10 great gifts you'll be proud to give

10 great gifts you'll be proud to give

Where to find cute, custom handicrafts that look nothing like your grandma’s knitting

It’s that time of year again when we all go goofy for gifts. Receiving them’s not so bad. But buying them can be a nightmare. I’m tired of the same old socks-ties-and-sweaters set up, so this season, I’m giving Asia-based DIY designers a try.

Their handmade clothes and crafts are adorable, prices are reasonable, and most are happy to take custom orders via the web. Here are 10 alternative picks that aren’t likely to get re-gifted.

1. Tokyo: Patched and bloody threads

Model wears bandages and plastersSurgical fashion: it's no stitch up.

Who knew medical wear could be fashionable? Blablahospital’s Head Nurse Ako treats patients with punk arm plasters, nurse caps with jagged ECG stitching and gauzed-up tops (2,000 to 6,000 yen). Make an appointment with Blablahospital at waitingroom@blablahospital.co.uk or visit the new Japanese web shop.

2. Tokyo: Fold-up 3D paper birds

paper birdsPaper birds: a real tweet for someone

Illustrator Josh McKible’s paper bird family starts out as four flat instruction sheets, which you cut and fold into three ‘peeps’ and a ‘Nani Dad.’ You’ll be sure to smile at the old cluck, who’s dressed like a samurai and chirps “Dooshite?” (“Why?”). US$10 from TokyoMade, an online one-stop-ship for street-wise Japanese designs.

3. Hong Kong: Funny bunnies and drawings of you

Gwen Yip sells hand-stitched rabbits and other thingsHand-stitched rabbits are just one offering from Gwen Yip.

Award-winning young designerGwen Yipis a Jill-of-all-trades. Her online shop offers everything from hand-stitched rabbits to an illustrated book about living in London. A favorite of her many projects is Drawings Of You. Email gwen@gwenyip.com with your photo attached and in return for 15 Euros, she’ll sketch you a neat portrait.

4. Hong Kong: Day-Glo kangaroo pouches for baby

These baby pouches are cool and functionalHolding the baby: cool carrying pouches from BeepoBaby.

Hong Kong’s Handmade Marketbrings dozens of artsy vendors together in one venue. One frequent exhibitor is BeepoBaby, a one-mum operation of hand-stitched and printed infant wear. Jacinta Read’s clever Baby Pouch lets you hold your little one near your heart (HK$300). Email beepo@me.com for custom requests. Perfect for a baby shower.

5. Hong Kong: Chinese chess gets punk’d

Chinese chess pieces turned into jewelryJewelry has never been so... different?

If you frequent Hong Kong’s craft and flea markets, you’ll recognize The Gal Who Sold Tora’s bright, recycled-punk accessories. Guitar pick jewelry, taped-up ‘bags for weirdo,’ and Chinese chess pieces turned into rings and brooches (HK$25-45). Rock on. Pick them up from the web shopor contact the post punk alchemist at sold.tora@gmail.com for special commissions.

6. Mumbai: Hand-painted, eco-friendly totes

Bags inspired by Indian city lifeCarry India's urban spirit with you.

Shruti Chopra launched BOOTiKA, a line of hand-painted bags to celebrate India’s urban spirit. In a nod to Delhi’s wild auto rickshaws, the bestselling tote features a three-wheeler and fare meter. All designs are made from organic Indian cotton, and a percentage of sales go to the Pragati Wheel School for underprivileged children. Available from her Etsy shop; email supportbootika@gmail.com for custom requests.

7. Malaysia: Rosy-faced cuties made from felt

Cute dolls made from feltAll felt up: Khaw Li Lian's softer side.

Khaw Li Lian transforms felt - a simple non-woven cloth - into heart-warming dolls, dangles and other small handiworks. She’s the author of two felt craft books and posts tutorials on her website, Lilian’s Crafts. Custom orders are welcome - service@lilianscrafts.com - and an online store is in the works.

8. Taipei: Monstrously hip vinyl toys

Monster Taipei's vinyl creationsVinyl vindication: So ugly it's cool.

Who says toys are for kids? Last July, the Taipei Toy Festivalflew in famous designers such as Simone Legno of Tokidoki and drew over 20,000 attendees. Monster Taipei, a local maker of vinyl figures, masterminded the event. You can find this company’s toys, including fan favorite Heaven Boy, online for around NT$2,300.

9. Singapore: Itsy-bitsy doll desserts

Pei Li’s Miniatures are a cool dollhouse additionWho said big is beautiful?

Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade goods, is so popular in Singapore that the locals created a collective. One member, Pei Li’s Miniatures, produces incredibly realistic clay patisseries sized for a dollhouse. Li takes custom orders via Etsy for US$10-100.

10. Singapore: Chic, custom wedding invites

Tailored invitations from Fairy Loving CreationsYou should get married just so you can use these invites

When your wedding is supposed to be one of the most important days in your life, it is strange that many couples opt for cookie-cutter invitations. Fairy Loving Creations’ modern, hand-cut designs are a welcome break from the norm. They begin at US$3 per card with a minimum order of 25; colors and details are entirely up to you.

La Carmina writes about Harajuku pop culture and all things spooky-cute. She is the author of three books about Japanese pop culture and food, including "Cute Yummy Time" and "Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo" -- for which she did all the photos and illustrations. Both books were released in October, accompanied by a U.S. major city book tour.

For more, please visit her website.

Read more about La Carmina