Envelope and Letterfolding

Envelope and Letter Folding: Introduction – still not new or improved…

Why the Heck Would You Want to Fold an Envelope?

If you are not into envelope and letter folding you may wonder why one should go to the trouble of folding up an envelope when you could just buy one from a stationery store. Well, first off, it is the very nature of hobbies that they tend not to be entirely practical. In spite of that, hand folding letters and envelopes is one of those rare intersections of decoration and practicality, where paper folding produces the satisfaction of making something useful and novel. The folds can be extremely clever in their attempts to reach a number of basic goals: to make the largest possible envelope from a given piece of paper, to latch or remain sealed with out need of adhesive, to meet postal requirements and to be attractive. One of the “Holy Grails” of envelope and letter folding is to create a fold which not only latches, but can’t be unfolded – sealing it shut like a glued envelope.

A Really Brief History

The use of pre-made envelopes for standard mail is a relatively new practice. Before their use became common it was standard to fold the sheet of paper a letter was written on in a way making it suitable for posting. In England it was not until 1840 that the cost of posting a letter was based on its weight rather than the number of sheets or distance to be sent. The minimum rate was one penny for a letter not weighing more than one half-ounce. An envelope allowed more than a single sheet to be sent at once.

This Site

Methods of making letterfolds and folded envelopes have been compiled by the Envelope and Letter Folding Association in a series of booklets entitled Envelope and Letter Folding (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th editions) and I will (I swear)be posting a number of folds from them here in the coming months, years, decades, millennia, whatever it takes… I will upgrade the scans to redrawn art as time permits. (Time is short, however, so the site tends to update slowly, really slowly.) The following are some basic folds to start with:

Origami Symbols
Basic Letterfold
Fern Letterfold
Hawk Envelope
Valentine Envelope
Fold Index
Fold Index With Thumbnails
Other Origami Links

Since I love sharing arcane knowledge I am delighted to note that this site, in spite of or because of its obscure nature, and in the ancient past of the internet has been featured as a USA Today Hot Site. Grateful thanks to John Cunliffe for permission to post his wonderful instructions.

I expected this unprepossessing site to be quickly eclipsed by origami sites as more and more creators and fans converged on the web as a wonderful way to share obscure hobbies. However, even though Origami is well now represented on the internet there really isn’t a big, easy to use envelope and letter folding for the general public.

Almost nobody mails letters anymore, so envelope and letterfolding has remained a very, very obscure hobby known primarily to the tiny band of members of the Envelope and Letterfolding Association founded in 1988.

Credit for the originators of the folds is important in the community. Thanks to Paula Versnick for compiling a credit list from the original material.


Although there are many origami books, very few feature many envelope or letterfolds.
Origami Stationery by Michael LaFosse and Richard LaFosse is one of the only ones I know of that is currently available. It is only 48 pages, though, but worth at least checking out on Amazon.

The links to Amazon are “affiliate links”. If you buy something from the link I can get a small cut at no cost to you. You can bypass them by just Googling the book rather than clicking on the link. The price is the same either way. 🙂