Firstly let me tell you how over the moon I am to have my first pen pal!
Secondly let me tell you how afraid I am that what I’ve put together isn’t pretty enough, or interesting, or creative enough to actually send someone!
What is it about old fashioned snail mail that so many people around the world find alluring? Why is it, in a time where it is so easy to jump online and sent a text or email, are so many people choosing to pour in their efforts, creativity and time into a hand written letter?
Well really, it’s just that! Someone, possibly across the world, has chosen to switch off from the virtual world and sit down to create something personal and precious just for you. And when the time comes for you to respond, there is an opportunity to create something fun, show-case your talents and share your love for paper and craft accessories.
But I can’t deny, being the first to send something, combined with it being my first snail mail creation, can be a little nerve wrecking. I spent some time on Youtube and scrolling through Pinterest, and saw that even though i’m not at the level of those amazing artists (no other word would do) there were some common tips that I could put in place and share with you.
Stalk your new pen-pal!
Ok, semi- stalk them. Nothing creepy right? Have a look around on the social media platform you’re friends on and pay attention to their style and aesthetic, any hobbies they feature on there, any personal details (such as being cat or dog people or planning a trip) and find a way to incorporate that into your letter details.
Are they a modern minimalist? Have a love of shabby chic? Prefer bright and colorful? Take your cue from them but remember to show your personality as well. It’s a balance between the two.
Choose a theme
It’s easy to want all the themes, a little monochrome; a touch of rose garden; a tropical oasis, but this will all break your continuity and will make for a confusing arrangement. It doesn’t have to be a strict theme, but I would suggest choosing colors that work well and picking a few key features that guide you on what you can include in your happy mail.
For my first, I chose to go with black, gold and floral to tie in together. As a novice, I knew I wouldn’t have enough bits and pieces to create something beautiful with a firm theme. So I was a little more flexible.
Pay attention to the details
Whatever you choose to add, and how ever you choose to put it together, remember to pay attention to the little details. The effort you put in to make each part of the mail special, in it’s own right, really counts towards the “happy” in happy mail. We are all visual creatures and it’s the little details that shows how much care and time you’ve put in for your pen pal.
Little things like a tiny pocket of confetti perhaps? Put on your favourite show, or playlist and punch punch punch. Punch until you can punch no more. And while you punch holes into your colored paper, contemplate life. Contemplate pain. Wonder if you will ever re-gain feeling in your palm again (fyi don’t panic – i did!).
I chose origami paper, for lighter confetti, mixed with glitter cardstock, for added dimension. I washi-taped the opening and added a cute sticker!
I also added some pattern paper to the back of gift cards and laminated them together for my washi samples; added twine to keep little envelopes together, created a little vellum pocket for goodies and, finally, added silver and gold doilies to keep it all together. It’s the details.
Add little touches
It’s your choice if you want to add a little extra with your letter. I chose to add a few of my favourite (flat) things that were from Australian stores and likely not something my pen pal may already have.
I chose to include:
Samples of washi tape
Icon stickers I can’t live without
Vellum and die cut ephemera
A few paperclips
Heart-shaped marble stickers
3D flower sticker sheet.
And a mail tag (a few detailed questions for your pal to answer)
Other great ideas I came across were:
Hot/Cold beverage sachets
Home-made stickers, paperclips, drawing and doodles, banners and tags
The heart of your mail
Pour yourself a cup of yumminess, fix up a snack, and really take the time when writing out your letter. Don’t feel you have to disclose more than you’re comfortable with, but keep open to the possibility that you and your pal will become good friends. Approach writing the letter with the same enthusiasm and effort as you would a close friend. Tell them a little about yourself, your interests, give them insight into who you are as a whole and allow them to find things in common with you. You can tell them about your day, and even place them in the moment with you by describing where you are and what you’re doing.
Vague, superficial communication is as obvious in a letter as it is in text or face to face, so show genuine interest in getting to know the other person with specific questions and interesting content.
One of the ideas posted on a Facebook pen pal group I’m part of was a mail tag that you send your pal with questions for them to answer. This is great if they get stuck while replying, and shows that you’re interested in getting to know more about them.
Put it all together
And there you have it! Now just to put it all together, tie it in with some more decoration such as pegs, paperclips, twine, doilies, plastic folders, cardboard wrap…whatever you’ve chosen to help keep it altogether.
Don’t forget you can decorate the envelope as well! You can washi it, draw and paint all over it, stamp on it (as i did) or keep it simple with a few stickers. So many possibilities! Just make sure the address is still clearly visible.
Make sure you check postage guidelines about weight and size (especially know the weight/cost), prohibited items, and how to clearly address the envelope. You may also choose to send it with a tracking number, it will likely add to the cost but it gives peace of mind.
I hope you enjoy the process as much as I do, and if you aren’t already part of this amazing snail-mail community then please join me and we can work it out together!
What are your favourite letter writing tips?