triangle letter how-to (mail for free)

folded triangular envelopeless letter

photo: sally schneider

We recently came across a compelling blog post about letters sent home by Russian soldiers during World War II. Without access to envelopes and postcards, the soldiers folded up triangular letters that were their own package–”letter and envelope in one.” The folded format was necessary since mail needed to be reviewed by censors and couldn’t be sealed.

Although the letters are a great example of historical improvisation, we love the simple little how-to that accompanies the story – an origami-ish illustration for folding up your own triangular letter. It’s a fun, out-of-the-ordinary way to send a gift or holiday card, or just pass along a note to a friend. There’s something really satisfying about unfolding the paper and finding the letter inside; like having a friend in grade-school passing you a folded-up secret in the hallways between classes.

how to fold a triangle letter

Wondering if the U.S. Postal Service would deliver such an oddly shaped letter, we tried sending a couple. We sealed them with the stickers we use on our ‘improvised life’ stationary (which also is its own envelope)…

triangular letter sealed

They were indeed delivered, although none of the stamps were postmarked.

triangular letter opened with message

H-m-m. We imagine the triangular letter slipped through whatever stamping machinery the post office uses. So we put a sticker over the old address, re-addressed it and sent it on…

triangular letter relabeled

Who knows how many time the same letter could be sent on for free…

two triangular letters

…to make a kind of moderne chain letter…

Via Kottke

Related posts: postcardly: send a real postcard via email
sending virtual flowers and b’day cakes
postcards as tonic, fortifier and gift
magazine pages as envelopes

9 Responses to triangle letter how-to (mail for free)

  1. deborah berman 12.07.2011 at 9:25am #

    these are written in hebrew, addressed in Russian.

  2. Sally 12.07.2011 at 10:15am #

    Thanks for letting us know that; an essential piece.

  3. Catherineap 12.07.2011 at 4:02pm #

    Perhaps actually written in Yiddish?

  4. Catherineap 12.07.2011 at 6:39pm #

    The linked blog post says that some of the letters were written by an Azerbaijani soldier who wrote both in biblical Hebrew and tat, an Iranian language–fascinating!

  5. catbird 01.10.2012 at 1:05pm #

    Amazing mail hack and fascinating piece of history. My son has been watching documentaries about Russian history so I will share this post with him. Thanks!

  6. Tuaha Badar 04.10.2012 at 12:21am #

    okay i have tried out making this envelope, looks beautiful but how should i insert a letter in this.

  7. Sally 04.10.2012 at 8:59am #

    You write your letter right on one side of the paper, then fold the paper into an envelope: letter and envelope all in one!

  8. Stella 02.16.2013 at 8:09am #

    I think if the Russian would have had stickers or tape for enclosure they would have been able to fold the letter however they liked, but they used this method because it needs no enclosure. On step four you fold the flap in between the creases to form a triangle that is blank and un-creased on both sides. A similar way of “sealing” a letter without adhesives is the Japanese Musubibumi (結び文) which has inspired a whole range of objects where the image or shape of this knotted paper is repeated.

  9. lillianmarie 11.02.2013 at 2:08pm #

    Sure, you could keep mailing these until the stamps were postmarked…..but is that ethical?

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