Post Valentine’s Day SVE Update

Happy Day-After-Valentine’s-Day! I hope you had a love-filled one! I’m still recovering from the flu — I joked that I look like Botox gone wrong to M and an uncomfortable silence ensued. “You’re supposed to disagree,” I told him. “You actually look like a really swollen, bruised pumpkin,” he answered. He then said that in fact, I appear jaundiced. I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking this with my flu-addled brain, but some communication lessons might be in order here. Honesty is not always the best policy, don’t you think? Perhaps feeling guilty about the comments, he presented me with a dozen roses for V-day. He also got K some chocolates and this (maybe it reminded him of me):


Anyway! SVE!!!!!! Have you been checking the #2018sve hashtag on Instagram? It’s all kinds of amazing and beautiful and overwhelming. I tried to comment on all the posts but I simply gave up. Too much goodness. I just decided to soak it all in and fully appreciate it.

Ute and I want to remind participants that though a large number of people received gifts before and on Valentine’s Day, quite a lot of folks will end up waiting longer. Every year we’ve tried to figure out ways to ensure that gifts will arrive on time, but we understand that things come up (I myself couldn’t combat my flu and had to extend work deadlines and such) and technological glitches occur and postal services aren’t always reliable. We are sending out HUGE thank yous to everyone out there patiently awaiting their Secret Valentine treasures. If there are lost parcels or other issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at!

On a more personal front, I received my own SVE gift from @_lillimade_ a couple of days before the big day and hard as it was, I kept my paws from tearing the package apart until Valentine’s Day. And oh! So so so so gorgeous. Lille made me a pouch (“for painting days”) and a needle case (“for knitting days”) and I love them both so much. Look at the fabrics! The knitting needle case is made from silk, I think. Or at least a silk-dupioni-esque material. The Japanese motif pouch is a sturdy fabric — cotton + linen? Lined with grey, naturally.

I’ve recently fallen in love with knitting and the needle case is just perfect:


They are impeccably made and just lovely to hold and have. In the flurry of organizing the event with Ute, I often forget that I get to receive a gift too, and it takes me by surprise when the parcel arrives. It’s hard to describe how touching it is to know that someone (almost always a virtual stranger — though sometimes we accidentally pair up folks that know each other) took the time and effort to make something especially for me. I become embarrassingly emotional.


As I delighted in opening my gifts, my Secret Valentine also received her assorted goodies that I sent. I had so much fun creating a number of simple (but I hope useful!) things for Karry of @karry.brook. She’s quite the renaissance lady and has a cool shop in Michigan called Goods Detroit. She said she loves black, white, pink, purple and buffalo checks and windowpane checks, and guess who has a ton of black-and-white buffalo checks? Okay, I have a ton of every kind of fabric, but I thoroughly enjoyed making her a square travel case (adapted from the tutorial that Ute provided) and matching napkins out of this Japanese fabric I’d been hoarding for a long time. The all black napkins are double-gauze.

I whipped up a little bright pink/orange/purple linen shopper bag too since I find them to be such utilitarian and environmentally-friendly items to have on hand. This is a self-drafted pattern that I’ve been using for years.

The surprise ball was a stroke of inspiration. I’ve always loved them and for years I’ve been talking about making one. Just as I’d expected, it was super fun to put together and I found little chocolates and sewing related sticky notes and other fun tidbits to add. I just kept wrapping crepe paper into a ball, but here’s a video if you’d like more info on how to make one. I also included a pretty felt notebook for Karry to capture her many, many ideas. It sounds like Karry liked the gift, and I’m so pleased!

There will be more and more IG posts with the #2018sve hashtages over the next few weeks, so have a look-see! The creativity and care and consideration that have gone into the gifts are awe-inspiring!! Thank you. Ute and I feel so lucky to be part of hundreds and hundreds of people sharing handmade love around the world. It’s phenomenal.


Happy Friday + SVE plans

Happy Friday, friends! I’m guessing that most Secret Valentine Exchange folks are following #2018sve on Instagram and are probably not checking ye olde blog posts much, but thought I’d do a little update.

This year my partner lives in the US, so that gives me a little extra time to work on her gift. I’ve been poring over my fabric stash, trying to find something that feels just right. Above are a few contenders. So pretty aren’t they?

Are you playing or following along with the SVE goodness? It’s incredibly inspiring and I’m coveting the sneak peek projects I’m seeing on IG.

I hope I’m not jinxing anything by writing this, but this has been the smoothest year by far. Ute and I have been floored by all the people totally on top of their game and shipping packages out super early. Awesome. I better get crackin’ too!

I’ll be back with more updates soon. Have a lovely weekend!!

2018 SVE Underway!

Hello my friends! Final tally of Secret Valentine Exchange participants came out to 576. 576!!!!!!!!! Ute and I are, as always, bowled over by the enthusiasm of all involved and this is an extra special year because after 5 years, we finally have not one but THREE gents joining in the festivities. Welcome, guys! We love how the diversity of the group keeps expanding for this global swap.

A few housekeeping notes:

  • If you included an instagram handle but have a private account, please consider making it public for the duration of SVE (until February 14th, perhaps?)
  • If you haven’t received a partner info email from us yet, please check your spam folder, promotions tab, etc. first before contacting us.
  • If your partner didn’t provide any social media info, you might have to do a little sleuthing with good ole Google if you’re keen on finding out more about your partner. Alternatively, simply take a stab at making something that’s in your wheelhouse in the color(s) your partner likes.
  • For any inquiries, please contact[at]

That’s it for now. Oh, and have fun!!!

Happy New Year + 2018 Secret Valentine Exchange!! {CLOSED}

UPDATE: Sign-ups are now closed. We have 576 participants!!!!! WOW. Ute and I are busily getting all the partner information together and will send out emails by January 16th. If you signed up but didn’t receive a confirmation email from Google Forms, please contact us at[at] and we will trouble-shoot!

Happy 2018, my friends! I’m having a hard time believing that we are now launching our 5th annual Secret Valentine Exchange!! Ute and I are teaming up as always, and we’re delighted to be hosting this non-traditional Valentine’s handmade event! Based on the Scandinavian Secret Santa tradition called Julklapp, our first SVE brought 40 participants together and last year we had over 400 participants! SVE is such a fun way to spread love and cheer through handmade goods and we’ve been blown away by the level of creativity every year. If you’ve taken part before, the following information will be familiar (thank goodness for copy-and-paste), but we’ve added a couple of new points so please read through the post.

SVE is super simple! Sign up using the Google form at the bottom of this post and Ute and I will assign Secret Valentines (we’re part of the gift exchange fun too). We’ll send you the info about the person for whom you’ll be making a gift, but you’ll be in the dark in terms of who’ll be sending you a gift. With the ever-increasing number of participants, we found out last year that one of the most important aspects is to ensure that participants enter valid emails and shipping addresses. We’d hate for people to miss out because we can’t contact you or get the parcels out to you!


1. Gifts should be made with materials you already have on hand (we encourage recycling and repurposing). This is not meant to be an expensive project for anyone. It probably goes without saying, but please make the gift yourself.

2. You must be willing to ship internationally.

3. The gift should fit into a medium to large envelope to keep shipping costs down. There are no expectations to send more than one gift, but in the past couple of years we’ve noticed that folks love to include multiple small gifts, and that’s wonderful too. We know that shipping can get spendy if you’re sending internationally. If this is of concern to you, please do a quick check on average shipping costs from US to UK, let’s say, to determine whether this is something that you want to partake in.

4. Keep it fun and easy! No need to stress about what to make, although I know from personal experience that it could feel a little nerve-wracking to send your handmade creation if it’s not something you do regularly. Trust me, the gift will be received happily as many, many participants will attest. I know that quite a few tears of appreciation have been shed (I’m raising my hand high up here). There’s something magical about opening up a handmade gift, don’t you think?

Now, things have gone above and beyond expectations over the last four years, but with so many participants in far flung places on the globe, there were some delays with a number of shipments and a few missed packages last year. If you’re sending to a particularly remote place from where you live, it’s a very good idea to build in extra days for shipping and to add tracking if at all possible. Also, we know that life gets busy and stuff comes up. Ute and I are both flexible folks and we understand if gifts may end up a little late or if there are extenuating circumstances. We’ve both been there. However, because we want to ensure that everyone is giving and receiving, please only sign up if you know you can definitely commit to making and shipping a gift.

To get into the spirit of the event and for sneak peeks, use hashtag #2018sve on IG, but remember, it’s not necessary to have any kind of online presence. The idea was borne out of a desire to connect people in a way that no digital medium can accomplish, and we’ve learned that many friendships emerged from the Secret Valentine Exchanges. This makes Ute and me indescribably happy.

The process is as easy as can be:

1. To sign up, fill out the questionnaire below by Wednesday, January 10th.

2. We’ll take care of assignments and send out the Secret Valentine info to all participants by Tuesday, January 16th.

3. Make something fabulous and ship it by February 7 (if you’re shipping internationally, you might want to add an extra week or so). And don’t forget the Instagram hashtag #2018sve

4. Receive your Secret Valentine gift!

As always, I made some printable tags (the cute little doggy is inspired by Ute’s pet Maja). Feel free to download them here or click on the image above. I also added a version without “2018 Secret Valentine Exchange” for general purposes if you happen to like the design and want a handy little gift tag with some crafty animals! I highly recommend printing these on cardstock (in the example photo, I printed it on textured inkjet paper).

We can’t wait to see who signs up!! Are you in? Please feel free to contact me or Ute with any questions here in the comments section or at[at] We’ll also announce the exchange on instagram and you can find us there too (@ute_ig @sanaeishida). Hooray!!

P.S. SVE seems to be growing each year and with the increase in participants, Ute and I have found a corresponding increase in communication needs. We love SVE so much that we wanted to continue the tradition, but we both have pretty heavy workloads this year and realized that we won’t be able to comment on as many IG posts or get back to inquiries with the same rapid turnaround we’ve managed in the past. We will do our absolute best, but just wanted to give you a heads up. <3


Happy Friday + SVE Wrap-up



Happy Friday! This is but a small sampling of the 800+ posts when you search the #2017sve hashtag on Instagram.


Friends, this year’s Secret Valentine Exchange exceeded our expectations on every level. The creative energy, the kindness, the patience (we know that quite a few of you are still waiting…we’re doing our best to help loose ends get tied up, so keep us posted at Ute and I are experiencing a lot of jaw-hanging and tear-wiping. We’ve especially been tickled by serendipitous pairings of people living near each other and we’ve been incredibly touched by gifts that arrived during trying and much-needed moments. And so much variety! DIY make-up! Bags of all shapes, sizes, colors! Dolls! Pet bibs! Knitted loveliness! Paintings! Jewelry! Hand-stamping / hand-dying / hand-spinning! And much, much, more. It’s been magic.

2017sve-wrapup4As for me, I received a lovingly crocheted bag in my favorite hues and the effort and care that went into it is abundantly clear. Thank you, Sally Mae! The shape makes me think of the word “pochette” for some reason — Google is telling me that it’s supposed to mean “wallet” in French, but in the Japanese culture little purses are often referred to as pochettes. My pochette was stuffed to the max with chocolate and candy, which made everyone in my family very happy. K immediately claimed the Fun Dips for herself. The sweetest part? My SVE partner included a little Pen Pal survey for me to fill out. I used to love pen pal letters when I was a kid! I promptly completed it and sent it to Sally Mae — so fun!



In terms of my own gift-making, I took quite some time to come up with an idea for my Secret Valentine, Melanie of All by Hand. Her color and fabric preferences were very similar to mine, which was handy. I dug around my stash and pulled out a bunch of linens, then I noticed that her logo was a sweet blossoming tree branch which reminded me of this silky fabric I purchased eons ago. Risking some copyright infringement, I hand-painted her logo and made little notecards that I hoped might be useful for her to include with her shop items. Speaking of her shop, Melanie makes gorgeous rope bowls and assorted sewn items. I thought of hunting down some Japanese ropes to include as part of the gift, but when I did an online search for “Japanese ropes,” I wasn’t quite prepared for the intense bondage imagery that popped up. Red-faced and scandalized, I decided to table that idea.


The silky fabric turned into an infinity scarf (which I realized isn’t totally seasonally appropriate for Australia, but oh well; it’s almost fall there, right?), and because I wanted to keep the gift compact, I decided to create little embroidered sachets. My stitches are never totally even, but I thoroughly enjoyed spending several meditative evenings letting the stitches come up with their own designs. I’m sort of in love with their wonkiness. I filled them with lavender and called it good. In fact, I loved making these so much, I’ve been caught up in a full-blown sachet-making obsession!


Ute and I are so grateful to the 426 women who joined in spreading handmade cheer around the globe!!! As with any venture with hundreds of participants, there have been a few hiccups here and there and we’re taking them in stride, knowing that each challenge and learning how to deal with it will make the exchange even better next year. Overall, we’re quite amazed at how smoothly everything has gone — we even got a little more technically savvy this year with mail merge (thank goodness for YouTube)!


And no SVE wrap-up is complete without me gushing about Ute. You’ve probably all figured out by now that she’s the one running the show, keeping the excitement thrumming, and saving the day left and right. My IG and general online presence can be, shall we say, hit-or-miss, but Ute has been commenting like a boss on massive numbers of SVE IG posts (how does she do that?????), which is no small feat. It’s just one of many ways that shows how awesome she is. Behind the scenes, she does even more and is truly a wonder. Not that I’m slacking off, but she’s so on top of things, it’s magnificent. Working on this project with Ute is hands down my favorite part of SVE.

I’m filled with anticipation for the 2018 Secret Valentine Exchange!! I hope you are too!

Aaaaaaand, that’s a wrap!

…except, once again, if you still haven’t received a gift, please let us know at We’ll do everything we can to help out! xoxo