Ever since I happened to find myself in my friend's car, listening to songs I knew came from a mix CD I made (that were mixed among his songs -- so I know it wasn't one of those, "she's going to be in the car, I'd better put on her tape" pretend things), I've made it a tradition to make at least one mix CD for that friend per year.
When we found ourselves no longer in the same city, I had to rethink my whole CD delivery system. In a very nervous test trial, I constructed one of these, put one standard stamp on it, and popped it in a mail box. I was so pleased to hear it had arrived safe and sound and now, this is pretty much the only thing I use for CD packaging.
Paper sleeves are quick, easy, and do the job just enough to get a CD from point A to point B. Besides, jewel cases are bulky and awkward and (without even considering the mail) no one wants to keep them around anymore (gone are the days of CD racks, right?). I also realize that most songs would be transferred from CD to iPod these days so the need for sending anything more doesn't exist.
I whipped up a bunch of these beauties for Christmas gifts/cards this year, but you can do this for any gift or any reason.
First of all, I like to choose a picture for my background, something that I can clearly write over. Usually, I try to match it with the theme of the CD (if I have one) or a specific name for the CD (if I have one). You don't have to get fancy, of course. In fact, you don't have to use the computer at all. You can handwrite everything, too. This is definitely something you can customize according to how much effort you want to put into it.
The only thing you must do is size your picture the size of a standard CD insert (just the picture, not the border). You know the little picture that goes into a standard jewel case door? That's usually the size I'll use so that when I print out my sleeve, I know it's going to be about the same size as the CD itself. The picture usually works out to 12 cm by 12 cm (or 4.72 inches), but you can take any existing CD you own and measure it out yourself. By ensuring the picture and print boundaries are exactly the same as the CD, I'll know just by looking where not to sew. You don't want to sew three sides only to find you can't fit the CD into the resulting pocket.
I'll usually make a second picture as a fancy front with the address typed in as well, but this year I opted to go with handwritten to save myself the time of designing a front for multiple people (and getting names and addresses horribly horribly wrong).
When printing in Photoshop Elements, after choosing print, I just uncheck the box marked "centre image" and change the measurements for the top and left position both to 0.5 inches (or 1.27 cm -- gotta love how Canadians talk about inches and centimetres at the same time, right?). This gave me a nice border around two sides of the sleeve which is also a little quicky time technique because now you'll only have to cut out two sides instead of four (if you're going the computer-free route, make sure to leave a little bit of a border -- 0.5 inches seemed like the perfect amount).
After printing my image out onto cardstock, I measured around the other two sides so the border would be the same and cut them out using a paper cutter (if you don't have one of these, you should really get one. They're so handy for straight cuts). My cutter will even handle two pieces of paper at a time which makes this process even quicker, just use some paper clips to hold the paper together to prevent shifting (though they shouldn't shift that much).
Do the same for your front address picture or use the now cut out back to measure out the dimensions for a plain backing (use paper clips and cut as usual).
Now for the fun part. I'd just like to remind you that while paper is really fun to sew, if you do make a mistake, you'll have to reprint and recut everything again. Once holes have been punched into paper, there's no going back. So. Deep breath. Take a front sleeve and a back, paperclip them together, and starting on one side, run a straight line around the edges with your sewing machine. You could get fancy with the thread (different colours for top and bottom stitches) or use a zig-zag or other stitch, whatever you want (I'd love to do two different colours one of these days, but I hate changing bobbin thread so whatever's there is there -- until I run out). Just be sure to keep it close to the outer edge. Don't freak out if your line isn't perfectly straight or if something goes wonky with your bobbin thread and the back looks, um, challenged (as some of mine turned out). I think that sort of stuff really adds to the charm of homemade. Besides, even though you can plainly see all of those imperfections, everyone else will be going crazy for the idea and the gift and won't even notice or care (if the post office girls were any indication).
Once you've gone around three sides, slip your CD into the last open side, push it down into the pocket so it doesn't interfere with your sewing needle, and sew the fourth side shut.
That's it! Now you can put a stamp on and send it wherever you like! (Or just hand it over as a nice little, prepackaged gift.)