The art of the envelope

Trying to come up with a creative Valentine's Day idea? What about making your own envelopes? Haila Harvey was wandering in a stationery store when she got the idea of making her own envelopes. When she saw how much her children and friends enjoyed making and receiving them, she wrote a book about it. ("The Envelope Mill," Summit Publishing, 1994, also contains three plastic templates for making envelopes.) Today, no catalog, calendar, or gift bag is safe from her. "You never look at a magazine page the same!" she says. Her young daughter enjoys making them, too. (It was a great birthday-party activity, with envelopemaking kits as party favors.)

"In the world of e-mail, things that have a personal stamp on them are becoming more and more rare and valuable," Ms. Harvey says.

The idea is catching on. Joni Wheeler of Paper Source, a stationery store in Minneapolis, has been making envelopes for five years and teaching classes in the craft for 18 months. "Something as mundane as a letter can be a thing of beauty," she says.

Making envelopes can be a year-round activity, from Christmas cards, to party announcements, to thank-you notes. But how about starting with Valentines?

Things to remember: This information is from the US Postal Service.

*Envelopes can't be smaller than 3-1/2 by 5 in.

*Envelopes larger than 6-1/8 by 11-1/2 in. require more than 33 cents postage; so do any square envelopes, which can't be handled by machine.

*Clearly label whom the letter is "to" and "from." It's a good idea to use address labels and put your return address in the upper left-hand corner of the side of the envelope on which the addressee's name appears.


A great thing about making envelopes is that you probably have everything you need to make them already: scissors, a glue stick, thin cardboard, a tracing pen (a Sharpie works well), a ruler, and stuff to turn into envelopes (old calendars, shopping bags, catalogs....).


Cut out the template we've provided at right, or carefully unfold an envelope to make one. Trace the template onto thin cardboard, and cut it out. (Thin plastic used for quilting makes great templates. It's sold at fabric and craft stores. Ask an adult to cut it for you.)


Have you asked permission to use those catalogs yet? Then you're ready to start. Put the template on the picture you've chosen. (The picture must be as large as, or larger than, the template.) Trace around the outside of the template with your Sharpie.


Grab your scissors! (Wait! Did I say 'grab'? I meant 'slowly and carefully reach for your scissors.') Carefully cut out your envelope. Try to cut along the INSIDE of your tracing line, so you won't have any outlining on the finished envelope. (Note: You can make an extra-fancy envelope by tracing and cutting out TWO envelope shapes, one slightly smaller than the other. Fold the two together for a lined envelope.)


Using your ruler or another straight edge (we used a postcard), fold the envelope as shown. You need to make sharp creases before you glue it. Make sure you can tell which is the flap that will be glued to the sides and which flap will seal the envelope.


Apply glue as shown. (Rubber cement also works well.) Don't put glue too far up the side flaps. Let the glue 'set.' Note: After inserting your letter, use tape or glue to seal the envelope. You can also use Scotch Poster Tape, which has an outside strip you remove to expose the adhesive when you want to seal the envelope.


Now you can GO CRAZY: Put three or four pictures together to make an envelope. Decorate them, try making a lined envelope, buy some translucent acetate and make an envelope you can sort of see through. Note: The 'coated' paper used in calendars, catalogs, etc., is hard to write on. It's also hard for stamps to stick to. Use a permanent marker (Sharpie) to write on your envelopes, and use self-adhesive stamps. It's a good idea to get some self-adhesive labels to write the addresses on, then stick them on the envelopes. You can even use the address label to seal your envelope. That way, you won't obscure any picture on the front, either.


There was a factual error in the Kidspace that ran Jan. 11 ("The fairy tales of now," page 18). The Sephardic Jews were driven out of Spain in 1480.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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