Sunday, February 13, 2011

You Suit me to a Tea, Valentine


Yesterday, my sweetheart and I traveled to the coast to spend the day together celebrating Valentine's Day, which comes on Monday this year. In years past, we've gone away for the weekend. But this year the pressures of work have shortened our Valentine's weekend, so we stole just this one day, early, and pretended it was the 14th of February.

We started the morning at Popovers on the Square with tea and popovers, and as the morning changed from from a chill winter grey to a bright mid-February spring with sun like sticky honey, the square filled with colourful, happy, bustling people. Our goals were simple: to find a knitted vest for him, to find a pair of antique gold earrings for me, have a fun lunch, and visit a bookstore for both of us.

The bookstore next door - one of my favorites - had only one Valentine's offering, a book about Great Philosophers who Failed at Love. Apparently, Nietzsche said: "Ah, women. They make the highs higher, and the lows more frequent!" Sadly, this attitude must have made him unattractive to his female acquaintances, as his one love relationship failed.


We ate at a British pub, The Coat of Arms, which was incredibly busy for a Saturday afternoon and went completely British, drinking Old Thumper and sharing Sticky Toffee Pudding with custard for afters. My sweetheart regretted later that he hadn't chosen the deep-fried bangers with mash instead of the special pot pie, just for the experience, but he did order mushy peas. We spent a long time talking and got deeply involved in the Tottenham British Football(Soccer) match on the wide-screen TV over the bar.

Though we searched, we never did find a vest for him or earrings for me, and ran out of time to visit the yarn shop. But sometimes the search is as fun as the finding, and our day by the ocean left us feeling happy and tired and not at all deprived.

This morning I searched through my collection of vintage knitting books to find something uniquely Valentine's to share. I searched from the 1930s back through the 1800s and although each one referenced Valentine's Day when February rolled around, none turned it into the major holiday that it is today. Here is a little tour of my search:


The 1934 Book of Good Needlework from England and Australia gives patterns for heart-shaped nightgown cases and handkerchief cases and scented sachets in the February chapter. These gifts seem more suited to an exchange between friends than sweethearts, and this is pretty typical of this period. The hand-drawn illustrations show a group of "college chums" sitting around a fire, drinking hot cocoa and exchanging little practical Valentine remembrances.


This pattern for a lavender sachet is made from strips of silk and lace ribbon, gathered and layered, and then sewn onto a cloth backing. It's stuffed with cotton wool and lavender scent and flower buds.

The Needle Art Magazine from 1926 has only one Valentine reference in the February issue:


The heart graph, meant for filet crochet, could also be used on knitting in duplicate stitch or intarsia.

But in 1917, Plain and Fancy Needlework Vol II, February - a magazine devoted to Needlework, Dressmaking, Millinery, Decoration, and other Household Interests (at 35 cents a year!) - sports a true Valentine's cover, and a full page article: "The Little Remembrances for February".


This article gives patterns for "the valentines that grown-ups give" including little 3.5 inch silk heart-shaped sachets, a silk crocheted necklace "to be worn on the outside of the neck ruff or to outline any waist [blouse] that has the V opening", a crocheted nut bowl stiffened into shape with a solution of sugar and water, and dainty sachets of crochet "to be slipped into the letters you send on Valentine's day".

In 1875, Peterson's Magazine for February of that year, Valentine's Day is referenced only by a short story, titled: Alice Stanley's Valentine. In this story, a young woman named Alice Stanley loves a local doctor, who loves her but considers her too far above him in status, so he is waiting for the time when his practice is more successful and he "can afford a wife". When Alice Stanley asks him to recommend a book on drawing, and his little cousin, who is also named Alice, asks him to send her a Valentine on February 14th the busy, harried young doctor gets their addresses mixed up and the older Alice receives the Valentine card, which of course professes love intended for the little 3-year-old cousin. Coincidentally, Alice Stanley's younger sister has a cough that must be attended to and the doctor is called. When Doctor Harry and Alice Stanley meet, the missent Valentine is revealed and mutual confessions of secret love are exchanged and all ends happily with a kiss. "At first Alice was rather shocked, when she found out that it was only by mistake..." but "they had a hearty laugh over their mutual explanations..."

So there it is - a modest Valentine's Day journey at the end of a cold season. Have a happy day on Monday, dear friends, and here's to warmer days ahead!


Here is a vintage Valentine Spinner for you! On some monitors, the right edge looks cut off, but if you right click and copy and paste it to card-stock paper, you will get the full image. I wanted it to stay big enough to actually use:



pia said...

Oh, I wish my hometown was close enough for a day trip for us! I love the Coat of Arms.

Mette said...

Thank you for taking me with you for your romantic Valentine outing. We do not celebrate the day like that in Denmark, however it is coming up. I see hearts of chocolate in the stores these days.