All mapped out…

Most people, in the course of experimenting with folding their own envelopes, have also experimented with folding envelopes from sheet maps.  It’s kinda cool, especially if you happen to have a map handy of your own area.  Taking this idea to a new level is the very clever free toy (uh, I mean tool) available at Map Envelope.  Simply enter a landmark (such as Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty) or a specific postcode or address, and it generates a printable envelope template using google map aerial photography.

You could use it for your return address, or directions for a party venue, or to show where you went on holiday – I’m sure there are all kinds of creative uses for this toy (sorry, tool)!  You can even add a message of your choice in the speech bubble.

It is designed as an envelope ‘liner’ (so you would slot it within an outer envelope), but I don’t see why you couldn’t fold it with map to the outside, instead, and save on the extra paper.  Of course, you could just make your own, anyway, but this tool definitely makes the process a lot easier!

Zines I Like #4: Miss Sequential #4 by Marissa Falco

I love handwritten zines!  And this 24 page, half-size zine is entirely handwritten & hand-drawn.  In addition, it’s subject is entirely postal related, so this zine could really hardly fail to win me over.  The zine charts Marissa’s relationship with letters & mail from pre-school onwards, including letters written in code, early penpal failures, a template for making your own upcycled envelopes, illustrations of mail received, penpals past & postal workers known, and a handy resources page.  And lots more, of course.  There is lots to recognise here in the world of the postal-obsessive, so highly recommended.  Visit the ThimbleWinder Etsy Store to
snaffle your copy.

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!

Another ‘origami’ cd wallet

True to my word, I played about with a few more ELF ideas yesterday morning, and it’s one of these new variations that hubby has decided is best (read ‘easiest’).  The folding got a bit fiddly on the original wallet I found: my variation works on the same essential principle, but takes it right back to basics.

Click here for a free template (print directly onto your paper so you don’t have to measure anything!) and instructions.  You can also use the template for guidance if you want to design and print your own cover for a cd, too.

‘Origami’ CD Wallet

After proudly showing off my jelly packet notebook this morning, my husband (the musician) was suitably impressed.  Then he began to muse.  Uh-oh.  “Hmm,” said he, “You know, a cd wallet is really just a larger version of that matchbook…”  He trailed off and looked at me with that fake-innocent ‘I’m just thinking out loud’ expression.

Okay, okay, I took the hint.  Why can’t musicians just be happy with a notebook, like a ‘normal’ person?  (Ha!)  It not being my profession, I was perfectly happy with the cd wallet I designed for ‘Telaic Fantasy‘ – a simple wraparound of printed paper, sealed at the sides with a couple of round-head/long-arm pins (do these have a more concise name, anyone?).   But he did have a very nice cup of proper coffee waiting for me when I got up this morning, and I was feeling a vague sense of guilt for not considering how my investigations into ELF might benefit him, too…

So I did a very quick piece of research.  The very first cd wallet instructions I uncovered worked perfectly, and adequately impressed hubby.  I went back to the pc and scoured a little further, but it seems there’s not as much variation out there in terms of cd wallets as there is for other envelope forms.  Although there are lots of different sites with instructions, they all seem to be for exactly the same wallet. Click here for the one I thought had the clearest diagrams/photos/instructions (& some other cool re-purposing ideas, if you want to explore further).

I think I will go back to my original envelope research, though.  I originally ignored designs that resulted in a square envelope as it wasn’t what I was looking for; with a little tweaking of sizing, however, it might work perfectly for a cd…

N.B. I put origami in quotation marks in the header, because although this is true origami in the sense that the finished item is created purely by folding paper (no cutting, no sticking), I just can’t get my head around the fact that origami can be functional rather than decorative.  This is a personal failure, and I’m working on it!


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:  atc-envelope-pic
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!