Friday, January 17, 2014

The Art of Letter Writing

Late last year, while still on my maternity leave, I took to reading the Soule Mama blog on those late night stretches with the babe.  That reading was so enjoyable and timely, and I continue to work backwards through her blog although at a slightly slower pace, now that I'm getting more sleep. You will find her blog here.

I ended up using a gift certificate from my mother-in-law to buy Amanda Soule's book The Creative Family and another similar volume called Playful Learning by Mariah Bruehl at one of the last remaining independent bookstores here in St. Louis.  (If you are a book lover and ever in St. Louis, check out Left Bank Books, they are lovely people in a lovely shop.  And thanks to my mother-in-law for the gift certificate.)

Anyway, back to the books. I've so enjoyed reading them both.  And I think that they will continue to provide inspiration for our girls as their tastes and interests evolve from year to year.  I am already feeling the need to encourage less digital entertainment for their fresh minds, and these two books are just full of ideas.

I decided to gift the small fry with a letter writing kit, inspired by Playful Learning for Christmas this last year.  It wasn't presented as a "kit" in the book, but we live in a small home with limited space to dedicate for desks and shelves and separate storage.  So a kit it became.

Let the writing begin...
I used up some of my most favorite and treasured Anna Maria Horner prints for the covers of these kits.  (I made two of them, even though our youngest is four months old.  I did this not because I'm a lunatic, but because I know that in three years when she is interested I will have long forgotten the details of this project, if not the project entirely.  This blog post might have helped, but it's faster to make things in duplicate, right?)

So what I ended up "building" was a trifold fabric folder of sorts that will accommodate, cards, envelopes, stamps, stickers and a couple well sharpened pencils.  The rough sketch below helps identify the scale of the folder and the types of pockets that were built.  In retrospect, I wish that I had taken more time to photograph the progress shots. Ah well.

Diagram and dimensions of the folder

It was fairly straightforward construction.  The outer fabric was a flat piece of printed cotton.  The inner piece had the pockets assembled on them first.  Sandwiched in the middle were three pieces of Pellon stabilizer each one the cut to the size of the appropriate panel. (I did use some muslin to hold the Pellon in place, kind of like a lining, so that the panels wouldn't slide around in final assembly.) After the pockets were attached and the Pellon framework assembled, I laid them all together and basted them. I cleaned up the edges of the "sandwich" and machine sewed a binding right sides together to the outer panel.  Then the binding was pressed out and folded to the inside with a hem, and lastly hand stitched to the interior face of the folder - enclosing the raw edges.

Inside the folder...
I stuffed the kit with large and small cards and envelopes (A2 and A7 sizes), forever stamps, fun stickers, pencils and address labels.  The book suggests pre-printing mailing labels with the addresses of grandparents, friends, cousins, etc.  I did intend to do this, but ran out of time.  And what I have found is that our girl enjoys watching us print out the addresses of her recipients onto the envelopes and dictating her return address to us for mailing.

Our girl is nearly four, and has a natural aptitude for fine-motor-type activities. She loves this kit, more so even, than I hoped she would.  Not only does she enjoy the drawing, illustrating and the practice of writing her letters, but she loves the idea of mailing off her notes and artwork to family and friends.  It has also been great reinforcement for the importance of knowing your own address. And stamps are just fancy stickers… what three year old doesn't love stickers?!?

It's been a pleasant surprise to see the enthusiasm she has for corresponding with her favorite people, and I hope that the recipients of her letters enjoy getting mail that isn't a bill or advertisement.  Letter writing is not an art that is lost quite yet in our house...


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Gail. It was a fun project… made better by our girls enthusiasm… sometimes those things are hard to predict. :)