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How-Tuesday: Transformer Envelope-Tote-Bag

Nov 16, 2010

by Anda Corrie handmade and vintage goods

With the holidays nearing, the time has come for thinking about clever, memorable, and eco-friendly ways to ship gifts to friends and family — you know, packaging that will really do your handmade gifts justice! This week’s How-Tuesday post, authored by Etsy’s own Anda Corrie, offers an ingenious solution with instructions on how to make your own mailing envelope that can be flipped inside out to reveal a ready-to-go tote bag. It’s a mailing envelope and a tote bag all in one, perfect for not only safely sending your presents through the mail, but it is in fact a present itself!



I first came up with this design in late 2007 for Etsy, when I was working on press kits and wanted to create envelopes that could be reusable in some way. We recently revisited the concept again here at Etsy Labs in Berlin — where rolls of Tyvek are much easier to get a hold of — and this time I decided to write up the tutorial so everyone could make envelope tote bags too. If you can’t find a big piece of Tyvek, I’d be interested in hearing your modifications, especially if someone can come up with a version using those Tyvek envelopes from the U.S. post office! Please do share a photo with us in the How-Tuesday Flickr group. Without further ado, here it is…


You’ll Need:

  • Sheet of Tyvek, at least 36″ x 20″ (90cm x 50cm) (or make homemade Tyvek with plastic bags)
  • Sewing machine and, ideally, a serger
  • White thread
  • Clear plastic packing tape or any wide tape that tears easily by hand
  • Baker’s twine, packing twine, sturdy string, etc., OR wide decorative tape that is not so sticky that it tears the Tyvek when removed. Test on a bit of Tyvek first!
  • Screen printing, Gocco, blockprinting, or stenciling supplies — or some other permanent way to decorate your tote (optional)

Measure one 36″ x 15″ (90cm x 36cm) rectangle and two long 3″ x 36″ (7cm x 90cm) strips of Tyvek and cut.

Fold the 3″ (7cm) strips lengthwise and serge the long edge closed. These will be the straps of your bag. If you don’t have a serger you can use your sewing machine’s zig zag stitch, but a serger makes this project really simple and if you plan on making a lot of these you will definitely want to borrow one.

If you’re printing a design on your tote, measure about 3″ (5-7cm) from the top of the larger rectangle and print just below it. This is now the “right” side of your Tyvek.

With the right side of the Tyvek facing up, sew or serge one end of a strap about 3″ (5cm) in from edge. Attach the other end of the same strap about 3″ (5cm) before you reach the other side (see the second picture below). Repeat on the bottom of your large rectangle with the second strap.

Now, fold 1.5″ (3cm) over to the wrong side and straight stitch along top edge and just above the seam to secure straps. Repeat on opposite end of your rectangle.

With right sides out, fold rectangle in half so that the strap ends meet. Measure 2″ (5cm) from the fold and then fold back on both sides, so that your tote-to-be looks like the diagram below. Now serge along sides A and B. You should have a rectangular pocket (see photos).

Tuck the straps inside the pocket. This is your envelope. Fill it up with whatever you want to send. Now to close it! You want to seal your envelope in a way that will allow someone to open it without destroying the tote.

Fold over the top of your envelope like the picture below. Cut a length of twine slightly wider than the envelope and secure with a few pieces of tape. You want the twine to be as close to the folded-over “opening” of your tote as possible.

Now press clear tape over the twine, adhering it to the Tyvek and sealing your envelope at the same time.

Trim the twine and tape to the width of your envelope but leave about 1.5″ (3 cm) of twine at one end. Notch the tape where it meets the twine. The idea is, you pull the twine and tear open the tape to get the envelope open. We put stickers instructing our recipients to do so (it’s important to let your mail recipient know that their package is also a tote bag).

Method two is much easier but only works with tape that doesn’t rip your Tyvek apart. Simply fold over the top like before, but now tape it closed with pretty tape. The recipient carefully pulls off the tape  themselves. Easy! Again, remember to add a message on the outside of your envelope explaining how to open it.

Now send all kinds of gifts in packaging that’s fully reusable!

 If you make your own tote-bag-envelope, please share a photo with us in the How-Tuesday Flickr group!

Packaging How-To’s | More How-Tuesday Posts | How-Tuesdays auf Deutsch

4 Recycled Mailing Envelopes - 8 X 10 Sewn Sides - Flap Top - 3 Layers of Brown Paper Recycled from Feed Sacks
4 Recycled Mailing Envelopes - 8 X 10 Sewn Sides - Flap Top - 3 Layers of Brown Paper Recycled from Feed Sacks
Oldbook Japanese Masking Tape set of 3 - 20mm
Oldbook Japanese Masking Tape set of 3 - 20mm
Airmail Label Note Card Set
Airmail Label Note Card Set
Air Mail Fabric  Label String - 1 yard
Air Mail Fabric Label String - 1 yard


  • CathodeBlue

    CathodeBlue said 7 years ago

    Love the graphics on that bag!

  • mietteLove

    mietteLove said 7 years ago

    This is awesome!

  • creativityismessy

    creativityismessy said 7 years ago

    Great bag! Thanks anda!!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 7 years ago

    So cool! Thanks so much for sharing!!! =)

  • PlumeandPetals

    PlumeandPetals said 7 years ago

    Definitely want to give a try! I just need a sawing machine... Nonetheless, it is lovely!

  • IslaNewYork

    IslaNewYork said 7 years ago

    Um... this is... AWESOME!!! I've been thinking of doing something like this for a while, and with this tutorial, I've got no more excuses!! Thank you for sharing!

  • TheBloomingThread

    TheBloomingThread said 7 years ago

    on my "to do" list of things to try! oh my, all the ideas! Ive got lots of linen to play with~ thanks!

  • LuRuUniques

    LuRuUniques said 7 years ago

    Love that bag. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Slowshirts

    Slowshirts said 7 years ago

    Woah. Now that's lovely.

  • purposedesign

    purposedesign said 7 years ago

    totally genius!!

  • lindaketelhut

    lindaketelhut said 7 years ago

    Very cool. So inventive! Thanks for the great tutorial.

  • AlissaRose

    AlissaRose said 7 years ago

    Very cool. Especially if using used plastic bags... Thanks!

  • MouseTrapVintage

    MouseTrapVintage said 7 years ago

    This is insanely awesome!

  • Earleyimages

    Earleyimages said 7 years ago

    Great works here

  • vitamini

    vitamini said 7 years ago

    Very cool! Thanks for the how-to!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 7 years ago

    Oh, how fun! I need this now!

  • FabricFascination

    FabricFascination said 7 years ago

    What a fun and useful idea, thanks for sharing it.

  • designlab443

    designlab443 said 7 years ago

    Great idea, thank you for sharing!

  • VivaGailBeads

    VivaGailBeads said 7 years ago

    very inventive! thank you for sharing this!!

  • whitehaus

    whitehaus said 7 years ago

    excellent! will try it out soon!

  • atthestudiodoor

    atthestudiodoor said 7 years ago

    this is one of the coolest ideas ever! thanks :)

  • larrie2121

    larrie2121 said 7 years ago

    wow great idea!

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 7 years ago

    so clever!

  • Lindensage

    Lindensage said 7 years ago

    why didn't I think of that?

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds said 7 years ago

    Such a great "tutorial." I always wondered about the details of making a tote, ie;, the handles. I'm saving this!

  • prettikitti

    prettikitti said 7 years ago

    Thanks for the wonderful tut! I'm so excited now to use this idea to send my holiday gifts!

  • MixedShop

    MixedShop said 7 years ago

    Awesome idea! I love creative packaging.

  • ElenaRossi

    ElenaRossi said 7 years ago

    What a great idea! Thanks for creating this tutorial!

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 7 years ago


  • ThePaperTray

    ThePaperTray said 7 years ago

    Very creative!!

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios said 7 years ago

    What an ingenious idea! if I only I could sew. ;)

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden said 7 years ago

    Cool idea! Thanks for sharing!

  • rozzie

    rozzie said 7 years ago

    A more complex project (higher difficulty level) than previous DIY's. Great instructions!

  • whitenoisemaker

    whitenoisemaker said 7 years ago

    I am currently reviewing an eco friendly ways to package items from my shop and happened to make a Treasury list of similar theme 'Eco Friendly Gift Wrapping Inspirations!' yesterday. Please come check it out!

  • cheapherveleger

    cheapherveleger said 7 years ago

    Cool idea! Thanks for sharing!

  • JulieMeyer

    JulieMeyer said 7 years ago

    I really love this idea. Thanks for sharing some really great directions and pics!

  • vivikas

    vivikas said 7 years ago

    This is major, I love it!

  • cheapherveleger

    cheapherveleger said 7 years ago

    Cool idea! Thanks for sharing!

  • reiter8

    reiter8 said 7 years ago

    Love it.

  • trinityrocks

    trinityrocks said 7 years ago


  • amysfunkyfibers

    amysfunkyfibers said 7 years ago

    Very cool! It would be worth buying something dorky just to get the bag!

  • brownfamilyvintage

    brownfamilyvintage said 7 years ago

    this is a great how to...comes in handy for sending customers packages...THank you

  • helenapuck

    helenapuck said 7 years ago

    Great How-to project!!

  • jecacreations

    jecacreations said 7 years ago

    Love it! What a great marketing tool!

  • VintageChichibean

    VintageChichibean said 7 years ago

    Ingenious idea ~ ! Especially now. Our city newspaper, The Tampa Tribune has recently run a private 'LEAD' content on all grocery bags that are purchased at all the local stores. Seems the bags that are for sale have a HIGH LEAD CONTENT... Go Figure. (even higher Lead count than the baby toys that are imported). The Yellow and Green dyes have the most lead. Over 300 ppm. Those bags break down over a period of time and are either washed or end up in our land fills. NOT GOOD. Walmart has a bag with baby pictures depicted. That was the worst. they are being recalled. WHAT BETTER TIME TO BUY HANDMADE @ ETSY!

  • HelensCorner

    HelensCorner said 7 years ago

    What an amazing idea! Thanks for the tip. I love different ways of package orders and I'm always looking for genius ways to do so. This is definitely one of them!

  • mywifesstudio

    mywifesstudio said 7 years ago

    Great bags, thank you for sharing!

  • EcoChicHandKnits

    EcoChicHandKnits said 7 years ago

    AMAZING idea! I absolutely love it! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  • beachglassshop

    beachglassshop said 7 years ago

    time to get out the sewing machine! thank you so much!!!

  • elmstreetmarket

    elmstreetmarket said 7 years ago

    This is an awesome idea! But I think it will be on my to-do list for many many holidays.

  • teclur

    teclur said 7 years ago

    That is a great idea!!! congrats!! ;-)

  • Emmamaha

    Emmamaha said 7 years ago

    This is wonderful and so easy to make. Thanks for the great idea and the continued effort to teach us more green ways to reuse our otherwise discarded items.

  • dottylogic

    dottylogic said 7 years ago

    Super cute idea! :)

  • iheartmy

    iheartmy said 7 years ago

    I will be doing this! Thanks for your very detailed instructions!

  • pressmade

    pressmade said 7 years ago

    Looks amazing. Really nice graphics. Love that Tyvek!!

  • cattuslavandula

    cattuslavandula said 7 years ago i couldn't get the pics uploaded to the provided link, so i posted them on photobucket with the instructions. i started doing the basic grocery store bag out of tyveks when i found myself swimming in shipping supplies back in 2004. the link shows the larger bag, but a small bag can be made by simply tucking the bottom of the standard mailer inside to form a pleat and stitching. anda's version shows handles; these can be added as she describes with little effort. if you can't sew, the whole thing can be done with duct tape in fun colors. the bags make nice catch alls for craft supplies, but i like using them at the grocery store for cold items that sweat. also, i made a quad panel bag for my returnables.

  • MariesCorner

    MariesCorner said 7 years ago

    Great works here!

  • Czenyu

    Czenyu said 7 years ago

    Really like your lens, wishing you all best :-)

  • todidesign

    todidesign said 7 years ago

    so cool!

  • 2yeux

    2yeux said 7 years ago

    I can't believe I threw out a big Tyvek mailer the other day! I'm kicking myself so hard.

  • smilingbluedog

    smilingbluedog said 7 years ago

    What an awesome idea! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  • Maulani

    Maulani said 7 years ago

    love it!

  • DreamReignDesigns

    DreamReignDesigns said 7 years ago

    Would love to see this in fabric or another easily upcyle-able material as Tyvec is not something easily attainble where i am. KEEPING this well-explained and clearly photo-ed, much appretiated tute! THANK YOU!!! Dream


    PRINTforLOVEofWOOD said 7 years ago

    Fantastic, pretty sure my sofas came wrapped in this stuff from Ikea, knew it would come in useful one day!

  • ArcSquare

    ArcSquare said 7 years ago

    eco friendly and brilliant!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 7 years ago

    fantastic article, I'd of never thought to make something like this. Really clever!

  • SepiaSmiles

    SepiaSmiles said 7 years ago

    such a good idea and a great way to market your products too !

  • lala24ch

    lala24ch said 7 years ago

    LOVELY article, great idea, now I just need to get my sewing machine! Thanks!

  • Gynx

    Gynx said 7 years ago

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany said 7 years ago

    I wish I could sew...

  • CyrusCreations

    CyrusCreations said 7 years ago

    This is truely inspiring. It just made my head spin with ideas for making my own packageing. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  • kimmchi

    kimmchi said 7 years ago

    Anda is the queen of Tyvek!

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 7 years ago


  • Patriacontemporary

    Patriacontemporary said 7 years ago

    Greats idea!!! Thank!

  • rakshniyavintage

    rakshniyavintage said 7 years ago

    what an amazing package and idea! I wish I could sew :)

  • HazelHoney

    HazelHoney said 7 years ago

    omg love this project!

  • anda Admin

    anda said 7 years ago

    Thanks for the comments!!! :D

  • RebeccasWhims

    RebeccasWhims said 7 years ago


  • depuis

    depuis said 7 years ago

    are you kidding me, what a great great idea!! It's too late for me to start making this for this holiday season but will bookmark for later. I freaking love etsy!!

  • thequirkycat

    thequirkycat said 7 years ago

    What a fantastic idea! I am smitten!

  • debidoesdesign

    debidoesdesign said 7 years ago

    wow - another fab idea! love etsy

  • bylynnkrestel

    bylynnkrestel said 7 years ago

    perfect! timely!! easy to understand!! thanks so much!!

  • drawcity

    drawcity said 7 years ago

    Brilliant idea, thanks for sharing!

  • TheVespertineDream

    TheVespertineDream said 7 years ago

    Fantastic idea! Also reminded me that I need to learn how to screen print at some point. :) Thanks!

  • BubbleGumAndButtons

    BubbleGumAndButtons said 7 years ago

    Absolutely brilliant!

  • TheTeaRex

    TheTeaRex said 7 years ago

    Such a wonderful idea and gift!!! love it! Thanks for sharing!

  • FaithTeArt

    FaithTeArt said 7 years ago

    So cool and a really fantastic idea! Now to figure out how to make some for my own packages which won't boost the shipping weight so much.

  • thewren

    thewren said 7 years ago

    A great idea!

  • skycreation

    skycreation said 7 years ago


  • SavoyFaire

    SavoyFaire said 7 years ago

    Fabulous! Love to see this and reminds me of when as a Buyer at a past job I worked with a company (two brothers) who live near a major and only highway in Germany on a trade route where all the tractor trailers go thru the pass bringing goods into a major city. It's very windy where they are in a mountain pass and the huge tarp canopy's are often lost en route. They go along and pick them up and make messenger bags out of them! Unique, tough, techie, geeky and wonderful!

  • isamocrochet

    isamocrochet said 7 years ago

    that is great! thank you a lot! always so many envelopes laying around... and would be great to know what to turn them into...

  • LisamariesPiece

    LisamariesPiece said 7 years ago

    That's amazing! I love it!

  • HeliDesigns

    HeliDesigns said 7 years ago

    Absolutely fabulous!

  • Katexpressions

    Katexpressions said 7 years ago

    Very nice! Thank you for the tutorial!

  • BettysBeautyInBeads

    BettysBeautyInBeads said 6 years ago

    Such a nifty idea. Thanks for sharing!

  • megbydesign

    megbydesign said 6 years ago

    I love the bag,thank you!

  • sarahsquiltsncrafts

    sarahsquiltsncrafts said 6 years ago

    Clever! That's an idea for recycling Tyvek USPS mailing envelopes, and gluing artwork onto the address areas. I've been wanting to make some bubble wrap mailers with brown paper grocery bags. This may just be the extra bit of motivation I need!

  • sarahsquiltsncrafts

    sarahsquiltsncrafts said 6 years ago

    Clever ideas! Making brown paper grocery bags bubble wrap mailers is on my to-do adding making tote bags with used Tyvek mailing envelopes.

  • bethsCraftroom

    bethsCraftroom said 6 years ago

    awesome article! thank you :)

  • MichelleLeeAnn

    MichelleLeeAnn said 6 years ago

    That is so cool. I have been trying to figure out more environmentaly responsible ways to mail packages & this is really inspiration. I wonder, when you ship in these bags, do you charge extra for the bag? It looks like a somewhat significant amount of work. Michelle Lee Ann Also, I have never even heard of Tyvek, time to look it up!

  • prendasbyenid

    prendasbyenid said 6 years ago

    wow!!! Love it!!!! Thanks for the sharing!!! I love this How-To section!!!

  • boysngirls

    boysngirls said 6 years ago

    This is awesome!! thanks.

  • hahastudio

    hahastudio said 6 years ago

    I can't wait to make this bag. Thanks for sharing this, you took all the hard work out of figuring out the pattern, the printing etc. Now I can just enjoy the process!

  • ApplewoodHandwovens

    ApplewoodHandwovens said 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing... terrific idea!!

  • BobiCreations

    BobiCreations said 6 years ago

    really freakin neat!!

  • rebeccasaix

    rebeccasaix said 6 years ago

    Thank you. I really must try this out, then my customers get 2 bags when they place an order.

  • habbags

    habbags said 6 years ago

    Fab idea! wanting to try out with old plastic carrier bags ironed together as can't get hold of that fabric you used in U.K. Thankyou!

  • TwinBella

    TwinBella said 6 years ago

    I absolutely love this idea!!! esp since i need to do some last min xmas gifting :0

  • orloSubito

    orloSubito said 6 years ago

    this is really nice idea, I have to try!!!

  • GrandManner

    GrandManner said 6 years ago

    I am in LOVE!

  • mialopez3

    mia lopez said 5 years ago - With more than ten million website visitors per month, Fondness Media provides a unique opportunity to the advertisers and publishers that would like to expand their reach in a targeted way. We combine the power of the internet and mobile communication.

  • endmuh

    mert lee from Lovelyshopstore said 2 years ago

    Hi There, If you need blank canvas tote bags for your craft bags projects, have a look at ;

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