When shopping for holiday stationery, it's temptingly easy to fall prey to the Hallmark blahs -- and it's even natural to want to show the world that your family trip to the Grand Canyon last summer wasn't all tears and tantrums. But if you're over predictable cheer, save the name brands for your closet and take a more artsy-craftsy approach. Handmade Asian note cards always come in festive reds, greens, and golds, and they won't fade out on crowded holiday mantels. You can concoct cards yourself with a bit of glue and a few sheets of tinted rice paper from Kate's Paperie, but they can be had premade for a song -- and at this time of year, you're busy enough.
At Vision of Tibet, $8 buys a set of four beige and four purple cards with contrasting appliquéd decoration and matching envelopes. Tibet Arts & Crafts offers individual note cards printed with traditional Buddhist good-luck symbols -- they're $2 each, but you can arrange a deal if buying a bunch. Potala, a midtown source for Tibetan rugs, curios, and papers, has a box of minimalist beige rice-paper cards with fifteen envelopes for $12, which you can embellish with rubber stamps in delicate, abstract patterns ($25 for twelve). If you're in the mood to splurge, pick multilayered cards with Zen-like tone-on-tone leaf decoration or hand-glued yellow paper flowers ($10 for five).
For elegant, understated invitations and thank-you notes, Pearl River Mart has stacks of ultralightweight paper embellished with earth-toned washes and metallic detail at ($2 to $4.50, pictured). Make letters stand out in the mailbox with calligraphy brushes (from $1.50) -- if you botch a few sheets, you won't have wasted a lot of cash. Inexpensive greeting cards here are a bit on the kitschy side (think Hong Kong-movie-style), but higher-end ones with glued-on origami pandas and flowers may even inspire recipients to keep them past the holidays ($3.50 each).
Vision of Tibet, 167 Thompson St. (212-995-9276); Tibet Arts & Crafts, 144 Sullivan St. (212-529-4344) and 197 Bleecker St. (212-260-5880); Potala, 9 E. 36th St. (212-251-0360); Pearl River Mart, 277 Canal St. (212-431-4770).
Picks of the Week
Susan Lazar's sharp, urban basics (pictured) are at least half off at the sample sale: Dresses are $80-$200, leather stuff is $100-$500, coats are $200- $500, and cashmere tops are $75-$150. Sizes 2-12. 275 W. 39th St., third floor (212-302-5888); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-6; 11/29-12/3.
DKNY for men, women, and kids is all half price at the sale. Jackets and dresses are about $200-$250, sweaters are $75-$125, handbags are $65-$200, overcoats are $228-$300. There are also a few things from the Donna Karan New York collection. Parsons School of Design, 560 Seventh Ave., at 40th St. (212-741-2660); A.E., M.C., V.; Tues.-Fri. 8-6:30, Sat. 9-5, Sun. 10-5; 11/30-12/5.
Trussardi is clearing closets full of hip Italian fashion for men and women -- think leather pants, bright cashmere sweaters, and lots of streamlined handbags and luggage. Prices are all half off, from $65 for a leather wallet to $375 for a wool suit to $1,400 for a crocodile jacket. Women's sizes 2-12, Men's sizes 38-40. 745 Fifth Ave. near 58th St., suite 601 (212-906-9133); A.E., M.C., V.; Wed.-Fri. 9-6, Thurs. till 7; 12/1-12/3.
Daniel Levy's neutral-toned porcelain and ceramic dinnerware (pictured, sold at Barneys and Michael C. Fina) is up to 75 percent off at the studio sample sale. Vases are $35-$85, platters are $40-$95, bowls are $45-$90, and plates are $15-$20. 155 W. 29th St., third floor (212-268-0878); Fri.-Sat. 11-7, Sun. noon-6; 12/3-12/5.
Area's luxury Swedish-designed bed and table linens come in classic mix and match shades and are sold at ABC, Felissimo, and Portico. Here, leftover stock is 50 to 80 percent cheaper: Duvet covers and sheet sets are $30-$100, pillowcases and curtain panels are $10-$40, table linens are $3-$7. On your way out, drop by the eighth floor, where Meryl Waitz's sleek pewter bath accessories, picture frames, and jewelry are $75 and under (call 212-675-7224 for more info). Area, 180 Varick St., ninth floor (212-924-7084); checks accepted.; Wed.-Thurs. 10-8, Fri. 10-6; 12/1-12/3.
Nan Swid Design, formerly known as Swid Powell, makes the kind of streamlined, high-end tableware that you've seen both under Swid's own label and in designer home collections we're not allowed to mention. At the sale, leftovers and samples are up to 75 percent off. Silver-plated bowls, picture frames, and trays are $5-$50; dishes are $3-$10; wooden bowls and servers are $5-$50; flatware sets and glass vases are $5-$25. 55 W. 13th St., second floor (212-633-6699); M.C., V.; Thurs. 8:30-6:30; 12/2.
Maxx, New York's sharp, simple totes and evening bags are sold at stores like Bloomingdale's and Macy's. At the sample sale, fall and holiday styles are 40 to 60 percent off, from $35 for a cheetah-print faux-fur handbag to $100 for a large leather tote. Small accessories are $20-$30. 385 Fifth Ave., at 36th St., tenth floor (212-679-3220); A.E., M.C., V. for purchases over $100; Mon.-Thurs. 9-6, Fri.-Sun. 11-5. 12/3-12/10.
Roberta Chiarella's jewelry (sold at stores like Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman) is a steal at the sample sale, where everything's $5-$50. The selection consists mainly of pretty crystal- and semiprecious-stone-encrusted earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and hair pins. 320 E. 53rd St. (212-888-6070); cash only; Tues.-Wed. 11-7; 11/30-12/1.
Meg Cohen's bright, striped cashmere scarves (pictured) and throws are sold at stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Paul Smith. At the sale, they're half off: a muffler is $85, a double-fringed scarf is $145, and a huge multicolored stole is $260. Home stuff is from $70 for a table runner to $350 for a blanket. Cohen supplies gift boxes, so your presents won't scream "sample sale." 920 Broadway, Suite 905 (212-473-4002); cash only; Mon.-Wed. 11-7; 11/29-12/1.