holidays, victorians

Signed, sealed

Valentine’s Day is a tough thing to write about because there’s so much baggage attached to it. The single folks think you’re cruel for reminding them of their single plight, or they take it in hand and have an anti-Valentine’s Day. Meanwhile there are the folks in the blase corner who say they don’t need Hallmark to help them out in matters of the heart. Having been in the first* two** camps at some point in my life, I’ll keep this post short so as not to step on any toes. But I wanted to share a historically-appropriate craft with all of you to mark the occasion.

Giving cards as a token of affection didn’t take off as a trend until around the 1840s, when advances in printing techniques made it easier to mass-produce greeting cards. The Victorians went wild with the possibilities, and they produced elaborate lace confections for their sweethearts. Cards unfolded to reveal secret messages, or love poems were written in tiny letters around ornate knots. There were even some super-depressing cards made by Civil War soldiers who thought they were never coming home, complete with drawings of broken hearts.

So while I don’t have a colonial card to share with you, I did make one of the simpler, more clever Victorian cards for Josh (lucky man). It’s called a puzzle purse, and you make intricate folds in a square piece of paper to enclose a message of your choosing. When folded correctly, the paper closes up into a sealed square. It’s sort of like origami, and exactly the kind of intricate thing the Victorians loved.

It’s the perfect size for tucking into your love’s pocket as a secret surprise. (Or, you know, presenting with an awkward flourish. ‘Cause I’m cool like that.)

* college: cupcakes in the dining hall, couples walking hand-in-hand around campus wearing their fanciest clothes. Hard to ignore.

** high school: a night of shopping, sushi, and required viewing of Cruel Intentions. Yeah.

P.S. If you’d like to make your own puzzle purse, instructions are here.


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