(I recently signed up for a guest blog post swap on swap-bot, but my partner has not yet sent me her post. Instead I’m posting the post I wrote for eveyinorbit‘s blog on how to make envies (envelopes) out of almost anything.)


Unlike other tutorials where you basically get a template and are told to cut it our and glue it together, I’m going to show you how to make any size envie out of almost anything.

You can use pretty much anything to make an envelope; as long as you can fold it into the shape and hold it together with tape or glue, you can use it. The photo below shows only a sampling of what you can use; newspapers, wrapping paper, wallpaper, catalogs, magazines, old sheet music, book pages, even the packaging from things like coffee.

Wow, I have a lot of paper.

You need only a few things to make envelopes; scissors, tape or glue, a ruler, and a pen or pencil.

I used my fancy scissors and my good ruler - the ones without cat teethmarks on them. That shows that I'm a professional.

You will also need something to make your template with. For smaller envelopes you can use scratch paper, but for very large envelopes such as manila envelopes I suggest using butcher’s paper. It’s pretty durable and you can make some really big templates with it. You could use newspaper but it’s fragile and doesn’t really hold up to repeated use unless you glue two sheets together.

So you’ve gathered all your things and want to make an envelope of a particular size. Wonderful! Let’s get started.

First, remove cat from crafting surface. (This step is optional, unless you have a cat.)

Awww, Simon has a grumpy.

Trace an outline of the item you want to make an envelope for on to your template material. If you cannot comfortably do so, measure it and use your ruler or yardstick to make the outline on your template material. For this example I am using a paint chip, but the same steps apply to any size item. Be sure to leave a wide margin on all sides, at least half of the width of the item on the top and two-thirds of the width on the bottom as well as several inches on each side. This will seem very roomy but we’ll cut it down in a minute.

Yep, it's a rectangle.

Now, if you used this outline as your guideline your envelope would probably be too small. To make one that will fit, you need to add a border to this outline. The width of the border depends on what you are making the envelope for – the thicker the contents the wider the border has to be. I usually add about a sixteenth of an inch to each side unless I’m sending something super-chunky. (If you are sending something with delicate details that might rub off as the item shifts in the envelope, wrap it in a piece of tissue paper before sealing it in the envelope.)

Still a rectangle.

This gives you a new, roomier footprint. Extend the lines with your ruler as far as you can, these will serve as your guidelines. If you are using a particular kind of paper and you want to make sure the template will fit it, lay a sheet of the paper over the template area and mark the borders so you know how much space you have to work with. I’m using a page from an old dictionary, which will be a tight fit for an envelope this size.

Be sure to read the book page before you cut it up, or you'll never know the full definition of 'whoosis" and all the kids will make fun of you.

  If you are not using a particular size sheet of paper, you can mark the boundaries wherever you like. For this particular style of envelope, the side flaps will be narrow and the bottom flap will be almost as wide as the altered footprint. You don’t want it to be exactly as wide or you could have problems getting things out of the envelope.

Are you picturing Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man in the center? I bet you are now.

 In the photo above you can see the border of the book page I was using as a guide as well as a few alterations I made. You will see a small number 1 and 2 on the right side of the template, the distance between these points should be slightly more than double the width of the enlarged footprint. This ensures that the item inside the envelope will not be exposed anywhere. Anything above point 1 is purely decorative, in this example I just made a point to the top of the book page.

You will notice that there are little triangles at the top and bottom of the side flaps, this helps prevent the paper from bunching up in the corners. You could leave them straight, but you’ll get a much nice end result if you taper the top and bottom; you don’t have to taper the top and bottom flaps so dramatically, just a tiny bit to prevent the cut edges from sticking out over the folded edges. It will look much nicer and there will be less chance that a postal machine will snag a cut edge. If you have any of those fancy scissors they sell to scrapbookers to make decorative edges, this would be a good time to use them.

Now you can cut out the template!

I didn't even cut a finger off this time!

Fold the template on the enlarged footprint lines and check the fit on the original item. At this point you can make any changes you would like in the shape of the flaps.

Now it's a rectangle wearing a funny hat.

I altered the top slightly, you may not be able to tell in this shot. Once you have the shape how you like it, unfold the template and lay it on the wrong side of the material that you will be using as an envelope. (As you can see it was a tight fit.)

It fits! Thank goodness I don't have to do the whole thing over!

 At this point you have a couple of options depending on what you are using. If the paper is very thin (like some wrapping paper or newspapers) I would suggest cutting around the traced outline, leaving a margin of paper all the way around, and gluing on another layer of paper to reinforce it. If you are making a collage or doing a large decoration, it is much easier to do them before the envelope is folded and glued.

A special note concerning wallpaper – if you are using the kind of wallpaper that has the adhesive already applied, it is a very good idea to glue a liner on at this point to prevent errant moisture from activating the adhesive and gluing the envelope to your item. Wallpaper makes fabulously sturdy envelopes and you can find orphan rolls that will make hundreds of envelopes dirt cheap in thrift stores, you just have to take a few precautions if you decide to use it.

Cut out the envelope and fold all the flaps forward, you can use your ruler to help you fold nice straight lines by laying the ruler on the inside and folding the paper over top of it. Depending on your preference and if you added decorative edges, you can either apply glue to the top of the side flaps and press the bottom flap down on top of them or apply glue to the sides of the bottom flap and press the side flaps down onto it.

Now it kinda looks like a house. I want to draw windows on it, but I use Linux. Oh, well.

Voila! An envelope perfectly sized for your item. Just slip it inside, glue or tape down the top flap, and address as you would any envelope.

If the material you made your envelope out of isn’t porous enough to use regular white glue on, such as the envelope below made out of the thick mylar wrapper from a brick of coffee, then you can either use a tiny amount of super glue (or Gorilla Glue) or you can tape the flaps down.

I wish all of my mail smelled like coffee. That would be awesome.

 This is a letter-style envelope, if you want to make an envelope that looks more like a manila envelope there are just a few changes you would have to make. The proportions are different; the side flaps are very wide, each is half the width of the altered footprint plus the overlap – a quarter of an inch is good, but you can use less as long as you still have room for glue. The bottom flap is very narrow and the top flap is usually wide and broad.

The picture looks a little odd, I had to flip it upside down because I traced the template backwards.

This style is actually easier to draft because it is so simple, but it also lends itself to bolder embellishments because the eye is not distracted by the shaping of the envelope.

Boring vanilla.

  It looks pretty plain in white, but if you use a bright print like this one I made from a paper treat bag it really pops.

Hot fudge sundae with fireworks and a cherry on top!

I hope this has helped some of you learn how to easily make envelopes from ordinary – and not so ordinary – materials. Once you get into envelope-making, it gets a little addictive. I bet you start looking at things and saying to yourself “I bet I can make an envelope out of that.”

And you probably can!