Happy New Year + 2017 Secret Valentine Exchange!


[UPDATE 2: Sign-ups are now closed! We have over 400 participants!!!!!!! Please double-check your confirmation emails to see if you have any missed or incorrect information in your form and let us know so we can update everything before we send out assignment emails (if you could let us know before Wednesday, January 11th, that would be awesome). Thank you, thank you, thank you!]


[UPDATE: We are at 300!!! So exciting!!! Please note that we’ll be closing sign-ups at the end of the day today (January 6th)]

Happy 2017, my friends! Can you believe it?? We’re embarking on the 4th annual Secret Valentine Exchange!! Ute and I are co-conspirators as always, and we’re delighted to be hosting this non-traditional Valentine’s handmade event! Based on the Scandinavian Secret Santa tradition called Julklapp, our first SVE brought 40 participants together and last year we had nearly 200 participants! SVE is such a fun way to spread love and cheer through handmade goods and we’ve been blown away by the level of creativity every year. If you’ve taken part before, the following information will be familiar (thank goodness for copy-and-paste), but we’ve added a couple of new points so please read through the post.

SVE is super simple! Sign up using the Google form at the bottom of this post and Ute and I will assign Secret Valentines (we’re part of the gift exchange fun too). We’ll send you the info about the person for whom you’ll be making a gift, but you’ll be in the dark in terms of who’ll be sending you a gift.


1. Gifts should be made with materials you already have on hand (we encourage recycling and repurposing). This is not meant to be an expensive project for anyone. It probably goes without saying, but please make the gift yourself.

2. You must be willing to ship internationally.

3. The gift should fit into a medium to large envelope to keep shipping costs down. There are no expectations to send more than one gift, but in the past couple of years we’ve noticed that folks love to include multiple small gifts, and that’s wonderful too.

4. Keep it fun and easy! No need to stress about what to make, although I know from personal experience that it could feel a little nerve-wracking to send your handmade creation if it’s not something you do regularly. Trust me, the gift will be received happily as many, many participants will attest. I know that quite a few tears of appreciation have been shed (I’m raising my hand high up here). There’s something magical about opening up a handmade gift, don’t you think?


Now, things have gone above and beyond expectations over the last three years, but with so many participants in far flung places on the globe, there were some delays with a number of shipments and a few missed packages last year. If you’re sending to a particularly remote place from where you live, it’s a very good idea to build in extra days for shipping and to add tracking if at all possible. Also, we know that life gets busy and stuff comes up. Ute and I are both flexible folks and we understand if gifts may end up a little late or if there are extenuating circumstances. We’ve both been there. However, because we want to ensure that everyone is giving and receiving, please only sign up if you know you can definitely commit to making and shipping a gift.

To get into the spirit of the event and for sneak peeks, use hashtag #2017sve on IG, but remember, it’s not necessary to have any kind of online presence. The idea was borne out of a desire to connect people in a way that no digital medium can accomplish, and we’ve learned that many friendships emerged from the Secret Valentine Exchanges. This makes Ute and me indescribably happy.

The process is as easy as can be:

1. To sign up, fill out the questionnaire below by Friday, January 6th.

2. We’ll take care of assignments and send out the Secret Valentine info to all participants by Saturday, January 14th.

3. Make something fabulous and ship it by February 7 (if you’re shipping internationally, you might want to add an extra week or so). And don’t forget the Instagram hashtag #2017sve

4. Receive your Secret Valentine gift!


As always, I made some printable tags. Feel free to download them here or click on the image above. I also added a couple without “2017 SVE” on the parcel boat for general purposes if you happen to like the design and want a cute little gift tag with a narwhal-riding mermaid.

We can’t wait to see who signs up!! Are you in? Please feel free to contact me or Ute with any questions here in the comments section or at secret.valentine.exchange[at]gmail.com. We’ll also announce the exchange on instagram and you can find us there too (@ute_ig @sanaeishida). Huzzah!!

What I Made for 2015 SVE


Well, the postal system is still holding hostage my SVE gift, so I thought I might as well show you what I sewed up for my partner Jana. Jana is a multi-talented “Bohemian girl living in Switzerland”, and includes in her CV of eclectic accomplishments: nurse, interior designer, stylist, all-around taste-maker. I love love love her aesthetic and when I saw that her favorites were the color white, linen and leather, I immediately knew what to make.


Jana and I both seem to lean toward simple, clean designs, and I thought a floaty linen cami would fit the bill. I used one of my prized blue and white linen fabrics (so soft!) and adjusted the cami pattern from this book so that the straps would be adjustable. From the image in the book, I actually thought the straps were designed to be adjustable, but in fact, they’re set in and the ties are sewn in separately:


I simply created a casing out of the front yoke (which, by the way, could also be worn on the back) and threaded the straps through the openings.

natural-clothes-tunic natural-clothes-apron

I’ve been plotting to sew quite a few things from this book, but alas, there just isn’t enough time in the day for the interim, so I’m adding the tunic, apron and my very own cami to my ever-growing to-do list.


I also wanted to include a small leather element for Jana, so I created this color-block drawstring bag on the fly — also made out of linen — and I’m super pleased with the way it came out. And bonus: the Secret Valentine Exchange tag fit in the upcycled leather pocket perfectly! Do you recognize the leather cord? It’s the same one I used for K’s jacket that I shared on Monday.

I loved sewing these up so much and briefly debated keeping them for myself — I hope Jana liked the combo as much as I did!

It sounds like there are a few of you still waiting for gifts. I apologize that I haven’t been following up as frequently as I would have liked, though we did anticipate some lag given the large number of international participants. We ended up with 100+ participants in over 20 countries! Ute and I have been talking about trying to sort participants more by region next time….from what I’ve seen on the flickr group and instagram hashtag feed for #2015sve, there have been some very happy exchanges though! Ultimately, I think it’s the spirit of giving that matters and the generosity and thoughtfulness have had my head bobbing in amazement. More updates soon!

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I have no idea how that snuck up on me, given that Ute and I are hosting an exchange for this very day. I just found out that my SVE partner got her gift early (!!) and I’m beyond impressed with Switzerland’s postal system, but then again, I should have expected that from the country that gave us the Swiss watch. I plan on doing more of an extensive recap in a week or two, but check out #2015sve on instagram and our Flickr pool — I’m not ashamed to admit that tears welled up while looking through the thoughtful and beautifully made gifts!

Don’t worry if gifts haven’t arrived yet. We have so many international participants, it would have been shocking if every gift made it on time. Thank you, everyone, for yet another successful and inspiring Secret Valentine Exchange!


If you’re looking for last minute Valentines to print up, here are a few I’ve created in the past:

Animal + Dino Bookmarks

Sweet Bookmarks

Valentine’s Word Search

For K, I made a stamp with her name (there’s an “i” in her name and it’s dotted with a heart), and we’ll use that along with the froggy and heart stamps to make Valentine’s for her class. Attaching cricket-shaped candy would have been funny and okay, gross — of course, it would have been a huge hit with the third-graders. Sorry about that visual, let’s think about a field of blushing peonies instead.


Happy weekend, my friends!

What to do for M?
Boxers were a disaster*
He’s sworn off candy**

*My last foray into boxer-making didn’t go so well…

**M’s been trying out the Paleo diet, so sweets are out, which was always my default gift. Hmmmm…I have 24 hours to come up with something….

Happy Friday + Randomness


Whew. I shipped off my SVE gift yesterday and now I’ve got fingers and toes crossed that it’ll get to my partner in time. I loved making the little present(s) and you can see a sneak peek above. How are you intrepid SVE participants doing? All done? Getting ready to dash to the post office as I did?

It occurred to me that I’ve been remiss about extolling the virtues of my partner-in-crime, Ute. Just as she did last year, she took on the bulk of the Secret Valentine Exchange work with her signature cheerfulness and efficiency. If you’re not following Ute on Instagram, you really ought to – she has an impeccable eye for capturing the beauty and the ephemeral in the every day, not to mention her stitching skills that result in awesomely neutral sewing projects which make my heart sing. The internet is an amazing thing. Ute and I haven’t met in person, but I consider her a dear friend. Thank you, J.C.R. Licklider (who went by the somewhat disturbing nickname “Lick”) — he’s often attributed with the conceptualization of the internet. Or at least the direct predecessor that would become the internet.


The other day, I was at a coffee shop as usual, and I saw a young man with his little baby strapped to his body with one of those fabric wraps — a Moby or Solly or something-y. He had trouble pouring cream into his coffee with the human bulk in front of him, and his valiant efforts made me smile. M always thought of himself as too manly to wear a baby wrap or carrier, but he used to plop K into his sweatshirt and zip it up so that her tiny head would be sticking out. Same concept, slightly more ghetto execution. Ah, memories.


I’m off to finally make some headway on those custom illustrations — I haven’t forgotten, but I’ve had to stick to a rigid schedule with various deadlines (with more on the horizon so the illustrating will take a ridiculously long time, I fear). Thanks again for your patience everyone!

It’s almost V-day
Must plan to make something good
for my M and K

Happy weekend, my friends. See you on Monday!

2015 Secret Valentine Exchange!!



Last year, Ute and I teamed up to host a Secret Valentine Exchange, loosely based on a Scandinavian Secret Santa tradition called Julklapp. We had so much fun with nearly 40 participants (read the recap here) that we’re bringing it back for 2015! For this go around of the craft/sewing swap, we’re getting started a little earlier to give everyone more time.

We’re keeping things pretty much the same as last year: once you sign up, Ute and I will assign folks (Ute and I will also be included in the swap). You’ll get helpful information on the person who will be receiving a gift from you via a little questionnaire we’ve drafted, but your recipient will be in the dark in terms of your identity. Like the previous exchange, we’re striving for casual and easy, and the gifts need not be sewn, though we figure most of you will want to give your sewing machines a whirl. All that matters is that the gifts should be handmade. In the spirit of reduce/reuse/recycle, we ask that you use materials you already have on hand. We don’t want this to be an expensive project for anyone.

Almost everyone was willing to ship internationally last year, and we had a lot of international folks. To make the pairing easier, for this year, we’d like to make a blanket rule of participants willing to ship internationally. I personally found it thrilling to send a package off to India! The gifts should fit in a medium to large-ish envelope and be fairly light to keep shipping costs manageable.


Oh, and no need to have a blog or any online presence to participate, just in case you were wondering. The whole experience of making, sending and receiving handmade gifts via snail mail was absolutely wonderful last year, though of course it’s a blast to share the process online too.


I made new tags for this year (they come in aqua and pink), and the process is easy peasy:

1. Download this questionnaire, fill it out and email secret.valentine.exchange@gmail.com to sign up by January 9th.

2. We’ll take care of assignments and send out the Secret Valentine info to all participants by January 16th.

3. Make something fabulous and ship it by February 7 (if you’re shipping internationally, you might want to add a few extra days). Don’t forget to download the tags here! And we’d love it if you could upload your creation to the Secret Valentine Exchange Flickr account here (you can see the lovely projects from last year). Shhh, don’t reveal who the gift is for though! If you’re on Instagram, use hashtag #2015sve. Fun, fun, fun!

4. Receive your Secret Valentine gift!

We can’t wait to see who signs up!! Are you in? Please feel free to contact me or Ute with any questions here in the comments section or at secret.valentine.exchange[at]gmail.com. We’ll also announce the exchange on instagram and you can find us there too (@ute_ig @sanaeishida). So excited!!