Sunday, 18 February 2018

Lucky Red Envelopes for Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year! It was a chilly but clear day in Vancouver today, so we bundled up the kids and headed downtown to enjoy the annual Chinese New Year parade. My daughter is even famous now! Okay, not quite, but we were amused to see that she made the paper. We spotted the little pompom of her hat right away, and there she was, watching the parade from daddy's shoulders!

Probably one of the highlights of the parade for her was the fact that everyone who went by was handing out red envelopes (lai see or hongbao) to the bystanders. These red packets are meant to bring good luck and are given during holidays and special occasions. My daughter was very excited to collect a few, and to find a "lucky" red candy in each! (Yes, usually they contain money, but I'm thinking that would have significantly increased the budget of the parade!)

If you've never had one of these "lucky" candies, they are hard candies that come in bright red and gold wrappers and taste a bit like strawberries. They're very common around the lunar new year and, like the red envelopes, are given to bring good fortune. Unfortunately, as she's only two, we still don't let my daughter have hard candies. Starting the new year with a trip to the hospital is very bad luck, after all! Instead, I switched out the lucky red candies for some strawberry and lychee flavoured gummies that I bought in a little market in Chinatown on our way back from the parade. I'm not sure if they were as lucky as the more traditional ones, but I can say that they were thoroughly enjoyed!

The whole thing got me thinking. Chinese New Year is a big celebration in our city, and I like that my kids get to enjoy it and learn about another culture. We loved the parade, but while our daughter might be old enough for a hard candy by next year, our little guy will be 18 months and definitely won't be. I want to be ready next year with my own lucky red envelope for each of my kids and maybe a few family friends, so I decided to make my own! I used red cardstock, gold foiled paper and some gold ribbon to create the envelopes, and I'm really happy with how they turned out. I can't wait to fill them with a crisp bill or a chocolate coin or two next year and give them away!

Here's the full tutorial, but promise me you'll excuse the awful quality of the photos. I tend to do most of my crafting at night after the kids are in bed, and my camera was not playing nicely with the red colour of the cardstock in that lighting.

First off, you'll need a piece of red cardstock. For a simple envelope of the same dimensions you could, of course, use whatever colour you like! If you're going for a lucky envelope for the lunar new year, though, it needs to be red, as that's what makes it lucky.

Cut your cardstock to 7.5" by 8.5" and place it on a scoring tool with the short side up. Score at 0.5" and 4", then rotate the cardstock 90 degrees and score at 0.5".

Rotate the cardstock so the three narrow rectangles are on the bottom and cut away the outside two, as shown in the picture above. Notch the middle skinny rectangle very slightly, and then fold and burnish all your score lines.

To create a circular flap for the envelope, you'll need a die cutting machine and a circle die just a little wider than your envelope. If you have a die with a diameter of around 4" that would be just about right, but anything close would probably work.

Fold your cardstock along the score lines and place the circle die just below the top edge. You want to make sure the circle is a little wider than your cardstock. Center it as best you can by eye ... or you can measure, if you want. I just eyeballed it!

Now to create the circle flap rather than cutting out the whole circle, we want to do a partial die cut. That means that when you sandwich the die and the cardstock between your cutting plates, some of the die and the cardstock will be outside the plates. You want the plates to sandwich from the top to roughly the middle of the circle. As long as the edge of the cutting plate stops somewhere in the zone where the metal die is hanging over the edge of the cardstock, you'll be fine. This is also why it helps that the circle is slightly bigger than the width of our cardstock, since it means you don't have to be 100% precise.

When you unfold your paper after running it through your diecutting machine, it will look like this:

Use a paper trimmer or a ruler and scissors or a craft knife to cut away the left semicircular flap. You'll also want to cut away the top of that right narrow flap, angling down. Once you're done, it will look like this:

(Sorry, I turned my paper upside down before I snapped the picture. Hopefully that doesn't confuse you too much! If you have any questions, just email me and I'll try to clarify.)

Now you're almost there! All that's left is to decorate your envelope however you see fit, and then put it together with some adhesive.

Since I wanted to keep with the red and gold colours, I diecut shapes from some gold foil. I didn't have any dies specific to the Chinese New Year, but I looked through my collection and found a few that I thought would work.I used some flower and leaf dies for the envelope for my daughter, and I managed to find some ornament dies from a Christmas set that looked a bit like Chinese lanterns, though I still haven't finished putting together his envelope. (You'll understand why in a minute!)

Here's a photo of all of my little flower and leaf images all arranged and ready to glue down. I spent a long time figuring out how I wanted to arrange them, and right after I snapped this pic I went ahead and glued them down.

And then I realized I'd made a mistake. A big mistake.

Are you thinking that the dimensions of the envelope look a little strange in that last photo? If so, you're on the right track. And if I'd noticed it too, I'd have saved myself a lot of time and a lot of trouble! Yeah, that's not my envelope. Remember when we cut down a piece of 8.5" by 11" cardstock to get our 7.5" by 8.5" piece?

Yup. That's my piece of leftover 3.5" by 8.5" cardstock. And by the time I realized it, I'd glued every last piece down. I'm an idiot! And that's also why this blog post was late.

Well, there was nothing to do but pull them all up again. I managed to save most of my gold foil pieces and only had to recut a few. Then I had to arrange them all again on the actual envelope, glue them down again, and put the finishing touches on my project.

I decided to create a decorative flap to finish things off. Using the same circle die that I'd used to diecut the circular flap, I cut two semicircles of foil and glued one to the outside and one to the inside.

I like the effect of the patterned foil, but I don't know that I'd do this again. It was hard to get a neat edge, and eventually I decided to use a little gold ribbon to cover that edge up. There was no way I was abandoning the project at that point, so I needed a creative way to hide my mistake!

I definitely kicked myself for making that huge mistake in the middle, but overall I'm pleased with the finished envelope and I look forward to using it next year. I'm not quite ready to look at red cardstock or gold foil again just yet, but when I'm ready I'll put together the version with the lanterns for my son and share that as well. But for now, here's one last look at the finished project:

Gong hei fat choy, everyone! I hope the Year of the Dog brings you all lots of luck!

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