Recycled envelope (or self-mailer)

Anyone who has bought one of my kits will know how much I love my origami envelopes.  They are brilliant – no time-consuming cutting and measuring required!  However, if I’m brutally honest with myself, I must concede that the origami envelopes I favour do use twice as much paper as necessary.   Although this does make them quite sturdy, so more suitable for slightly bulkier items,  I do also find it slightly vexing that using this method, and a sheet of A4 paper (standard UK letter-size), I cannot fold an envelope of a size legal to post overseas (3″ x 5″ minimum dimension requirements to post in/to USA).

I have recently been sending quite a lot of A6 (quarter-sized) zines overseas, so it was time to come up with a solution.  As I’ve mentioned before, my printer and I generate a lot of waste paper.  Sometimes it really is the printer’s fault, as it will insist on randomly pulling through 2 sheets of paper simultaneously, and completely misaligning the print.  Sometimes, admittedly, I am just not paying sufficient attention, and put in pages the wrong way up, etc.  Anyway, I have lots of waste paper, and even I don’t get through all of it working out potential folding ideas.  So I thought quite a reasonable solution would be to use waste paper printed only on one side to make my envelopes (the printing folded to the inside of the envelope).

There are, of course, many envelope templates available on the market, but the beauty of this one is that you don’t need to cut any awkward corners at all, and all it takes is 4 (with an optional 5th) exceedingly simple folds, plus a dab of glue or label to seal.

Step 1You need to begin with a square of paper, but it is easy just tear off the excess of any standard letter-size paper.  If you print the template onto the reverse of the paper you want to use, it will print a line for you to tear or cut along (or you can just fold the page, as shown).  The template is formatted for standard A4 paper (21 x 29.7cm), but just reduce or increase the scale for paper of a different width.

(N.B. If your printer is more efficient than mine, and you don’t have a lot of waste paper, you can also recycle one-sided junk mail or flyers in exactly the same way.  Or you could use anything that is printed on both sides – the page of a magazine, for example – and add a label onto the front, for the address.)

Step 2Crease and fold the sides inwards first – the points should not quite meet in the middle.  Fold up the bottom flap, turning the point under, if you like (this is just for the sake of appearance and entirely optional).  Also optional is gluing the bottom flap where it overlaps the folded-in sides: this will make it more secure if you are enclosing bulkier items, or small loose objects, but isn’t strictly necessary otherwise.  Fold down the top flap, and seal with glue or a label.  That’s it!

Step 3

You can see that the finished envelope looks just like any other (but cooler, because you handmade it from recycled stuff)!  I have made a PDF template that you can print directly onto the blank side of your paper, which includes spaces to add addresses within a border on the front of the envelope, as shown.

An alternative: If you use paper that is blank on both sides for your envelope, you can make a lightweight self-mailer, instead.  Simply write your letter on the inside of the envelope before folding.  Although you are not using up waste paper this way, it still makes a very economical use of paper if you have a letter to send.  If you use the template for self-mailers, remember to only seal the point of the final flap – you don’t want the recipient to tear the letter as they struggle to open glued seams!


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