Envelopes that become totebags.

I first came up with this design in late 2007 for Etsy, where I’ve worked for a buncha years. I was working on press kits and wanted to envelopes to be reusable in some way. We recently revisited the concept again here at Etsy Labs in Berlin (where rolls of Tyvek are much easier to get a hold of) and this time I decided to write up the tutorial so everyone could make envelope totebags, too. If you can’t find a big piece of Tyvek, I’d be interested in hearing your modifications (especially if someone can come up with a version using those free Tyvek envelope from the US Post Office!) Anyway, here it is.

You’ll need:

  • sheet of Tyvek, at least 90cm x 50cm (or make homemade Tyvek with plastic bags)
  • sewing machine and ideally a serger
  • white thread
  • clear plastic packing tape or any wide tape that tears easily by hand
  • baker’s twine, packing twine, sturdy string, etc
  • OR wide decorative tape that is not so sticky that it tears the Tyvek when removed. Test on a bit of Tyvek first!


  • Screen printing or gocco supplies (or some other permanent way to decorate your tote)

Measure one 90cm x 36cm rectangle and two long 7cm x 90cm strips of Tyvek and cut.

Fold the 7cm strips lengthwise and surge the long edge closed. These will be the straps of your bag. If you don’t have a serger you can use your sewing machine’s zig zag stitch, but a serger makes this project really simple and if you plan on making a lot of these you will definitely want to borrow one.

If you’re printing a design on your tote, measure 5-7m from the top of the larger rectangle and print just below it. This is now the “right” side of your Tyvek.

With the right side of the Tyvel facing up, sew or serge one end of a strap about 5cm in from edge. Attach the other end of the same strap about 5cm before you reach the other side. (See the second picture below.) Repeat on the bottom of your large rectangle with the second strap.

Now, fold 3cm over to wrong side and straight stitch along top edge and just above seam to secure straps. Repeat on opposite end of your rectangle.

With right sides out, fold rectangle in half so that the strap ends meet. Measure 5cm from the fold and then fold back on both sides, so that your tote-to-be looks like the diagram below. Now serge along sides A and B. You should have a rectangular pocket (see photos).

Tuck the straps inside the pocket. This is your envelope. Fill it up with whatever you want to send. Now to close it! You want to seal your envelope in a way that will allow someone to open it without destroying the tote.

Fold over the top of your envelope like the picture below. Cut a length of twine slightly wider than the envelope and secure with a few pieces of tape. You want the twine to be as close to the folded-over “opening” of your tote as possible.

Now press clear tape overtop the twine, adhering it to the Tyvek and sealing your envelope at the same time.

Trim the twine and tape to the width of your envelope but leave about 3cm of twine at one end. Notch the tape where it meets the twine. The idea is, you pull the twine and tear open the tape to get the envelope open. We put stickers instructing as much on ours. (It’s important to let your mail recipient know that their package is also a totebag!)

Method two is much easier but only works with tape that doesn’t rip your Tyvek apart.  Simply fold over the top like before, but now tape it closed with pretty tape. The recipient just pulls off the tape carefully themselves. Easy! Again, remember to add a message on the outside of your envelope explaining how to open it.

Now send all kinds of gifts in packaging that’s fully recyclable!

4 Responses to “Envelopes that become totebags.”

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS