Envelope-free Letter Sending (Snail-Mail Origami)




a long time member of Instructables, I only recently began posting my own. Feel free to check th...

Everyone loves receiving letters in the mail, and the best way to get letters is to send letters.  I try to make it point to send several letters to my close friends and family throughout the year (not to mention a plethora of postcards, but that's another instructable); it helps me stay in touch, is more personal and appreciated than Facebook or a quick email, and helps keep the USPS in business!    Y( ^ o ^ )Y

But envelopes can get expensive, and I often don't have them on hand, or don't have the correct size.  This instructable will show you how to fold your letter into its own envelope, saving you ( tens of ? ) dollars and maybe some time.

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Step 1: You'll Need...

You'll need a letter.  This folding works best for letters written on 8.5' x 11' or A4 paper, or similar.  Letters written on substantially larger or smaller sheets of paper will likely have trouble conforming to U.S. Postal Service letter size requirements.

Step 2: Initial Folds

The first step is to turn your letter lengthwise (landscape) and fold it in half once, so that the two short edges touch.  Then open the letter up again.  You should have a crease down the center, like the one I've marked in red.  This will be our reference crease.  [Pic. 1]

Keeping the letter horizontal, the next step is to fold the lower left corner up and to the right 45 degrees, such that the left edge of the fold is parallel with the reference crease but separated by a gap of about a half an inch .  This is a rough estimate as I never measure the gap width, but a gap like this will help our envelope conform to USPS letter size requirements (they like letters that are a bit longer than they are tall, as they are better for machine processing).  An example of the type of gap is marked with a green dotted line in the photo above.  [Pic. 2]

Next, repeat the previous fold in reverse with the top right corner, again leaving the half inch gap from the reference fold.  [Pic. 3]

Step 3: Secondary Fold

Here it starts to get hard to explain with words, hopefully the pictures make everything clear.  :)

Rotate the letter 90 degrees so it is oriented the tall way again (portrait).  Take the upper right-hand edge of the letter and fold it to the left, keeping it parallel to the original edge, and again leaving about a half inch gap from the edge of the triangle made by the previous folds.  I've marked the approximate line you should fold to in green.  [Pic. 1 & 2]

Your letter should now look like Pic. 3.

Step 4: Tertiary Fold

Now take the new right-hand edge (just formed by your last fold) and fold it down until it is touching the reference crease (in red).  No gap this time.  It should look like Pic. 1.

Step 5: Repeat, Repeat

Now repeat Steps 3 and 4 on the lower left edge of the letter.

First fold the lower left edge over until it is flush with and perfectly covers the flap made by your last fold in step 4.  [Pic 1]

Then fold the lower left corner up towards the reference line (in red), like you did in step 4, but this time making sure to tuck it into the tab along the right edge of the letter.  [Pic 2]

Your letter should now look like this [Pic. 3].  The tabs keep the letter closed.  However, I would suggest putting a piece of tape across the middle if you will be sending it via USPS, as their machines (or mail carriers) might cause it to open otherwise.

Step 6: Your Done!

Now flip your letter... excuse me, your envelope ... over and address it.  Stick on a stamp, and you're good to go!  You probably should put a return address on as well.

Hopefully now you will be inspired to go and write a letter of your own.  It really is a great way to pass some time on the bus or in the dentist's waiting room, and as I mentioned everyone loves getting real mail.

This is the first of several postal-structables I hope to upload, as well as my first instructable ever, so any advice or questions are very welcome! 

Go forth and Mail-tiply!

PS.  Here are some other postal-structables I've made:

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    54 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Wow, all of your instructables I've seen are fantastic! Thanks for sharing! I'm envious of the people who get the Franken-card especially.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is great! made a lot of these for retreat letters :]

    Thank you for this simple yet awesome origami :D


    5 years ago

    This was one of the first Instructables I ever completed, and I still use it to this day. Thanks so much for posting one of the most practical origami I know I'll be using my whole life!


    Very cute idea!! I did not send any of the ones I made, since I just hid them in my gf purse so she would see at home!! But its very original and a great project


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    It works just fine. All you do is pay regular letter postage, Which I think at the moment is 45 cents. Stamp in the top right corner, as usual. :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    Not sure if it is legal in foreign countries, but the USPS doesn't have rules about non-rectangular envelopes that I've ever seen. Perhaps someday I'll run into a really picky postman who charges extra postage or something though.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    This certainly saves a lot of paper, and adds an additional level of novelty.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    I'm wondering if this would work with longer multiple paged letters. If not, is there anyway to modify original design so it does work?

    1 reply

    The short answer is Yes. I have sent 2-3 page letters using this fold before. But the more pages you use, the thicker the folds become and the more robust your taping job needs to be. Sometimes, when I don't want people to be able to read my letter through the paper, I will wrap my letter in an extra completely blank sheet of paper and fold them up together. Happy Mailing.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    That's an interesting fold. A little easier than the Mennonite Letter Fold.  Although the Mennonite fold would be a little more secure and the recipient would be less likely put a tear through the middle of the letter.  It also lets you use the stamp to hold the letter shut.

    2 replies

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, awesome instructable; I want to try this now, it may just give me a reason to send a letter.. Now I just need to find a person to send a letter to, haha.
    Anyway, good job! :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks heaps for your nicely written instruction. A letter like this is really impressive; saving an envelope comes next.


    forget the envelope-free, and just work with free.
    Instead of putting the to address where it normally goes and the from address where it goes, swap them.

    The to address is the return address and the return address is the to address, then don't put a stamp on the envelope. Drop it in a postbox, let processing do its thing, nine times out of ten it will be "returned to sender" once in a while there will be someone nice enough in the USPS to put a stamp on it, in which case the plan is foiled. Just speaking from personal experience :)