From the heart: There’s no age limit for handmade Valentines

HANCOCK – Dig deep enough into your mom’s personal mementos, and chances are good you’ll find every Valentine’s Day card you made for her in grade school. The one she got from at the grocery store last year? Well maybe not so much.

Hancock’s Mary Lou Mooney, 78, makes one-of-a-kind, handmade cards professionally, but says it would still knock her out to get a card in the mail one of her adult children took the time to make themselves.

No matter who you want to show your love to on Valentine’s Day, Mooney said, there’s something special about making a card by hand.

“It adds a personal touch,” she said. “I would encourage people to make cards. One of these days we could put Hallmark out of business.”

In a pinch, Mooney’s and other unique cards are available at the Copper Country and Calumet Art Centers, the Re-Treat monthly marketplace (search Facebook for open dates), the Paige Wiard Gallery in Calumet and elsewhere. But for Valentine’s Day, she’d rather see you make one yourself, and she’s even willing to offer a few pointers.

To begin with, said Mooney, you’ll want some heavyweight paper, something that will hold up to gluing and sewing when you start to add layers. Handmade paper offers a unique texture, but if you can’t manage that, card stock available from any craft store is a good starting point. A box of blank cards and envelopes for Walmart will do, too, in a pinch.

To turn card stock into something special, she said, dye it with coffee or tea you’ve already got around the house.

“Blueberry tea turns it blue,” Mooney noted.

You may want to consider how your card will fit in an envelope, she said, but you can also fold and glue your own envelope if necessary.

Then think about decorating your card. Put your creative hat on, and think in layers. Many of Mooney’s cards have inside pages, the better to offer love notes along with art, and she sews or glues multilayered patterns to the heavier stock that really stand out.

Mooney said her layered designs are made from all sorts of things with a variety of looks and textures – the patterned insides of envelopes, food boxes, fabric softener, cheese cloth, feathers, bits of flat metal and anything else that will close inside an envelope. Cut-outs from personal or historic photos can add a unique touch.

“Most of mine are made out of found objects,” Mooney said. “You can dig in people’s trash bags. I try to recycle as much as possible.”

The best way to attach your art, or to layer pages inside a card, is to sew them, she said, as thread holds up better than glue. She uses a classic Singer sewing machine to get them done quickly, but hand-stitching works just fine. Embroidery floss works especially well, she said, but any thread will do fine.

Guys – if you can tie a fishhook to your line, you can manage the sewing.

If you’re working with materials too hard to sew, or would rather not mess with needle and thread, Mooney recommends Fabri-Tac, which she said works for pretty much everything, despite its name.

Finally, don’t forget the note. It’s not just awesome art, it’s awesome are that tells the love of your life – or mom, the first love of your life – just how you feel. They’ll appreciate it, and it’ll be there to remind them long after the chocolates are eaten.

Even if it could cut into her business, Mooney encourages the effort. Just remember to keep it as personal as possible, she advises.

“When I’m making a card I’m thinking about the person whose going to receive it,” she said. “Make it really special.”