When a group of talented crafters comes together for a Valentine's Day party, the resulting handmade valentines are as hip as they are heartfelt.
Back in 2003, when Maura Madden invited friends to her New York apartment to make valentines one afternoon, she never thought the gluing and painting would still be going strong after midnight. "We just had an amazing time -- it was more fun than I could have imagined," says Madden, who embraced her childhood love of crafting that day. After that, she started getting people together for knitting, sewing, and jewelry-making, and began inviting more friends and friends of friends. The events outgrew her apartment and moved to cozy bars and restaurants. Fast-forward eight years, and Madden has written a book, "Crafternoon," on crafting parties and cohosts Handmade Crafternoon, a monthly salon at the main branch of the New York Public Library.
No matter the project or the venue, the objective is always the same: to bring together a group of people to create, share, try something new, and have fun. "It's about making friends while taking pleasure in the process, even if what you make is imperfect," says Madden, who by day develops TV shows for Comedy Central. For this gathering, she and her cohost, rare-books librarian (and accomplished seamstress) Jessica Pigza, assembled a group of like-minded DIY-ers in a soaring, oak-paneled room of the library to make valentines once again.
Clockwise from left: Anna Beckman, a professional illustrator who specializes in lettering and calligraphy; Rebecca Kutys, a stationery designer; Jessi Klein, a comedian and "part-time animal doodler"; graphic designer Cassidy Iwersen; Maura Madden; Jill Lauck, a college counselor who dedicates her spare time to making cards under the name Cherry Blossom Paper; Danielle Maveal, jewelry designer and Etsy educational coordinator; and Jennifer Nicholson, a State Department calligrapher.
In search of design inspiration, Pigza combed through the library's extensive vintage valentine collection, which includes handmade and printed ephemera ranging from early-19th-century watercolor images and elaborate Victorian pop-ups to Snoopy cards from the 1970s. One of her favorites -- a hand-drawn image of a fox running through the snow -- became the basis for a card the group would make together.
As the women find seats at a heavy wooden library table and spread out their supplies, the room erupts into oohs and aahs. "When someone brings materials you wouldn't have thought of, you end up with something completely unexpected," letterpress stationer Rebecca Kutys says. Soon, all hands are busy stitching paper, sprinkling glitter, and punching heart-shaped holes. After taking breaks for arugula-stuffed pizza sandwiches and peanut-butter-and-jam cookies, they're back at the table, laughing while they give Madden advice as she tries to make a paper doll pop out of a big red heart. This community aspect is what she loves: "Everyone has something to add." Comedian Jessi Klein, her friend, agrees with the sentiment. "I'm never going to come up with the coolest thing, but people can't get too bummed out about what they're making when there's a comedian next to them trying to use scissors and glue."
Invite friends over, spread out inspiring supplies like these, and throw your own party. Here are a few of our favorite supplies:
Doily Heart punch and Large Filigree Heart punch by Martha Stewart Crafts, available at Michaels stores
Heart Lock and Key Double Punch by Martha Stewart Crafts
Handmade patterned papers
Silk embroidery ribbon
Want to host a get-together like this away from home? Here are some options.
Most public libraries have meeting rooms that can be reserved by clubs and other groups for free, as long as the event is open to the public.
A Cafe or Bar
Ask the owner if you can use a few tables during their slow late-afternoon hours. (Tip: Promise to purchase food and drinks.)
A Community Center
Most have rooms that can be rented for a small fee; crafters can share the cost.