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.
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.
Some examples of possible pocket letter themes include:
- 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.
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:
- (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!
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.
Lay the card protector on your work surface. Then set one pocket letter card on top of each pocket.
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.
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.
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.
5. Doodle on your cards with gel pens or fine tip markers to create accents and movement lines.
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.
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.
Examples of goodies that mail well include:
- Small die cut and/or punched shapes
- 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
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.
Next, I wrap a 3- x 10-inch paper band around the first sheet 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!
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?
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!
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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