How to Make a Valentine from an Onion

comments (60) January 25th, 2013     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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The lowly onion is much appreciated in combination with other foods but often abhored on its own. On Valentines Day some feel the onion is a perfect metaphor for the single life. I disagree.
From tears come beauty? Not quite. But lovely results can come from taking a fresh look at the world around you. Here an onion becomes a beautiful gift.
Be Mine: a box of inspiration; a reminder to appreciate the world as it is (not only as you wish it were); an affirmation that being alone can be as romantic as being with someone else.
The lowly onion is much appreciated in combination with other foods but often abhored on its own. On Valentines Day some feel the onion is a perfect metaphor for the single life. I disagree.

The lowly onion is much appreciated in combination with other foods but often abhored on its own. On Valentine's Day some feel the onion is a perfect metaphor for the single life. I disagree.

Photo: Jeff Rudell
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I used to hate Valentine's Day; I still do in some respects. Of course, I love the "idea" of Valentine's Day-the romance of celebrating romance-but somewhere along the way the holiday seems to have been transformed into a hyper-magnification of the "trappings" of love instead of being a time to contemplate-and be grateful for-love itself. For one day each year, everything (everything!) is suddenly and ONLY about couples: being in a couple, dining out as a couple, exchanging candy and flowers as a token to prove one's devotion to the coupling one happens to be in at the moment. It can all seem a little shrill when viewed from the vantage of someone who is single.

At least this is how it appeared to me back in the early '90s when I was single-and lonely-and living in New York City. With my meager romantic prospects and with February 14th fast approaching, I decided on a whim, to send myself a Valentine. Admittedly, not a particularly original idea, but I found it was empowering to sit down and write myself a love note. I wrote something that I'd read somewhere: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." I folded up my note, sealed it in a bright red envelope, dropped it in the mailbox, and awaited its return to me.

To prove that the universe really does have a sense of humor, that card never made it back to me. Since I was mailing it to myself, I had been too embarrassed to put my own return address on it, so it didn't even make it home via "Return to Sender." The irony of that first year aside, I have made it a habit every year since to send myself a note (regardless of whatever romantic entanglement I might be enjoying). Depending on your own relation to romance, this will strike you as either sad and slightly pathetic, or weirdly charming (and maybe a little awkward). Either way, it is the action of a man who clearly has too much time on his hands. In my own defense, I think it's completely acceptable to set aside client work, set aside design briefs, set aside other people's expectations, for one day a year and just make something pretty for my own enjoyment. Nearly 17 years later, I would venture that I have learned as much about romance and love from treating myself well as I've learned from Hollywood movies, romance novels, and Lifetime television dramas combined.

So, to all the single people out there (and even to the craftier married people), I would like to share with you the Valentine I have made for myself this year. In keeping with's focus on all things "green" this month, I've again limited myself to using scraps and found materials for this project. In this case, I decided to try using onion skins. Not only are they paperlike, but they also have the most incredibly vibrant color. I wanted to see if I could make something marvelous out of something modest.

Once I had the onion as my raw material, I turned my attention to crafting the Valentine, proper. I chose for my theme, "Go Ahead and Cry," which speaks to both the stereotype of the someone all alone and weeping on Valentine's Day and, of course, the tears caused by onions. A quick trip to the Internet provided a slew of quotations about crying (you can see the ones I selected at the end of this post). Despite the seemingly sad title of the piece, the message it conveys is, I hope, one of affirmation and love.

Please let me know if you like what you see. It is enormously rewarding and inspiring to read the comments that other members leave. As for the onion skins, I feel certain they would make a handy material for all sorts of other projects and I hope all of you incredibly creative readers will let me know what creative uses you find for this beautiful material. And, thank you in advance to all who post pictures of your work here in the gallery for others to enjoy.


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Comments (60)

Jeff_Rudell writes: To readers wondering what Twin Tak is, it is an adhesive that comes in sheets (18" x 24" or 36"x48) It is clear and has a removable paper covering on both sides. You can think of it as similar to contact paper (remember contact paper) but instead of being sticky on one side, it is sticky on both sides.

It's perfect for projects like this were you want adhesion over a large, uniform, area. There is no oozing glue to worry about and no chance of inadvertently getting adhesive on the outer face of your project.

It is available at New York Central Art Supply (62 Third Avenue, @ 11th Street, New York, NY, 10003, 212-473-7705. As for the "basement" when calling -- such items are sold from the department on the lower level). It is also available (or similar products) at better art supply stores.

I hope this helps. Good luck. And thank you for reading.
Posted: 12:48 pm on January 31st
Doola85 writes: Does anyone know what 'Twin Tak' is?
Love the idea of sending myself one. Good way to get my parents worrying!
Posted: 1:52 pm on January 26th
fatticatti47 writes: thanks for this lovely idea! here's a recipe for dyeing
here's template for a pretty box
I love the idea of celebrating one's love for oneself.I intend to do so from hereon in!
Posted: 4:07 am on January 26th
Dawn2277 writes: I usually add my onion skins to my compost, not anymore. I'm going to make this awesome craft and enjoy it forever. Thanks so much for sharing. What an inspiration you are. I'm going to look at the ordinary with a different perspective now that you have opened my eyes. And if I see something that I can transform I will let you know and post a picture and description of what I did. Life is good!
Posted: 3:18 am on January 26th
amazonjules writes: I absolutely adore your unique imaginative Valentine onion idea. I also loved the ideas for What you put in it! Thank you for sharing! You are awesome!
Posted: 9:44 pm on January 25th
kathyL_41 writes: Where does someone get Twin Tak paper?
Posted: 7:21 pm on January 25th
Natasha16 writes: My 4 and a half yr old daughter is constantly complaining-But I want to do something NEW!!
I know what she means. She's going to be in luck this evening, when I get back from work.
Posted: 5:13 am on January 17th
Natasha16 writes: My first comment on Craftstylish. Jeffery, I love how your mind works. This is such an imaginative idea, I'm kicking myself for not having thought of it earlier.
I've been looking through sales on crafting accessories-die machines, fancy electronic apparatus and yet feel that they stand nowhere near a great idea and simple resources.
I'm so glad I found you and your work on the world wide web. God Bless, and continue making magic.
Posted: 5:12 am on January 17th
JanaBanana writes: The beauty of this piece, in thoughts, words, and creation, has brought me to tears. It strikes a place in many hearts for many reasons.
Posted: 2:22 pm on February 24th
Grandmagwen writes: Last year I too saw the beauty and potential of the onion skin, especially the red onions so I started saving some. What would I do with them? I didn't know but I did know there had to be something to make with them that would be beautiful. You did it!
Posted: 12:12 pm on January 30th
csmeja writes: Much more than a card. Thanks!
Posted: 3:49 pm on January 29th
Louella writes: Oh, I love it, really pretty! I heard you can use onion skins to dye cloth, by simmering them I think (alot of them) then soaking, Okay, back to your project, it looks really beautiful, rich in color, but don't you decopage them or something to keep them from crubleing off or something? Thanks, you've given me a new project for the next few days, but I'll have to go to the store for the red ones, they are so pretty!!! Louella
Posted: 11:50 pm on January 27th
Niran writes: Awesome and Innovative. Thanks for sharing your idea
Posted: 7:35 pm on January 27th
renegypsy writes: This truly takes the eyes of an artist...amazing.
Posted: 3:04 pm on January 27th
Ayakashi writes: it is truely an awesome masterpiece
can do for any box decorations~
Posted: 1:50 am on August 10th
SulaTheDog writes: This is lovely. I've asked my green-grocer to save the red peels for me. I would add the following to my insert cards: Q - What is the difference between an onion and an accordion? A- No one cries when you slice an accordion.
Posted: 1:23 am on March 12th
rubicat writes: Jeffery,
I haunt the CraftStylish posts hoping you will be posting currently. Alas, though I can always enjoy some vintage beauty from you, I see little that is new. Where are you and how are you keeping busy? We all miss you and hope you are keeping yourself busy and happy and creative. thank you, once again, for being an inspiration, an impetus to create, an example of how a sense of playfulness and a touch of ingenuity can yield beauty. You're wonderful!

Posted: 5:23 pm on February 8th
Spiritpeh writes: This is one of the most inventive uses of onion skin I have ever seen. I think it would be a great project for my grandkids to make, too.
I am having a problem downloading your project, so i'll have it handy.
Any suggestions?
Posted: 12:01 am on January 30th
Rooty_Tooty writes: Another beautiful design! The onion skins are beautiful & I love the clever closure on the box. I have made similar boxes but have always used a ribbon or cord closures. I like your idea much better.

You have been making Valentines for yourself for 17 years? Would love to see those designs as well! I do like the idea of handcrafted Valentines & greeting cards in general. They are so much more meaningful & unique.

The idea of sending a greeting to oneself is fantastic. The notion that everyone must be a part of a couple is overrated. We all need to love ourselves first before we are ready to commit to a relationship.

Happy Valentines Day!
Posted: 6:03 pm on January 29th
merrilee_in_bali writes: I've been saving onion skins for a while now, but haven't really given much thought to what to make with them. Thanks for this very creative I'm inspired.
Posted: 7:54 pm on January 28th
KYwoman writes: My grandmother used onion skins to make dye for Easter eggs by bringing them to a boil and then letting them sit in the water about an hour. The eggs turned out a beautiful shade of yellow. But I had never thought about using them in the way you did. Your creations are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. God Bless and Happy Valentine's Day.
Posted: 7:27 pm on January 28th
MarshaR writes: I had to send you my favorite onion quote - I used it as one of three poems on my valentines this year. (I cover the spectrum with poems for where ever you might be.)

Love is like an onion,
You taste it with delight;
Afterward you wonder
Whatever made you bite.
Phillipa Court

I make valentines for all my friends. Most common response is "This is the only valentine I got!" I always ask, "Gee, how many did you send?"

I tell them that getting a valentine gives me a few minutes of pleasure but making valentines gives me hours of smiles and loving thoughts.
Posted: 2:34 pm on February 17th
bluefly writes: It would never occur to me to hate valentine's day. I sent valentines to my Mom and Grandbaby - what's to hate about showing love to those you care about? I do think your card would be wonderful to send to someone having a hard time with a loss in their life - such as when as loved one has passed. I will keep it in mind for that and think it will be helpful to such a person to give them permission to grieve.
Posted: 8:13 am on February 11th
EileenHull writes: Thanks Jeffrey! I am always happy to see when you have a new post up. Cool idea- love the interlocking box flap!
Posted: 9:54 pm on February 10th
LindyLu writes: It's important to remember that not all married people are living a romantic adventure and Valentine's Day can be a sad day for some of them, too.

Telling yourself that you love you is a tremendously powerful gift to you and to people who live with you. They don't have the burden of validating you and you are more fun, I think and better in a relationship, too.

I loved your quotes, too. This has been a horrible day for me, but having this one to read was like having a lifeboat pull up when it was handiest to have one.

"If someone you love hurts you, cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it." —Unknown

Thank you. I miss your stuff.

Posted: 9:17 pm on November 11th
avocadooo writes: So, so, so awesome.
Posted: 9:30 pm on March 14th
BeckyN writes: Am delighted to discover this site - never mind what latecomer I am!

The only thing I've used onion skins for is dying eggs - I was so disappointed the one year I used the yellow skins for their gorgeous color - and my eggs just looked like brown eggs when I was done.

This box is fabulous - and your photos of the onions so lucious.

I have always loved Valentine's Day - from the time I was in first grade and we decorated the box to receive the class valentines with crepe paper. I loved the cookies my mom would make with raspberry jam between them and icing on top. I loved picking out valentines for each of my classmates - trying to match each to the person. So while I'm grateful for my dear husband, even when I was single, I loved the day. I still like to send valentines to my friends - it's another opportunity to tell them how I love them.
Posted: 8:57 am on March 8th
artistsar101 writes: It is BEAUTIFUL, I never would have guessed. Great job!
Posted: 2:15 pm on February 21st
Lin G writes: I'm a little behind on reading my e-mails but I just had to comment on your valentine. I always wondered if there was anything you could do with onion skins. The box is just wonderful. I will be looking to see more of your great ideas.
Posted: 9:57 pm on February 20th
lifesart writes: Jeffrey,

As usual, your imagination and ingenuity amaze me. Thanks so much for such a great idea. You have inspired me to rummage throughout the entire house for materials.

When are you going to write a book?
Posted: 1:15 pm on February 12th
Daydah writes: This is so creative! I live in Nigeria, Africa, and the little art supplies one can find are very expensive, so I used to try to create with what I can find.

I spent many years being lonely on Valentine's Day - even though I never got a present (not even a teddy bear) I used to wrap up and send a card and gift to a guy as his mystery admirer, but he died in an accident the day after high school grad.
I am going to start sending myself a gift...It will definitely boost my morale (will suggest it to everyone I know too!).
I saw a hexagonal box today and felt the urge to do something, and going online, I found ur onions project.
Thanks for sharing - there is a basket of onions in my kitchen and am going to start the second I get home!

As for the adhesive, I am sure I have to find an alternative, so wish me luck. I will post the picture for you when I am through!
Posted: 11:47 am on February 10th
jburgesq writes: Only you Jeffery...using an onion to say "I love you" has many layers of meaning...

Your Minneapolis Fan
Posted: 11:21 am on February 2nd
Louella writes: Its beautiful isn't it! I have also heard of boiling onion skins, (you'll need to save because it takes a lot) and then dying fabric with it! Thanks, I'm going to try this, and look around you! Think of other things that are in your home that you could also work with! Louella
Posted: 1:09 am on February 2nd
youngrecluse writes: This idea and the result just amazed me. So creative. Now I must buy onions (especially those red ones!) and start playing! Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 7:32 pm on February 1st
Jeff_Rudell writes: Dear justj: I did not find it necessary to coat or treat the onion skins with any fixative or finish. When adhered to the Twin Tak adhesive sheets, I found them to be very durable. As for the box, I don't have a template but I encourage you to make a box to whatever dimensions best suit your needs. My photographs were intended only as a guide to what shape you might use. Good luck and thank you for your very kind comments. Jeffery
Posted: 10:30 am on February 1st
martinnpatsy writes: This is so cool. I teach recylable arts at our art center here in Cambridge, Maryland to kids. This would be such a great project for them. I also do mosaics out of recycling materials. It is so much fun.

Thanks for sharing! Where do you get the paper for this project, or can you use any kind of adhesive paper?

Keep up the great work!

Pattie in Cambridge, MD
Posted: 10:24 am on February 1st
justj writes: This is just so wonderful! Did you coat the onion skins with something after adhereing them to the paper? Also, do you have a printable pattern for your box? I'd love to make one of these for my recipes. What a truly inspired idea! Love it! HUGS, Judy
Posted: 9:10 am on February 1st
JacquelineLauraYoung writes: Great! I love this idea! Very creative and very useful! I am going to do this project and I am also going to create a necklace, earrings and put the skins in bread dough and make small boxes and whatever else I can think of. I learned something new today! Thank you very much. Take care
Posted: 5:03 pm on January 31st
Jeff_Rudell writes: To Readers Inquiring about Twin Tak: Twin Tak is a double-sided adhesive sheet (usually about $4.50 for an 18" x 24" piece) that is widely available at art supply stores. I am uncertain whether or not it is available at craft stores such as Michael's, etc.

As alternatives you might wish to consider other brand name adhesive sheets (double-sided being the most convenience since you can adhered the onion skins to one side and then adhere the the other side to your project -- in my case a Valentine box) or white liquid adhesive suitable for paper. With liquid glues you will have to wait for it to dry fully after gluing your onion skins in place. If you are comfortable with spray adhesives, that might offer another solution.

If you would prefer to use Twin-Tak as specified, you can order it by calling New York Central Art Supply at 212-473-7705 or 800-950-6111.

Thank you to everyone for their very supportive comments on this post. Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day to you all.

Posted: 3:42 pm on January 31st
Munka writes: This looks so much fun,can't wait to try it! A lot of time
went into the how to do it. What is twin tak and where do I
get it? Michaels or Joanne fabrics and craft? Thanks.
Posted: 12:17 pm on January 31st
Nightcats writes: This is amazing. How creative you are, and what a beautiful project. I am going to link to it from my scrapbooking blog.
Posted: 12:01 pm on January 31st
Babytreese writes: This is SOOOOO beautiful!! I would love to make a card this way. What do you think? And how would I protect it? Thanks so much!
Posted: 10:31 am on January 31st
HeronMoonDesignworks writes: I am astonished at the creativity and energy involved in this project, as well as at the loveliness of the outcome. Quite impressive a skill set, atop the inventive nature of the author's thought processes. Congratulations on an article written well and well worth reading!

Terri, Heron Moon Designworks
Posted: 9:50 am on January 31st
jaxlady writes: Dear Jeffrey,

I would like to join your many admirers in recognizing your amazing talent! I enjoy your creations very much.
My first attempt was the thank-you card. Of course my finished product was not the equal of yours but the learning experience was fun. I had not worked with paper for ages and this gave me a new perspective.

Thank you for sharing with all of us!
Posted: 7:58 am on January 31st
anneinkzland writes: Thank you so much for this idea. I do some crafts with kids at an international school in Kazakhstan. We are very limited in what we can do because most art supplies aren't available here. I love to make things out of natural products or found items. So after I read this idea this morning and went to the local market or my groceries, I thought I'd look for onions to try this for myself. One stall had red onions - a great rarity - and I was so lucky. The vegetable lady was peeling off the extra skins from the red onions and was going to throw them away. She actually gave me a lovely bag full. Of course, I also bought some of the onions :) I'm deinitely going to make this now. Just one question - can you post the pattern and/or dimensions or the box?
Thanks again.
Posted: 5:07 am on January 31st
SewDanish writes: What a great project! I love to reuse. I already have a big bag of onion peels that I have collected for when dying embroidery threads and for adding as specks of colour and interest when making handmade paper. Will deffinately have a play this technique. Birgitte Scandinavian Textile Art, Unique Handmade Supplies
Posted: 2:52 am on January 31st
gracie_girl writes: Beautiful! There is such a beauty in all of creation--even in an onion! Apparently, you can boil red onion skins and make dye with them...
Posted: 1:16 am on January 31st
prpldy writes: This is awesome. I have a red onion right now that I have been saving the skins from it as they fall off and IO already have saved the yellow skin to use on a project. Since I am single..I will definitely make this for myself this year and maybe follow your run and send myself a valentine each year. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration.
Posted: 1:19 pm on January 30th
AWilcox writes: Wow, another innovative and great project by Grand Master Crafter Mister Rudell! This is amazing and VERY COOL!

I wish this was available about 7 years ago. This would have been the perfect gift to give to my best friend, Joe. On Feb 14th, he and I were both "dateless" so instead of spending Valentine's alone, we decided to make the best of it and do a night out on the town in the fabulous New York City.

We went out to and spend a fortune on a pricey dinner, gave each other a single rose, shared a bag of Hersey's chocolate kisses and than went to see Art Garfunkel in Carnegie Hall (without Paul Simon).

We were both unfamiliar and slightly bored with Garfunkel's solo work but towards the end of the show, Garfunkel sang the popular "Bridge Over Trouble Water" and half way into the song, he chocked and started coughing up a storm. He could barely finish the song or the show. The audience was mortified, we were no longer bored and sat on the edge of our seats as the drama unfolded. We felt bad for the Garfunkel, but not as bad as we felt for each other for being alone on this lover's holiday.

Although my friend and I had a great night out, we were both went home feeling the pressures of not having that special someone in our lives. I know this would have been the PERFECT Valentine GIFT to give him, it would have been the icing on the cake to an almost perfect dateless Valentine Day.

Thanks for continuing the amazing work you do, great job like always!

Posted: 12:35 pm on January 30th
Sister_Diane writes: Wow... could you BE any more of a genius?

This is a beautiful project, and I loved the framing of your story, and your practice of sending yourself a note on Valentine's Day. This is one of my favorite posts of yours ever.
Posted: 8:00 pm on January 29th
Jeff_Rudell writes: To AuburninAuburn: Twin Tak is a double-sided adhesive that comes in a variety of sheet sizes. I would probably recommend against spray adhesives or liquid glues for this project in order to avoid the mess. Twin Tak allows you to adhered the skins to one side and then peel off the backing and adhere the the finished sheet to your project. Good luck!
Posted: 3:57 pm on January 28th
Deana writes: Jeffery, you continue to entertain and inspire. I love this post and I so want to make this. It's just beautiful. Who knew there was a crafty use for onion skins. You did! Bravo!
Posted: 1:17 pm on January 28th
2manyideas writes: Now if only you could do something with Lemons .... ?! My favorite quote is "When life hands you lemons, find the person with the vodka!". I love this onion card (and laughed reading your thoughts on the special day as they seemed to have echoed my own). I will definitely start sending myself a Valentines Day card! How inspiring in more ways than one! :-)
Posted: 7:59 pm on January 27th
brookebethany writes: Jeffrey, I am so glad to be able to view your creative endeavors here, they are always interesting and inspiring. I have a particular problem with onions - I think I must be allergic to the fumes as I always sneeze and tear painfully. So, I'm not sure I will attempt this project. But I'm so glad you did and I hope you have a wonderful, lovely Valentine's Day.
Posted: 7:35 pm on January 26th
FaveCrafts writes: What a great idea! I was a little skeptical when I saw "How to Make a Valentine from an Onion" but I am truly impressed at how beautiful it turned out. As a crafter and a foodie, this is something I will definitely have to try.
Posted: 5:07 pm on January 26th
vintagechicken writes: That is a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing...the onion skins are a very unique medium. Love it! Looks like a fun craft idea to do with my crafty daughter!
Posted: 3:56 pm on January 26th
jessajune writes: Absolutely beautiful. So far, the only thing I've used onion skins for is for dying (Easter eggs, mostly), but this is a great idea and the finished project is amazing!
Posted: 11:59 am on January 26th
JenniferStern writes: Hi...can you use a Orbit Gum Box????
Posted: 7:43 am on January 26th
Asia_Tatiana writes: This is the coolest Valentine I've ever seen, how many Valentine's Days have I spent crying? LOL
Posted: 3:34 am on January 26th
AuburninAuburn writes: Great idea! I love the look of the onion skins! I am not sure what "Twin Tak" is or where to get it. Is it like contact paper, sticky on one side? If so, then I imagine almost any one sided sticky surface would work, including paper covered with Spray Mount adhesive. I may have to make one of these for my husband this year. We aren't into Valentine's Day much, as we prefer to celebrate our relationship year round, but this would be fun.
Posted: 12:53 am on January 26th
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