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Craftastic. What to do with old envelopes?

For this crafty column, I show you how to turn seemingly useless and oft discarded envelopes into all sorts of useful lovely things.

Written by Hannah Bullivant

What to do with them?

Illustrations by Farzeen jabbar

Perhaps its because I’m getting older, adiposity perhaps I’m becoming more eccentric or perhaps its one too many glasses of wine but I am becoming increasingly intolerant of waste. The latest object of my ‘waste rage’ is envelopes. I am ‘online billed’ to my eyeballs, dosage but I still seem to receive an avalanche of junk mail and catalogues for companies I’ve never heard of through the post. Its probably Facebook’s fault; selling my soul to Identity Theft R Us and

But before I retreat into an envelope and Facebook induced pit of fury, order I’ll bring this baby back to the point.

What to do with those pesky envelopes?

According to the folk at Green Box Day the average British family throws away 6 trees worth of paper in their household bin a year. Thats 120 trees over 20 years, which is, like, a small forest. Or something. Obviously reducing the amount of paper we bring home is the best thing, but finding ways to reuse the stuff is the next best thing.

Before you recycle (or chuck away, tut tut) your next envelope, look closely at it. Envelopes have a rather nice graphic blue or black pattern lining the inside. Once you start noticing, I warn you its a slippery slope. You may find yourself rating companies according to the graphics they choose for the inside of their envelopes. Tate, for examples get top marks in my book, but HSBC are at the bottom of the cool envelope lining charts.

These small graphic patterns would lend themselves well to something small… like muffin toppers. Or cake bunting. Don’t you see?! (ahem)

You will need

Old envelopes
Ruler and pencil
Needle and thread
Cocktail sticks
Pritt stick

Firstly, make a stencil of the flag shape of your choice, trace onto the envelope several times and cut them out.

envelope stencil

Use a bit of glue to wrap the flag around a cocktail stick.

Stick in to some perfectly formed muffins (like these stupidly easy banana muffins I made at the weekend)

They look tres cute, no?

An alternative to muffin toppers is a string of mini paper envelope bunting.

Cut out some tiny triangles, and using a needle and thread, pierce the triangles twice with the needle. Prepare for ‘small pain’ rage.

Then string them together.

Or if all that is all a bit pointless and over the top for you (bah humbug), you could just save them for your shopping lists. Just cut off the gummy bits, make a hole in the corner and tie them together. A free, self replenishing notepad, handy for to do lists and passive aggressive notes to housemates and other halves.

Whilst researching for this article, I realized that I can register my address at the mail preference register to stop junk mail. My level of excitement about this is unequaled. Go forth and experience the joy.

This column attempts to provide lovely ways to recycle junk into useful and beautiful things. If you have had a genius recycling idea or if you are stuck with something you don’t want to chuck away, leave a comment and let me know! I may feature your idea or I will try and come up with a solution to your recycling conundrum.

P.s I am currently trying to think of a decent name for this feature. Any suggestions warmly welcomed.


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8 Responses to “Craftastic. What to do with old envelopes?”

  1. Beth says:

    Great article and column… also loving your blog, has inspired many a lovely crafternoon in my flat!

  2. Emma says:

    brilliant idea, also patterned paper bags make good for projects like this

  3. Sophie says:

    I was making my housemates birthday cake yesterday and used up my packet of flour. I noticed the barcode were lovely blue stripes so I cut it up into mini bunting and decorated the cake with it! Thanks!!!

  4. Lisa-Marie says:

    I already use mine as a notepad/for doodling on! Everything else is of course recycled. I particularly like the bunting, it is so very teeny.

    A current issue of mine i leaflet distribution, because we get at least 2 leaflets for takeaways and things a day. I use them for papier mache with the children I look after!

  5. Amelia says:

    Thank you Beth!

    Emma, brilliant Idea. I actually have a stash of paper bags (i cant seem to throw anything away these days) so should try and think of some more stuff to do with them (there is only so much paper cake bunting one can make!)

    Lisa- Marie, I am thinking about putting one of those notices on my flat door which says ‘no leaflets, menu’s, or junk mail’ to stop that from happening. But I live in flats so not sure if my neighbours would mind? think Im gona ask them. It is a total nightmare isn’t it!

    (From Hannah, not Amelia!)

  6. Brilliant post. I always use the back of old envelopes to write my shopping lists and lists of things to do, but I like the idea of actually neatening them up and punching a whole in them to make an impromptu notepad. Maybe I’ll attached a pencil on a string and hang it in the kitchen. also fancy making muffins and muffin toppers now.

    As for a title – first thing to mind would be:

    S.W.A.L.K – Solutions With A Letter Keeper

  7. rebecca says:

    I too love to craft with used envelopes! It is such a nice feeling to have created something from an otherwise disgarded item and there is the added fact that used envelopes are ‘paper for free’.

    Two fun links for past projects involving used envelopes:


  8. [...] Cupcake/Muffin flags made from old envelopes. Tutorial originally written for Anelia’s Magazine here [...]

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