Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Origami: An Introduction

origami, loisisrs créatifs, pliage

Origami is a traditional Japanese art where the figures often have symbolic meaning stemming from religious origins.

Ideal for temporary decorations, this activity can be done as a family. Children will learn patience and the details that go into simple shapes. Parents will be able to venture into the realm of more complicated figures.


  • Paper: most of the time, a square. Specialy stores sell paper with a basis weight especially for origami. Often this is thinner than regular printer paper (about 20 lb.).
  • Pen cap, stick, toothpick, etc., to go in the corners
  • Normally, you don't need either scissors or glue. In a pinch, a utility knife will work for complex figures.

Main principles

  • The technique consists simply of making folds to crease the paper and then folding them again to form a certain shape. The art of it comes from using only one piece of paper.

  • The majority of the folds start with easy bases like squares and diamonds and have different names depending the work that's being made (base figure A, base crane figure, etc.)

  • All the instructions are given by a graph that you only need to learn how to read. Each author has his or her own system of symbols and way ot explaining things. Generally, the legend is explained at the beginning of each book. The majority of the time, you'll find:
    • A valley fold is shaped like a V
    • A mountain fold is shaped like an upside-down V
    • A pleat fold is a mountain fold followed by a valley fold
    • An inside reverse fold is a mountain fold that then has one end folded inside itself
    • An arrow means to turn the figure upside-down from top to bottom
    • Another type of arrow means to turn the figure upside-down from front to back: the right and wrong sides are identified by different colors
  • The boldest people can also try double sided origami, which consists of folding 2 differently colored or patterned sheets of paper together (or using paper that has different patterns on each side). The difficulty comes in keeping the 2 sheets of paper together throughout the folding process, since they're not folded. The papers don't need to be the same thickness, but they need to be the same exact size.


  • Take the time to understand the logic and the legend behind your graph.
  • If your paper is a rectangle instead of a square, fold one corner down to the long side of the paper to obtain a triangle. Carefully cut off the extra paper.
  • When you're folding one corner onto another, take care that they are lined up well. If your fold isn't precise enough, it's better to start over than to have a wrong fold!
  • Mark your folds well with the trip of your finger (avoid the nail because you could tear the paper) or a folding bone.
  • Sometimes, when you need to inflate your object to obtain the final shape, you can use a pen cap or just your breath.


  • About the paper:
    • The simpler the figure, the more important your paper is for adding interest to the piece.
    • The smaller the figure, the more important it is for the paper to be thin so that folding will be easier.
    • The more folds involved in a project, the smaller the final object will be.

  • You can use things other than paper:
    • Thin fabrics, flexible but with strong hold (plastified or starched fabric, for example)
    • Thin felt (you'll iron the folds)
    • Foil glued onto thin paper. For more style, you can crumple the foil before gluing it, but be careful not to tear it!
    • Chewing gum wrappers
    • Patterned wrapping paper
    • Paper napkin (remove several layers to make it thinner and easier to work with)

Learn more

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