So I’m still a little behind but I wanted to write a post about this year’s Secret Valentine exchange, which I participated in for the first time this year. This is a really lovely idea organised by Sanae Ishida and Ute where you’re matched up with other sewists and crafters from around the world. You send a gift to someone, someone different sends a gift to you, lots of sneak peaks happen on Instagram… it’s all good fun!
I signed up to give myself a boost when feeling really ill earlier in the year and it definitely worked. It also gave me a kick to try some slightly different skills out. I don’t know how successful I was but I certainly enjoyed trying!
I wanted to make something that would be used by the recipient and decided almost immediately that this ruled out making clothes of any sort. How would I know what size to go for without contacting the recipient and totally giving the game away? I was told they liked purple and silver so I had a bit of a rummage around in my stash (and, admittedly, a wander around The Fabbadashery near work) and came up with some appropriate fabrics: a fat quarter of plain purple, another of black polka dot which came free on one of the sewing magazines, a length of black cotton with a very dark grey pattern on and (from the remnants bin in the shop) a haberdashery themed black, white and gold fabric.
The first thing I wanted to make was a scissor holder from Simply Sewing magazine a few months ago. I don’t generally enjoy the crafty tutorials from magazines, a lot of them are simply not my style at all, but I liked the look of this and thought it looked useful too. Just to compensate the poor recipient of my bodged gifts, I ordered some little sewing scissors from eBay (I have some like this and love them!) so if she hated everything else, there was at least something useful!
I decided the almost entirely monochrome fabric was a little bland on its own so randomly decided to add some purple by embroidering. I haven’t done any embroidery for years, although I used to do a lot of cross stitch, so this was new! It also meant going and buying a teeny tiny embroidery hoop as I decided to do this AFTER cutting out the pattern pieces. If you’re wondering, this would not appear to be the best way to do things!
I used a combination of back stitch and satin stitch to add some colour to a dress makers dummy, some pinking shears, some thread and some writing on the cloth.
I then followed the tutorial and produced my scissors holder, which I was actually rather pleased with.
Then I moved on to something else useful to sewists: a pin cushion. Not just any pincushion though: mine was stuffed with rice and wire wool. The theory apparently is that the wire wool sharpens your pins as you use it and the rice keeps the wire wool really dry, hence helping it not to rust. I can see the logic, but it does make for a VERY firm pincushion!
I found this tutorial on The Makery website for a giant pincushion. I really liked the look, but the SVE guidelines discourage overly large items. So, instead of a piece of fabric 14″ by 7″, I used one7″x3.5″. The only tricky bit of the make was getting the flippin’ wire wool into the thing!
The final thing I aimed to make was a tote bag. Who doesn’t need a shopper? I used up the black fabric, added in the polka dots and my purple fat quarter.
I measured up an existing tote bag: personally I like a bag with straps long enough to go over my shoulder, so that’s what I aimed for.
- one piece of black patterned fabric 14.5″ x 29″
- 2 pieces of purple, each 14.5″ x 11″
- 2 pieces of black polka dot, 5″ wide by the length of the fat quarter
To make the handles, I took each piece of black polka dot, folded it in half and pressed, opened that out, folded the outside edges to the middle, pressed again, folded it in half on the original crease so that all the raw edges were folder up inside and then sewed the outside edge closed down one long edge.
I then tacked these onto the narrow edges of the black patterned fabric.
In order to make the bag the size I wanted as well as incorporating the purple colour, I added a purple cuff onto the top of the black. I wanted it to look as neat as possible from inside. I sewed one edge of each purple piece to the top of the black, catching the straps in place.
Taking each end in turn, I then rolled up the black section with the straps caught inside, out of the way, and sewed the other end of the purple section down, turning the bag right way out afterwards.
In order to keep things neat, I then sewed the straps to the purple section.
before sewing the side seams (OK, didn’t get those as neat!)
So there you go, one secret valentine present shipped off to @red_threads_UK
And in return? Well, I received a very lovely parcel from Germany about a week before Valentine’s Day and was very proud to manage to not open it before then!
Check out my fancy hand sewn card and gorgeous origami bag, which even has a strap to attach my keys to! Thank you so much Lara!
And thank you Ute and Sanae for organising something so lovely!
What a lovely post – your gift looked beautiful – very co-ordinated. I really enjoyed participating this year for the first time – what a fun idea 💜
It was lovely, wasn’t it? And so nice to receive a parcel for me!
I really enjoyed reading about your process! You put so much thought and creativity in your gifts. I have heard about the steel wool and rice too and have always wondered if it really works. I especially love your embroidery, glad you picked it up again after so many years! Thank you so much for joining!
Thank you both for organising this: I can’t imagine it’s straightforward to sort out! I really enjoyed it
How strange! My first comment disappeared! I really enjoyed reading about your process. How much thought and creativity you put into your gifts! I especially love the embroidery. I am glad you picked it up again after so many years. Thank you so much for participating!