine. You'll need just a little so buy the smallest amount possible. 2 to 5 small tubes of oil paint, depending on how many different colors you want. Small tubes (.32 fluid ounces) run between $1.40 and $2.50 each. They're available at craft or art supply stores, also in some hardware stores. The more colors, the merrier, but if you're pinched for funds, two colors will work fine. Drawing pad. Standard weight, 24 sheets, 9 by 12 inches, costs about $1.80. This paper is fairly thick and rough textured (thin, slick paper will not work). It's available at the stationery counters of chain stores. Small containers (jar lids will do) Stirrers How to make the paper

Spread newspaper over your work area, and assemble all the materials. Squeeze a teaspoon of oil paint into a container (one color for each). Add three teaspoons of turpentine to each container. Stir until smooth.

Tear off some pages from the pad. Trim them so they lift easily in and out of the pan. Put 11/2 inches of water into the pan. Now get ready to work quickly. The trick is orderly speed. If you dillydally, you'll loose the pattern that floats on the water's surface.

Pour a few drops of paint into the water. Experiment with only two or three colors at first. Gently swirl the paint with a stirrer or blow on it to create moving patterns. The idea is to capture color in motion. Be sure to break up blobs because these will appear as large blotches on your paper.

Hold paper with a hand on each end. When a pattern looks pleasing, lower the paper onto the water's surface, just long enough to pick up the paint. Lift it up quickly and lay it out to dry. After two or three dips, the water will become muddy. Dump it out and start fresh. Uses for marbled paper

Marbled paper can be used for lots of things. You can make bookmarks by cutting cardboard to the size you want and pasting the paper on each side. Use the same technique to make a picture frame, but paste marbled paper only on the outside surface. To make notepaper, trim the paper to fit standard-sized envelopes. Cover the top of a 1-pound candy box (a good container for your notepaper). Make a desk set by covering a 1-pound coffee can, an 8-ounce aluminum can, and a fruit concentrate container (you can give these a clear coat of shellac to preserve the surface).

Hint: Rubber cement works well. Apply the glue to both the paper and article. Let dry before sticking them together. But once the two cement-coated articles touch, they're stuck permanently. So aim correctly the first time!

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