When I was fourteen I met one of my dearest friends – Carrie – on a family holiday in Florida. Sadly, she lived in Michigan and I lived on the Isle of Wight, but we became such firm buddies in the week that we spent on Cocoa Beach that we decided to stay in touch. Turned out we were both prolific letter writers, and in the 25 years since have visited each other many times; Carrie even came all the way across the Atlantic for my wedding 11 years ago.
But as a digital age dawned the letter writing slowed down. We experimented with emails and that worked for a while, but we soon got lazy, particularly with the advent of Facebook, and, safe in the knowledge that we knew what was going on in each other’s lives, the writing eventually stopped.
Just recently though, I’ve got more into having actual physical stuff you can hold in your hands again - we bought a record player and my husband makes a photo annual each year – and this includes writing letters. Spurred on by finding all my letters from Carrie in a loft clear-out (I also found letters from all sorts of other people, including one from the TV show Blue Peter and a Valentine’s card from a budgie called Billy, but that’s a whole other story) I decided to sit down and write to her. And now that it's National Stationery Week, I had even more reason to turn back to paper.
Weird things that happen when you start writing letters again: 1) your hand aches like you wouldn’t believe 2) suddenly the letterbox may bring more joy than bills and take-away menus 3) you realise you have no decent pens or nice paper to write on. Luckily, I’ve done some research on point three, and here’s everything you need to know if you’re also embarking on the lost art of letter writing.
Paper by Paperless Post’s Liberty Collaboration
As the name suggests, Paperless Post started as a way of sending beautiful invitations digitally when the founder, James, was organising his 21st birthday party. Seven years on, and following requests from its users, it this week launched Paper by Paperless Post in the UK – a real life hold-in-your-hand version of the same customised cards and envelopes. And if that wasn’t good enough, they’ve also collaborated with Liberty to use its stunning archive of prints. It’s enough to make me want to get married again.
Liberty for Paperless Post, from 75p for paper, and free for online designs, paperlesspost.com
Kikik K’s Pen Pal Kit
This adorable kit, complete with illustrated paper and stickers, will appeal to the Snapchat generation, but even at pushing 40 I’m loving it too (£12, kikki-k.com). Kiki K is also an excellent stop-off for ‘good pens’ as I like to call them; that’s rollerball styles that really make the effort of flexing your underused hand muscles a right pleasure.
Stickers and LOADS more from Stickerstack
When all you can find is an A4 sheet of foolscap, pimp it up with some stickers from Stickerstack. I also recommend this store for all the Washi tape you could ever wish for as well as great writing paper, like this monochrome set (£7, stickerstack.co.uk)
Rifle Paper Co legal notepaper
There’s nothing more annoying than when you buy a cute writing set but run out of paper quicker than envelopes. A great trick Carrie taught me is to open on the nice matchy-matchy paper, and stick in an extra sheet of something cheaper if you have too much to say to fit. I love this legal paper from cult US stationery brand Rifle Paper Co (£6.50, papermash.co.uk), and the blue graph paper pads by the same brand (£6.80, foxandstar.co.uk).
Anyway, I wrote that letter to Carrie and she was so excited she replied by return of post. Now it’s my turn again…because there’s nothing quite like receiving a letter written by a friend on the other side of the world.