A Note About Postage

Posted by on January 6, 2010 in blocks | 4 comments

I walked to the Post Office yesterday to mail my Polka Dot blocks to Rho and Ginny. I was pretty confident that I’d added enough postage–I sent four 6.5 inch blocks to each of them and I figured them to be a little more than the one ounce limit for a first class “letter” in the US. I knew that the envelopes I use (“number 11” size) are the maximum size allowed before it becomes an “large envelope” (with higher rates), so as long as I had pressed the blocks flat enough inside the letter to keep it thin enough to be considered a letter by the USPS, that I’d be able to send it with “letter” postage and not the more expensive parcel rates.

Because I had the time to go to the post office (and stand in what is often a long line in downtown Dallas–and it was a very long line yesterday), I made the trip, just to make sure that the postage I put on the envelopes was sufficient. As it turned out, my envelopes were thin enough to be considered “letters” and I had put a little more postage than I needed on the envelopes . . . but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had turned out the other way and, for me, it was worth the trip. Especially this year, when the blocks will NOT be the same size/weight each month, envelopes containing the same number of blocks will weigh different amounts.

As I said in the e-mail that went out with the December mailing info, our winners are receiving more and more of their blocks postage due. That’s why I am asking everyone to be sure the postage they are putting on their blocks is sufficient.

I appreciate that everyone doesn’t have the time or easy access to a Post Office as I do, at least right now. But everyone does have access to the USPS size limits and postal rates for First Class Mail.

If you have a standard size/type envelope that you are using for your blocks and it’s not a standard business envelope (#10 or #11) I think it’s worth at least one trip to the Post Office to ask the clerk to measure it against their template for size and to slide it through the slot in the template to measure for thickness so that you can see for yourself if you’re within the limits for standard first class postage or if you should be using the oversize rates. When I was making/swapping postcards, this experience was eye-opening for me.

Sometimes some blocks have been charged the “non-machinable” surcharge, because they don’t have a flat surface. In my experience, if you use the heavier brown kraft paper envelopes, they weigh a little more, but are less likely to be lumpy, if you make your blocks as flat as possible. Other people use lighter weight envelopes and fold their blocks inside a sheet of paper, to help create a smooth surface. You can see a couple examples of how to pack your blocks in the post Mailing Tips.

As I said in my email, when the blocks arrive postage due, it takes some of the joy out of winning for our winners. Please take a minute to imagine how you might feel if you won, but had to pay postage for too many of the blocks that came to you and please be sure that you aren’t responsible for creating that feeling in others.


Ps. I know that most of this information is only useful to those within the US, but I trust that our International quilters can find the guidelines that apply to them for their own country, too.


  1. I use usps.com and "calculate postage" I have a kitchen scale that I weigh the envelopes on, and that helps. I've also been told at the post office that any envelope as thick as the kraft envelopes with build-in bubble-wrap is considered a 1st class package. To be safe I usually add enough postage for the 1st class package. (Usually just over a dollar) I hope that if any of my blocks arrive with postage due, that the reciever would let me know!

  2. Kristin, if the winners let me know that a package has arrived postage due, I pass the info on to the senders. One of the our November winners received three of her squishies postage due and didn't mention it until the third one arrived with $.95 due. (She didn't remember who the other two quilters were and it wasn't a lot of $$).

    Envelopes must be quite thin or they will be considered to be a parcel and the rates go up.

    There's no really easy way to compensate for the postage if your blocks arrive postage due because in many cases, it would cost you more to mail the difference to the winners than the actual postage due. That's why I thought it was worth asking everyone to recheck what they're doing to make sure their blocks arrive without a ripple.

    It's also worth noting that not all Post Offices are as stringent about the rules. Unfortunately, that can mean that a postal employee that handles the mail between you and the winners could notice that there isn't enough postage on your envelope. Developing an awareness of the rules and asking a postal clerk to double check yourenvelope size/postage can help you make sure.

  3. I find that the postage and other rules really vary depending on who the postal clerk is! Most of them tell me that I don't need custom forms for anything small and under 1 pound, but the last time I mailed blocks overseas the clerk INSISTED on having the form. (I think that was the package for Trudi which hasn't arrived after a month!)

  4. Julie, you're absolutely right. In the US, what you'll get told about postage can vary from clerk to clerk within the same Post Office and definitely from PO to PO. As long as we all are making our BEST EFFORT, armed with the information about envelope sizes and postal rates, I think the postage due problem will be infrequent.

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