No, I’m not talking about small magical beings akin to fairies & pixies, nor have I mis-spelled a reference to that hairy alien from the 80s sitcom. ELF is short for Envelope & Letter Folding.
My motto if is, ‘If it tangles, I’ll craft it’, so you might wonder why I’m about to show you how to fold an envelope out of a single piece of paper (no threads or yarn in sight). Well, I’ve been thinking about practical options for re-packaging my kits – options that minimise cutting and labelling. I thought it would be very handy to be able to fold a packet for a kit from a single sheet of paper, as I would then be able to print any packaging info directly onto the paper, rather than printing separate labels, cutting and sticking them onto envelopes (etc) which can all get very time-consuming.
So, here’s my lovely little envelope:
It’s just the right size for an ATC, but just think of all the other possible cool, crafty uses – gift cards, invitations, seeds, buttons, anything!
I made it out of giftwrap, which worked really nicely. You could use anything, from standard printer paper to the page of a magazine. It’s a great way of using up any old papers you have lying around. If you work from my printed template, just make sure you trim your paper to the right size for your printer, first. If you decide to fold without guidelines, don’t worry about what size it is, just fold/cut the excess length to turn it into a square. Of course, origami or scrapbook paper would be ideal!
I’ve made a template that you can print directly onto the paper you want to fold. This is really just to help you out to begin with – once you’ve made a couple, you’ll be able to do it blindfolded! But I think the guidelines are useful. Some of the sites I came across while I was researching were not very easy to follow! You’ll also find step-by-step photo instructions, for the envelope in the pic above.
The first template is carefully sized so that it is just right to fit an ATC, but of course you can use it for anything. Unless you specifically want to house ATCs, though, try out the second template, instead. This fits 2 slightly smaller envelopes to a page, which is obviously the more economical approach. (N.B. You can vary the finished envelope sizes by ignoring the templates entirely, or increasing/reducing the print scale, or just by varying one or two of the folds. Experiment!) I should mention, the second template fits 2 envelopes to a sheet of A4 size paper (standard UK size). Standard US copier paper is slightly shorter, so you will need to adjust the scale a little to fit the 2nd template fully on one page.
Click here for the ‘How to Fold an ATC Envelope’ PDF freebie link
In case anyone else wants to find out more about ELF techniques, or the odyssey that brought me to this one, this is the (condensed, honestly) account of my search for the perfect envelope:
A quick google search will reveal hundreds of envelope templates free online, such as this seed packet site I have mentioned before, and Mirkwood Designs, who offer a wide range of cool templates (not just envelopes) to cut and fold. But cutting out around lots of little corners was not on my agenda. I also found this site, which is really pretty cool, and has lots of different directions for folding lots of different envelopes, out of single sheets of paper. I thought I had found what I was looking for, but…
I sat down with a stack of paper scraps (my room is full of them – half-printed, patterns that went wrong, misprints, paper jams, etc), and I worked my way through the list of envelope-types. Having no background in origami (I think this would have helped) I had difficulty reading some of the diagrams – but I also think a lot of the diagrams were just plain confusing. Anyway, to cut a medium-length story short, some of them worked, some of them didn’t, some were too fiddly to recreate lots of times over, and some weren’t the shape I was looking for. I also realised that the one that I liked most/found easiest (the Fern Letterfold) was actually completely impractical in terms of an actual envelope – it had no inner pocket! You would have to completely unfold the entire sheet of paper to get to the inside, ruining the whole envelope ‘effect’. Admittedly, you could tuck a folded letter behind the sealing flaps, but as envelopes go, that’s not especially secure. (It could work nicely as a place-setting at a dinner party with the right accessories, though…)
A different site had another design that appealed with its nice, securely folded nature: The Pocketbook Letterfold – unfortunately, it’s another design that is really more of a securely folded letter rather than an actual pocket/envelope.
I tried out a folded seed packet design (I’ve found the same instructions on a couple of different sites, but this one has good, clear photo step-by-steps & I like the fact that it re-purposes a page from a seed catalogue rather than using ‘normal’ paper). This design does work, is very secure, and you can put something inside it. However, I thought it was a bit fiddly to open and close if you didn’t want to store seeds in it.
I found the answer by mistake. In my continued scouring of ELF techniques, I discovered another design that I didn’t think worked very well. There’s a variation here and a variation here.
But when I didn’t follow the instructions, and folded the envelope together in a marginally different way, I finally discovered an ELF technique that met my requirements (the one pictured above) – not only does it have a functional inner pocket, but it has at least one, potentially two additional inner pockets, depending on how you seal it. That’s its downside: the flap isn’t self-sealing. But seriously, I can live with that. It’s a sturdy, secure envelope that I can fold from a single piece of paper. I’m not claiming to have invented this variation – my investigation showed me just how many variations there are out there, and I’m sure I’ve not discovered them all (yet); I’m just happy to have found what I’m looking for. 🙂
All this research has left me with still more envelope ideas brewing, so watch this space!