Crafty Valentine's

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This week, reader columnist Christina Johnson, an HR manager, uses Cupid as an excuse to get crafty.

Like many a careworn romantic heading towards Valentine’s Day, this year I’ve been agonising about what to get for him indoors. I’ve thought about it from every angle and stooped low enough to suggest we eschew gifts this year, his presence in my life being present enough. But he wasn’t falling for such thinly veiled acknowledgement that I’m clueless about the world’s least favourite Hallmark holiday.

So in a moment of moderate despair, I decided to aim my newly acquired interest in all things crafty and make a present. This would naturally be supplemented with some small token from the shops to offset whatever lumpen offering I managed to 'craft' (I use the word in the loosest sense). But what a great idea; it’s personal, thoughtful, likely to be utterly useless, but it's the thought that counts, remember? I pushed to the back of my mind the questions (and rather obvious answers) that inevitably present themselves: 'What will he do with it?', 'Where would he put it?', and the more glaringly obvious, 'Why?' Just, why.

For Christmas, I was lucky enough to be given a sewing machine. My skills are questionable as I’m very much at the start of a journey to understand, unpick and stitch my way to making clothes. Naturally, I embraced the current thriftiness trend after one too many expensive trips to the dry cleaner to hem my trousers. Could this be the answer to my Valentine’s woes?

I thumbed through a sewing book – researching being a useful way to postpone defeat - and decided to attempt a small heart shaped cushion with two appliqué birds. Yes, you’ll see it better executed in a lot of twee shops in seaside resorts and market towns. However, I don’t live in these places.

I thumbed through a sewing book – researching being a useful way to postpone defeat - and decided to attempt a small heart shaped cushion.

Tracing paper and some fancy iron-on transfer pencils mean making the template is actually relatively straightforward and I’m already congratulating myself on the marvel of pencil based technology. It looks like a heart, these things look like birds, and the other bits don’t really look like wings but hang on in there.

What I hadn’t bargained for was just how flipping difficult it is to sew round corners. And there are two of them. Three if you count the bottom of the heart. And I certainly do count it after my second attempt at sewing it. By now, previously discarded templates were strewn around in various stages of decomposition, and there had been many uses of the stitch quick unpick (for those not in the know, it's not that quick). Once I finally had two birds and their contrasting wings zigzag stitched onto the heart shape, beads sewn on for eyes, I then had to stuff the thing. Growing up there were loads of little shops selling kapok and other assorted haberdashery but the decline of the high street, disappearance of small independent retailers, and dependence of people on rapid turnaround high street wardrobe quick fixes have done these out of business.

Undeterred, I improvised by stuffing several pairs of tights into the corners. Except a heart shouldn’t really have corners; or one side higher than the other. Finally, once stuffed, I had to sew up the last two inches of seam, a pretty fiddly process. That seam is definitely not a refined and lovely finish.

Once completed, I felt the inevitable surge of joy at seeing something I had made myself and ignored the lumpy, knobbly bits, the odd shaped right ventricle, and wonky wing. It was mine, I had made it, how could he not appreciate it? Needless to say, a trip to Oxford Street beckons...

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Picture credit: Rex Features