So, Valentine's Day…


Let's start with The Bear's Valentines, because they were easy. Because I used a free pattern from a web-sourced idea. Felt a little like cheating, but what are free online patterns are for, after all. Also felt little like cheating because they're so similar to the ones I made Bear last year, right down to the metal type stamp and fingerprint hearts on the tag/hanger detail (with edges unfinished and fantastically susceptible to fraying). But woolen hearts are an allure I just can't beat, and for another year I chose not to fight it. 


Candy would be the default go-in. But it's not as if these kids need more sugar in their lives. Stickers and tattoos are Bear's go-to happy-makers, these days. And as she's the closest insight I've got to Toddlers These Days, that's what we're going with. 


Also, hand-stitching the couple dozen hearts with a luxe perle cotton completely stamped out my long-harbored notion that I dislike handwork. Because apparently I do quite enjoy having a lap-bound project while cozied up under a throw. Or passing time at the breakfast table while the children agonize over their last quarter inch of yogurt. Or taking a break from playground hovering. Or multitasking while checking Facebook updates. And, just as with reading a book or doing my crossword puzzle, I like the kids seeing me make things in front of them.


As for The Boy's Valentines, I can't trace the exact genesis of these with a simple url. DIY seed tapes and seed bombs and seeded paper have been making the rounds for a while now, and it's an idea I heartily support, even while my own thumb is steadfastly disinclined to make things grow. But those bulbs we planted in the fall have been poking up and reminding me that plants indeed have the ability to grow around here with the minimal maintenance that a Kindergartener can supply. And I love the idea of sending out cards with a bit of fun utility to them. 

So we pulpified some colored tissue paper, starting with the bright green sheets that swaddled the fancy heirloom seeds we picked up at the fancy gardening boutique. Not having the proper paper-making supplies (there are some crafty supplies I am missing, after all) we simply finger-pressed seed-embedded wads of the blender-puréed pulp into scalloped cookie cutters placed over super-absorbant cloths (OK, they were cloth diapers). Left them in front of a heater vent to dry out for a couple nights and they were compacted and hard as the cardboard on those 4-up to-go trays you get at Starbucks. It's a lot like felting loose wool into a tight little bead.

And then those sat around for a couple weeks while I put off designing the cards around them. 

My design process:

  1. Try to conceptualize the product. 
  2. Fail.
  3. Get distracted by the little hexagons that I've got going.
  4. Put off working on the project because I don't have a clear vision for it.
  5. Faced with dwindling lead-time, force myself to just sit down and push pixels around for the thirty minutes that it takes me to come up with an idea I'm really excited about. 
  6. Remind myself of all those designy aphorisms that tell you to just stop thinking and get to working. Also remind myself that I've been doing this pixel pushing for a while now, and I'm actually pretty ok at it.

Every damned time.


So, the cards came together. I could have made more effort to better tie it all in to Valentine's Day than that tenuous "Happy Valentine's Day" bit I've got there. Still, I've already mentioned that I'm crazy happy with them. I'm also fairly confident there are enough visual cues to dissuade the Kindergarteners from trying to consume them. And that's what good design is really all about.

Tags: cards, hearts, plants, seeds, Valentines, wool felt

Valentine with plantable take-away

I particularly love the little illustrations I came up with for the planting directions. Had to keep it pithy for the Kindergartener attention spans (and reading level).

Valentine Card with plantable puck thing

So, there's no real link to V-day other than the fact that it says "Happy Valentine's Day." I'm ok with that. That's a seed-embedded paper pulp puck attached to a toothpick and finished with a little flag labeling the plant variety. I'll call it an unmitigated success if nobody tries to eat it.

The prototype and the work to be done

The new inkjet printer performed valiantly, though the cards did tax the starter ink supplies. We'll call that streaking part of the design. Kindergarteners, I find, are pretty forgiving of printing anomalies.

Seeded pulp pucks

The first batch we made were a bit clumpy, and we were still doing a lot of experimenting with different ways to get the pulp to stay on the toothpicks.


Tucked in with the Christmas goodies delivered to our porch today was a card bursting with a sampling of specimens from my parents' yard. That's a Christmas card I can get behind.


Nearly nine months into this take-a-photo-every-day thing, The Boy has finally caught on that I'm constantly looking for pictures to take. He knows, for instance, that once the sugar scrub has all been mixed and jarred, I'll want to take a few moments for glamour shots. And once those Fritos get their sheen of chocolate on, he prompts me to go grab the camera. Sometimes, photographic inspiration isn't so obvious. Like today, after noodling around outside for a while, he came running in to get me to photograph the dried-out seed pods endemic to the corner of the backyard that he calls his garden. And I obliged because the only other shot I had from the day was a poorly-framed camera phone shot of him hanging upside down on some ladder rungs at the playground.