How to Make Handmade Envelopes

Reader Contribution by Lindsey Bugbee
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Here’s the plain and simple truth: I love to make things that would be easier to buy at the store. My days of yore as an intern at MOTHER EARTH NEWS are testament to this, as I blogged about topics such as how to make reusable bags and handmade gifts. And as I get older, I get even more determined to save money and make my world a little more unique through creative recycling.

Because Valentine’s Day is a dream holiday for those of us who love sending things in the mail, I would like to share one of my favorite means of recycling paper: handmade envelopes. Handmade envelopes are extremely easy to make, and a great way to let your letter/card recipient know that you care and are willing to put in the extra time to make something special — while reusing materials! These instructions can be customized to any occasion, such as a birthday, save the date (pictured here), handmade wedding invitation, baby shower invitation, etc.

Right now, I happen to have a vintage atlas that I got free at a garage sale last summer. I have been using it to create handmade envelopes like a fiend. There are really no rules about the sort of paper you should use for handmade envelopes, though. I have made them out of everything from newspaper to large antique book pages. I’m sure you could also create them out of fabric with the help of some starch.

Here are the step-by-step instructions. First, you’ll want to trace around a template on your chosen material. You can create a template one of two ways: either carefully deconstruct a commercially-made envelope, or print out my handy envelope template.


After you have traced around the template, you’ll want to cut it out and fold the bottom up, and then fold the sides in.


And when you have the sides folded in, trace around them on the bottom so you’ll know where to put your glue. Fold the sides in on some small dots of glue … and you’re done!


After you have made your envelope, you will probably want to glue a small square of light-colored paper on the front so you have an obvious place to write your recipient’s address, like I did on this envelope made from a vintage book:


I recommend making a few handmade envelopes, then whipping up a batch of wet-to-seal vanilla envelope glue. Using this method means that your handmade envelopes will be good to go when you need them, just like commercial envelopes. It’s always best to use wet-to-seal glue as opposed to a regular Elmer’s-type glue on handmade envelopes because envelopes with wet-to-seal glue are much easier to open — and recipients won’t have to decimate your carefully crafted envelope to get to your card/letter.

To read a more in-depth tutorial on homemade envelopes, please visit my step-by-step article on my webiste, The Postman’s Knock. Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Lindsey Bugbee is a former MOTHER EARTH NEWS editorial intern and founder/owner ofThe Postman’s Knock, a custom graphic design and calligraphy company based in Boulder, Colo. This year, she’s working on reviving her floundering garden and developing plenty of new ways to upcycle materials.  

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