In an age in which digital words pass from one to another as quick as “point and click,” reaching over oceans and mountains, across date lines and borders, the nostalgia of sending a card by post and receiving a hand-delivered note from afar holds great appeal. Taking the time and effort to handcraft a valentine offers a sweet opportunity to show your affection. Add to that the scent and shape of plants, and your friends and loved ones are sure not only to admire, but to treasure your sentiments for years to come. Here are a few suggestions for creating your own botanical valentines. May the plants, papers and designs echo your heart’s affection and be appreciated—and reciprocated.
I used to always press my botanicals before using them on cards. Then one day I got distracted and didn’t return to my sage leaves until they had started to dry and curl. They looked so lovely, I attached them as they were and, though the result wasn’t flat for mailing, I loved the natural look.
If you need or want the flat, dry look, press leaves by simply layering them between a few sheets of absorbent paper and placing them beneath a stack of books. Within a couple days, they should be flat and dry enough to attach to your cards with a small amount of glue.
Start with the envelope. There’s no use spending time creating a card if it’s going to take twice as much time to find or make an envelope in which to send it. Then, let your paper be your guide. Cut it, fold it, twist it or cajole it as long as it will fit into an envelope. If your design will make the card fairly thick, make sure the envelope is significantly larger than the dimensions of the flat card to accommodate the added girth.
Divide a sheet of paper into thirds, score and fold inward. Then, measure the outside thirds and score halfway between each edge and the fold. Fold this section backward. The two new folds should meet in the center, covering the center section of the card. Simply pull the outside edges to reveal your sentiments. If you like, you can punch a hole in each outside section and tie the two sides together with a small, narrow ribbon.
Never underestimate the simple beauty of a page folded in half and decorated by hand, signed with words of adoration. But if you’re looking for a little more variety, try folding your page in thirds and back and forth (zig-zag) or like sliding doors opening to reveal the message inside (see “Sliding Door Fold” below).
If you aren’t using prescored cards, it’s a good idea to use some type of scoring tool (found at craft stores) to keep your fold straight and professional. The thicker the paper, the more important it is to score before you fold.
The beauty of a single rose is not limited to a fresh one in a vase. A pressed blossom carefully placed on the front of a card with simple words of endearment inside may trump two dozen fresh ones purchased at the seasonal high price per stem, simply because of your thought and time.
Any dried leaves or flowers easily can be transformed into a heart shape. Sketch the shape with a pencil and lay out the leaves, overlapping the edges slightly to make sure you have a good fit and plenty of leaves. Then, scoot the leaves off the line slightly, cover the line with glue, place the leaves back in place on the glue and tack any loose spots with a small amount of glue.
Legends and lore suggest many historical events may have played a role in developing the love-focused festivities we celebrate on February 14. One possible precursor, the ancient pagan and Roman fertility festival Lupercalia, dedicated to Faunus, the god of agriculture, began February 15. Other legends say the date commemorates the anniversary of the death of the actual St. Valentine, who, rumor has it, was ordered to death in the third century for secretly marrying young lovers after the Roman emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage, believing single men made better soldiers.
Regardless of its actual origins, the act of sending notes and adorning them with a variety of embellishments has been around for centuries (Pope Gelasius declared February 14 Valentine’s Day in 498 A.D.). The British began celebrating the holiday around the 17th century, and by the mid-18th century it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange cards and gifts. Valentine’s Day celebrations made their way to America in the 1700s, and in the 1840s Esther A. Howland created the first commercially produced U.S. valentine cards out of lace, ribbons and scrap.
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