A Valentine That Blooms

Make Your Own Paper For These Lovely Personalized Cards

| February/March 1998

  • This flowery valentine has a secret: lavender seeds embedded in the paper. Read it, then plant it.
  • Many variations are possible with simple handmade paper cards.

Imagine getting a card on Valentine’s Day that still speaks to you in July. Imagine a valentine with a message that comes alive.

Here’s a craft project for one of those seemingly endless winter nights: valentines of handmade paper with lavender seeds embedded in them. Your loved ones can read the cards and think about you, then plant them and think of you again in late summer when they’re picking lavender flowers from a blooming border.

These cards are surprisingly easy to make. Paper is nothing more than vegetable fiber that has been ground to a pulp in water, spread on a screen, and flattened as it dries. Making paper by starting with plants—harvesting, soaking, and boiling them to make the pulp (see “Paper from Plants” on page 51)—is time-consuming, so I take a shortcut that saves time and energy. I start with paper, using whatever I have on hand, such as scrap typing paper, colored paper, even newspaper. The result is a project that children can do.

Lavender is a perfect Valentine’s Day flower. In the Victorian language of flowers, lavender conveys a message of devotion and loyalty. For these cards, I used dried lavender leaves and flowers from my garden to add texture and interest to the paper along with seeds of the fast-growing lavender cultivar Lavandula angustifolia ‘Lady’, which blooms the first year from seed. Handmade cards can hold seeds of basil, chives, parsley, dill, flax, or wildflowers, but avoid large seeds that will be lumpy in the final paper. The hot water you add to the pulp doesn’t harm the seeds.

Seeds embedded in paper are germinated the same way they would be if they were loose. Lavender is best started indoors. Fill several pots with moist potting mix. Tear the card into several pieces, and press a piece onto the surface of the potting mix (because lavender requires light to germinate). Water thoroughly. Keep the paper and potting mix moist. Germination should occur within about two weeks.

Making the Paper

For your first batch of handmade paper, you’ll need to gather a few materials that are readily available at hardware, craft, hobby, or office-supply stores, and you’ll need a mold and deckle, the frames that hold and shape your paper. They’re easy enough to make yourself (see above), or you can buy them at craft stores. A mold and deckle can be reused for as many cards as you want to make.

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