Paper envelopes were originally developed in China, where paper itself was invented prior to the second century BCE. Up until 1845, all envelopes were handmade, each individually cut to the appropriate shape out of a single rectangular sheet of paper. Makes you kind of impressed by the ol’ envelope doesn’t it?! In today’s digital world, the envelope is used less and less, but its functionality is hard to ignore. In honor of Valentine’s Day, which is just around the corner, we’ve created a clever, and very pretty, fabric envelope. It ties shut with a bow and can hold any number of magical missives. Plus, it can be used over and over again, which makes it a green gift alternative. We tucked in a package of flower seeds along with a special card. You can download a bouquet of eight different full-color cards – each with a unique Valentine… or any time, sentiment.
There’s a full pattern offered below as a free download. Simply assemble the two pieces and use it to cut one exterior, one lining, and one panel of interfacing. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
We selected five different scraps from our own stash for the exterior panels of our five samples. They come from the Violette collection by Amy Butler for FreeSpirit Fabrics. It’s an older collection that has always been one of our favorites, so we’ve jealousy guarded these leftover cuts. But it was time to pull them out! Their saturated colors and intricate designs were perfect for this project. If you love the look as much as we do, check out the Round & Tufted Floor Cushion we also did with the collection; it’s a great example of how to mix and match bold fabrics into one gorgeous collage.
For the best finished look, we recommend starting with a larger than absolutely necessary piece of fabric for the exterior. This will allow you to plan a great fussy cut. Keep in mind when you are cutting that what starts as the bottom will fold up to become the front of the pocket and the top curve will fold down to become the flap. It can be a little mind-bending, but just go slowly and “test fold” prior to cutting. If you are brand new to fussy cutting, we have a full tutorial you can review prior to starting the project.
We used two different weights for our exterior panels: a home décor weight and a quilting weight. The lining fabrics, both from the Ombre Metallic Confetti collection by V and Co. for Moda Fabrics are a standard quilting weight cotton. Because of the different layered weights, we also varied the interfacing in order to create a similar crisp fold across all the samples. You’ll find our interfacing suggestions in the Supplies list below.
The envelope’s closure is particularly clever. A length of ribbon on the front of the pocket threads through a buttonhole at the top of the flap. The ribbon is pulled taut and tied into a beautiful bow. We used grosgrain ribbon in bold solids, which worked well with the colorful Violette. Should you choose a more subtle fabric, a satin ribbon would be a lovely accent.
The envelope is finished with precise edgestitching. Thanks to the excellent fabric feeding system on our Janome studio machines, we never struggle with edgestitching, even when sewing through multiple layers as in this project. If you’ve never sewn on a Janome machine before, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. The power and precision are the best.
In addition to the pattern, you can also download our two sheets of pretty gift cards free of charge. They are sized to easily slip into the envelope’s pocket. We chose to include a packet of perennial flower seeds in our sample envelopes, which is certainly a gift that keeps on giving – and growing, so our cards include themes of blooming hearts and floral happiness.
There are two sheets, each with four cards. The sheets are available here as individual .PDF files, giving you the choice to print just one or both. Click the image below to download. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, which is a free program.
We’ve minimized the file size, but please be patient with the download process. In addition, make sure you have the latest version of Acrobat Reader DC, and the latest version of your printer driver. Adobe does always recommend a re-start of your computer with any update. If you are experiencing printing issues, you can also try the Print as Image option in your printer’s browser window. This option is often under the Advanced tab. You can also save the downloaded PDF to your computer and print from there. If using a home printer, glossy photo paper is a great look and has just the right stiffness to trim. There are handy crop marks printed right on the sheets.
Our Fabric Gift Envelope finishes at approximately 6⅝” wide x 4” high when closed. We tested a variety of seed packets when initially determining the size; it will fit packets up to 5.625” x 3.625”. Of course, it will fit many other gift ideas as well!
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Satin Stitch foot; optional but helpful for keeping a precise seam
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Supplies shown are for ONE Gift Envelope.
- The pattern requires a minimum of TWO 9” wide x 13” high rectangles of fabric. Depending on the size and/or direction of the motif on your chosen fabric, you will need either ¼ yard or ½ yard of fabric… or, better still, find two of your favorite coordinating scraps. We recommend downloading and assembling the pattern first, and then using it to test the yardage or scraps needed. Having a bit more fabric for a pretty fussy cut makes all the difference in the finished look.
- Scrap or ¼ yard of lightweight or mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond and Pellon Shape-Flex
NOTE: We listed both types of interfacing because it will depend on the weight of your main fabric. We used both a home décor weight fabric and a standard quilting weight fabric, pairing the Décor Bond with the quilting weight cuts and the Shape-Flex with the décor weight cuts.
- ½ yard of apx. 1” wide ribbon; we used ⅞” grosgrain ribbon
- All purpose thread to match fabric and ribbon
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Pinking shears, optional
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Pattern Downloads
- Download and print out our TWO pattern sheets: Envelope Part A and Envelope Part B, which have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each pattern page is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line. Following the arrows on the pattern pieces, butt them together (do not overlap) and tape to create the full pattern.
- From the fabric for the exterior, use the assembled pattern to fussy cut ONE panel.
NOTE: When fussy cutting, be mindful that the straight bottom end will fold up to form the front pocket and the top curve will fold down to form the front flap. Plan accordingly and do a “test fold” prior to cutting the final panel.
- From the fabric for the lining, use the assembled pattern to fussy cut ONE panel.
- Trim the pattern along the dotted stitch line. Use this trimmed pattern to cut ONE panel from the interfacing.
- Keep the ribbon as one 18” length; it will be trimmed to its final length once the envelope is complete with the contents inside and the bow tied.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the envelope panel
- Find all three elements cut from the pattern.
- Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the exterior panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all side. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Place the fused exterior panel and the plain lining panel right sides together. All edges of both layers should be flush. Pin in place.
- As shown on the drawing below, leave an approximate 3” opening along one straight side for turning. It’s important that you place this opening as shown so it will be sewn shut with the final edgestitching.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around the entire panel, locking the seam at either side of the 3” opening. This means you will be stitching along, but not on, the interfacing.
- Go slowly, especially around the upper curve to keep your seam allowance consistent.
- Press open the seam allowance all around.
- Using the pinking shears, trim around the upper curve.
- Also use the pinking shears to cut the bottom corners on the diagonal.
- The sides of the panel remain un-trimmed/pinked. And the seam allowance across the opening should be pressed back to align with the sewn seam.
NOTE: If you do not have access to pinking shears, you can cut the corners with regular scissors and grade the seams along the upper curve.
- Turn the panel right side out through the side opening. Use a long, blunt tool to smooth out the upper curve and gently square the bottom corners. A knitting needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this.
- With the panel exterior side up, press well so it is nice and flat.
Add the buttonhole, ribbon, and edgestitch to finish
- Find the trimmed paper pattern. Use it to mark the upper position of the buttonhole.
- Transfer the marking to the fabric and remove the paper pattern.
NOTE: Our marking positions are sized for a lightly filled envelope (just a card and a seed packet) and a 1” wide ribbon. If you are planning to fill your envelope with thicker items and/or have a differently sized ribbon, you may need to adjust the position of both the button hole and the ribbon. As a rule of thumb, the buttonhole should be half the width of the ribbon.
- Set up your sewing machine for a buttonhole, and stitch the vertical buttonhole at the marked point. We made a ½” buttonhole.
- Carefully cut open the buttonhole.
- Find the trimmed paper pattern. Use it to mark the lower position of the ribbon.
- Transfer the marking to the fabric and remove the paper pattern.
- Find the length of ribbon. Fold it in half to determine the exact center. At this center point, accordion fold the ribbon (fold it into thirds) to narrow the width. Pin the folded center of the ribbon at the marked point on the exterior side of the panel.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the ribbon in the top and bobbin.
- Stitch across the ribbon to secure. We recommend double or triple stitching for the best security.
- Find the paper pattern again and use it to determine both the upper flap fold line and the lower envelope fold line. Fold the flap down along the upper flap fold line and press to set a visible crease. Unfold so the crease line is visible. Fold the bottom of the panel up along the envelope fold line and pin in place. The top straight edge of the “pocket” should sit ½” below the visible crease line of the upper flap. Pin along each side of the pocket to secure.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Starting at the bottom corner of the pocket, edgestitch up along the side and then continue edgestitching around the upper curve of the flap, finishing by edgestitching along the opposite side of the pocket to the opposite bottom corner. If possible, use a lock stitch to start and end your seam for the neatest finish. If you do not have this option on your machine, leave the thread tails long and carefully knot to secure, trimming the tails close.
NOTE: Depending on the color difference between your exterior and lining fabrics, you may want to consider re-threading the machine prior to edgestitching around the flap.
- Once your envelope is filled with your gift(s) and card, to close it, bring the tails of the ribbon together and make a little fold in one corner. Insert this corner through the buttonhole.
- Grasp that folded end and gently pull the ribbon through the buttonhole.
- Continue gently pulling the ribbon through until the flap lays flat against the pocket.
- As shown above in the pretty photos within the introductions, tie the ribbon ends into a pretty bow of your desired shape and size, then trim away any excess from the ribbon tails.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Notes: Debbie Guild