Knowing How to Fold ‘Em: Avoid Gambling With Origami

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While many people enjoy arts and crafts, few have the opportunity, time, or talent to develop the necessary skills to produce an original piece of art. However, as an ancient art that probably originated in China (Murguia, 2010), origami presents an opportunity for even young novices to learn how to create unique crafts. A Japanese term for “paper folding,” origami was not only considered an art form in ancient Japanese culture but also distinguished itself as a part of the social culture of the time (Murguia, 2010). Learning how to practice origami is easy and relaxing (Engel, 1994).

Since producing basic animals, shapes, and objects is fairly easy, a person may become engaged in the hobby relatively quickly. Further, a person may produce competent shapes by following several simple steps. First, it is necessary to have several sheets of somewhat firm paper available. While ancient participants of origami used only “washi,” a special type of paper made from a wood pulp (Makoto, 1996), any sheet of paper of sufficient thickness is suitable for most objects. (Toilet paper is too thin.) As long as the paper is thick enough, it may be folded appropriately and converted into a distinct shape. Next, it is important to decide on an object that is at your own skill level. For example, a beginner who is just starting to try origami may want to begin with a cat or a dog, which requires few folds and uses small basic shapes (Montroll, 1992). Conversely, a more advanced practitioner of origami may try folding the paper into a dragon (Engel, 1994). Finally, after obtaining the proper paper and finding a suitable shape, it is necessary to follow the directions of the folds precisely. Skipping a step in folding the paper—not matter how small a fold—or not folding fully may lead to the paper being unable to stay in place or hold its new form (Makoto, 1996). While following directions in terms of folding the paper and taking into account each step seems simple enough, it often takes extra patience with complex origami figures.

Perhaps an example may be illustrative. Montroll (1992) offers specific, easy-to-follow instructions for creating a paper dog (p.8). Properly following the steps first requires a thick enough piece of paper to support the shape so that the object may be enjoyed long after the folding is finished. In this case, the shape is a dog’s floppy ears. Second, the person performing the act of origami should consider the shape, folds, and size of the dog before beginning. Is the dog’s shape appropriate for the size of the paper available? Does the paper’s color match the desired color of the dog? Do the number of folds and degree of difficulty in making the folds match the skill level of the artist? Assuming these questions are answered in the affirmative, then the person making the dog should continue. The paper used should be rotated so that it appears not as a square, but as a diamond shape. The diamond shape should then be folded so that the top and bottom corners touch and a horizontal line is created. Next, the user should take what is now a triangle and rotate the triangle so that the longest line of the triangle runs along the top and the point of the triangle points down. The user should then fold both the left and the right corners of the triangle down and over the front side of the triangle. Finally, the last remaining corner of the triangle should be folded behind the rest of the object, leaving a short horizontal line on the bottom of the dog.

Although many claim to lack the time and money to learn to create small arts and crafts, simple objects such as the dog described in this paper are easy to make and inexpensive to reproduce. Besides being entertaining and instilling a sense of accomplishment, origami can provide hobbyists with inexpensive yet thoughtful gifts for friends and peers. It's also a great way to begin teaching art to youth. Origami is an ancient art well worth the small investment of time and money.


Engel, P. (1994). Origami from angelfish to Zen. New York: Dover.

Makoto, Y. (1996). Origami in English. Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd.

Montroll, J. (1992). Easy origami. New York: Dover.

Murguia, S. (2010). Origami. In K. M. Nadeau & J. H.X. Lee (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Retrieved from