paper

The Letter Box: Preserving The Magic of Snail Mail

The Letter Box

I’ve written often on this blog about my love of letters and the abiding magic of good things in the post.  For someone who delights in receiving mail, I don’t write to others nearly often enough, so have gradually been gathering together lovely supplies to make it easier to scribble a pretty card or note in the moment I think of it, before life rushes on and the distracted hunt for a stamp or an envelope causes me to abandon my good intentions.

Harry too is becoming a man of letters, and has discovered the presence of the Royal Mail and the astonishing fact that letters, when posted into a box on our street, can be transported to far flung corners of the world in a matter of days (actually, in truth the time element has yet to be understood; Harry’s default expectation is that anything we post will reach it’s destination – wherever that may be – by teatime).

I’ve made Harry a Box of Letters which contains all sorts of lovely things for making and sending letters and cards to grandparents, family and friends – and even to us.  It’s helping him with his writing and means we can distribute the growing pile of artwork somewhat more widely.. and also has the bonus of generating letters in reply, which he adores.

Writing Letters

Here are some of the things in the modern man’s stationery bureau;

1. Enticing coloured crayons, pencils or pens.  We love Giotto pencils which have an almost oil-pastel like vibrancy and creaminess and go on thickly and easily.  They’re also triangular which helps with learning pencil grip, if you’re 4-5yrs old and facing such grown-up challenges.

Handful of pencils

 2.  Fun, bright stationery which doesn’t require much writing to fill it all up.  I’ve given Harry a fistful of my Happy Notes which only need about a sentence-worth of concentration and heavy-breathing before they are full.  I’ve also packed in a few of our home-made holiday postcards and some of Harry’s monogram stationery – again, just the right size for the attention-span of a small child.

Happy Note

3.  Decorative paper tape and stickers to adorn envelopes and add a dash of flair.  I also use the tape to hold the paper or cards in place whilst Harry writes and draws; with the flamboyance and heavy-handed pressure involved, it’s easy for them to skid and slip around unless I tack them lightly in place.

Washi tape and Stickers

4. And my favourite… personalised stamps and fun stamps.  I made some stamps for Harry using the Royal Mail Smilers service, and there are similar websites for the US and Canada which will allow you to upload photos and turn them into personalised stamps (lovely for a wedding or event as well as fun for kids).  They’re fun to use and raise a smile when they arrive on the mat at their destination.

personalised stamps

I made the storage box out of an old shoe box, and designed the picture below for the top (you can download a PDF printable below if you want to make your own).  I found some cow-print paper in Harry’s art cupboard which I used to line the box and lid – and now we have our correspondence kit to hand for whenever inspiration strikes!  I think one of these would make a lovely gift too for anyone young or old with a passion for stationery and lovely things; something to think about perhaps as Christmas stealthily approaches.

Letter Box Lid

Letters Box Printable

I’d love to know any other ideas for bits and bobs to include in Harry’s box or ways you’ve encouraged letter-writing and managed to avoid it becoming a tortuous semi-annual task after birthdays and Christmas; all tips welcome!

Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing; we have a back-to-school party and a small family reunion to look forward to – and baking too; September sees the return of our Saturday Cake-in-the-House tradition; a glass of wine and a new recipe book await me this evening.

Kate x

Stationery box for kids

 

You’ve got mail!

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…..

Reinvented artwork!

If there’s one thing toddlers can produce a lot of, it’s craft. Oh, and nappies, and broken nights and so on – but let’s stick with craft for now.  Most days, whether at nursery or home, Harry wields a paintbrush flamboyantly, producing a range of slightly sticky, partially recognisable masterpieces.  In the last month, we’ve made monkeys, Batman masks, easter chicks (we were a bit late with that one…) and neon flowers, as shown below.  As artist and his devoted mother, both Harry and I are very proud of these, but as they threaten to take over the house I’ve decided that action is called for, and have captured the best in a couple of simple projects which will mean we can clear some wall space and preserve them for a little while longer.

1. A Boxed Memory Game, or ‘Snap!’

Remember those memory games you played when you were really small where you had to take turns in flipping over cards until you found a pair?  For this one, I photographed a selection of Harry’s pictures and made two A7-sized copies of each, mounted the collection on card stock and decorated the backs of each to create a personalised memory game for Harry. A leftover box which had originally contained Christmas cards was the perfect container, so I added a picture of the full set on the front. Job done!  Detailed instructions at the bottom…

2. Thank-you Cards

For these, I photographed individual art projects and printed onto A5 matte photo paper (you could scan them rather than photo them if you prefer) to create flat correspondence cards to thank people on Harry’s behalf for birthday gifts, treats and general loveliness.  I then cropped the image and pasted it multiple times onto a .ppt slide in order to create a matching envelope liner. This works particularly well with black and white and bold primary colours – Harry’s batman mask worked a treat.

Making the memory game…

Materials:

  • A selection of artwork
  • Camera / scanner
  • Paper (to print onto) and card stock (to mount images onto for sturdiness)
  • Pens, glitter or other embellishments to decorate the reverse of each card
  • A storage box; individual cereal boxes, large matchboxes and playing card boxes are all a good size for this.

Firstly, take a picture (or scan) each piece of artwork. Download to your PC and add words if you want to; I chose to add alphabet tags, thinking that one day we may have a full set.  Then print off your images in duplicate; I arranged them in a contact sheet format and printed a large single sheet, but it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as they’re the same size…

Cut up the individual images and mount on cardstock; they’re going to get a lot of wear and tear!

And finally decorate the reverse of each card – given the amount of time they spend face down in this game, it’s worth spending as much effort on the back as the front! I used monogram ‘h’ letters for Harry, and continued this theme on the front of the box…

We had a lot of fun with this! To play the memory game with very young children like Harry, turn over a single card each and keep it turned up; take it in turns to turn another one over until you find the pair; at this stage it’s more about recognition and being the first to scream ‘SNAP!!’.  When kids get a bit older, you can play it more traditionally, turning the cards back over every time and relying on memory.

Now I’ve got Harry’s artwork stored on my PC, there are lots of other options for display… what do you do with yours? All ideas very welcome!

Starstruck



Stars… don’t you just love them? Folding and cutting stars and smothering them with sparkly glitter glue and paint is surely a right of passage for all children, and is the basis for much homespun Christmas craft. But it would be a great shame if we limited star-gazing to those times only.  I challenge all fully-grown adults to grab the nearest piece of paper (bills, doctors appointments, fines; the more depressing the paper, the more satisfying this will be…), and make a star.  Hell, make a galaxy; once you’ve started it’s very hard to stop…

I made these ombre tonal stars (above and bottom) for Harry’s room, to hang jauntily from Brad the Stag’s antlers, and also to form decorative garlands about the house.  Whipping myself into a snipping & folding frenzy, I’ve also decorated our beautiful but lethal ancient spiral staircase, which seems to be invisible to adult peripheral vision and has caused many a painful encounter for anyone over 5 foot.  With its gaudy bling-tastic stars it’s now quite hard to miss.

Experiment with different colours and textures for very different effects per below.. I embellished with glitter and tiny buttons, and used gift wrap for the bright stars, 216gsm textured card stock for the tonal stars.  Step-by-step instructions below for those who have forgotten everything they learned in geometry classes… no complicated measuring I promise!

3D Star Tutorial:

I’m showing the ‘no fancy tools’ method first using just a cup and a ruler… those who can rummage in a draw and retrieve a pair of compasses will find an even easier method below.

  1. Take a glass (or anything round and flat) and measure the diameter; halve this and make a note.  It’s 4.5cm for me.
  2. Draw around the glass, and then measure and mark this distance around the rim, giving you 6 equidistant points.
  3. Join up these marks with straight lines, skipping alternate points, ending up with a star like this in Fig.3
  4. Cut out the star, and fold right-sides together along each of the INNER angles of the star – do this 3 times in total.
  5. Turn over and fold wrong-sides together along each of the OUTER POINTS of the star, giving you your 3D shape – again, make 3 folds.
  6. refold and score again to reinforce the sharpness of the folds, then pop out to make your star.

If you have a pair of compasses, simply set them to the distance you want for the circumference of your star, draw a circle then choose a point at random along the rim. Swing the arms of the compass to mark either side of this where it bisects, and ‘walk’ your compass around the rim to make 6 marks in total – by holding the compass in the original position you won’t need to measure.  Then follow steps 3-6 as above.

These make beautiful gift tags too – just tape a piece of ribbon or thread to the back and then loop over the neck of a wine bottle or onto a gift.  Thread them together to form a garland, prop them up on mantles or shelves, or simply hang a few from a doorknob; be warned though; they’re so tactile and perky that visitors will gravitate towards them and want to give them a good squeeze…

If you try these do let me know how you get on… message me below or even upload your beauties to www.facebook.com/katescreativespace and let’s have our own paper constellation…