Sunday 21 February 2016

Secret Valentine Exchange - what makes the world go round

This is my third year of participating in the Secret Valentine Exchange, and it is pretty much my favourite thing to make for all year long. It's nerve wracking and delightful in equal measure.

The deal is this: Sanae and Ute pass along the details of a "maker" somewhere in the world and you make them a valentine's day gift. Meanwhile, your details are given to another party, and on it goes. Instagram, and thus the entire world (sarcasm font), is taken over with the beauty of crafting for others for the sheer love of it. The world turns on bits of  carefully chosen fabric, paper, metal and wool.

As has happened in past years, I received my email with the details of my gift recipient just as we were heading out of town for our week long holiday. I figured I would spend the week stalking my giftee in cyberspace in order to come up with the perfect gift plan....

Only she didn't exist other than as a real, actual, unknowable person. What I had was this:
She loved natural fibres, simple/abstract designs and the colours blue, grey and yellow (mustard).

That was it.

Since there was no stalking to be done, and since she'd written almost exactly what I had written, I figured I'd set about making something that fit the criteria that I liked. Come to think of it that's what I've done every year (2015 here and 2014 here)

I'd taken my macrame book away on holiday with me, and the local variety shop had some jute twine in cream and blue, so I set about making my handles.They worked out OK, but my first attempt at the leaf shaped pendant was disastrous!

Once I got home I hit my fabric stash for grey linen, some grey and gold striped linen and mustard cotton lining to make the tote bag.

I loosely based the bag on one from a Stitch Idees magazine, using their technique to do the folded corners, yet I changed the dimensions considerably.

Then came the fun bit. My Valentine lived in the same city and so I had the luxury of hand delivering my gift. For that I'm truly thankful as I had a lot of other commitments on my plate and the extra time was relished. I figured I could spend on flowers what I saved on postage, so I filled the bag with blooms...

The paper is made from elephant dung, and it doesn't get more "natural" than that! The kids helped me with delivery and for the first, and possibly last, time they were instructed to ring the doorbell then run!

It turned out my giftee, Pip, was away for the night, but when she arrived home the next day the flowers were still fresh and she emailed me to say she was delighted with her gift. Phew.

My gift to receive, despite having been posted in ample time, arrived late. But of course it was every bit worth the wait. I barely got a good photo of the package, but it was decorated with the most fabulous pair of blue swans  - as you can see I was distracted by, and straight into the chocolate!

But underneath the delicious dark chocolate (how did she know?!) is a gorgeous pair of tea towels and pot holders.

The fabric is a beautiful green/grey colour and the Lotta Jansdotter print is just the kind of simple prints that I do like. My kitchen linen has not, until now, been anything to be proud of, so I'm especially happy to have these to display when I'm playing domestic goddess (a role I play rarely, and badly, but find fun for a laugh!).

I made eggs for breakfast this morning, and A and I got all fancy with keeping our eggs warm and our plates comfy! :)

Caroline, who made these for me, blogs at CJ made. Go check her out, she makes fantastic clothes for herself and styles them so well. Just be careful, looking at her blog might make you want to rush out and buy those statement necklaces that some women wear so well! I really appreciate that making for me was probably a bit outside of her own personal style, but she did such a great job. Best of all, she rides a bicycle, and a nice one at that!

Thanks Caroline, it's been great to "meet" you.

A last bit of gift making was squeezed in, amongst everything else that was going on, when I learned of the Softies for Mirabel toy drive. The Mirabel Foundation is a group that helps children who are orphaned or abandoned due to their parent's illicit drug use. With the encouragmenet of Pip Lincolne, of Meet Me At Mikes, crafters can contribute handmade toys that are then matched to kids and distributed.

My kids helped me with stuffing the toys, and then started to complain that they wanted to keep them. We had a chat about parent's addictions that go well beyond the hoarding of fabric. How serious addictions affect people and their families and the kids may, perhaps, have realised for a moment just how lucky they really are. We sent Mr Rooster and The Monster off along with eight softie alphabet blocks that I'd made for P when he was a baby, and we hope they can bring some joy to other babies or kids.

Making, giving and receiving gifts is such a joy!

P.S. the purple wool is from a Benetton jumper that I bought in Paris in 2001 but sadly shrunk in the wash a decade later. I can still picture the store and remember trying it on and purchasing it. It makes me especially happy to see part of it waving back at me in the form of that little monster!


  1. So glad you received your package eventually! I'm a great believer in dark chocolate and hope you enjoyed the protein bar for one of your biking trips. I love how you have already used your new tea-towels and pot-holders / mini-placemats - they look really great with boiled eggs for breakfast.
    I have been waiting for a special project with the JL fabric since 2013 and just didn't know what is was - so I am glad you get to enjoy them on a daily basis! I am definitely going to sign up next year as it was such good fun!
    The bag you made for your SVE buddy was beautiful! I am sure she absolutely loves it - and great it was just around the corner too! How lucky.

    1. Caroline, thank you again, it's such a nice gift. I often look at prints like this one, put them in an online shopping cart and then never click purchase as I just can't think what I'd do with them. Of course, it never occurred to me to make homewares! Although, I see other people sew garments in big monochrome prints and I love them, I just lack the imagination to do it myself.
      Not only do I get to receive a gift I like, but I get a little lesson in how to choose and use fabrics well!

  2. I absolutely love that bag you made. The band of striped linen around the top was a really good idea and the macrame is such a beautiful detail. Those potholders are lovely, too! Also well done on your softies - they are very cute and are sure to be loved.

    1. Thanks Marisa,I have to confess I was starting to like the bag a bit too much myself!

  3. Hey Pip sent me (and Julia) off the most amazing gifts! I've been super-busy but will post them on IG when Julia comes home from school - and I did the same thing when I received my gift - tried to stalk Ms. Pip on the internet and couldn't find a thing...

    1. Oh fabulous. I look forward to seeing what she made for you. Getting a peek into someone else's materials, techniques and style is the nicest kind of perving!

  4. Your gift was so thoughtful and the flowers were a wonderful addition. Love your goodies you received, like you love the prints in the shops but don't know what to do with them, now I do. And your critters for the Mirabel Foundation will make some childs day.

    1. Making for others is such fun like that. It would be hard to sew a garment that fits, so sewn accessories is the way!

  5. wow i love this valentines idea! And i have been meaning to do mirabels forever but i just get caught out at xmas with over committing!! I think we have the same softie book!


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