If you've ever looked for that perfect gift I'm sure you know how frustrating it can be. Which is why the Alchemy feature of Etsy is so wonderful. Just create a listing telling the artisans what you want and let them come to you!
There's a problem that I notice though...if you are not extremely specific in what you want you will get a bunch of junk bids from artists who just bid on everything without really taking into consideration the needs of the customer. As someone who has requested projects I can tell you that there are some very unprofessional business folks out there. They only seem to care about getting a sale.
When I bid on someone's request I try to be as specific as possible in order to meet their requirements. What's the point of bidding if you can't do what they've requested? But it can sometimes be difficult because the requester doesn't include all the details for what they want. Being vague isn't always a bad thing if you want a lot of items to pick from, just realize that you will be inundated with bids.
So while I love Alchemy - both as a customer and an artisan - I definitely think there should be some guidelines for people who post their requests.
The number one most important thing to remember when writing out an Alchemy request - Be Specific.
If you know that you want a gift for your sister don't just ask for a "gift for my sister"...you will get 100 bids. Seriously.
If you don't know *exactly* what you want at least give specifics like "she likes flowers, she doesn't wear earrings, she has plenty of jewelry, her hobbies include xyz, her favorite color, fragrance, etc." This helps keep your inbox from being filled with jewelry bids...because trust me when I say that jewelry alchemy requests get pounced upon quickly.
Also, it is important to Be Realistic. Do you really think that you will get a quality piece if you ask for a "Sterling Silver Freshwater Pearl Necklace with Swarovski Crystals" but you only want to pay $7.00??? Seriously? That is an insult to any jeweler worth their salt and I never bid on such insulting requests. It tells me that you care only about cheap and not quality - so go to Walmart.
If you honestly don't know the right price for something bid $0.01 and ask for reasonable offers. If the prices all seem too high perhaps your expectations were too low. Browse around the category that your item falls in and see what other people are charging for similar products. Who knows? You might even find exactly what you want while browsing.
I highly recommend Alchemy to find your perfect item - whether a blanket, a t-shirt, or something really obscure. Just try to use common sense and give the artisans as many details as you can think of. :)