Chinese Fortune Telling Fish

I have been writing letters for YEARS. For more than 1/2 my life now. My first pen pal came into my life at around age 12 and they still are my pen pal to this day. Since I was a teenager, I started slipping little gifts or treats in with my letters. I've always referred to these as enclosures because that is technically what they are. Years ago, in business, you'd type a letter out to someone and note at the bottom of the page if there were any enclosures. In business, that might have been a form to sign or a photograph to approve. In my world, an enclosure is something I slip in with my outgoing mail. Sometimes, I even get mail that includes an enclosure!

I really should not keep letter-writing secrets to myself and I decided to round up a few of my favorite enclosures. Some of these are things you can buy and others are things you can recreate yourself.

When I choose enclosures, I ask:

  • Is it meaningful?
  • Is it interesting?
  • Is it informative?
  • Is it unique?
  • Is it inexpensive?

If I answer yes to most of the above, it will likely end up in my outgoing mail.


My Current Enclosure: Lucky Fortune-Telling Fish

When I was a kid, I got one of these. I thought they were magic. You take a little red cello fish out of the plastic sleeve, hold it in your hand and watch it curl up.

Chinese Fortune Telling Fish

The way it curls (allegedly) reveals things about you. Super fun to send in the mail. It weighs less than a piece of paper so should not cause you any extra postage costs. Oh, and did I mention you can get 144 for $7.95?

Chinese Fortune Telling Fish


That is about 5.5 cents per fish!


Chinese Fortune Telling Fish

I buy mine from Amazon here >> 144 Fortune Teller Miracle Fish - Fortune Telling Fish But you can also find them online at places like Oriental Trading and many other sites that offer kids items. These are, after all, intended for children. :)


These just make me laugh. They are participation ribbons intended for use in schools and at sporting events and that kind of thing. I like the idea of sending ribbons to my pen pals congratulating them on their participation. In what? Up to them. These come in packs of 10 to 25, depending on where you buy, and will run you less than $10 for the pack.

Ribbon Ribbon

You can pick these up at Hobby Lobby or order from Amazon. I have done both. Here is the link to Amazon: Participation Award Value Pack Ribbons 1½" x 6¼" Be on the lookout for other ribbons beyond just my favored 'Participation' kinds. There are science fair ribbons, 1st place ribbons, 4th place ribbons, ribbons for excellence and ribbons for perfect attendance, to name a few. Amazon is a good resource and so are your local teacher stores (stores where educators can shop for classroom supplies).

Business Card Sized Items

Anything business-card sized has potential. And if you are like me, you will make things fit the standard business card size. I regularly put together something to include with my letters and order from Moo.com. You can have up to 100 different backs. I like to keep my contact information on the other side. You can also just print these yourselves on nice cardstock, and I've done that too.

My Lucky Amulets | This was something I sent all through 2010. It was a conglomeration of symbols that appealed to me. I explained what the symbol was and where it came from. I had about 5 different items (a hamsa hand, the OM symbol, etc.) and would send just one card or all 5.

Tags | I sent these out in 2011. They're simple tags that my pen pals might possibly have found a use for on gifts or otherwise.

Favorite quotes | I just took some of my favorite quotes, statements and texts and laid them out simply. I still send these out.

Mini envelope and paper

These are business card sized. I still send these out regularly. The little envelopes are made from the pages of old books. Small and sweet. You can make the envelopes yourself using an envelope template, or you can buy them (Amazon, Paper Source are good eTailers for these). Your insert doesn't have to be a blank notecard, it can be stickers, stamps, clippings or anything else that might fit inside.

Mini Art Prints

I will save public domain images that I just love and size them down, print and cut them out, round the corners and send off. If you have a pen pal that perhaps keeps a bulletin board with 'inspiration' or likes to journal or scrapbook, they would probably appreciate this.

Here are a few from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. See what I mean? Who wouldn't love getting a little print from a friend?!

Bidiversity-Heritage-Library-Birds Biodiversity-Heritage-LibraryBiodiversity-Heritage-Library-Peppers

The Biodiversity Heritage Library on Flickr is a great resource for this. Most everyone can appreciate a botanical print! Here's the link to the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Things Gathered on my Trips

I like to stop at major rest areas when I'm traveling. Many of them have free postcards, flyers or information sheets. While in West Virginia this past October, for example, their major rest stops were giving away full-color sheets describing the fall foliage you'd be seeing as you drove along the highways. It included a map of the entire state that showed which areas were in peak color at what time. Fun and free and only adds a sheet of paper's worth of weight to your envelope.

Cancelled Stamps

If you get a lot of mail like me, something really awesome to do with incoming stamps is to take them off and send them back out. I recommend putting a few inside of a small glassine envelope.


It makes it special and something people will hang on to. A #3 glassine envelope size should do the trick. You can get 100 for $4.25 cents from Amazon. Here's the link: 100 Glassine Envelopes #3 You can also find glassine envelopes at a bunch of other online retailers for about the same price, and also at paper supply shops.

Special Bracelets

You can not buy these in particular and they are probably the most special item (in my opinion) that I send through the mail. These are made by hand with a special knot and usually come with a special story explaining the tradition behind them and all of that. Sometimes, they come with a small, vintage charm originally intended for gum ball machines or a tiny, sterling silver charm.

buddha enclosure by cole imperi

Look into your own family traditions, or the traditions of your ancestors and see what you can come up with. These bracelets are nothing new, just something I dug out of the past!


Those are my favorite enclosures! And, if you've gotten one of these enclosures before, please let us know what you thought in the comments, and if you have other suggestions for enclosures, please leave a note in the comments too!

You might be interested in this post I wrote about my enclosures here. There's a bit more explanation on the bracelets there if you are interested!