Every Tuesday from now until Earth Day will feature a clever project for creative reuse, designed to help you craft a thoughtful life. To kick off this series, Kat Roberts will lead us through the process of turning junk mail envelopes and fabric scraps into handy dandy pouches. Use them as dressed up mailing envelopes, storage for your collage clippings, a sunglasses case — it’s up to you! Kat is an avid crafter, blogger, artist and designer. She also teaches courses on footwear and accessories design in New York City. Find more projects on her blog, We Can Re-Do It, and check out her wares in her Etsy shop, called Whitehaus.
I have a philosophy of avoiding mass-produced items whenever possible and learning to make the most of what I have, and I try to incorporate that mindset into all of my work. In general, I feel pretty excellent about my resourcefulness when it comes to upcycling, but there are a few items that make me wonder if maybe I’m treading a little too close to hoarder territory: primarily, the envelopes that come enclosed with junk mail. As I rip up all those credit card offers, I can’t help but feel guilty about the perfectly good envelope that’s being wasted, too.
For years now, I’ve been rubber banding their ilk together and throwing them in a drawer. I so love this project because it finally gave me something to do with all those scraps! Plus, I get to use some of my massive hoard of remnant fabric.
What You’ll Need:
Steamer (or kettle)
Spray adhesive, or wheat paste*
* Update: Please note that wheat paste maybe substituted for the adhesive spray used in steps 4 and 5. It’s a more eco-friendly alternative that’s not only bio-degradable, but will make this craft more kid-friendly, as well. While that supply wasn’t originally listed here, we’ve updated the post to make it more eco-friendly as a reflection of insightful comments and discussion. We appreciate your passion!
1. Steam open the flaps of the envelope. The easiest way to do this is with a clothes steamer.
If you don’t have a steamer, you can get the same results with a kettle. It’ll just a take a little bit longer. Be extra careful if you use this method not to burn your hand or let the envelope get too close to the burner!
2. As the steam begins to lift the edges of the flap, pull it upward. You may have to pull a little bit at a time as you continue to steam.
When you’re finished with this step, the envelope may look a little wrinkly, like this. That’s normal, especially if your envelope has a plastic window. Most wrinkles will come out when you spray it with the adhesive, but if it’s excessively wrinkled, you can lay something heavy on it for a bit.
3. Lay the fabric out flat and place the opened envelope over it. Cut all around, leaving at least an extra 1/2″ on all sides.
4. The next step is to spray both the envelope and the fabric with adhesive spray. Before you do this, you’ll need to lay out some paper to protect your work surface. Also, it’s important that you only use the spray in an extremely well ventilated area, preferably outside. Alternatively, use wheat paste.
5. Lay the envelope right side up and the fabric right side down. Spray both pieces thoroughly and evenly. (Spraying both pieces will make the adhesion permanent.)
6. Gently lay the fabric over the envelope so that the sides with the adhesive are touching. Flatten out any wrinkles or air bubbles until the surface is totally smooth.
7. Trim the excess fabric away from the envelope with a pair of scissors.
8. Lay the envelope face down and bend in the two smaller flaps.
9. Run some hot glue down the two flaps you just folded.
10. Fold the large flap up to cover the two small ones. Rub your finger over the two glued areas to make sure they properly adhere.
11. As an optional extra step, you can trace the dimensions of the envelope onto a sheet of paper. Reduce the size by an 1/8″ on each side and cut. This will give you a perfectly sized template, especially nice if you’d like to make handmade note cards to fill the envelopes with.
If you make your own fabric covered envelopes, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group. What will you put in your fabric covered envelope? Let us know in the comments below!