There are a few gifts still en route, but the vast majority of Secret Valentine Exchange presents have reached their destinations! Do let us know at secret.valentine.exchange[at]gmail.com if you’re still waiting and we’ll do our best to sort things out if you haven’t been contacted already.
Every year is fantastic, but with the active engagement on Instagram, this year has been especially exciting!! Here I am wearing my AMAZING knitted hat from Sonja. According to the info I sussed out from the IG comments, the pattern is Moon Sprites by Dianna Walla (@cakeandvikings) and the yarn is Léttlopi wool which caresses my noggin like sweet nothings. I can’t say the word “amazing” enough. And the pom pom! Not enough accolades suffice, I tell you, not enough.
To further up the ante, she also made me a gorgeous Stowe Bag, which was a popular make for SVE. Look at those razor sharp corners! The meticulously straight stitching!! I don’t need to tell you how much I love the colors, right? The dark grey fabric feels like cotton twill or light canvas, but you know that I’m clueless when it comes to textile content. I’m pretty sure that the binding is yarn-dyed Essex — am I off? With its many interior pockets and the crisp, slim, yet versatile shape, it’s already a workhorse around here.
I’m blown away. Thank you so very, very much, lovely Sonja! While Sonja was busily knitting and sewing, I worked on my own Secret Valentine concoctions for Ana. Ana is quite the multi-faceted and extremely accomplished young lady with interests in law, education and, of course, sewing. I thought long and hard of ways to incorporate something legal-themed, but the mere thought of a gavel or balance scale made me feel inexcusably cliché, and I had a gut feeling that she might not be too into that either. Since we both love blues, greys and pinks, and because we share a love of books, I decided to go the practical route and like so many other SVE participants, I made a bag and pouch.
Had I known about the Stowe bag, I probably would have made it, but I turned to my go-to bag pattern from this book that I’ve modified to my liking. The original pattern isn’t lined, and instead of gussets, I created boxed corners. The ones I’ve made for myself, I use all the time — particularly for library books — so I hoped it would be well-received by this fellow library lover. The top portion and the lining is Kaufman’s Essex yarn-dyed linen. The woven ikat print is from my mom, and is probably from Japan.
I’m a big fan of pencil cases because I always carry around an overwhelming number of writing utensils with me and a pouch is always useful, right? Ana included in her questionnaire that she loves polka dots so hey, I figured I could handle adding spots to some light grey linen from my stash. I used this textile paint and kept the dots organic looking by using a stiff brush. I call it “Homage to Nani Iro”. I heat set the fabric and pray that it’ll hold up in the wash.
The pouch is lined with more polka dots. I’ve used this double-gauze for so many projects and it’s one of my favorites. I adore the combo of the bigger dots on the outside and teeny tiny ones on the inside — I just hope that the double-gauze can withstand the strains of pens and pencils. Because I wanted to add splashes of pink to complete the color trifecta, I purchased a few pretty pens and highlighters in blushing hues (okay, one of the highlighters is orange, but the polka dots are pink!). That “Field Notes” pencil is hipster and way cool.
I added a few other goodies just to tie things together. More polka dots with the washi tape and I also thought the other washi design had a similar vibe to the ikat of the tote bag. And how can you not add chocolate for a Valentine’s gift? These are mini and pretty and not your run-of-the-mill flavors (but the flavors aren’t strong – I’ve had them, and they’re delicious). I liked this pouch so much that I’m currently making myself one out of the leftover hand-printed fabric. Oh, and Ana send me such a kind thank you email, I read it several times because it made me smile.
As much as I loved receiving and making on a personal level, what inspired me beyond belief was watching from the sidelines as the excitement mounted and sneak peeks were shared and gifts revealed amongst the participants as a whole. Check out #2016sve. Ridiculously fun!!!! I got teary-eyed quite a few times. I know that not all participants have Instagram accounts, but I honestly don’t think that diminishes the experience because it’s about the tangible exchange of giving and receiving after all. It’s about the thought and care and nervous giddiness that goes into making a customized piece of loveliness. Nearly 200 women from around the world, generously taking the time to create something by hand for someone they most likely don’t know in person. And such beautiful, beautiful creations too!
Ute and I are so grateful. Thank you for making each February such a heartfelt, unique celebration. We cannot wait for 2017 Secret Valentine Exchange!!! (And yes, Ute and I are determined to get at least one man involved next year – we know you’re out there, crafty misters!)