Make A Victorian Valentine

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how to make a Victorian Valentine card just like those in the Victorian era did? Well, now you can. Here are some instructions that were given to Victorian who were inclined to make and send their own personal cards. The article below was published c. 1869. It has been edited slightly for online use.

Valentine Paper Samples c. 1870s


The fashion of sending valentines has so much increased of late years, that a few directions how to make them may not be unwelcome, for the result which entails the outlay of shillings or sovereigns can be achieved for a few pence if the manufacture takes place at home.

There are not a great many patterns sold in valentine lace paper ; and nearly all valentines are made from combinations of these with the German embossed flowers (such as are seen mounted on cardboard), small leaves, very small flowers, &c.; from the milliners, or linen drapers, coloured aerophanes, gauze, net, gelatine, and similar appliances.

We do not admire those valentines which are made up of much millinery, but prefer the use of paper. The sheets of valentine paper we refer to are sold for two pence each. They can also be had in enameled paper, picked out with gold and silver, which of courseare more expensive. Two sheets are always required to make a valentine in a box ; but pretty ones may be made from a single sheet.

One of the prettiest valentine papers is composed of a small plain oval, surrounded by smoke issuing from a vase; all the rest of the paper is covered with palm-trees, cut out like fret-work. At the base of these palms is a statue; below the statue sits a classic maiden holding a lyre, and giving ear to a story Cupid has just brought her.

To use this paper :

First way —

Cut out the oval and the smoke from the centre. Line it entirely with white tulle, or pale pink aerophane. On the inside of the note sheet place or draw a bouquet of flowers, with a motto beneath them, in such a manner that the flowers may show throughthe aerophane in the centre, but not the motto.

Second way —

In a box place a piece of coloured paper, inside the note sheet of embossed paper, after cutting out the oval in the centre as before, and on this gum a group of flowers, a photograph, or anything you fancy. Pink, bright green, and crimson are the most effective colours for the purpose. Silk or satin, or even aerophane, is richer than paper in effect.

Fold up four narrow strips of paper, backwards and forwards like an accordion or a dressmaker's pleating. These form four springs. Gum one end of each to one of the four corners of the paper in the box. Take another sheet of the paper, cut out the oval and the smoke ; gum it to the other ends of the four paper springs. Then raise the springs by drawing them out, and the paper at the top will come as high as the top of the box.

Third way —

Cut out the oval centre and smoke, and mount the paper on crimson satin. In the centre take one or two small figures cut from another sheet, coloured nicely, and glazedover with gum. A Diana and Endymion followed by a dog is suitable in size, and can be found on one of the sheets of lace paper published. Place them in the centre of the satin, or use a few flowers bought at the linen draper's. It may be a sprig of tiny pompon roses and little leaves, which should be placed on white satin, or forget-me-nots on white. Small white flowers, such as elderberry or London pride, can be used; snowdrops lookvery well, so do lilies of the valley.

These must be nicely grouped and sewn to the satin; but when artificial flowers, as they are called, are used, a box is necessary. The valentine should then be gummed to the box, and a second sheet raised above it as before described.

The paper picked out with gold and silver is very rich over dark coloured satin, such as plum-colour or violet. A group of flowers in water-colours in the centre is suitable, with or without a box.

A pretty way to ornament paper valentines, is to make a transparent gum of a little isinglass dissolved in warm water. Brush it over the whole sheet of paper lightly, and sprinkle it well with thin blown glass, which can be purchased at some of the tinsel and spangle shops, and where theatrical figures and fireworks are kept. It must be powdered in a mortar. The diamond dust kept by hairdressers is the same kind of thing ; the gold and silver dust may also be used.

Another pattern of lace paper represents a mosque surroundedby palms. Cut out the mosque entirely, and mount the palms over a picture or over satin or silk with an ornament in the centre.

At the bottom of the paper, if the valentine is in a box, arrange a bouquet of leaves and flowers just under the bridge. This paper makes up well over bright emerald-green aerophane, with a bunch of red rosebuds and leaves tied by a gold cord in the centre. If in a box, raise it with a second sheet of the same.

Making a Very Handsome Victorian Valentine

A very handsome valentine may be made by mounting a square or oval picture on satin, and framing it with a row of pearls, or coral or gold beads. It is easiest to do this by lining the box first with the satin, then tacking on the picture, and lastly the beads. Edge the satin all round the box with white blonde lace, very narrow, and a narrow gold braid, or purse twist of gold.

Then mount over this a sheet of either of the patterns No. 1 or No. 2, crystallised, gilt, or silvered. Blue satin and beads, green and gold, violet and silver, crimson and pearl or gold, golden yellow and pearl, all look well. So does pink and pearls, or blue and silver. White can be used with gold or coral. If under the satin a little wadding and scent is used to make a sachet of it, raising it slightly like a pincushion, the valentine is improved.

The picture and beads must then be attached first to the satin. An edge of small flowers and leaves instead of the blonde is also pretty, especially any colour with white, crimson with , green, and white with violet or crimson. If the picture is drawn in water-colours by the sender, its value is much greater.

Next to this, a photograph of the sender, vignetted in an oval, is pretty. Hair prettily twisted and arranged, or flowers beautifully dried by the "Nature-printing" process, maybe applied with advantage to making valentines.

Another pattern forms one of a distinct kind, in which rather large figures occupy a great portion of the paper. All these figures look well cut out and used alone. Make a sachet of satin, double, and removable from the box. Let it be of some beautiful full shade of colour, such as violet, cerise, crimson, or azure-blue. Edge it with a white blonde lace, and a gold twist tacked round, or run in the blonde. Of course the wadding that fills the sachet is scented. At each corner put a pompon rose and two or three little leaves. Cut out the figures from one of the sheets of paper ; gum them, but not letting them be wet, and fasten to the centre of the right side of the sachet. To send it, tack it inside a box.

Second way —

Line a box at the bottom with silk or satin, or coloured gelatine. Cut out the figure and gum it on. Raise the border from which the figure is cut on four springs, and place it over the figure in the way before described. All these figure valentines look well if made up thus.

Third way —

Simply take the sheet of paper, line it with a sheet of coloured silk, satin, aerophane, gelatine, or even of coloured tissue paper. A bow of narrow white satin ribbon tacked below the figure, with a motto written in colours on it, or a scroll or little wreath of flowers bearing a. motto, may just be added or not at the bottom of the paper, or a few words or a simple motto can be carefully written in fancy letters on the reverse.

One pattern is a figure of a young girl, led forward by two Cupids. It is nearly the full size of the paper. In cutting out the figure, reject the leaves and roses around her. If the rest of the paper is used as a border to a box, raised over the figure, cut away the oval bordering of daisies. The floral scroll border is best alone.

Another pattern is that of a lady touching a guitar, and a gentleman in mediaeval dress bending over her. To use these figures alone, cut out the entire oval, trees and all, and apply it.

A fifth pattern bears figures of a classic bride and bridegroom carrying a child, Hymen, the deity of marriage, on their shoulders. They stand under an arch of lace drapery. To use these figures, cut them out entirely. The arch of lace and roses must then be cut out from the rest of the border, and rejected for present use. The vases of flowers, the Cupids in the corners, and the lace hangings above, look best alone.

A sixth pattern represents a lady and gentleman in the Watteau costumes, seated beneath lace curtains, and beyond there is a handsome border. To use these figures separately, cut them out with the ottoman and the ground beneath their feet. To use the border, cut away the lace curtains up to the lilies held by Cupids.

A seventh pattern is a youth at the feet of a lady, in a bower of grapes and roses, animated by Cupids. Behind is a terrace. To use these figures alone, cut the outline of the youth's figure to the tip of the toe on the left side; leave the ground beneath them to a level with the extent of the lady's robe on the right, but cut it away from the vine beneath; also cut away the flowers between the figures. These two figures do not look so well as the others together, but the lady alone makes a pretty centre for a valentine, if coloured.

Another way of using the figures cut out separately is to colour them naturally, and then varnish them several times with strong gum-water, letting each coat dry before the next is added. When finished they look like china.

There are other devices of lace-paper to be purchased, both of the same size and smaller than those described. The numbers affixed here are not trade numbers, but merely our own suggestion, for distinction.

Sheets of lace or embossed paper, with the centres removed, always make pretty frames for drawings, photographs, coloured prints, or rice-paper drawings. The spaces may be filled with gelatine, or net, over a picture fitted exactly to the aperture, and coloured tissue slipped in behind.

If lined with silk, pretty groups of muslin flowers, or of real seaweeds, can be placed on them. Valentines made in boxes, with white or coloured silk or satin tacked to the bottom of the box, and edged round with a passementerie, may not only be made of groups of dried flowers, but of seaweeds, skeleton leaves, or autumn leaves, carefully prepared and tastefully contrasted in colour.

Water-colour drawings on vellum, also, are quickly done and very effective. By constructing the missive of the 14th of February of beautiful natural productions, or other more artistic evidences of the sender's talent and taste, the token of friendship or love can be rendered valuable and uncommon. Coloured flowers embroidered on satin are not unfit for valentine centres.

To Wrap Your Victorian Valentine

To put up boxes with taste, if they can be sent by hand, fold them very nicely in coloured tissue-paper, and tie with narrow satin ribbon, gold twist, or purse-silk, Place each in a sheet of white letter-paper, and bind with ordinary fine twine.

Our present remarks are intended merely as suggestions, which an ingenious person can easily follow and enlarge, by looking at the best valentines exposed in the shop windows. The portions of paper rejected from one missive can be used in another.

Water-colour flowers in silk or satin should be thus managed : —

Procure a bottle of thick Chinese white. Dilute a small portion of this to half its thickness. Draw the bouquet of flowers over this. When dry, proceed to use the colours, mixing the white with all. Take the lightest tint, and cover each flower and leaf entirely.When dry, shade and detail, without using any white.


The following two papers were sold as Valentine paper in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s.

Victorian Valentine paper, c 1870.
Click on picture to see more detail.

Victorian Valentine Paper, c. 1870.
Click on picture to see more detail.

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