Pocket Letters – Make and Trade Happy Mail

Make Pocket Letters

Pocket letters are a fun way to trade inspiration and supplies with other crafters! Learn how to make and trade them in this paper crafts tutorial.

Pocket Letters are the Best Happy Mail

I love happy mail — how about you? If you’re not familiar with the term, ‘happy mail’ is any postal mail that the recipient is actually happy to get. In other words, not a bill, and definitely not junk mail addressed to ‘Current Resident’!

My favorite kind of happy mail to send and receive is pocket letters. Pocket letters are a special kind of happy mail just for paper crafters.

Pocket letter front and back

These are 8.5 x 11-inch, nine-pocket trading card protector pages that you fill with small, hand-decorated cards instead of trading cards. Behind one of the cards you tuck a personal letter, and behind the others you include bits of craft supplies for the recipient to play with. How fun is that?

Trading Pocket Letters

Like trading cards, pocket letters are meant to be traded. The concept was created in 2015 by lifestyle and crafts blogger Janette Lane as a fun, new way to exchange pen-pal mail. Since then, this craft trend has really taken off!

After you make a pocket letter, you send it off to a friend or trade partner, and then they send you one in return. So your partner gets something handcrafted by you and vice versa. What a great way to swap crafty inspiration! Also, because you each include little bits of craft supplies, both of you get to try materials you might not already have. Finally, every pocket letter includes a personal letter from the sender, so you can get to know the person you’re trading with. That may be the best part of all — which of us couldn’t use a few new friends?

How to Make a Pocket Letter

Pocket letters, like all paper crafts, can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make them. However, the basic design is quite easy!

1. Choose a Theme

The first step to making a pocket letter is deciding on a theme. Having one in mind will help you choose which materials to work with, and guide your decisions as you craft.

Birthday themed pocket letter

Some examples of possible pocket letter themes include:

  • Birthday/Anniversary/Celebration
  • The current season
  • An upcoming holiday
  • A favorite place, activity, book, movie, animal, etc.
  • All about you and your favorite things
  • A crafting style — clean and simple, shabby-chic, mixed media, etc.

Shabby Chic Pocket Letter

2. Gather Supplies

The next step is to gather supplies based on your theme. The idea here is not to spend money on new supplies, but to use those you already have. The exception might be the trading card protectors, but those are pretty inexpensive.

Here are the basic things you’ll need:

Supplies to make pocket letters

  • (1) 8.5 x 11-inch trading card protector with 9 pockets
  • Various coordinating colors and patterns of cardstock and paper.
  • Paper trimmer
  • Paper scissors
  • Tape runner or similar adhesive

In addition to these basics, you’ll want to gather miscellaneous stamps, stickers, small die cuts, paper scraps, punches, Washi tape, ribbon, and/or whatever other materials you feel like using to decorate the pocket letter cards. Don’t forget to grab some goodies to share with your trade partner!

Supplies to decorate and fill pocket letters

3. Make the Pocket Letter Cards

Each card protector has nine card slots, and you’ll want to make a pocket letter card to fill each one. To do this:

1. Cut your cardstock/papers into nine equal-sized rectangles, each measuring 2.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall.

Cut your paper into nine pocket letter cards

Lay the card protector on your work surface. Then set one pocket letter card on top of each pocket.

Arrange the pocket letter cards into a pattern that you like

Rearrange the cards into a pattern that you like.

TIP: Use a corner rounder to round off the corners of each card for a smoother look.

One at a time, decorate each of the pocket letter cards. Use stamps, stickers, stick-on jewels, Washi tape, or whatever other materials you like. Just try to keep the design of each card relatively flat, so that it will fit into its pocket without tearing or warping.

Some of the many possible ways that you could decorate your pocket letter card include:

1. Cut mini banners or other shapes from scrap papers to decorate the edges of a card. Layer letter stickers or cut out stamped words on top.

Add stickers and stamped images

2. Stamp and color images that you like, and then stick them to your cards. Use these images to create scenes that cover one card or that extend throughout the pocket letter.

Ephemera and stamped sentiments combined

3. Layer stickers, preprinted ephemera, digital stamps, and stamped images under and over sentiments and other elements.

4. Overlap stickers or other cuttable elements between two cards to add good visual flow to your pocket letter. To do this, align two cards next to each other, and then place the decorative element so that part of it is on one card, and part is on the other. Then, with paper scissors, cut along the seam between the two cards.

Spread elements across multiple cards

5. Doodle on your cards with gel pens or fine tip markers to create accents and movement lines.

Doodle on your cards
6. Add mini buttons or brads for a little bit of dimension and texture.

When you’re finished decorating all of the cards, slip them into the pockets of the card protector.

Finished pocket letter front

4. Choose Goodies to Add to Eight Pockets

You’ll want to include some little craft goodies for your partner in the backs of eight of the pockets. These should be samples from your own stash of supplies and/or things you make yourself. Try to choose flat items, and small quantities of them. Although you may be tempted to stuff the pockets, that will make your pocket letter harder to mail.

TIP: If you and your trade partner agree to send lots of crafting materials, consider packing them separately to avoid warping the pocket letter itself.

 

Fill eight pockets with treats

Examples of goodies that mail well include:

  • Small die cut and/or punched shapes
  • Stickers
  • Decorative paper clips
  • Small post-it flags or notes
  • Washi tape samples
  • A yard of ribbon or twine
  • Wood veneers
  • Flat buttons
  • Paper flowers
  • Small stick-on jewels
  • Flat handmade embellishments (mini frames, corner bookmarks, crocheted flowers, etc.)
  • Something that represents the geographic area you’re from, like cancelled postage stamps, if trading internationally
TIP: Some crafters also include food items, like individually wrapped Ghirardelli chocolate squares or tea bags. If you do this, check with your partner first to avoid any allergies or food dislikes.

5. Write a Letter to Your Trade Partner

By definition, your pocket letter should include a letter from you to your trade partner. This doesn’t have to be long, but should include a few details about yourself so they can get to know you. Show interest interest in your partner by asking them questions about them, too!

After writing your letter, fold and tuck it into the back of the last empty back pocket on the card protector.

6. Optional – Decorate the Binder Tab of the Card Protector

Washi tape to cover the binder tab of the card protector

Decorating the binder tab of the card protector is optional, but can add extra pizazz to your pocket letter. Some ideas for ways to do this include:

  • Cover the front and the back of the tab with Washi tape.
  • Tie a bow through each of the three binder punch holes on the tab.
  • String ribbon or twine back and forth through the binder punch holes, and then tie them off in a pretty way.
  • Tie a tassel through the top binder punch hole, and then attach charms to the ends.
TIP: If you plan to mail your pocket letter in a standard letter envelope, keep the tab decorations flat and minimal.

7. Fold and Wrap Your Pocket Letter

Trading card protectors have built-in seams that make them easy to fold accordion-style. Folding your pocket letters makes them easier to mail.

Experience has shown me that the goodies added to the pockets will slide around during mailing. To avoid problems with this, it’s a good idea to wrap or tape your pocket letter closed before mailing. Here are some different methods that various crafters use to do this:

  • Wrap a large paper doily around the folded letter
  • Tape the pockets closed with Washi tape
  • Wrap the whole folded letter in patterned paper or gift wrap

My favorite method is to first wrap a 7.5- x 10-inch piece of patterned paper around the folded pocket letter.

wrap-a-7-by-10-strip-around

Next, I wrap a 3- x 10-inch paper band around the first sheet of paper.

Wrap a three by ten inch strip around the first piece of paper

Instead of taping it closed, I tie it closed with a long ribbon, and then attach a little die cut tag to finish it off. This way my pocket letter looks like a little gift, and my trade partner can use the materials I wrapped it in. Bonus!

Wrapped pocket letter

9. Mail Your Pocket Letter

All that’s left to do is mail your pocket letter to your trade partner. Here are some tips on mailing pocket letters:

  • Double-check that you have the correct address for your partner before mailing.  A simple way to do this is to snap a photo of the addressed envelope on your cell phone , and then send it to to your partner for verification.
  • If you kept the decorations and goodies all flat, your pocket letter should fit into a standard letter-sized envelope for mailing. However, elaborate and/or dimensional pocket letters require larger envelopes.
  • Use a postage scale or mail your pocket letter via the service counter at the post office to ensure you pay correct postage. Otherwise, your partner may have to pay extra to get their pocket letter, and that’s no fun!
  • Postage costs vary depending on how and to where you send your pocket letter. In my experience, postage within the United States ranges from about $1 to $3. International mailing typically costs $13-$15, and requires a customs form.
  • When possible, add a tracking number to your package. This will give you and your partner some peace of mind!

How to Find a Pocket Letter Trade Partner

There are several good ways to find pocket letter trade partners.

1. Exchange with Crafty Friends

Ask around among your crafty friends to see who is interested in trading. Most are at least willing to try it once!

Exchanging pocket letters is a great way to keep in touch with your friends, and a fun way to learn more about them. One friend and I have been trading pocket letters for about six months now, and we’ve learned so many new things about each other, even though we’ve been friends for years!

2. Advertise for a Partner on Instagram

Create a pocket letter, and then share a photo of it on Instagram asking for a trade partner. Be sure to tag your post with #pocketletter. Anyone who follows that tag will see your post, and you’ll likely find several people willing to trade.

TIP:  Be wise when using the Internet to find trade partners! Internet safety rules still apply among crafters. Vet your partner before trading addresses by checking their posts to get a sense of who they are. Also, look to see if they’ve made other successful trades, or if there are any complaints against them. Don’t be afraid to decline a trade if you feel uncomfortable. Better safe than sorry!

3. Join the Pocket Letter Pals (TM) Network

The original creator of pocket letters, Janette Lane, also set up an an online forum where pocket letter crafters can connect. The Pocket Letter Pals (TM) Network is a great place to register if you’re looking for trade partners. Registration is easy, and membership is free. Every member has a profile page, which is helpful for finding trade partners with similar interests. Members can message each other through private messages, or via public comment walls.

In addition to being able to connect one-on-one, members of the Pocket Letter Pals (TM) Network can join any of the special-interest groups the forum offers. For example, those seeking pen-pals from other countries can join the International Pocket Letters group. Several themed swaps are also hosted on the site each month, where those who participate are assigned a partner.

TIP: Themed swaps are a great way to start trading pocket letters. The swap hostesses keep track of those who signed up, and are there to help if you have questions or problems along the way.

4. Join the Pocket Letter Pals (TM) Facebook Page

If you’re a Facebook user, consider joining the Pocket Letter Pals (TM) Network Facebook page. This group is fun because members continuously share photos and details of pocket letters both sent and received. Members frequently post trade requests, too, so it’s a great place to connect with potential partners.

Although this page is affiliated with the Pocket Letter Pals (TM) Network, as far as I know, you don’t have to be a member of one to join the other. However, this is a closed group, so you’ll need to read the group rules, and then apply for membership. It usually takes a couple days to be approved. Once in, be sure to follow the rules, or you will get booted!

Things to Discuss Before Trading Pocket Letters

Once you’ve found a potential trade partner, there are a few things you should discuss to make sure you’re both on the same page about the trade.

1. Is there a theme you’ll both be crafting on?

2. Who will mail first, or will you mail simultaneously?

3. What is the final date by which your pocket letter should be mailed?

4. Will this be a one-time or an ongoing swap?

5. Do they have any special likes or dislikes in terms of colors, patterns, etc.

6. If you plan to send food items, do they have any allergies or dislikes?

7. What are there email and mailing addresses? Any special notes about how the package should be marked?

Get clear answers to these questions. If your partner doesn’t want to pin things down, you might want to reconsider the trade.

Pocket Letter Trading Etiquette

There are some definite rules of etiquette associated with trading pocket letters. Please follow these to ensure the best possible experience for you and your trade partner!

1. Stay in communication with your trade partner throughout the entire process.

Make sure you agree on the theme, the types of goodies you’ll send, the mail-by date, and anything else that could cause a potential disagreement. Stay in touch with your partner at least until the trade is successfully completed.

2. Stick to what you agreed to.

If you agreed to make a Halloween pocket letter, then do that. If you agreed to send lots of extra goodies, then do that. Otherwise, you’ll have a very frustrated trade partner in the end!

3. Mail on time.

Meet the agreed-to mail-by date. If you can’t for some reason (illness, emergency, etc.), then communicate that as soon as you know it to your partner. Then mail out your pocket letter as soon as possible afterwards.

4. Notify and thank your partner when you receive their pocket letter.

Even if you’re sending one in return, pocket letters are gifts, and gifts should always be acknowledged in a polite way.

5. Ask before sharing photos of the pocket letter you receive.

Most pocket letter traders expect that you’ll share photos of what they send you. Some, however, don’t want their artwork shared publicly. Check with your trade partner first to find out how they feel about this before you share any photos.

Yes, Sometimes Things Go Wrong, But…

It’s a fact of life that sometimes things go wrong. I’d say that 99% of my pocket letter trades have gone perfectly. Then there’s the other 1%.

Craft swaps of any kind carry risks. Packages sometimes get lost in the mail, and occasionally a trade partner flakes on you completely. If the possibility of this bothers you, then I recommend avoiding pocket letter trades.

That said, in my opinion, the 99% of the swaps that go right far outweigh the other 1%. The creative process alone makes trading pocket letters worthwhile. Then there are the new friends you’ll make, and of course all the wonderful ‘happy mail’ you’ll get to send and receive! What’s the occasional mishap compared to that?

Above All, Have Fun!

By following the tips outlined here, you’ll both be a great trade partner and know how to find a great trade partner. Just remember as you go that trading pocket letters is all about having fun. Get creative, enjoy the process, and let yourself make some new friends who share your love of paper crafting. Above all, though, have fun making and receiving happy mail. We all need more of that!

Want More Pocket Letter Inspiration?

paper-craft-romance-pocket-letters-pinterest-board

Check out the Making Pocket Letters board that I’ve created for you on Pinterest. There are nearly 2,000 individual pocket letters included — something to inspire everyone!

Materials Used

Curious about the materials that I used today? To make it easier for you to find them, I’ve linked them below. Please note that some sponsored links are included. At no extra cost to you, your purchases through these links help support Paper Craft Romance — thank you!!! For more information about sponsored links, please read my Advertising Disclosure.


Share Your Thoughts

Do or will you make and trade pocket letters? How did or will you find your partner? What kinds of goodies do you think would be fun to send in a pocket letter? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

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If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc., or share it directly with a friend. Thanks for reading, and happy paper crafting!
article-written-by-deedee-anderson

 

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22 thoughts on “Pocket Letters – Make and Trade Happy Mail

  1. Nnanna Uma says:

    Wow! So nice!
    Growing up as an artist, I always had poeple ask the question, “can anyone learn this?” My answer surprised most people. I believe that some people are born crafty and quite talented. Yet,as with much of my life values, anyone can learn anything if he/she commits to it. Your post has simplified in a powerful way, how to make happy cards. Yes, there will be better ones depending on how crafty the person is. But, with happy cards, no one can say he/she is cut off from the “crafty fellows”. Thank you so much for sharing this. It brought good memories.
    Cheers!
    Nnanna.

    • Hi Nnanna, Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I believe that there are some who are born with an instinct for art and crafts, but everyone can learn and everyone can participate. Nobody needs to feel left out, right? 🙂

  2. These are so cute! I am an avid fan of sending personalized snail mail instead of emails or typed letters. This is my first time running into pocket letters and definitely something I will be trying out.

    I am currently in the process of starting my own etsy shop and want to create incentives for my customers. Do you think pocket letters could be a good investment?

    • Hi Daybe, Thanks so much! You’re right — personalized snail mail is definitely the best kind to send. I love that you want to take such care with your customers! I think that it depends on the kind of Etsy shop that you run, but yes, these could work really well if your customers are appreciative of arts and crafts. One variation on these that might work better for you is to use a four-pocket protector like these by Echo Park. This way you can still share something special with them, but on a smaller scale. Would love to have the link to your Etsy shop to share here!

    • Thank YOU for visiting, and for sharing the idea along, Sarah! I hope she has fun making these, and maybe she’ll rope you into trying it, too. I trade them with a few of my friends, and we’re always learning new things about each other because of these swaps. 🙂

  3. Katie says:

    Great article. I have never heard of Pocket Letters before. As I was reading it I immediately thought of my daughter and how fun that would be, but to have others out there to connect with and exchange these is awesome. Thank you for the information! 7,000 members on that FB page. This should be fun!

    • Hi Katie, I’m so thankful that I could share something new with you! Great idea to swap these with your daughter — what a great way for the two of you to stay in touch! Yes, there are definitely a LOT of members on the Pocket Letter Pals Facebook page — ha ha! That makes it a constant source of creative inspiration, and you can always find someone to trade with. I hope you have fun with making these. Maybe I’ll see you over on the Facebook page! 🙂

  4. I love exchanging pocket letters. It is such a fun way to get to know someone. It’s also a personal creative challenge to work with a 2.5 x 3.5 format when you are used to 4.25×5.5 or larger. After sending one, I couldn’t wait until time to send the next one. Currently have my thinking cap on working out a theme for one due at the end of the month. 🙂

    • I hear you, Stephanie! As soon as I traded one, I was hooked! You’re right, it is a challenge to go from a bigger card canvas, but you can also look at the whole page as one big canvas. So many different ways to approach making pocket letters, and each one a lot of fun! Funny, I have a pocket letter due at the end of the month, too. Thankfully it has a Fall theme, and there is so much to love about Fall! 🙂

  5. Hi there.
    First of all, I love the term” happy mail”. I’m sure we could all use more of this in our lives.
    I liked the way you gave a general overview first, setting out all the advantages, before going into the practicalities of how to make them.
    I am not a craft person myself – having been born with two left hands! – but my daughter, who is very crafty and dextrous, would, I know, love to do this and to exchange with her like minded friends.
    It does strike me that this creative process of working with your hands, especially if you are talented at it, must be very soothing and useful for distracting you from unwelcome thoughts. A kind of hand meditation!
    Very best wishes

    Tara

    • Hi Tara! Thanks so much for visiting! You know, as much as I craft now, I never used to think that I could either. The fun thing is that a lot of these crafts are very forgiving of those of us with two left hands. 😉 My daughters love to exchange these with their friends, so I bet yours would, too, since she is so crafty. Yes, the creative process is very soothing. Personally I think it’s not so much about talent as just about learning, and anybody can learn if they try. But it does distract the brain, and the repetitive motions can lead to an inner calm. If you want to get the same effect without actually making something, Adult coloring books are great to try. Here’s an article about Adult coloring book pages that I shared recently that can give you an idea of what I mean. Wishing you well!

  6. What a fun and great idea! I’ve never heard of doing this before, but it looks like so much fun! Really great article! Is there a chance that you have a more in depth tutorial on how to make a basic pocket letter?

  7. Oh I’m so bookmarking this Deedee!! THANK YOU so much for such a great and thorough tutorial!! I’ve seen a few of these but I’ve never seen one in person or attempted to make one. LOOOVE this one in your post – how cute! Reeeeally makes me wanna get back to crafting. xx

    • Hi Kristy, What a treat to have you visit! I’m so glad you feel inspired by this project! I’ve used your images in pocket letters before, and they are always a hit! I’d love to see you make one. 🙂

  8. KT Fit Kitty says:

    Well I found this especially interesting, Deedee! Thank you! I’ve been making pocket letters just to surprise my crafty friends and have never done a trade or swap before. I hope the recipients of my pocket letters have not felt obligated to return the favour – I think I will add this to my letter in future – I make mine just as a crafty gift!

    Your pocket letter is very cute! I love the plaid papers and fall theme! I also love how you wrapped yours – thank you for the inspiration! I appreciate your list of possible goodies to include in the pockets – you’ve given me some great ideas! I learned a lot here today – thank you!

    • I think it’s a great idea to add that to your letter — just so it’s clear that yours are a gift, free and clear. Of course, if they want to make one in return, that is awesome, too. 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words. This is one of my favorite pocket letters that I’ve ever made. So glad to give you some new ideas to try! Crafting is so much more fun when we share our ideas, isn’t it? 🙂

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