We Love Vintage Valentines

They're a classic way to say "I love you!"

What started as the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia that celebrated fertility has now evolved into a holiday during which one billion cards are sent, according to the Greeting Card Association. But wooing loved ones with cards brimming in cute verses is not just a 21st century tradition—or a 20th century tradition, either. Since the Middle Ages, Europeans have exchanged handmade Valentines, eventually turning over the duty of making cards to factories in the 1800s.

You can still collect these relics of romance today! Nothing is more sentimental than a literal piece of history. The often elaborate designs on these cards also serve perfectly as vintage decor.

History of Valentines Cards

Although written verses of ardor had been exchanged in Europe for awhile, Valentines cards really took off in popularity when industrialization hit Britain in the early 1800s, allowing for the mass production of cards. Dwindling postal rates in the 1840s due to the Uniform Penny Post only kindled the printed Valentine’s Day greeting fervor.

Valentines Day ephemera
These factory-produced Valentines started off modestly—they featured black and white pictures, which factory workers painted. But when Queen Victoria took reign and the Victorian era ensued in the mid-1800s, Valentine’s Day received a new surge in popularity and subsequently more ornate cards.

Artwork on these greetings commonly featured flowers, love knots, Cupid, real lace, paper lacework, embossing, ribbons and more: all these materials were referred to as “Victorian scrap.” The traditional folded greeting card that most people exchange today did not take form until offset lithography became a cheaper method for producing Valentines in the late 19th century. But not all cards were a standard rectangular shape: through die-cut techniques, cards were made into shapes like crescent moons and hearts, and sometimes even had characters and shapes pop out.

The Valentine’s Day greetings craze transferred over to the United States in 1849 when Esther Howland, an American printer and artist, published and sold Valentines. As one of the first to commercialize Valentines in the US, she became known as “Mother of the Valentine.” Renown company Hallmark Cards sold its first Valentines in 1913—American Valentine’s cards sometimes boasted more intimate artwork than on European card fronts.

Valentines Day collectibles and ephemera

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Where to Find and Collect Valentines

A quick eBay search for “vintage Valentine’s Day cards” leaves you with an almost limitless offering of old greetings to choose from—with most of them ringing below $10! The same search on Etsy also produces an impressive amount of vintage gems. Ruby Lane, an online marketplace for antiques and vintage finds, is another great source for collectible Valentine’s Day cards.

If you are willing to hunt for an especially old greeting card, attend antique shows and auctions!

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How to Preserve Your Christmas Collectibles

Learn how to avoid a broken collectible and a broken heart with these tips on preservation.

 

Don’t let all the time you’ve invested into piecing together the perfect Christmas tree or dining set go into shambles…literally. Treat your decor and ornaments like the precious pieces they are to avoid a tree or table boasting scratches and chips—especially if the pieces are vintage.

Diane Sedo, a featured Romantic Homes stylist and photographer, gave us her tips on how to preserve and store your holiday decor so they’re just as bright, glittery or shiny—and most importantly, in-tact—next year.

Santa punch bowl

Preservation

  • To prevent scratches, always remove the metal hooks from ornaments and store them in a resealable storage bag.
  • Dust your ornaments with a feather duster or soft artist’s brush.

Storage

  • “I store components of vignettes together so I don’t have to search through boxes to put them together again,” Diane said.
  • “Store like ornaments together. I label the containers to identify the category of items such as glass, fabric or plastic.”
  • “I store my ornaments in sturdy boxes with several layers of divided compartments. Storage and organization stores sell a large variety of storage boxes made specifically for holiday decorations. I individually wrap fragile ornaments in acid-free tissue before packing them away.”
  • “Vintage hatboxes are perfect for large or odd-size pieces. When I can, I store each piece in its original box,  but that’s not always possible. Egg cartons and plastic containers protect fragile pieces. I store them in a hall or bedroom closet where there is no drastic change in temperature or moisture like in an attic, basement or garage.”

Share with us your tips!

Want to share your expertise in decoration preservation? Let us in on your secrets on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram.

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11 People to Make Cookies for this Christmas

Spread the spirit of the holidays with the gift of sweets.

They say the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach. The right food will win over just about anybody. A few cups of flour and some sugar can do wonders for your social life.

Your Mother-in-Law

This woman should be on the top of your cookie-giving list. She makes or breaks your holidays. If you over-season the turkey at your next Thanksgiving dinner, she will remember that one time you made her a delicious batch of cookies and remain silent.

Your Daughter/Son-in-Law

On the flip side, maybe you are the mother-in-law. In that case, catch your younger in-law off-guard with cookies so sweet and mouthwatering that he or she will have no choice but to endure your favorite story, for the hundredth time, at the family holiday party.

That Boss You Really Would Rather Not Make Cookies For

Maybe you don’t want to turn on your Kitchenaid for that person who keeps harassing your cubicle. But your not so kind boss will take more kindly to the possibilities of a promotion when surprised with freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Your Office Rival

Yummy confections will transform Janet’s smug smirk into a genuine smile. After tasting your baking prowess, your office rival might just let you in on a few office secrets.

The Best Student in the Pilates/Yoga Class

This also applies to your painting class, gardening club, or whatever group activity it is that you do. Give the star student cookies and he or she might just let you into the elite circle, also comprised of the second and third best students. Soon your praying mantis pose will just be as polished as the class protégé’s.

Your Husband’s Friends

Don’t let your significant other have too much cookie dough. Save some for his pals the next time they come over for a football game and watch them magically clean up after themselves.

Your Child’s Dance/Sport/Art Instructor

Whoever leads your child’s (or grandchild’s) recreational activity, make sure to give him or her a bag of treats. It won’t be a coincidence when you see your little one move up a row in his or her Nutcracker recital.

All The Students In Your Child’s Class

Don’t forget the kiddos! Making enough cookies for your child’s class isn’t as daunting as it sounds—each kid only really needs one cookie, and it will be worth it when your child comes home boasting a new friend or two (or forty). This is especially a great idea if your child is shy and needs an excuse to talk to his or her classmates.

Your Mailman

Give your mailman some cookies on his or her next route. You may stop experiencing the phenomena of finding your envelopes in your neighbor’s mailbox.

The Woman with the Best House Parties on the Block

Want to snag an invite to the envied neighborhood Easter party? Plant the seed that you’d be a wonderful guest and gift the best hostess on the street with scrumptious cookies.

Someone in Need

Ultimately, the holidays should be about selfless giving. Christmas time can be a particularly lonely time for many people. You could make someone’s holiday season a little brighter with a simple bag of cookies.

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13 Elegant Ways to Wrap Presents this Holiday

Turn your presents into holiday decor with these elegant gift wrapping ideas.

 

With these gift wraps, friends and family won’t mind waiting until Christmas to open their presents. Here are some ideas on how to transform your gifts from merely presents into holiday decor.

Decorative Wallpaper

You don’t need to cover presents in traditional gift wrapping paper. Vintage wallpaper is a creative substitute and has that classic romantic look that most gift wrapping papers today can’t replicate. You can shop online for retro wallpapers on Vintage Wallpapers.

 

giftwrap floral

Vintage Patterns

“Use vintage wallpaper, gift wrap and old fabric scraps to create beautiful and unique wrapping. Scan or copy original pieces in 11 x 17-inch sizes. You can alter the color and saturation in a photo editor, if desired. Wrap packages and trim them with ribbons, twine and millinery flowers,” says Matthew Mead of Holiday…with Matthew Mead.

giftwrap paper

Simple Paper

Are you often hesitant to top off presents with ribbons in bolder colors or daring textures in fear that it will clash with the wrapping paper? Go with plain brown paper. The simplicity will give you an excuse to get extra creative when embellishing your gifts.

giftwrap vintage

Stationary

“Old Christmas cards, scissors, glue and access to a computer and printer are all you need to fashion thoughtful and one-of-a-kind holiday accents,” says Melinda Graham of Surroundings by Melinda.

old boxes gift wrap

Old Boxes

“Old boxes make wonderful containers for small gifts. Use scraps of fabric or lace to four-way tie the boxes shut. Take the presentation (and gift) one step further by tying a vintage ornament to the lace….Gently clean old boxes first. Spray a thin layer of matte polyurethane over the inside and outside of the box. Allow to dry completely,” Melinda says.

doily gift wrap

Doily and Costume Jewelry

“Old tablecloths, linens and lace are a perfect finishing touch for a package. After wrapping the gift, find a scrap of lace or a doily larger than the box. Lay the box in the center of the linen and gather the four corners into the center. Use a piece of ribbon or twine to tie them together. Most laces have an “open weave,” which will allow you to lace them together. Finish by pinning a piece of inexpensive costume jewelry to the package…You can also make the doily and jewelry part of the gift by using pieces in pristine condition,” Melinda says.

candle jar gift wrap

Candle Jars

“A creative way to recycle old candle jars is to use them as “gift boxes.” Fill candle jars with an assortment of tiny gifts or place one spectacular ornament inside. Finish with scraps of ribbon, buttons or homemade gift tags…To remove wax residue, place the jar in the freezer for a few hours. This will make the wax easy to remove,” Melinda says.

paper towel tube gift wrap

Paper Towel Tubes

“To turn these mundane tubes into clever gift containers, first cut them in half. Tuck the gift inside the tube and wrap, leaving a three-inch length at the ends. Twist the two ends and tie closed with decorative ribbon to resemble old-fashioned candy,” Melinda says.

take out carton gift wrap

Take-out Food Containers

“Simply place the gift inside and embellish the containers by tying five-inch strips of fabric in simple knots to the handle. Hang a hand- made tag and “Your order is ready!”…Take-out food containers are available online at the Oriental Trading Company and amazon.com for as little as 50 cents each. Keep some on-hand for gifts and party favors,” Melinda says.

scrapbook cones gift wrap

Scrapbook Papers

“For this project, simply curl the scrapbooking paper into a cone. Secure the edges with double-sided tape or glue. Then, measure the diameter of the opening and cut a circle out of another piece of paper. Place the gift inside and glue the circle over the opening. Decorate the top of the cone with ribbons to create a custom tree-shaped gift box,” Melinda says.

paper lunch bag gift wrap

Paper Lunch Bags

“Transform an ordinary paper bag into the perfect gift bag. Tuck the gift inside, then fold the top over to close. Use a hole-punch to make two holes two inches apart at the top center of the fold. Lace a ribbon through the holes and tie a bow. Raid your jewelry drawer for odds and ends like single earrings to add a special touch to the bow…Create a custom vintage look by adding a piece of ephemera to the package. Visit the graphicsfairy.com for free vintage-style clip art you can print from your computer,” Melinda says.

galvanized tin gift wrap

Galvanized Tin

Small galvanized tins serve as unexpected gift baskets. If the tin is large, fill the bottom with crumpled newsprint, then add craft crinkle-paper on top. Place the gift into the tin so it peeks over the rim. Secure by wrapping the entire package in cellophane. Tie a ribbon and finish off with a small ornament or gift tag…Galvanized tins are available at garden centers, hardware and craft supply stores. You can also use empty paint cans, available at airseacontainers.com for as little as $1.70 each,” Melinda says.

picnic baskets gift wrap

Picnic Baskets

“A fun alternative to a gift basket is a picnic basket. Tuck in a little something special or a variety of themed items for a spectacular and unexpected gift. For an added bonus, fashion a belt using a vintage buckle and burlap around the basket…If you can’t raid your own attic for baskets, visit save-on-crafts.com. You can find 10-inch baskets for only $6,” Melinda says.

 

Planning on tackling these DIY gift wrapping projects? Share pictures of your work on our Facebook and Twitter, or tag us on Instagram!

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Delft Pottery: The Dutch Version of Chinese Porcelain

Delft blue and white pottery is a beautiful and collectible addition to your home decor.

Do you admire Chinese porcelain, but scared it will clash with your country cottage? The Asian pottery’s European cousin might be the answer to that empty fireplace mantel begging to be decorated. Delft pottery, also known as Delfts Blauw, is the Dutch successor of China’s iconic blue and white porcelain.

Blue and White Dutch Pottery
Instead of porcelain, Dutch Pottery was manufactured from earthenware clay.

A Treasure Brought from Overseas

Europe fell in love with the porcelain coming in from China when the Dutch East India Company began to import it. Dutch potters decided to mimic the pottery beginning in the 16th century, but swapped the porcelain material for a less expensive clay called earthenware.

A colorful version of Delftware was also produced that featured muffled reds, greens and yellows; the enamels were labeled polychrome Delft. The Delft Blue and Makkum earthenware were shaped into urns, decorative plates and vases that featured hand painted art. Instead of dragons, cranes and Chinese architecture, the Dutch painted florals, birds and Dutch scenery for a more European touch.

Colorful Dutch Pottery
The counterpart to the famous blue and white pottery is Delfware that is made out of toned-down enamels known as polychrome Delft.

This new art form was not just limited to the classic plate. Tiles were particularly popular amid the spectrum of Delftware, and 400 factories in Holland produced Delftware tiles during the “golden age.” Now, only three factories—the Royal Delft, De Delftse Pauw and Royal Tichelaar Makkum—manufacture the pottery.

Finding Your Own Dutch Pottery

Beware of souvenir stores that sell pretty knockoffs of true antique Delftware. Check out the following  pointers to ensure you are buying an authentic piece of Dutch history:

Look for the underglaze marks. Factories hand painted these marks.

Don’t shy away from a few chips. A chip in a Delftware piece shows it is genuine.

Examine the design. An intricate and precise painting means that a real Dutch hand from long ago handled the pottery.

The stranger, the better. Hold on to it if you find a more peculiar piece like a tea canister, cow figure or cruet set. Unlike tiles, these pottery antiques are harder to find and therefore have a higher value.

Delftware Cow
Quirky pieces like this cow figurine are rare and valuable.

 

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Give the Prettiest Presents: DIY Gift Tags

Create presents that are just as special as what's inside with handcrafted gift tags.

romantic_crafts_presents
A fancy first initial is simple and elegant.

Early bird gets the holiday shopping stress out of the way. If you do your gift rounds in advance, don’t finish them off with generic sticky “to and from” tags. You have extra time to make your presents more charming than the others—here is some inspiration to get you started.

DIY gift tags tableWhat you’ll need:

  • Cardstock such as Bristol Smooth
  • Calligraphy pen and ink, or any favorite pens
  • Decorative-edge scissors
  • Small hole punch
  • Round punch with smooth or fancy edging
  • Ribbons
  • Baker’s twine
  • Faux rhinestone jewelry adornments
  • Watercolor paints and paintbrush
  • Watercolor paper
  • Small container of water for paints

 

DIY tags trayReplace your sharpie with a calligraphy pen

Using a calligraphy pen will upgrade your gift tag from tacky to elegant—even more so if you write your names in cursive! The fancy penmanship won’t even break the bank. You can purchase an inexpensive calligraphy pen at craft stores such as Michaels.

If you want your presents to be especially posh, top them off with an initial instead. A gift tag bearing a single letter is more suitable for a smaller gift like a jewelry box.

 

Flower vases with tagsAdorn your tag

Paint a thin stripe at the edge of your tag, then tie color coordinated baker’s twine through a small hole on the opposite end. Make sure you are using watercolor paper when working with paint. Bristol smooth paper is a desirable alternative if you want to just stick to calligraphy.

Finally, grab your decorative-edge scissors to cut scalloped or diamond edges on your paper tags for an extra pop of fun. Consider cutting initial-only tags into circles. A rectangular shape swallows a tag with only one letter.

 

DIYt tags on suitcasesFor the presents themselves

Your pretty tags don’t need to just sit on presents! Incorporate them into the actual gifts themselves. Instead of giving someone a bouquet of flowers, spread out your favorite saying onto different tags and attach them to flower vases. Place the vases into a tray like the one above for a romantic piece of windowsill or vanity decor, an easy DIY gift for loved ones.

Another idea is to make suitcase tags—a smart gift choice, since many people flock to airports during the holiday season. These delicate tags will especially complement a vintage suitcase or storage chest.

 

 

 

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