SVE Loveliness


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[at] 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.

2016sve-hat2 2016sve-stowebag2

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!)

20 thoughts on “SVE Loveliness

  1. What a great gift from Sonja! And I love the bags you made. I haven’t thought of making a pencil case but I can see that would be a very useful bag too!

    Sadly I have not seen nor heard anything about my SVE. Hopefully the mailman will bring it today. Thank you to you & Ute for organizing this amazing event. It was fun to see all the gorgeous makes.

    1. Ute and I have so much fun planning and putting it all together every year, we feel lucky that it’s become an annual event! Thank you for joining Mieke!

  2. You found the best words! I love going through that hashtag, looking at the revealed presents and the happiness they bring! Like Pips said – I am sure we are contributing to world peace in a tiny little way! I am looking forward to next year with you, thank you for everything! xoxo

    1. Yes!!! Step aside Gandhi and Mother Teresa, schools will be teaching future generations about you and me, Ute! “It started with two women who were sewing all the time and never imagined that they would change the world…” that’s how the lessons will begin. 🙂 Can’t wait for #2017sve! xoxo

  3. Super fun! No luck on my gift yet, BUT we did just receive over 50 cm of snow yesterday so I’m not surprised that the mail might be a little delayed:-) Looking forward to receiving a little package in the mail…..

    1. Hello Erica! I know that your gift has been sent so it should be arriving any day now. Thank you so much for your patience! The international part makes the exchange extra cool but it also tends to make shipping a little trickier…

    1. Oooh, I like your sneak peek Jeannie! Don’t worry, I’m sure your partner will find the wait completely worth it!!!

  4. Hi Sanae! It was great fun participating in this year’s #2016sve event. If there was a way to make a living by making secret gifts to people I don’t know, then I would quit my job in a second. 🙂

    Any idea how many people per country were involved in the Secret Valentine Exchange? Just curious to see what country was represented the most.

    1. Hi Daniela! That would be a fun breakdown to do> 🙂 I believe the US was represented the most, but I’ll have to double-check — I want to do a little analysis now!

  5. Love what you made for your partner, and the cosy hat and bag (looks like a great pattern) that she made for you, too.

    I sent my partner her gift WEEKS ago but am assuming it hasn’t arrived yet, as I haven’t heard from her nor seen any sign of it on instagram. I feel really bad about it and hope she doesn’t think no one sent her anything (I haven’t contacted her to ask, so as to maintain the secrecy factor). Australia Post is notoriously terrible, but hopefully they will get it to its country of destination soon!

    1. Thanks Marisa! Oh, I’m sorry that it’s taking so long for your package to get to its destination! I know that I’ve shipped to and received packages from Australia and it has taken longer than expected. I know your Secret Valentine would definitely let you know asap when she receives it, so hang tight! I know it’s going to get there soon. 🙂

  6. I really, really loved making these for you! The Stowe bag is organic cotton twill, and the binding is made with some leftover chambray shirting. I love your color style and had so much fun picking out fabrics! And I love the bag you made- it’s so, so cool!

    1. And I really really love having them, Sonja! I got the twill part right but I wouldn’t have guessed chambray shirting. It’s a fab combination! xoxo

  7. How fitting that as one-half of the dynamic duo to organize SVE you should receive this amazing, perfect-for-you gift! I think Sonja really has a good sense of your design aesthetic:) And talk about multi-talent: sewing AND knitting?! As for your bag and pouch, can I be a little bit jealous? That Nani Iro inspired printed fabric is just darling. Also love that you included some pink in the way of writing utensils. Not only are you wonderfully creative, but you are so generous as well which has blessed many people along the years. So grateful for you, Sanae!

    1. Sonja totally nailed it, and both her sewing and knitting are incredible! You’re so kind, Lucinda — thank you for your words and participation and everything. I loved both what you made and received for SVE too! That pillow!!! And the Liberty goodies were so beautiful. 🙂

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