A Bit about PLs: Background and Basics

Origins and Other Names for This Fun Craft

A crafter named Janet Lane takes credit for inventing the concept and the name “pocket letter.” She has a terrific website (www.pocketletters.com), and, for a fee, you can join a pen-pal service that lets you share your PLs with other PL creators. Check out her videos (free) to get all kinds of ideas. It’s almost as entertaining as watching videos of kittens doing silly stuff.

But wait…there’s more!

After the whole pocket letter phenomenon took off, crafters were finding a lot of other ways to use the trading card protectors to feature their work. The basics are all the same: nine compartments, each 2 ½” x 3 ½”, that hold all manner of creative expression.

Some call this pocket scrapbooking—use photos in some of the pockets and scrapbook papers and embellishments in the others. Many scrapbookers use a different pocket filler that is 12″ x 12″ to fit in their scrapbooks. For our purposes, however, we’ll focus on the 8½” x 11″ version.

Others use the pockets to hold artists’ trading cards (ATCs). Crafters who like to dabble in various art forms create a pieces of art on 2 ½” x 3 ½” cards made of different kinds of paper. This YouTube video from art supply store Dick Blick® explains ATCs and the papers available:

Basic Supplies 

My favorite part of any craft is going shopping for the supplies—or looking around my office, kitchen, garage, bathroom (oops, maybe not) for ideas and objects.

Trading Card Pages: These vinyl pages hold nine trading cards, 2 ½” x 3 ½”. Now they will be holding your beautiful, quirky, wonderful pocket letters!!! I have found several brands (Avery, Ultra Pro, Office Depot), and they come in packs of 10 to 100 for between $3.50 to $15.00, respectively. Super reasonable!

 

 

Cutting tools: You can just use scissors if you want. However, I found that using a cutting ruler thingie saved me a lot of time and was more precise. I like the 12″ paper trimmer by Fiskars. You can find them at any craft store—and even at my favorite place to spend too much money, Target.

 

 

 

 

Adhesives: Glue stick, glue dots, Elmer’s glue, double-sided tape, basically anything that you can use to get paper to stick to stuff and stuff to stick to paper. To get a 3-D effect for some designs, I like to use Glue Dots and Foam Adhesive pieces.

 

 

 

 

Paper: Now we can get creative! It helps to start with a theme or color palette. You can use construction paper, notebook paper, gift wrap, scrapbook paper—basically anything you can cut into the card shape and glue stuff onto. (It helps if the paper is stiff enough to be able to slide into the pocket. For that reason, I don’t recommend using toilet paper. For this.) The easiest way to get a good theme going is to find a pad of printed paper that paper crafters use for scrapbooking, cardmaking, and general paper wizardry. Each pad has its own theme or color scheme and costs from about $5.00 a pad to $6.99 and more for specialty papers.

Extras: The craft stores are filled with all kinds of embellishments. You can use buttons, stickers, washi tape, sequins, adhesive jewels and dots, lace, ribbon, etc. You are only limited by your imagination (and budget and possibly federal laws that prohibit the mailing of certain substances).

Some of the themed pads also have matching add-ons. The easiest, fastest, but not the least expensive, way to make PLs is to get a group of that kind of stuff. This can be fun—and expensively addictive. Here’s a set I used recently. (All items purchased online at www.scrapbook.com.)

         

And here’s the PL I made using some of these kinds of items (plus some other kitty items I had around):

   

So, that’s all you need to get started. Gather your papers, adhesives, cutters, stickers, tapes, and card pocket holders—we’re going to put one together in our next post! Join me, won’t you?

Spoiler alert: There’s going to be a giveaway offered in the next post. You could be a winner! Of course, you’re already a winner in so many ways, but why not add this to your list? (Oh, and be thinking of someone with whom you’d like to exchange PLs. It’s a team sport.)


 

 

 

 

What the heck is a pocket letter?

When I first heard the term “pocket letter,” I thought it might be something simple like a letter in a pocket. 

Or could it be . . . a letter ON a pocket?

I’m not seeing the craft possibilities yet. Oh, I know! It’s a letter that USED to be a pocket! I feel so smart.

Wait. What? That’s not it either? So what in the heck is this newfangled fun craft thing that so many scrapbookers are crazy about—and that has the unofficial endorsement of the United States Postal Service?*

My friend Jennifer sent me a link to a Pinterest folder: Pocket Letters. She suggested we try to make some and send them to each other. I was in Ohio and she was in Florida, so it was kind of a nice way to do a craft together—but apart—you get it.

So we did. And we agreed to photograph our PLs (we quickly created an abbreviation to keep from having to write or type the words over and over again) and to post them on Pinterest for others to share and adore. That was almost a year ago! We have had a blast. Let me show you some and give you some ideas for how to start your own #PLPenPalProject.

A Few of Our PLs

This one has a friendship theme. I made it very personal for Jennifer, the recipient. The middle row, far right pocket has samples of some washi tape I wanted to share with her. I wrapped 3-ft lengths around a piece of mylar I cut from some packaging. Good use for that mylar stuff instead of throwing it in the trash!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer sent me this one with a birds-of-a-feather theme. She included stickers for me to use (middle row, left) and some adorable feathers!

As you can see, coming up with a theme is half of the idea. Then you can have fun finding all kinds of things to add. Some themes we’ve used or seen others use include:

  • back to school
  • our home state (Ohio/Buckeyes for me!)
  • by the seashore
  • quotes about pennies, with a penny in each pocket
  • owls (whoooo doesn’t love owls???)
  • kitties (see above, but kitties)
  • fall/autumn
  • Christmas
  • patriotism–4th of July
  • summer fun
  • coffee and tea
  • sweet stuff (cupcakes, candy, etc.)
  • I could go on all day, but you get the idea. Check out the Pinterest link for tons of ideas!

Now that you can tell what PLs are, I’ll walk you through making one of your own in our next post.

P.S. Go get some baseball card protector sleeves:

 

*I made that up. But I’m sure they appreciate the increase in actual snail mail that’s hitting their inboxes—I mean, mailboxes—lately. Maybe they don’t like the lumpiness or the fancy, schmancy hand lettering on the envelopes. Hey, for 50¢ (so far, but who knows what with tariffs and such—just kidding!!!), it’s a heck of a deal to send these things. Maybe they’ll even get where they’re supposed to go–and in one piece!


 

Fun with Color

standard designer (3)

About a week ago, I spent eight hours in a classroom with twenty women. We colored. We shaded. We erased. And we did all of this with Copic® markers. When we were finished, each of us was certified as a Standard Copic Marker Designer. This means we are allowed to teach the techniques (the basics only) of using these very special markers. TEACH? Not yet. I still need a lot of practice before I feel adequate to teach anyone how to use them.

Here are a few key details:

  1. Choose the right paper. If paper is too porous, the blending can be muddy and you will use a lot more ink.
  2. This is more than coloring. This is more like painting—mixing colors, adding colors, saturating.
  3. Don’t be afraid to “mess up” the marker. They practically clean themselves!
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There’s a marker that ERASES boo boos!

Here are a few of the practice pieces I worked on.

flowergirlmouse cupmice tulip

 

Switching Crafts

If you’re like me, you enjoy doing more than one kind of craft. In the winter, I get busy with yarn and sewing crafts. In the summer, I do more outdoor projects. But all year long, I love doing papercrafts. It’s the only kind of crafting that I’ll find classes to take that help me learn how to do it better.

Last week, I went to an all-occasion card-making class. Here’s a selection of the cards I made there:

archivers cards

I’ve been on a card-making craze ever since. I decided to make several different kinds of cards and then create a box for the set as a gift for my stepmother. It all started with butterflies and went on from there. The box is a pre-made wooden one I bought at Michael’s. I covered the bottom with red felt, so it won’t scratch any surfaces. Then I cut paper pieces for the top and some flower cutouts from the Secret Garden paper collection, and matching paper for the inside bottom. On the top I attached some 3-D butterflies. Here’s a look at how it turned out:

butterfly box

Then I made 10 cards to fill the box. The cards are of all sizes and shapes and themes. I wanted her to have lots to choose from. Here are two of them:

tulips and daisies

 

When the box was full, it was ready to be given. Dear Carol loved it! I think I’ll be doing this more often for friends and family as gifts. Now she’ll have some cards to choose from when she needs to share her wishes for a happy birthday, a thank you, a thinking of you, or a note of sympathy.

box o cards

I’ll be posting lots more card-making and paper-crafting ideas over the next few weeks. Check back often for some pretty photos—and some step-by-step “how to” directions!