Recycled Envelopes





Introduction: Recycled Envelopes

Never buy an envelope again! Wow your friends and bill collectors with mail in these envelopes you've made out of junk. This envelope looks like the sort you'd purchase, with angled bits in the back. Check it out, try it, make someone happy & reduce the landfill all in one fell swoop. And please remember to rate my Instructable. Thanks!

Step 1: Materials Collection

Sources for free and fabulous "junk" paper are everywhere: junk mail, NYT Magazine, gorgeous catalogs for things you can't afford, old calendars, discarded books. Begin collecting as soon as you can because packrat-ism is a positive thing in this case! Whatever you don't use can come in handy for collages and other projects.

Here you see an excellent source for gathering raw materials. For envelopes, you'll want paper at least 8-1/2 x 11", and bigger is better. You will also need scissors and scotch tape. In the final step, you will want a Sharpie pen, or white paper to tape onto your envelope, for addressing purposes.

Step 2: Image Selection & Initial Folds

For the complex envelope, the bigger the paper, the better. Old calendar pages are ideal.

Begin by folding your chosen image on the diagonal. The first fold will create the bottom of your envelope's front. You'll want to fold over more than you might think, in order to make the envelope wide enough to hold most paper or cards.

Step 3: Fold in the Sides

Fold each side angle in to the middle, over the bottom fold you just made.

Details: The edges should overlap. Make sure you have enough paper on each side to cover up the envelope's future contents. A common mistake is to make one side too short, as the side bits are uneven at this point.

Then, as in origami, unfold it and reverse-fold each of the bottom corners. This makes it look more like an envelope, with the middle fold now on top.

Step 4: Complete the Shape and Tape It Down

Now fold over the point that's sticking up off the bottom piece. It will look squared-off. Make it match the side bits in an aesthetically-pleasing way. You can make it an interesting angle if you like, or if that happens to fit the way you folded the sides. (That's not a mistake - it's artistic license!)

Tape the sides down. Also tape over the edges. You want it to be as strong as possible because the post office workers will be so fascinated with your envelope that they'll handle it a lot.

Step 5: Final Steps & Voila!

Here's what it ends up looking like, front and back.

To address it, you can do one of the following:
1) use a Sharpie pen, glitter pen, or the like on a blank portion of your image. (Just be sure to pick something water resistant and extremely visible)
2) glue or tape on a piece of white paper that's been cut into an interesting shape to serve as an address label
3) Use one of those sticky tags for same purpose

Add your return address and a stamp. Tape shut and send. And await the oohs and aahs from your correspondents who've gotten so used to e-mail only that they'll be wowed by receiving this work of art, uniquely made just for them, in the post.

-- BrujaHa



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    30 Discussions

    Omg these are sooooo cool! My friend in Aus is gunna love them! Thanks BrujaHa

    OMG, I know this is off-topic, but that is the cutest tape dispenser I've ever seen!! I love it! The envelope idea is great too, but I just had to comment on the tape dispenser!

    i have also been making my own envelopes for many years, and you're right, calendars are ideal! and homemade envelopes are way more fun to send and receive.

    i would remind folks though, that the US postal service has requirements for envelopes and postcards, including maximums and minimums for length, width, and thickness. so for instance using thin paper, like thin magazine, bible, or phone book pages, generally doesn't make an envelope thick enough to avoid getting chewed up by the USPS machines. i generally only use magazine pages if i'm sending a letter or card that i know will give it a good, sturdy thickness and survive the machines. i once had an envelope returned by USPS because the corners weren't perfect right angles, so keep this in mind!

    check this USPS link to be sure:

    I currently live in México, and to date, my envelopes have travelled well internationally. cheers to up-cycling!

    I love this idea! You can use cellulose biodegradable tape too. It's better and more eco-friendly that way.

    1 reply

    You can also use glue stick. I've made plenty of envelopes. Using tapejust adds to the mailing weight.

    Just made my first envelope. I feel so accomplished. Very clear instructions. Now I don't feel so bad using paper from a yellow legal pad for the content. Thanks, Bruhaha.

    I love it!!! I'm never going to buy another envelope!

    Oh, that will be no problem. There are lots of masculine-looking ads and catalogs out there for the nabbing - glossy ads for steel truck bed liner material, for example. Or you could even use thin cardboard. Enjoy!

    Neat idea, We have recently tried to disassemble used envelopes to make a pattern to use in cutting out the extra paper.

    What a creative idea! I'm loving it! I'll give it a try :D I send a lot of letters so it would be a fantastic way to add a little personal touch :D Thank you so much for the instructable

    Love it. I've been using envelopes sent to me by advertisers. This is a much better idea. Are you sure the P.O. will accept this? Love the froggie tape dispenser.

    2 replies

    Absolutely. I've sent hundreds of these over the years, some as SASEs to myself, and they've always arrived. One postal worker did warn me, though, that mail sent in such envelopes might take a day or two longer to arrive since they get passed around in the PO for everyone to ooh and aah over before sending them on! -- BrujaHa

    This is awesome. I used to make envelopes when I was younger and stopped for reasons unknown. Thanks for reminding me about this awesome craft. The comment about the postal workers is HILARIOUS!!! I'll keep that in mind when mailing things out. Keep it up!

    I'm a bit confused..I've tried to make envelopes with letter sized paper and they just aren't turning out right. Am I using the wrong type?

    2 replies

    The best thing to do is to carefully take an envelope apart and use it as a template. there are two basic types: the vertical/rectangular one, and the 45 degree/triangular one. Good Luck. If you don't understand what I mean, just message me.

    Not necessarily. If you begin with letter sized paper, though, by working on the diagonal like this you'll wind up with a rather small envelope. There's another way to make envelopes that's both simpler to do and makes bigger envelopes out of smaller paper. This is just to look at the image you want, squared, turn the paper over, fold the bottom up about 1/3-nearly 1/2 way to the top, and then fold top over that to form a lip. I'll try to post a second Instructable to show this method soon. For now, I suggest using bigger paper for this method, or taping two pieces of paper together to make a bigger paper source. If you do the latter, tape them unevenly so you get one nice big image on most of the front, with a stripe of the second on either the left or right. Hope this helps. Good luck!

    I used to do this when I used "snail mail". In fact, I canvassed my whole office to give me their old calendars each December instead of throwing them out or into the recycle bin. People were curious to see the results from their cast-offs & amazed at the beautiful pictures. I even did one with a Chippendales calendar where the folds were um...strategically placed! One note of warning from personal experience: use actual real glue for the stamps. The glue on the stamps are sometimes not strong enough to stick properly to the glossy paper. The peel & stick type stamps are fine, though. Feedback has been very positive. This works great for entering contests, too. Think about it: they get a mailbag full of beige or white envelopes, then POW! Which one do you think they will open first??? Great post!!!!!

    simply wonderful. can't wait to start putting this to use. oh and the froggie tape dispenser deserves a tag! :)