Blades manufactured through flank and point milling will likely exhibit geometric variability. Gauging the aerodynamic repercussions of such variability, prior to manufacturing a component, is challenging enough, let alone trying to predict what the amplified impact of any in-service degradation will be. While rules of thumb that govern the tolerance band can be devised based on expected boundary layer characteristics at known regions and levels of degradation, it remains a challenge to translate these insights into quantitative bounds for manufacturing. In this work, we tackle this challenge by leveraging ideas from dimension reduction to construct low-dimensional representations of aerodynamic performance metrics. These low-dimensional models can identify a subspace which contains designs that are invariant in performance--the inactive subspace. By sampling within this subspace, we design techniques for drafting manufacturing tolerances and for quantifying whether a scanned component should be used or scrapped. We introduce the blade envelope as a visual and computational manufacturing guide for a blade. In this paper, the first of two parts, we discuss its underlying concept and detail its computational methodology, assuming one is interested only in the single objective of ensuring that the loss of all manufactured blades remains constant. To demonstrate the utility of our ideas we devise a series of computational experiments with the Von Karman Institute's LS89 turbine blade.