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How to make an envelope

As the youngest members of my family grow older, I've increasingly given them cash or gift vouchers as a gift. I like to add a personalised touch to the impersonal gift, so I often make an envelope to send the gift in. They're so simple but still stretch my creative muscles a little as I mix and match the materials. Here's a very simple how-to.

1. Collect your materials

You can use many combinations and materials to make an envelope, but I usually have the below items on hand:

Wooden envelope template

This wooden envelope template can be reused many times and works perfectly with A4 sheets of paper. You might be able to get different shapes elsewhere, and you can certainly download free paper templates, but you'll get a better outline if you're tracing round a solid template. Children love using these too, and they are a little easier for them to use than paper templates. The benefit of the wooden or plastic templates is that you can trace through the lines below which makes it a little easier to fold neat edges.

wooden envelope template

A selection of papers

Magazine pages

There are so many beautiful magazines out there now, that it's easy to tear out the pages and keep them on hand for their next craft use! Some magazines even including wrapping paper or pretty papers for you to use. I don't keep back issues of magazines for long but before I recycle them I do scour the pages and cut out the prettiest pages. I hang them on a large wire clip in my office so I'm reminded to use them for wrapping small parcels or using in other paper crafts.

Some of my favourite magazines to use include:

- Freckle (beautiful scenic images of Ireland, printed on a lovely matte paper)

- The Plant (my favourite plant magazine with photography and illustrations of gorgeous foliage and botanical landscapes.)

- Cereal magazine (ethereal travel images.)

Vintage ephemera

I love to buy this at car boot sales. My most recent haul from the Chiswick car boot sale (a good place to find this kind of thing) included French comics, vintage sheet music, and ledger paper. 

Sketchpad paper

If you're artistic enough to paint or draw on the envelope, I recommend you use a standard sketch pad - I use watercolour paper for almost everything else but a thinner paper works better here as you need to make firm creases on the edges. One of my favourite snail mail inspirations is Naomi Bulger - you can follow her on Instagram for illustration ideas.

Other papers you can use and easily find include gridded paper, tracing paper, or recycled wrapping paper. Just keep in mind that if you're using a glossy paper, it might be difficult to draw on the paper, so you'll need a sticky label for those.

Other supplies

You can use either a scalpel or scissors, and I like to keep everything tidy by using a cutting mat. If you like a bit of embellishment, you can use washi tape, rubber stamps, vintage stamps, glitter (which might not survive the post) and address labels. I don't always have the patience to persevere with my temperamental typewriter, but I'll sometimes use a typewriter font to print out an address label.

wooden envelope template

2. Make the basic envelope

This couldn't be any easier! If you're using a wooden template, simply draw round the template in pencil on the underside of the paper (so the pencil marks don't show.) Don't forget to draw through the inside lines as it makes a much neater envelope if you fold on these guide lines.

Using a scalpel or sharp scissors, cut round the template and fold in on the lines. You'll want to check everything lines up correctly before gluing the sides together with a simple stick glue. Just before gluing, you can use a bone folder or a ruler to crease the lines.

3. Decorate!

In the envelope above, I've added some neon washi tape to finish off the edges. Below are some envelopes Jeska from Lobster and Swan made for us a few years ago, using watercolours, washi tape, marker pens, and collage. Aren't they beautiful?

make your own envelopes

Other uses for homemade envelopes

I've mentioned that I often put cash or gift vouchers in these envelopes, but here are some more ideas you could try:

Seed swap

Lyndsey runs a seed swap every January at What You Sow - a fun secret seed exchange.

Lavender sachets

I'm not too talented with a sewing machine, but I visit a lavender farm nearby each summer and make simple fragrant envelopes for my drawers using paper envelopes and dried lavender. I just make sure I glue it closed.

Other small gifts

Other envelope-sized gifts include cinema tickets, lottery scratchcards, and temporary tattoos.

I'd love to hear any suggestions you having for using these envelopes! Is there anyone you can recommend I follow for snail mail art ideas? You can see some of my current favourites on my Pretty Envelopes Pinterest board.

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Other blog posts you might like:

- Valentine's washi tape postcards

- Vintage printable gift tags

Pink paper doily parasols

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