Originally, I thought I would write a nice little post about shipping via the US Postal Service. What to do, what not to do. Then I realized, there is quite a lot of information to share, and it is too much for one sitting.
Today we are going to talk about the USPS Flat Rate Envelope, or FRE. It sounds like a simple thing, until you realize there is more than ONE FRE!
There are actually three different mailers that are all variations of the FRE.
First is the original – THE Flat Rate Envelope.
For years, this was the only option for FRE mailing. I have stuffed all kinds of things in these over the years – yards of fabric, items of clothing, packs of snaps, patterns, lots of things that USPS probably never intended these envelopes to be used for. But, when they first came out, the single rule was that whatever was in there had to fit in such a way that the closure flap could meet in the proper place on the front of the envelope to close. If you wanted to put half a roll of tape on it to reinforce the corners or keep the whole thing from bursting, no one at my post office complained.
Next came the LEGAL size FRE.
It seems that people actually did use the original FREs for their intended purpose of shipping documents quickly. Those sending legal contracts or other oversized pages had a need for a slightly larger envelope to accommodate those things, so the legal size FREs were introduced, with a slightly higher shipping cost. For those of us using the original FREs for other things (like fabric!), these legal size envelopes offered a little more room.
But, these paperboard mailers were not really meant for fabric. Sure, we got it in there, but often the envelopes would arrive torn and sometimes their contents would get dirty or even damaged as a result. Here is a FRE I received recently. It did not even travel terribly far.
The machines used to process the mailers were expecting them to be flat. When they weren’t, things did not always end well.
The solution: the PADDED FRE.
The padded FRE, or PFRE as it is commonly known, arrived to accommodate all those odd shaped things we had been previously shoving into the original FREs. When they first came out, they had a papery outer and bubble mailer inner. The latest version has a more plastic-y polymailer type outer and bubble mailer inner. They are much more durable than the paper coated outer was.
Why does this all matter?
Even though they are all Flat Rate Envelopes, the rate is not the same.
The original FRE is the least expensive, currently shipping for $5.60 to any US destination from your local post office. The others cost more. And, if you are shipping through PayPal (but not for an eBay purchase), only the original FRE option is available there.
To ship these packages, you will want to use the shipping service on USPS.com. It is easy and free to create an account there. Plus, you will want an account anyway for what I’m going to tell you in a moment. (How exciting!)
When you ship through USPS.com, you will see these flat rate options:
Notice that the original FRE is still the least expensive option. This means, if you put the original FRE postage on a legal or padded FRE, you are sending an item with insufficient postage. You risk it arriving at the destination with postage due, or possibly coming back to you for insufficient postage. If you are selling something, do you really want to take the chance that your customer’s package arrives to them postage due? (No, you do not!)
It would be easier to print these labels from PayPal. Some people have said that you can print from PayPal using the FRE option and then add on stamps to make up the difference. Since I rarely have stamps, let alone the exact amount I would need, I ship through USPS’s website. When shipping through USPS, you can still pay with PayPal, so that is nice.
Sometimes I hear comments that they should all be the same rate. And of course, those folks usually want the rate to be the cheapest rate. (Who wouldn’t!) But, it makes sense that the padded mailers have a higher shipping charge because they are a more expensive product to produce. The paperboard mailers work fine for their original purpose of shipping documents. But even the current version of the original FRE seems to be more flimsy than the original paperboard that was used when the FREs first came out.
The other thing you want a USPS account for is ordering shipping supplies. If you ship using USPS Priority Mail, the boxes and mailers are included in the shipping price. If you do a lot of shipping, the website will let you order 6 packs of 15 padded FREs. If you have a smart phone or iPad, you can install the USPS mobile app and it will allow you to order 100 padded FREs at a time. It is only 10 more, but if you know you will need them, might as well order them. You can order as few as 5 envelopes at a time. USPS retail locations typically do not stock the padded FREs, so you do need to plan ahead a bit if you want to use them.
You do not have to be a business owner to order shipping supplies. So, if you just want a more economical way to ship something to your friend across the country, get yourself a 5 pack to have on hand.
I was able to catch Bonnie from Fishsticks Designs for a few minutes, and I have to tell you, she was so nice!
Here are some of the cute patterns from her Market exhibit.
This is the new SeeSaw Dress, isn’t it cute?
In the center of this photo is the Playhouse Dress and the model on the table is showing off the Buttons and Buckles Overalls. See the Katie J. Jumper by the chair? And did you notice the table? It is a wooden ironing board. What a great display idea!
Here’s the Everyday Camp Shirt, The Sunshine and Sandals Shirtdress in the middle, and The Sand and Sidewalk Boardshorts on the right. Those last two are brand new designs, they are listed as coming soon on The Fishsticks website, so you will want to check back later to get those!
I must show you the Monaluna booth with their yummy organics, too, because check out the little dress in the bottom left!
It’s the SeeSaw Dress!
Monaluna recently released a bunch of great new fabrics and they have their own pattern line as well.
My growing like a weed daughter picked out some fabric the other day and I have been trying to find the “right” pattern for it.
Today I sewed up Kwik Sew 3169 in a test fabric. It is a peasant top pattern with the option for short or long sleeves.
Like the pattern, the test fabric has been marinating in my stash for some time. It is from the Charms line by Patty Reed Design, produced by Fabric Traditions. As an indication of how long I have been holding onto it, the copyright on it says 2006 and I am fairly certain I made Zoe a sundress from it years ago. When I pulled it out for this top, I expected to be vetoed. (It wasn’t!) Now that she’s ten, most of the cute fabrics get an eye roll.
Zoe is tall and needs extra length on most tops. I added 2″ to the length of the body on this one and only did a half inch hem. This is size XL(12-14). She likes it, but says the area under the arms is scratchy. I expect that a run through the wash will likely take care of that problem.
Unfortunately, this will not be the pattern for her peace sign fabric. Now she is thinking maybe a skirt. Sigh.
Back to search my pattern files.
Since it’s Friday the 13th, here are 13 ideas for those of you still planning to whip something up for Father’s Day this weekend!
- ipad/kindle/nook/laptop sleeve
- e-reader beanbag stand
- boxer shorts
- bucket tote
- camp shirt – with fun or funky prints
- PJ pants
- hoodie for cool nights while camping
- duffle or other bag
- coasters for the man cave
- a boxy bag to tote toiletries if he travels