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

We’ve been told that, because of their odd size, additional postage might be required…

two triangular letters

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

18 replies on “triangle letter how-to

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

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

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

  5. 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.

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

  7. Love this article. Folding notes is the inspiration for Lockr app (www.facebook.com/lockrapp) – it’s a new spin on passing notes. I want to bring the passing notes experience to today’s generation and a nostalgic experience to my generation 🙂

  8. as a postal employee, I’m surprised it wasn’t hand cancelled. We have enough loss of first class mail. for you to take advantage of the fact that the stamp wasn’t cancelled is dishonest.

  9. This is a lovely way to communicate. I just folded a note that I will now unfold, decorate, and write on. My almost-6-year-old great niece will love getting this in the mail. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Please do not take advantage of an valuable service like the USPS by re-using uncancelled stamps. Also, be aware that the technology to add invisible cancels with black-light ink does exist . Your stamps may be cancelled after all.

  11. I have sent several of these.

    One thing to note is that while a regular forever stamp will often be acceptable because of the weight (a single sheet of paper), the atypical shape has made some post offices return it to me for an additional ounce of postage – similar to what you have to pay for a square envelope.

  12. It is illegal to reuse a postage stamp, whether it has been cancelled or not. (Removing a stamp from an envelope that has not been used is ok).

    And, there are special rates (and special stamps) for items that must be hand-cancelled,as this atypical envelope size and shape requires.

  13. As a Postal Worker, there is so much I want to say! But I will leave it at, shame on you for being dishonest.

  14. Nadine, Thank you for your comment. I hadn’t thought of it as “being dishonest”, just a report of what happened when we sent this unusual envelope through the mail. But I see that the title emphasizes the possible reuse of a stamp, so I have deleted it.

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