MA madness

The birds are singing. I’ve been up all night. Oops.

Okay, here’s an intro into the wonderful world of mailart. The only barrier to how far you take it is your own imagination. MA is fun – I use some of mine to hold things like needles or threads, and others are diplayed purely for their artistic beauty. They’re fun to receive and fun to send. What’s not to like?

As mentioned in my introduction a few weeks ago, the secret to a really well-made MA is measurement: Take the time to measure more than once. A stitched “border” such as my every-other-stitch squares works well to keep your project aligned and avoid horrors such as this:

If you do wind up with non-matching sides or corners, a mutitude of errors can be hidden under a simple ribbon or other decoration.

To begin the assembly process, gather your materials. Here I have my stitched piece, my lining fabric, two pieces of interfacing, fusible interfacing such as is used in curtain hems, my iron, pins, and scissors.

Note that you do not have to use a lining material. It adds extra stability and makes the envelope prettier, but is by no means necessary. However, skipping the lining means you do need to use a fairly sturdy and flexible interfacing. The cotton one I have here works well for that. On the other hand, you don’t have to use interfacing, but a fabric envelope without any structure or support is a very floppy thing.

To insure that your stitched piece is cut evenly, which will save you many headaches later on, use the pulled-thread method to create a straight cutting line. I counted out 4 double stitches (over-two, which would be 8 single stitches) from the outside of my design. (Now you see where those carefully marked borders come in handy!)

Iron one piece of your interfacing on the wrong side of your stitched piece and the other piece of interfacing to the wrong side of your lining fabric. Follow the procedure given for your interfacing – for the medium-weight cotton interfacing I’m using here, I need a very damp cloth, highest iron setting, and I hold the iron to the count of ten. (Note that because most interfacing calls for a very hot iron, you should not have anything attached that could melt, such a decorative buttons!) Trim any excess. Now is a good time to attach any decorative buttons or the like.

Finger press (or very carefully use your iron) the seams and folds. If you are doing full hand-finishing and you feel picky, miter your corners. ( I rarely feel that picky LOL!) Mitering also helps keep the MA from going off in one direction or another. Any flopsy bits, like my lace, should be tacked down, too.

Once your seams are finger-pressed, you may opt to use that fusible curtain interacing to hold them securely in place. Be careful – a mishap here will secure your fold over in the *wrong* place! Also be careful not to melt the interface onto your iron. (Rubbing the hot iron over a rough towel will take that goop off, I’ve learned.)

Before you attach the lining, make sure any last buttons or loops are attached (such as for closure of the envelope flap). This keeps the MA a lot neater than a last minute stitch-on jobbie. I’m not using buttons to close this MA because it has a long way to go and loosely stitching the sides closed is a bit safer for the long haul.

You can also use that fusible interfacing (which I really like, can you tell??) to affix your lining to your stitched piece. Whether you use interfacing or good ol’thread, the premise is the same. Pin the wrong sides together. If you are using the interface method, unpin one side at a time to iron the interfacing in. Be careful – you can accidently fix it in the wrong place. If you are stitching, … stitch!

If you’re using a machine, you should instead pin the right sides together and carefully sew around the border, as if you were making a pocket. Leave room to turn the envelope right-side-out and hand-finish that small opening.

Now it’s time to stitch up the sides of your envelope! A simple whip stitch works well and is easy, even at 4 am.

Go ahead, stuff it full of love – and make someone’s day!

Questions – especially if I typed something here that makes sense only to my sleep-deprived brain – are welcome. I will answer them all after school. 😉

All the pictures are clickable for a larger view.


Mail Art Links

Thanks Barbara for kicking off this wonderful tutorial – I’m looking forward to seeing the results 🙂  In case anyone wants any further ideas for designs/layouts, or just wants to drool over some eye candy, here are a couple of links for you to galleries:

AccroStitch – scroll down the left-hand side to “La galerie des enveloppes brodées et ses rondes” … there are pages and pages of finished mail art envelopes to drool over 🙂

Veronique Million – picturetrail album

Liliankok – webshots album

Aniza’s album – an alternative method of making the mail art envelopes

I thought I had a few others bookmarked, but can’t find them … but that should keep you busy for a while.  If anyone else has some links to share, please leave a comment with the link, and I’ll add them to the list 😀

Here are some more from a mail art exchange I was part of last year – there were only three of us in the exchange, but the mail art was beautiful 🙂

AnneSMailart-01BMailart for Zohrah (back) To Zohrah from Anne

MailArtExchange-SBEBB-070606_16B To Aniza from Zohrah

maforanneSJune52006 To Anne from Aniza

starting a mailart envelope

Here’s a little  heads-up for those who are interested in following the MA tutorial I’ll be offering in two weeks’ time.

For a larger MA with a finished size of approximately 22×11 cm (8.6×4.3 inches), you’ll need:

  • linen measuring 26 cm by 32 cm (9 by 12.6 inches)
    This corresponds to approximately 100 stitches wide by 185 stitches long on 28 count linen.

How you place your design is obviously up to you. Some people prefer to leave the address side of the envelope nearly empty, other than the address, and to concentrate the design on the flap-side. The envelope that I’m making for this tutorial will have small designs on the address side and a larger design on the flap-side. Choose a design that won’t be cramped in the stitching area.

A few important points to bear in mind if you decide to start your stitching now:

  • Measure twice, and then measure again. I’ve put basting lines along the three “sides” of the envelope (the adress side, the flap, and the side under the flap).
  • Your MA will be folded … like an envelope. LOL. That sounds simple, but it means part of your stitching will be ‘upside down’ in comparison to the other parts. Play with your linen a bit and make sure you’re aware of which part of the cloth corresponds to which part of the envelope to avoid frustrating mistakes later.
  • There are countless possible variations on an MA – which is a great part of their charm – so don’t hesitate to get creative. The only rules apply to the address-side of your envelope – you must follow the postal regulations for placement of ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses and where the stamp goes. You may want to check with your local post office to see if there are other restrictions – I’ve been told that in some Far Eastern countries, the MA can only be done on white or ivory.

To give you a few ideas, here are some of the MAs I’ve done in the past (click for a larger image). Search around online and you’ll find lots of others! There is also an excellent article with charts in this month’s issue of The Gift of Stitching.

*** Edited to add: This is assuming approximately 2 cm seams on all sides. ****