String and washer envelopes

The string and washer is perhaps the oldest method of sealing an envelope, but it is also an embodiment of modern times because it allows almost permanent recycling.

Two fundamentals of attachment, a piece of string and a washer, are combined to form a seal that can be opened and closed hundreds, if not thousands, of times, with very little wear. A locking union that offers security, sustainability and, bizarrely, some beauty. Even Vogue magazine thinks they’re a fashion statement. They asked us to produce this very type of envelope for one of their campaigns, read In Vogue.

String and washer as a type of envelope has been a staple of our production facility at Baddeley Brothers for more than a hundred years.

And typically, such fasteners were very common before gum became the norm for envelopes.

But string and washer envelopes have a very different benefit, it can be reused repeatedly. Also, aided by the vast labelling opportunities of two sides of a blank envelope.

Most envelopes get used once then thrown away, but what if you’re sending something that needs to be kept for regular use, or needs to be passed on to someone else, putting it in a new envelope would be wasteful, especially if it has a long list of people to visit, and an audit trail of past recipients.

Remember, not everything we send is disposable. The nature of this fastener normally comes with stronger envelopes that also provide longevity. There’s no point in being left with a string and washer while everything else has fallen to bits.

Is it really string and washer?

String conjures up various connotations depending on context. The roughness and strength inherent in the natural product used by farmers to tie up bales is somewhat thicker and cruder than the fine weave we’re talking about here. Technically, we’re really talking about a thread. Finely manufactured, sometimes coloured and always graceful to match the exclusivity of the product it is fastening.

Is ‘rivet and button’ the same thing?

We call it string and washer. Some people call it rivet and button, or a combination. Sometimes they’re called ‘ties’ even though there’s no knot.

Why use string in a world of gum?

String and washer envelopes have several benefits over gummed variety.

They’re reusable. Gum sticks fast and you need to tear the paper to gain entry. That’s secure, but it destroys the envelope.

Re-usable fastenings mean that envelopes have a much longer lifetime. In a world where we are encouraged to recycle, it’s the perfect reusable packaging.

However, it’s not always about recycling. Envelopes can carry notes about the contents, more documents or content can be added resealed and re-sent, not necessarily through the post but will come onto that in a minute.

Secondly, it doesn’t need moisture to work. Some people hate licking things, especially in the 2020s. And there’s another bonus, no possibility of cutting your tongue.

And thirdly, no chemicals.

It’s a marvel of engineering

Despite its simplicity, the string and washer locks as tight as a nut. Washers are usually, although not always,  made of card and riveted with an eyelet. The washer doesn’t spin so there’s no movement. All the holding power comes from the string, creating friction firstly against the rivet where two papers meet, then against itself in further loops. String has an inherent gripping property that makes it so versatile. If it holds a liner in the dock, it’ll hold your bits of paper in an envelope.

It’s beautiful

Today, good looks are the principal reason people like string and washer – it exudes luxury. The traditional functional manilla envelope has become a brightly-coloured piece of art. Of course, it’s a little more expensive than gum, but that’s the beauty of breaking the mould in your communications. It makes people stop and appreciate your message.

And it’s a keeper

Your customers won’t be throwing these away, not just because they’re strong, resilient and reusable, but because they’re beautiful. Even if they throw away the content, they’ll repurpose it (Tip: print your logo on them).

No strings attached!

And because we have the technology to add a washer, we can also turn our hand to rivets, eyelets and plain punched holes. We do this for all sorts of tags and decorations that add that ‘little extra touch’.

It’s got the feels

The string and washer has a tactile feel. People can’t resist looping the string around the washers, and then there’s the psychology of how you loop it. Do you prefer the oval racetrack or a figure of eight?

That’s got you wondering, hasn’t it?