Handmade and heartfelt

February 06, 2004|by Chris Copley

Valentine's Day is a big time for mass-produced greeting cards for children and adults. There's an abundance of variety for giving in February, but the quickest way to ensure the personal touch of a card is to do it yourself with handcrafted art.

Artwork for a handmade card need not be complicated, fancy or perfect. The best cards are heartfelt and fun. Don't sweat every detail. Have fun in the making and it will show.

Buy card blanks at a craft store or make them from card stock purchased at an art store or business store. Be sure to buy envelopes that fit the size of your cards. A standard-sized sheet of 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper, cut in half, will make two cards. Buy 4 3/8-by-5 3/4-inch envelopes at a discount mart to enclose them.


White glue can be used to make my cards, but many scrapbook aficionados prefer archival adhesives. Also, I use ordinary kitchen scissors to cut paper and magazines. Others use craft knives and a cutting mat. Whatever works. If young children are joining in the project, recruit some safety scissors.

For design ideas for a Valentine's Day card, flip through craft magazines or books. Look at cards in a gift shop or online. Get ideas for art wherever you can, then play with them and make them your own.

Here are a few ideas for making cards:

  • Colored paper - Buy packs of origami paper, art paper or scrapbook paper (or collect junk mail or business flyers printed on colored paper). Cut hearts or other simple shapes or letters. If you're adventurous, try to make a cupid with colored paper.

  • Word/letter montage - Montage cards take time to make but easily can be tailored for your valentine. Cut words and phrases from magazines and newspapers. Look for a variety of typefaces and colors, especially if you have white card blanks. And look for words and phrases that are especially meaningful for your valentine.

    Draw the name of your valentine on the card or make the name from cut-out letters. Arrange the words and phrases around the name. When the arrangement looks good, glue them down, one by one.

  • Watercolor painting - Inexpensive watercolor paints can be bought from art stores or discount stores. With a cup of water and a paper towel, paint abstract swirls, circles, dots and lines. Use colors that are close together on the color wheel, like red-purple-blue or yellow-green-blue. Let watercolors bleed into each other a little, but not too much or the color will get muddy.

    Once the abstract paintings dry, cut heart shapes out of the colorful paper. Arrange on solid-color background and glue.

  • "Snowflake" valentines - These are simple but fun. Take a piece of thin paper; origami paper works well. Fold the paper in half length-wise, then in half again the other way. Now fold diagonally into a triangle, remembering the location of the center of the original paper.

    Cut half-heart shapes along the edges of the triangle, some big, some small, and cut the inside tip at an angle. For a lacy look, cut out many shapes and leave the remaining paper in thin strips and curves.

    Now carefully unfold the snowflake. Try another one, cutting different shapes in different places. Experiment. Glue your best designs onto paper of a contrasting color.

  • Use cloth for color - Use scraps of fabric instead of paper to make a card. Felt comes in bright colors and will not unravel. Woven fabrics can be attached using "fusible web," available at craft or sewing stores. For advice on using this technique, ask at the store or go online.

  • Scrapbook collage - Combine photographs and mementos such as movie tickets, postcards, stamps, paper dolls or food package labels to make a scrapbook-style card. Arrange items on the card first, then glue down carefully.

Don't be limited to making cards only with paper. Glue buttons into a heart shape. Colored glue on white paper makes a three-dimensional valentine. Pressed flowers bring an old-timey, country cottage look to a valentine. Or draw a simple Valentine's Day image with colored pencils, markers, watercolors or fabric paints. Experiment with more than one medium in your cards.

Whether your valentine is a schoolmate or grandmother, parent or child, the important thing is to let them know how you feel. A cheerful design with a positive message will go a long way to touching their heart and saying, "I love you."

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