After admiring it for the past couple of years, I decided this year to sign up for the Secret Valentine Exchange hosted by Sanae and Ute. Participants come mostly from the sewing blog community and the community of sewists on Instagram, but neither Instagram nor a blog is a requirement. In January, I signed up by filling out a short survey sharing information about my tastes and agreeing to make a Valentine for another sewist in the exchange. (For full details, see Sanae’s blog post linked above.) Later that month I received the data from another participant’s survey, and my info was also sent to another sewist.
My Valentine, Jeannie, said she likes deep blues and undyed shades. She also mentioned a penchant for yarn-dyed fabrics (rather than prints). I learned a bit more about her by reading her blog — she knits, draws, and paints; she’s an herbalist; and she’s passionate about environmental and social justice.
I knew I wanted to make Jeannie’s gift using primarily materials I had on hand. I also share and admire Jeannie’s concerns about the environmental impact associated with many (all) fabrics and wanted to honor her by keeping that in mind as I designed her gift. I have a collection of worn-out (and I by that I mean that the patches’ patches have holes — I really try to use up my clothing) denim jeans that I use for sewing (primarily for patching other jeans). The darkest pair (remember Jeannie likes deep blue) had been factory-hemmed and then hand-hemmed, so ripping out the stitches yielded a stripey pattern of fading. I decided to incorporate that into my main gift, a long quilted case for paintbrushes or knitting needles.
To make the pouch, I cut a rectangle from the denim and cut matching rectangles from unbleached muslin and cotton quilt batting that I had on hand. I quilted them together using straight lines approximately 1/4 inch apart. This made a very sturdy product, even though the denim is a little worn in places. Then, I folded the quilted material in half, with the denim on the inside, and sewed up the edges. I bound those edges with scraps of gray and white yarn dyed linen. Then, I squared off those corners to give the pouch a flat bottom. I installed a zipper on the remaining raw edge (the top). To install the zipper, I stitched it in with a straight stitch on my machine and then blanket stitched down the raw edge by hand using navy blue pearl cotton. This enclosed the remaining raw edges of the quilt sandwich. For a finishing touch, I braided together several strands of thread that I raveled off a scrap piece of the same denim, and I turned that into a zipper pull. The zipper for this large pouch was the only thing I purchased for Jeannie’s gift — I had originally planned the pouch using a reclaimed zipper that I had on hand, but once I had the pouch underway I realized it would be tough to get things in and out of such a short opening (compared to the length of the pouch).
To go with the main gift, I made a couple smaller pouches. For both of them, I used an ivory fabric that I got from my mom — I can’t remember what she made with it originally, but she gave me the scraps a couple months back. It’s solid ivory, but the weave makes a plaid-like design. I made a zipper pouch, lined with some brown Kona cotton I had on hand, this time using a reclaimed zipper. I’ve made a lot of pouches like this, and I always refer to Catherine’s tutorial, which makes it very easy. I also made a drawstring pouch, using some dark blue ribbon I had for a drawstring.
I finished off the gift with a couple of other things I had on hand: buttons and tea. The buttons are wood and mother of pearl — I got them in a button grab bag at Mood last winter. I wrapped them in a tiny bag made from navy gingham. The tea is herbal ginger tea — a bit like sending coals to Newcastle, but I included it because it was the same tea I was drinking while I made the gift.
Finally, I wrapped the gift using a scrap of rather unusual blue and white fabric I had left from making myself a skirt. The main fabric is blue, and the white is woven in and out in a pattern. I also cut a heart from that fabric and stitched it to a blank card I had to make a card. Then, I tied the whole thing up with a strip of unbleached muslin and shipped it off to the destination!
I hope there will be a 2017 SVE — if so, I will definitely participate. I really enjoyed getting to know Jeannie in this way and making this gift for her. I read quite a few sewing blogs, and I feel as if I know the writers. It was another thing, though, to make a gift for a fellow sewing blogger. I did most of this sewing last weekend, but I spent the previous couple of weeks thinking about Jeannie, reading her blog, and trying to design a gift she would enjoy. It was a really lovely experience. And it was made even lovelier by the knowledge that another sewist was doing the same for me. I received a fabulous gift from Sanae — beautiful, customized, thoughtful. I’d guess she’ll be blogging about it — for now, she posted a sneak peek on Instagram. Thanks again, Sanae, for the lovely gift. And thanks to Sanae and Ute for organizing the exchange.