As a child, especially during school holidays when life seemed to move a little slower and distractions were fewer, I would feverishly anticipate the arrival of the daily post.  At the rattling of the letterbox I would race, in the manner of a small eager dog (but with less drooling), to scoop up whatever lay on the mat, riffling through it eagerly.  I probably only received letters about 3 times a year (birthdays, Christmastime, and an annual Child Savings Account update), but that didn’t stop me anticipating the kind of ill-defined thrills that only mail could bring.  Possibly a national television network inviting me onto the Saturday night talent show, having scouted me covertly in the school play.  Or maybe the Cadbury’s Chocolate Company announcing I had been selected at random to test all their new products, would I mind?  It was a triumph of optimism over experience, but my enthusiasm didn’t dim for many years, lasting probably until around the time that the Student Loan Company began writing to me with some frequency about our longstanding and very one-sided relationship.

In a world where the daily post tends to simply bring brown envelopes and bills, with the loveliest messages and news often coming via Email, Harry and I have taken it upon ourselves this week to briefly reignite the joy of a letter, and have set about making a series of jolly envelope liners to slip inside otherwise plain envelopes, as a breakfast-time surprise to our unsuspecting relatives. It seemed like a fun accompaniment to the mailing of a periodic pack of family summer photos, but it also works really well for events where you’re making homemade invites or announcements – I’ve printed a couple of my favourite wedding photos to add to envelopes to send to Mr B. at some point (we do live together, I hasten to add; I shall have to leave them romantically on his pillow and hope that Harry doesn’t jump on them first…).  Ideas and simple tutorial below for making your own template.

Head-shots shout a real ‘hello!” when the envelope is opened, but busier pics too can look very effective, like this one of us sheltering from a classic English summer

This retro shot of Harry at 6 months discovering one of life’s great pleasures – food – is one of my all-time faves

Play around with envelope colour once you’ve chosen your photo; white envelopes frame photos well but brightly coloured tonal ones like this can make them look even more vibrant

These two liners (above and below) were made from simple b&w photocopies of our wedding photos, but still look good.  I edged the one above with washi tape (from Cavallini).  The one below will bring a tear to my husband’s eye upon opening; of laughter, that is, as he recalls dropping me moments after this shot was taken…

Making an envelope liner template:

Choose a sheet of thin perspex or vellum and lay it over the top of the envelope you want to use.  Draw around the outline of the envelope flap, about 1cm inside the flap itself (follow the lower line of the gummed edge for this; you want to leave this clear when you add your insert). Make sure the bottom edge of the perspex goes at least an inch below the bottom of the lowest point of the envelope (A), and then draw a dotted line where the edge of the envelope runs (B); this will be really useful when lining up your photos later and choosing where to position them.

Cut around the outside of your shape; voila, you now have a reusable template which you can position over photos.  Slip it inside your envelope to check it fits properly, then let’s begin!  Choose the photos you want to use, and make a rough printout first in draft or greyscale, to help with sizing.  Place your template over the top to work out what you’ll see when you crop and use the photo, and what details you’ll lose; I had a great photo of Harry eating an ice-cream, but the ice-cream itself was lost in the final crop and it just looked very peculiar.

Print out your final photo onto high-quality inkjet paper (don’t use photo paper; it will crack or fold badly when you seal the envelope shut), then place your template over, draw around it in pencil and cut out.  Slip into the envelope and apply use a gluestick to apply adhesive to the triangular section; stick it to the inner flap (you don’t need to stick the bottom half of the insert down; it’ll stay flat).  Score lightly across the fold and  ta-da!! you have a very cool envelope liner.  If you’re making lots of these, use a colour photocopier to make copies – the quality might be slightly less good but no-one’s going to notice that.  Now you just need to work out what you’re going to put in them…..

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