Introduction: Recycled Postcard Kit From T-Shirt

About: Maker, Mom & Teacher...

I love sending postcards... and getting postcards! (Well actually any mail that's not a bill) Something about having a kind, thoughtful note in your hand.   Equally fun is finding a quiet spot, mountain side or coffee shop to sit and write, or draw and paint.  So I've created this postcard kit to take along with me, wherever I may wander. 

Step 1: What You'll Need

To make the case:
  • 1 or 2 old T-shirts (depends on how big the shirts are) 
  • Sewing machine  (not impossible by hand... just lots of layers)
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Rope, or  ribbon
  • Piece of cardboard or mat board to make a template/pattern.
  • Chalk or those markers that erase in the wash.
  • Safety pin
  • Box cutter & metal ruler or paper cutter
To make the postcards: (optional)
  • Box cutter & metal ruler or paper cutter
  • 1 ply cardboard from cereal boxes
  • Sandpaper (not pictured)
To make the address book: (optional)
  • Box cutter & metal ruler or paper cutter
  • 1 ply cardboard from cereal boxes
  • Scrap paper
  • Hammer
  • Needle & strong string (I'm using hemp)
  • Nail
  • Wooden block to hammer on
  • Sandpaper (not pictured)

Step 2: Template and Cutting

I create a template for my pieces out of cardboard or extra matt board... I just find it's easier to draw the pattern pieces that way, and keep them square. I have made my case to accommodate just larger than 4x6 inch postcards, which is a pretty standard size, but some are larger. The t-shirt fabric will stretch a bit to accommodate a little bit bigger ones, otherwise adjust the template as needed. This pattern also allows for a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Cut the following pieces out of cardboard:
  • 19 x 7.5 inches (for the main cover)  
  • 4.5 x 7.5 inches (for postcard pockets) 
  • 3.5 x 7.5  inches (for medium pockets)
  • 2.5 x 7.5  inches (for stamp pockets)
Cutting out the Fabric
Place the templates on your shirt. Then trace the outlines with chalk, and then cut them out.
Remember, some pieces you will need more than one of!
You will need:
  • 2 x "main cover" pieces. (usually the front and back of the shirt)
  • 2 x "postcard" pockets
  • 1 x "medium" pocket
  • 1 x"stamp" pocket
Strip for pens and pencils
You will need to cut out one more piece, to have fabric to hold pens and pencils in your kit, I don't make a template for this... as I make it about as wide as my ruler, with about 1/4 of inch added on both sides (so around 2 inches wide)... and then I make it about 10 inches long or so, as I will be cutting off the excess when I sew it on.
So one 2 x 10 inch strip.

Step 3: Sewing the Pocket Edges

Iron all the pieces (ok, you don't HAVE to... but that's what all the sewing guru's say)

Fold the edges of the pockets over
To make the pockets look nicer,... and hold things better you'll want to fold the edge over.  You only need to do this on one side of each of the pockets, as the other sides will be sewn differently. 
  • fold pocket about a 1/4 of an inch & iron it down.
  • fold over again about 1/4 of an inch & iron down.
  • Use a zig zag stitch to sew your folded edge closed. 
    (You want to use a zig zag, because t-shirts are a knit/stretchy fabric.  I also find it helps when sliding items in and out of the pockets.)
  • Do this for all of the pockets.
Fold the edges of the pen strip over
You also want the pen strip to be sturdy and look good.  I folded these over only one time to reduce some bulk.
  • fold edge over about 1/4 of an inch, and iron.
  • do the same on the other side.
  • Zig Zag stitch the edges down.

Step 4: Sew the Pockets Together

Making the pocket assembly
  • Lay the stamp pockets (smallest one), on the medium pocket, so that their raw edges line up.
  • Make a line about 3 inches from the bottom edge
  • Sew (skinny zig zag stitch) along the line to the edge of the stamp pocket piece.
  • Now lay what you just made on top of one of the postcard pocket pieces.
  • Make a line about 1/2 way from the bottom on the medium piece.
  • Sew the medium piece and the postcard pocket piece together along that 1/2 way line, sew only to the edge of the medium piece.
  • This is now the "pocket assembly"
Sew the pockets on the one of the main pieces. 
  • Chose a main piece to be the inside of your kit.
  • Draw a line 5 inches from the left edge.
  • Make another mark 1/4 of an inch further.
  • Place your pocket assemble, face down and all flat, with the rough edge on the mark you just made.
  • Zig zag stitch through all the rough edges of the pockets, and the main piece behind, about a 1/4 of an inch in from the right.
  • Flip the pocket assembly to the right
  • Pin the last postcard pocket to the edge of the main piece.

Step 5: Add the Pencil Holder

For adding the pen holder I usually first figure out what pens and pencils I want in the kit, as some pens range greatly in diameter. I then lay them out to check if they will fit, before sewing them on.
  • Make a make a mark 10 inches, and 14 inches from the left edge of the kit.
  • Layout the pens and pencils, between the 2 marks, to see how they will fit.
    (leave some space between the pens and pencils for sewing.)
  • Sew the pen holder strip down at the 10 inch mark (I'm using  the skinniest zig zag stitch my machine has).
  • I went over it again, with a fat zig zag, so the pen would not catch on the fabric sliding in and out.
  • I slid the fattest part of my pen against the stitches, and marked where pen holder and the main fabric came together.
  • Sewed the pen holder down to the main fabric, where the marks meet up, using the skinny zig zag again.
  • Rinse and repeat for the other items...
  • For the last item, make your mark, and cut off the excess pen holder about 1/4 of an inch away from your mark. 
  • Fold the 1/4 of an inch under, and pin it down.
  • Sew through both layers of fabric.
I wanted to add a place for a pencil sharpener... so I used  some of the excess, to make a holder for it.

Step 6: Assembling

Sewing the main parts together.
  • pin down all of the pockets.
  • Lay the other main piece over top of the one you have created with pockets. (make sure right sides are together.)
  • pin the main pieces together.. if you make sure you get the pockets flat here, you can remove the pins you put in earlier to hold the pockets.
  • Sew 3 side together, leaving the right side open.
  • Cut the excess fabric at the corners, insuring you don't cut the tread.
  • Cut the excess from the pockets.
  • Turn it all inside out... or rather right side out.
  • On the far right side, about 1/2 an inch from the end zig zag it closed. (I'm using the rolled over edge of my original shirt as a guide here.)
  • Use your seam ripper, to open up the last stitches on either end. (we're making a sleeve here for the ribbon).
  • Sew a wide zig zag, over the edge ... making sure to catch both layers of fabric.( I went over this twice for a little extra strength.)

Step 7: Adding the String

I add a string so I can wrap it all up, and tie it closed.  I find a string works better than a button because sometimes my pockets are fuller than others.
  • Cut a piece of string/ribbon about 40 inches long.
  • Put the safety pin in the ribbon, about an inch from the end so it won't fray
  • Inch the safety pin through the sleeve (pushing a safety pin is way easier than pushing a rope!)
  • Remove the safety pin, and put knots in the ends to prevent fraying.

Step 8: Make Postcards (optional)

I like to make postcards myself from the 1 ply cardboard I find everwhere.  Think cereal boxes, granola bar boxes, soda can boxes...  They CAN go in the mail!
  • Cut the boxes down to 4 x 6 (postcards can be as large as:4.25 x 6 and as small as: 3.5 x 5 here in the US)
  • If your cardboard has a "shinny side" where the print material is, scuff it up with some sandpaper. You can now paint and or collage on that side.
  • Don't forget the stamp!! 28 cents, to send a postcard in the states right now.

Step 9: Make an Address Book (optional)

I also have a small address book I made to put in my kit. It's made out of scrap paper and cereal boxes.  Many of you likely have phones to put your addresses in, in which case you can use this to just jot down notes or thoughts.
  • Grab scrap paper ( 10 -14 sheets is plenty)
  • Cut down the paper to 6 x 8 inches
  • Fold each of the pages in half  width wise . (so it'll be 4 x 6 inches)
  • Nest all the pages inside each other
  • Sandwich that group of papers between 2 pieces of cut down cardboard(4x6 inches).  (2 of the post cards made in the last step work perfect ; - )
  • Using office clips, clip the papers and card board together on the folded side of the paper.
  • Using a hammer & nail, make 3 to 5 holes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the edge.
  • Using your needle and string, sew the book together.
  • Finish off with a knot.
  • Cut off the excess.
  • Fill with addresses !!

Step 10: Put It All Together!

In my mail kit I make sure I have the following:
  • recycled postcards
  • stamps (28 cent in the US,  98 cents abroad)
  • pens 
  • pencils
  • eraser
  • pencil sharpener
  • random paper, labels, & stickers I find to glue on.
  • recycled address book

Now go enjoy, have an adventure...  yeah, and drop me (or someone you actually love) a line while you're at it!

I reciprocate mail art!
P.O. Box 70
Adamstown, MD