Top 10 homemade Valentine’s presents

Best homemade Valentine's projects round-up
The ten best homemade presents for the day of lurve

I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day.

Whether it’s the memory of all those agonising February 14ths at primary school, hoping that someone would leave a card on your desk, and the crushing disappointment when nobody did. (The only year worse than the barren years was the time someone did leave me a card and a heart-shaped rubber (that’s an eraser, of course, not the other kind) and then hid behind a bookcase while the rest of the class chanted that we were “sitting in a tree, k.i.s.s.i.n.g…” An early lesson to me that getting what you wished for doesn’t always make you happy as I cringed in embarrassment and rubbed out the page where I’d written our names festooned with hearts.)

Or the memories of all the meals out as a student in a relationship, where we played grown-ups and sat in a hushed restaurant full of couples, all eyeing each other and paying over the odds for the special Valentine’s menu that came with a glass of bellini.

Or the times early in a relationship where I’ve tried to avoid the schmaltz and ended up going to see a depressing film at the cinema (The Pianist one time) and felt a bit jealous of all the other happy people having a meal as we caught the bus home, miserable after the harrowing experience we’d just been through.

Even now, with a fiancé and a baby, and no option of going out to do anything, I still object to the huge commercialisation of the whole thing. The main aim of the day not to show our love for someone, but to line the coffers of the high street.

And every year, I say I’m not going to do anything for Valentine’s Day this year, because it’s so commercial, yadda yadda yadda. And every year I crack at the last minute and do something.

Well, what’s the other option? To be that grumpy bugger who can’t even tell their partner how much they love them on Valentine’s Day.

So, with two weeks to go until the big day of love, this year I’m ahead of myself and I’m going to make something really nice for my partner. Something homemade. That I’ve thought about. And which doesn’t take too much time or money.

So, here’s my round-up of the ten best homemade Valentine’s ideas that I’ve seen out there on the internet. I hope something here catches your eye.

Ten best Valentine's tutorials
Best Valentine’s ever?

1. Love bugs

I suspect these bugs by Dandee are the all-time best Valentine’s present that has ever been created.

Schmaltz-free, funny but still super cute. They’re meant for children, of course, but my insect-crazed partner would absolutely love these.

You can get a printable pdf for the jars on her blog and then it’s just a question of hitting the toy shops for some suitable beasties…

(And who wouldn’t want to start their Valentine’s Day preparations by staking out the toy shops, rather than battling the hordes in a florist for some flowers that seem to have mysteriously trebled in price over the past few weeks.)

Top 10 homemade Valentine's
Oh to be Sarah!

2. Felt envelopes

I first saw these adorable miniature felt Valentine’s envelopes by probably actually last year, a little too late to do anything with them.

The hand-stamped name on the front is an especially lovely touch, along with the felt heart sewn on to the card.

Who knew a Valentine’s card could be so romantic and classy at the same time?!

Head over to probably actually for more information: Be Mine.

Top 10 homemade Valentine's presents
No pink here!

3. Funny Valentine

I absolutely love the blog Delia Creates. Its author, Delia, somehow manages to juggle looking after three kids (one of them still a baby), with making the most amazing projects, taking the most stunning photos, and writing it all up for her blog. With just one baby of my own, I read her articles in awe and wonder what on earth I’m doing with my own time. (Yes, I guess I just answered that question, ha ha.)

She always makes really appealing projects for holidays and these Funny Valentines boxes are no exception. In bright, cheery colours, each box has a joke on the outside and some sweets inside.

See all the details, including a template for the boxes, here: Funny Valentine.

Top Valentine's homemade presents
Yum yum

4. Felt hearts

It seems like felt and Valentine’s Day just go hand in hand; here’s another cute felt project from the Purl Bee.

These fluffy hearts are a really simple sewing project that can be filled with sweets, trinkets or even a little love note.

I think even the most inexperienced sewer (ahem, *raises hand*) could manage to stitch these together.

As ever, with the wonderful Purl Bee, the instructions are super clear and illustrated with lots of great photos. See the tutorial here: felt candy hearts.

Top 10 homemade Valentine's ideas
Glorious!

5. Hanging hearts

My Valentine’s surprise for my partner last year was to fill the small room bedroom in our temporary apartment in Hong Kong with hundreds (okay, maybe tens) of hanging origami hearts. It looked amazing, but it did take me all day to complete (and sadly I didn’t take a photo…)

These wonderful heart garlands by dottie angel, however, sound far simpler to make and would have an even more dramatic effect as you really could completely fill a room.

(I have to say, being a serious bibliophile, I couldn’t bear to chop up an actual book to make these, but a magazine or newspaper would work just as well.)

To make them, see the Have a Heart How-To.

Homemade Valentine's presents round-up
South Bank dating

6. Valentine’s paperweights

Okay, as I’ve called this blog post the “top ten” Valentine’s presents, I feel a bit arrogant having included something of my own in it, so let’s just rename it now the “top nine presents, plus something I made,” instead…

I am pretty pleased with this idea though: a paperweight with a vintage map inside that shows the place where you first met or first went on a date or got married.

It doesn’t look obviously Valentinesy, but has a lovely romantic significance.

See my post Valentine’s paperweights for more info on this one, along with some other ideas for images you could put inside the paperweight.

Best homemade Valentine's projects round-up
Sweet heart

7. Heart cake

A homemade cake for Valentine’s Day would please most people. A pink heart nestling inside is just the (wait for it…) icing on the cake. (Aaaay thankew.)

This cake looks amazingly impressive to me, but Kara’s explanations of how to construct it on her Butter Hearts Sugar blog make it sound like (wait for it…) a piece of cake. (Isn’t that one of the most appealing blog names you’ve ever heard, as well?)

Get the full details here: Heart inside Valentine’s cake.

Round up of the best homemade Valentine's presents
Pencil pushing

8. Just write

Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t love a pun? If there is, they’re certainly not friends of mine…

So, these fantastic “just write” Valentine’s pens are, well, just right for me.

There’s a really clear tutorial and free pdf with the heart artwork all on the blog positively splendid. The simplicity of these (along with the pun) really appeals to me.

Find more info here: Pencil arrow Valentines.

Top ten homemade Valentines projects
Please, have my heart

9. Vintage card

As with every other subject under the sun, there is a wealth of amazing copyright-free vintage imagery for Valentine’s Day on the Graphics Fairy blog.

This lovely Valentine’s Scots boy is holding a particularly plump looking red heart.

To make a unique card, just print out the image on the right hand side only of a horizontally aligned piece of paper, fold in half and add your message to the inside.

Stick the word “Valentines” into the search on the blog and you’ll find a plethora of other appealing images as well.

Round-up of the best homemade Valentine's presents
Fried love © Carey Nershi

10. Fried egg heart

Don’t want to go overboard, but still want to show your beloved you care? Follow the tradition since time immemorial to show someone they’re a bit special to you: make them breakfast in bed.

There’s something about sneaking out of the bedroom, clanking away in the kitchen, and reappearing with a laden breakfast tray that warms the cockles of every recipient’s heart.

This heart-shaped fried egg, nestled in a piece of toast will spread a bit of Valentine’s love, all in the time it takes to cook an egg…

Get the full how-to from Reclaiming Provincial: egg in the basket.

So there you have it. Ten homemade projects sure to put a smile on your Valentine’s face.

For even more suggestions, take a look at my Pinterest board Valentine’s sweetness. And if there’s a great project you think I should have included, do post a comment below and let me know about it. I always love to hear from you…

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Weighty issues: Valentine’s gifts

No jibber jabber from me today, just a few pictures.

I revisited the paperweights I made for Christmas and used Valentine’s Day images to create some nice, weighty, non-cheesy Valentine’s Day presents.

For a detailed step-by-step for making these (and a lot more jibber jabber), see my post on how to make your own paperweights. Today, I’m just sharing a few more options for images to put inside…

Heart paperweights

Give your loved one your heart this year. Captured and encased in a glass dome paperweight, ha ha…

Two different options here. I can’t quite decide which one I prefer at the moment.

Both images were from the Graphics Fairy blog: black and white heart and colourful heart.

heart paperweight DIY
From aorta to vena cava, I love you with all my heart.
valentines heart paperweight DIY
Another heart, this one with colours. Which is nicer d’you reckon?

A relief from business

This image really made me smile: a little Bob Cratchit type man, sitting and reading a Valentine’s letter instead of a financial report (or, at least, that’s what I imagine he normally reads).  Image found from Clip Art Etc: Valentine’s day.

Make your own Valentine's paperweights
“Quite a relief from business” indeed

Map paperweight

Finally, I think this is my favourite (and most romantic) idea: a paperweight with a significant location displayed. You could use the place you first met, went on your first date, got married etc.

I used a vintage London map here, but you could always just use an ordnance survey map, or whatever’s easier to lay your hands on.

map paperweight DIY
Wouldn’t it be romantic if your first date was a long walk along the South Bank and you gave this paperweight of that location? (Sadly, not where my first date was, so for me it’s just a nice image…)

And just because I particularly like this idea, here’s the side view as well. Graphic for this found on the Graphics Fairy blog: vintage London map.

Map paperweight from Wolves in London blog
Yup, I really am showing you a second photo just so you can see this from the side. Lucky you, eh?

So, tell me, what would you put inside a paperweight for your Valentine?

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This post is linked at the following link parties. Do go and visit and see what others have been up to this week…

Katie’s Nesting Spot, Creative Juice at Momnivore’s Dilemma, Transformation Thursday at the Shabby Creek Cottage, Glued to my Crafts, Serenity Now.

Moustache mugs, a perfect man present

Moustache mug set tutorial from Wolves in London

When I embarked on the whole homemade Christmas plan last year, the one person I was really worried about making something for was my brother.

I find him hard enough to buy for every single birthday and Christmas as it is. With all of the products available to buy in all of the shops that exist in all of London all of the time, I still struggle to find a present to buy him when the gift-giving seasons roll round.

So how on earth was I going to choose what to make for him, when my options suddenly became limited to something I was actually capable of producing?

I read through hundreds of lists on craft blogs outlining the top homemade presents for men, I scoured Pinterest, I made my eyes square checking endless pages of Google listings and couldn’t come up with a single thing that might appeal to him.

And then, I came across this homemade moustache mug on The Tortoise and the Hare blog. Bingo!

I really dig this mug. It’s funny and oh, as Grazia would say, totally OTM, dahlings (that’s “of the moment” for those who don’t devour women’s weeklies with quite the zest I have for reading celeb gossip and looking at expensive clothes on super-skinny people who haven’t had babies. Unless they’re Miranda Kerr, of course, who has had a baby and is yet still unbelievably skinny. And frequently featured in Grazia).

But, back to the moustache mugs. This was the perfect present for my brother and, even better, looked really easy to make. It didn’t take much brainpower on my part to decide to take it to the next level and create a whole set.

Make your own moustache mugs
The full set; another view so you can see each mug in all its hairy gloriousness

Here’s what I did.

Supplies:

Not much needed for this at all:

  • Mugs, bought from my local pound shop for £1.25 each. (Is that misleading advertising that they didn’t come in at under a quid???)
  • Porcelain painter pen. (I bought mine from eBay for £2.75 plus postage costs.)

What to do:

  1. Find some moustache images you like the look of on Google images, or if you’re a bit more arty than I am, just imagine some in your head.
  2. Either print out the image, or draw your own moustache ideas onto paper
  3. Cut them out and position them on the mugs with a small bit of blu-tack
  4. Check you’re happy with the position (you probably want to hold the mug up to your face at this point, to make sure you’ve got the maximum amusement factor when drinking)
  5. Draw round the templates in pencil (this will show up faintly on the mug, but is easily erased if you want to make changes)
  6. Use the porcelain pen to draw the pencil outline and then colour in the inside
  7. Leave it to dry and then repeat as many times as needed to get a good thick colour. (I did mine three times each.)

I also filled each mug in the set with smaller presents.

Make your own moustache mugs
The plastic catapult alien at the front was a particular hit

Two had little toy shop toys (he’s 30 next June, but still loved the racing bug, some exploding caps and a balloon car), one had some bergamot and coconut skin salve that I made following this tutorial, packaged as “Manly skin barrier cream,” and one had a T-shirt printed with a motorbike design (I followed my own tutorial for transferring prints to fabric).

Perfect! A quick, easy and amusing present, that you can customize in hundreds of different ways.

So tell me, what moustaches would you use on your mugs? And what other presents would you fill them with?

I’m thinking this could work well for Valentine’s Day too, with the mugs filled with love hearts, or Herschey’s kisses, or the fabulous Italian equivalent, Baci…

Do post a comment if you’ve been inspired and let me know what you made.

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This post is linked up from the following link parties. Do go and check out what others have been up to this week! Easy Living Mom, Katie’s Nesting Spot, Glued to my Crafts, Skip to my Lou, Project Inspire, The Shabby Nest.

Things I’ve learnt: transferring images to fabric

Transfer prints to fabric: useful tips from Wolves in London blog

I’ve got a confession to make.

I started this blog with all the best intentions. As I wrote, in my first ever post four months ago, I was planning on “building a fabric empire” – creating new fabric designs, making beautiful things from the newly-printed fabric and, oh yes, actually starting up a business to sell said fabrics and gorgeous artefacts. And this blog had a high purpose: I was going to record all my trials and tribulations along the way in these pages…

I had visions of small business people around the world (that’s people from small businesses, not business people who are small) chatting in my comments sections, sharing information about how they’d mastered marketing their business, or selling on Etsy, or turning their initial ideas into business plans. Oh, it was going to be great! And inspirational, for me and for all my readers (short or otherwise).

And now I’m four months in to the blog. I’ve talked about cooking I’ve done, and presents I’ve made. I’ve shared a few pictures of some knitting projects I’ve finished. I’ve had a brief foray into some inspiration for the fabrics. And then I’ve returned to daily life, even telling you about the homemade cleaning products I haven’t made. Buuuut, there hasn’t yet been any actual chat about the fabric company. Mostly because, I haven’t actually done anything about that yet.

What can I say? It’s been winter, I’ve not felt like leaving the sofa for too long.

However, in my articles over the past four months there has arguably been one post that actually included something I might do in this nascent company and that was my tutorial for transferring printed images onto fabric.

Though I didn’t explicitly state it in the original article, I was toying with this method for getting images onto knit fabrics like T-shirts as a possible venture for the company. I love the idea of producing a range of T-shirts or baby-grows with attractive designs printed onto the front (it is ridiculously hard, I think, to find nice baby-grows, especially…)

So when I stumbled across the possibility of just printing out a computer image onto some paper and then ironing it on to your fabric it seemed just too good to be true. Which, of course, it was.

That’s not to say this isn’t a brilliant thing to do at home, but it definitely doesn’t create an end result with durability that would be good enough to sell for cold hard cash. (In my opinion, anyway…)

Transfer prints to fabrics: tips from Wolves in London blog
Great T-shirt with octopus book cover, image found on NYPL digital gallery

That said, I am still a bit obsessed with the process and I made quite a few T-shirts for friends’ children as Christmas presents, as well as finishing off another one for my partner.

So I thought I might share a few extra pointers from my experience using transfer paper for putting images onto T-shirts (and kid myself, at the same time, that I’m getting that one little bit closer to starting the dratted fabric business of my dreams).

If you’d like a step-by-step tutorial, return to my original post as well.

Choosing images

Transfer images to fabric: tips from Wolves in London blog
Amazing vintage image of horse and carriage races, found on the Graphics Fairy blog

This is the most crucial part, as the finished product will only look as nice as the image you’ve selected. So:

  • If you’re looking for copyright-free images, there are some amazing sites on the internet. My three favourites, which I return to time and again, are the Graphics Fairy, which has all sorts of vintage ephemera, cleaned up and ready to use, the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, particularly good for scientific stuff, I’ve found, like old drawings of animals and so on, and Clip Art Etc, which has loads of black and white illustrations of just about anything you can think of.
  • Images that will work best with transfer paper are ones that have no “blank space” in them. You want to choose whole pictures, or silhouettes you can cut out, rather than line drawings. Any blank space shows up as a shiny bit on your finished fabric. (See my original post for an example of what I mean…)
  • Print out the image onto plain paper first and put it onto your T-shirt. Make sure the colours work together. Sounds obvious, I know, but it makes life easier to realise it doesn’t work at this point, rather than once you’ve ironed it on.

Preparing the images

Transferring prints to fabric: tips from Wolves of London blog
Silhouette of horse T-shirt. (Most pointless caption ever? You could already see that, couldn’t you?)
  • The easiest shape of image to use is a square, to make it easiest to cut, but don’t be put off doing a more complicated shape.
  • Silhouettes can look really great, but just take care with the cutting stage. It’s easiest to use a scalpel on a special surface (such as self-healing board for sewing). If in doubt, cut slightly within your silhouette, rather than outside. Anything you have left outside the outline will show up shiny and clear and won’t look so great.
  • Before you start with the iron, check a few times that the image is in the right place. Is it horizontal? Is it positioned where you want it? Again, this sounds obvious, but I’ve often got a bit carried away and wanted to start the exciting part, only to realise afterwards I haven’t put the picture in the optimum place…

Using the transfer paper

Transfer images to fabric
Raaar, bright red dinosaur T-shirt
  • The transfer paper I’ve used has worked in slightly different ways so be sure you check the correct method first.
  • For images that are being ironed onto light fabrics, you will need to reverse the picture first (choose mirror image on your printer setting), as you put the image face down and iron it on from there.
  • For images that are being ironed onto dark fabric, you print it out as is, remove the backing (rather than the front) of the paper and iron it straight on. Double check before you print, so you don’t end up with writing the wrong way round…
  • Not all transfer papers are equal. Shop around, check reviews, try out a few different brands to settle on one that gives the finish you’re happiest with.

Aftercare

  • I’ve not found that my T-shirts wash as well as I would like. It’s best to put them inside out in the washing machine and wash them on a lower heat.
  • Don’t iron the image again, as it will start to come off and stick to everything. Yeah. I tried.

And I think that covers it! If you’ve used this method of transferring images onto fabric, do drop me a comment and let me know if there are other tips you think I’ve missed off.

If you share my love of vintage images and are looking for a different project that uses them, take a look at my homemade paperweight tutorial. For more images, including the ones I’ve used for these T-shirts, check out my Pinterest board Free graphics.

Things I’ve learnt is an occasional series, where I talk about stuff I’ve picked up while trying to set up a new business of printed fabrics. I’m hoping that the information in these posts might be informative / interesting / amusing to anyone else setting up their own craft business. If you’ve any suggestions for other topics for this series, or any thoughts on what I’ve written about, please do post a comment at the end of the piece…

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Man present: homemade paperweights

It turns out, it’s really simple to make your own paperweights. Or, more accurately, it’s really simple to insert your own pictures into some pre-made paperweights for a brilliant personalised present. I always struggle to come up with good homemade presents for men, so this is particularly pleasing as you can put in any images you want and personalise it for whoever you’re giving it to…

I first tried this for my partner’s birthday and I was really pleased with the results. As was he. So pleased, that we decided to make some more for Christmas presents.

It’s a really simple and quick process, but I thought I’d share a quick tutorial, anyway, in the hope it might inspire someone out there somewhere across the online ether…

Homemade paperweight tutorialHere’s what you need and how to do it:

Supplies

  • Glass paperweights with a recess. I’ve used these 70mm round paperweights, which are the best value ones I can find online in the UK.
  • Some graphics (or photos). I am crazy on free vintage graphics at the moment and my favourite sites to find them are The Graphics Fairy, Clip Art ETC, Vintage Printable and the NY Public Library digital archives. Warning: you could lose hours of your day browsing these sites. For this set of paperweights, I’ve used some old scientific images (found on Clip Art ETC) which show the life cycle of the asparagus beetle. Love the images, love the title even more…
  • Printer
  • Scissors

What to do

1. Unpackage your paperweight kit, which will have three parts: the glass paperweight with recess, a green bit of felt with sticky back and a cardboard circle. Check whether the cardboard circle provided fits the recess perfectly. If it does, brilliant, you can use this to draw an outline for your image. But, I’ve found with most of the kits I’ve used that the circle is either marginally too small or too big. If this is the case, draw a circle round the recess under the paperweight for the exact size you will want your image to be.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
All the pieces from the paperweight kit, shiny and new and ready to be assembled

2. Print out your image onto some scrap paper. Position a paperweight over the top to check whether the image is the right size. At this point, you will probably need to re-size the images a bit to make them perfect.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Paperweight positioned over trial image. I realise this photo isn’t the ideal illustration here as the image is actually a perfect fit, but you catch my point anyway. If it doesn’t fit so perfectly, re-size until it does…

3. Once you’ve got it just how you want it, make a final print onto some good paper.

4. Cut round the image carefully and put it inside the recess, facing outwards.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Paperweight plus image

5. The circle of card goes on next, with the felt on top. As mentioned, the card might not be a perfect fit, so if it’s too big trim to size and put it in. If it’s too small, try and position it in the centre of the recess, but don’t worry too much, once the felt goes on top it holds it all in place. (I’m sure you weren’t worrying that much, anyway, it’s hardly a catastrophe to have a slightly small piece of card.)

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
All lined up

6. Check, from the front, that everything is lined up as it should. All being well, peel off the back of the green felt…

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Peeling back the felt

7 …and stick it on.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Almost there, can you take the excitement?

8. Tadaaaa, all finished:

Homemade paperweights tutorial from Wolves in London
Finished paperweight with picture in place. I’m not sure whether this part of the life cycle is the death part and that’s why the beetle is on his back, or whether this is just illustrating his underside for fun.

If you get the same kits that I did, they also come with quite a nice box to put the paperweights inside. I am all about presentation at the moment, so I love a rather swanky looking red box to display the finished product.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Looking all swanky and professional, my asparagus beetle paperweight lies nestled in his red box

I even made a nice little label to set off the red box, using the free vintage labels from the World Label blog.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Great label. Even if I do say so myself

And here’s the full set, from the start of the life cycle to the end:

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
A to E, the whole life cycle of my new favourite beetle in paperweight form

If you have a go at making some, do post a comment and let me know how you get on and, most importantly, what excellent images you find to put inside…

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