Jan 262017

It’s not yet Valentine’s Day, but in every gift store, flower shop or Hallmark aisle you’ll see reminders. On Etsy, where handmade items are king, you’ll find heart motifs being featured everywhere (and in this post, too). Valentine’s Day is an international holiday when couples celebrate romance with candy, flowers, cards, candlelit dinners and other exchanges of affection. From Australia to Taiwan, in Around the World you can read about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated.

Butterflies and Heart Soaps, sold by thecharmingfrog, https://www.etsy.com/listing/71351221/butterflies-and-heart-soaps-butterfly

I was surprised to learn, however, that the origins of this annual holiday can be found in a pagan practice in ancient Rome. According to National Public Radio writer Arnie Seipel in The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day may have begun when “men hit on women by, well, hitting them.” Seipel explains that during the feast of Lupercalia, a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and their hides were used to whip women. For some strange reason, women were said to have believed this whipping would increase their fertility. The rite was followed up with a lottery in which men were paired up for the night with women—and sometimes longer, if the match was a good one.

Lupercalia Print, 5×7, sold by CaitlinMcCarthyArt, https://www.etsy.com/listing/191474289/lupercalia-print-5×7

Flash forward to the 3rd century, when the Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine—one a priest and the other a bishop—resulting in their martyrdom which was subsequently commemorated by the Catholic Church on St. Valentine’s Day. When Pope Gelasius II combined St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in the late 5th century with a festival intended, ironically, to get rid of pagan rituals, the event became a drunken, theatrical celebration of “fertility and love,” says Seipel. About the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day, which sounds a great deal like Valentine and means “lover of women.” You can begin to see how Valentine’s Day evolved into the celebration of love that it is today. Thankfully today’s holiday is a shadow of its original self.

White Ceramic Heart Bowl, 3 inches, sold by JDWolfePottery, https://www.etsy.com/listing/97433389/white-ceramic-heart-bowl-3-inches

It wasn’t until the 13th century, according to History.com’s History of Valentine’s Day, that Valentine’s Day became associated with love and romance, also the same time in mid-February when birds were believed to mate. According to Borgna Brunner, in Valentine’s Day History, a UCLA medieval scholar named Henry Ansgar Kelly claims Geoffrey Chaucer is behind the mating birds story. In 1381, he wrote a poem that celebrated the engagement between Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. He linked the engagement, in his poem, with a feast day named “The Parliament of Fowls,” or the mating season for birds.

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

Felt Love Birds, sold by TextilePlatypus, https://www.etsy.com/listing/253795817/felt-love-birds-pure-wool-made-in-canada

By the 17th century, couples in Great Britain began exchanging letters or handmade cards that featured lace, ribbons, cupids and hearts. The tradition spread to the U.S., where purchased Valentine’s Day cards appeared in the 1850s when Esther Howland began mass-producing them. The commercial side of Valentine’s Day kept growing until now, when 62% of couples celebrate it with candy, flowers and other items. Between candy, jewelry, and flowers—more than 220 million roses, in fact—Americans spend more than $20 billion on Valentine’s Day every year.

Dried Flower Heart Wreath, sold by roseflower48, https://www.etsy.com/listing/266459789/dried-flower-heart-wreath-spring-wreath

Although sellers and shoppers alike realize there is much commercial profit to be gained on Valentine’s Day, somehow that doesn’t seem to detract from the desire to celebrate the holiday. Year-round, hearts have become symbols of love, affection, unity, strength and even sympathy. But on Valentine’s Day, hearts represent a special celebration of love.

Leather Wedding Guest Book, sold by creating, https://www.etsy.com/listing/103277651/large-leather-wedding-guest-book-tree-of

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 142014

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my readers, wherever you may be! My day began with a lovely bouquet of flowers from John, which is looking as good today as it ever will, given my history of botanical failures. I take a photo of John’s bouquets as soon as I can so that I can preserve the flowers in their best state.

Valentine's Day 2014 Flowers

In return, I sent John a dancing JibJab card. For $18 a year, you can have a lot of fun, uploading your photos and inserting them into ridiculous cards and videos that you can share via email, Facebook or—if you pay an extra fee—that you can download to your computer or upload to YouTube. Click on the image below to view one of two cards I sent John.

Brazilian Samba Valentine

Whether you have a special someone with whom to share Valentine’s Day or not, it appears that everyone can enjoy a Valentine’s Day gift, courtesy of the Internet. Take note of the following offers:

1. Download a free sewing pattern from Craftsy to make a cute Be Mine Tote designed by Melissa Stramel of Lilac Lane. Easy enough for a beginning sewer to assemble, the finished tote bag measures 10 inches x 19 inches x 4 1/2 inches.

2. Television sewing celebrity Nancy Zieman offers an adorable paper-pieced Fabric Valentine pattern you can download. Transform it into a special handmade card, incorporate it into a tote bag design, stitch a mini pillow, or add it to an apron or bib pattern. Use your imagination! And by the way, Nancy just published her autobiography, Seams Unlikely, which is a fascinating read. You can purchase the paperback version or the Kindle edition on Amazon. I purchased the digital version for $5.99 and am reading it via my Kindle app. If you have an Android device, you can download the book for $4.61 via Google Play.

3. Scrapbookers will appreciate Deena Boese’s journaling cards and border that appear in the February issue of Paper Crafts & Scrapbooking.

DSCN81634. In the same issue, you’ll find Jaimee Kaiser of Just Jaimee’s journaling cards. These are perfect for gift bags, scrapbooking or handmade cards.


5. Need a gift or candy box? The designers of We Love to Illustrate for Children have five too-cute-for-words gift boxes for you to download, print and assemble.

DSCN81626. Other Valentine projects to download include:

Hopefully at least one of the above projects will appeal to you, but if not, here’s one last “dancing card” for you to enjoy. If you have trouble imagining John and me as flower children of the sixties, rest assured that you are not alone. Click on the photo below to view the video.

John and I were in grade school when Sonny and Cher sang the song in this video.

John and I were in grade school when Sonny and Cher sang the song in this video.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 032014

In one of my recent posts I mentioned that I bought a large box of envelopes for only five dollars from going-out-of-business Archiver’s. My intent in doing so, of course, is to use the envelopes as pages in books that I create. They are a lot of work to assemble, but the results are always eye-pleasing. The last book I made was the album below, where envelopes provided not only the pages, but also the covers.

Old versionIt has been a while since I last made one of these albums, so I have had some time to consider whether a hard cover, instead of a soft envelope cover, would be better for this album. In the interest of creating a book that will have a longer life, and also because it handles better, I decided to make a hard cover Valentine’s Day version of the same book.

DSCN8138My original instructions for making this album can be found in a previous post, January challenge: new techniques. To make the altered version, you will need to cover some medium- to heavyweight chipboard on one side with card stock. Wrap the edges of the paper to the inside front and back covers, adhering it. The photo below shows the covers of a second album which I have not yet finished.


You will also need to cut a 4-inch by 5-1/4 inch rectangle of card stock for the inside front cover. This gets tucked inside the first pocket of the album, and adhered.


Cut a 4-inch by 4-inch pocket flap, scored at a half-inch, for the inside back cover. This gets tucked inside the last pocket page with adhesive. You’ll notice that the ribbon for the book is adhered beneath this last page instead of on the outside of the back cover, as called for in the original tutorial I wrote.


One of the nice features about this pocket envelope album is that it lies completely flat when you are looking at it, both inside and outside.

Inside of book

Inside of book

Outside of book

Outside of book

On the other hand, the album makes a great addition to your coffee table because it looks like a paper sculpture when you stand it up.

DSCN8142I’ll be adding a few more of these to my shop over the next week or so, but you can already find the above album HERE.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.