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Introduction to Origami

Maryam Jamil of entertainmentstarters asked me how I made the models in a couple of my posts – this one and this one – so I thought I should write an introductory post.

Up until last year I only really did traditional origami.  This involves folding a single sheet of (usually square) paper into a complex shape.  Origami purists would say that proper origami should not involve tearing, cutting or gluing.  Below is a picture of one of my favourite models.  It’s hard to believe that this 6-pointed, 3-dimensional object is folded from a single square sheet of paper, isn’t it?

washi Jackstone

Then last year I had a go at modular (or 3D) origami.  It took me a little while to warm to the idea but as you can tell from this blog I’ve developed a passion for it.  I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject but I’ll tell you what I have learned about it so far.  Modular origami involves the use of relatively simple modules that are combined to produce more complex models.  A lot of models just use one kind of module; like the Sonobe module which I mentioned in my last post, or the triangular unit used in “Golden Venture” models like my swan.  Other models may use two (or more, I guess) different kinds of modules, like the one in the picture below which uses a pyramidal unit to join the flowery units together.


And that’s where I’m going to leave you folks because there is a colossal amount of information on the Internet for people interested in origami.  Just type “origami seahorse” or “origami teapot” into your favourite search engine and you’ll see what I mean.  (Who wants a paper teapot?!?)  On YouTube alone you can find videos to teach you how to fold almost anything.  I also provide links to some origami resources (like Mukerji’s website) in my other origami posts.  Let me know how you get on…


Out With The Old, In With The New

Between Christmas and New Year I had a bit of clear-out.  I got rid of a lot of old clothes.  Amongst them was an old Aran jumper that I had knitted with cotton yarn.  It had become shapeless, bobbled and the cuffs were frayed.  I had put a lot of work into it though so I couldn’t let it go without documenting it here.  The same goes for an old fancy dress costume that I made using fabric paints on a pillowcase.  I ran out of blue paint towards the end – hence the weird cloudy edges.  I strung little coloured balloons from the bottom so that they hung round my knees.  They didn’t last long!  [I didn’t know whether I could get in trouble for posting the full picture so I’ve blobbed out some of it.  Can anybody tell me if it’s okay to display the full version?]

cottonaran MMsblobSo that’s the old.  Gone, but not forgotten. 😉

What about the new?  Well, Santa brought me a new origami book.  😀  It’s another book by Mukerji called “Ornamental Origami”.  I asked for it mainly for the “intersecting plane” models but I’ve been having a go at some of the other models in the book first.  I started with a patterned icosahedron but I got bored with it before I’d even got halfway.  I dismantled it and used most of the paper in the next model.

blossomedsonobe sonobewithinsertsOn the left is a “Flowered Sonobe” using 30 sonobe units with blue inserts.  On the right is the same model after “blossoming”.  [See the comments for a video on how to make this model.]

While I was in the middle of making this model I had some idle time with some empty after-dinner mint wrappers.  (Can’t think where they came from. ;))  This is made from 12 standard sonobe units.


The Wyrms are Woven

From this:


To this:

afterweaveThe thicker paper was harder to weave but I managed it eventually.  The up-side is that the thicker paper means that the pieces stay locked into this knot shape without glue.  The one I made with thinner paper falls apart quite easily.

Origami Binge Running Out of Steam

pinkinprogress I started two more models from the book by Meenakshi Mukerji.  The first photo shows the inside of the “whipped cream star” model when it was just over half built.  I had to use glue again.  The pieces would probably have stayed locked together better if I had made the units from bigger rectangles.  However, I wanted to see if I could make it small.whipcrmstar  The finished model (second photo) is about the size of a billiard ball.

The other model I started making (third photo) was from the same book but it was by a guest writer called Tanya Vysochina.  The model is called Lily of the Nile and is really beautiful.  Unfortunately, the instructions on how to make it are a little sketchy.  There are virtually no clues on how to put the units together into the shape of an icosahedron.  lillyinprogressAs you can see, I was making some progress but I started getting frustrated.  I had decided to use small units for this one too and that meant it was getting very fiddly.  Also, the paper I used is not very good and the blue dye was coming off onto my fingers.  It was starting to not be fun any more so I’ve given up on it for now.

I have no more models planned except for the big “Golden Venture” model which I am still making units for.  I think my binge is exhausted.

Origami Inspirations

slinkyandbox I called this post “Origami Inspirations” because that’s the name of the book I used to produce all the models in these photos (except the slinky on the left).  The book is by Meenakshi Mukerji, and it was given to me by someone who noticed I was on a modular origami binge.  Mukerji gives a nice concise introduction to the origami techniques needed for her models, including charts on how to distribute different coloured units evenly around the different shapes.  She even provides a few mathematical proofs for the nerds like me.  She starts off nice and easy with simple cubes.  The cube in the first photo here is called a “ray cube”.  There are four units making up the pattern on each of the six faces of the cube.


By the way, I was quite happy with the way the slinky turned out.  It makes a very satisfying noise as it falls from one hand to the other.  I would have liked to have made it longer but it was gobbling up too much of my precious square origami paper.

The yellow model in the second photo is still a cube but with one fancy unit (based on a four-sink windmill base) for each of the six faces.  It’s called a “butterfly cube”.

The third photo shows models made with pentagonal pieces of paper.  Mukerji gives instructions on how to cut a pentagon from a square sheet of paper, along with a geometrical proof showing that the method should indeed produce a true pentagon.  5pointlillyanddodecahedronOn the left of the photo is a five-petaled lilly, which looks a little more realistic than the four-petaled version made with a square.  To its right is a dodecahedron with a flower-shape on each of the twelve faces.  Each of the twelve flower units is joined to its neighbours by five diamond-shaped units.  Unfortunately, unlike the other models, I had to glue this one together because it kept falling to pieces as I made it.  So I’ve really gone over to the Dark Side now! 😉 (Origami purists don’t use glue – I used to be a snob about such things.)

whippedcreamdodecaThe final photo shows a dodecahedron made from a unit that Mukerji calls “whipped cream”.  Pretty, doncha think?  I started building it around the other dodecahedron but it turns out that less is more: Pretty + Pretty = Hideous!

So, how about you?  Have you ever tried modular origami?  How do you feel about mathematical proofs, slinkies and/or glue?

Warts-and-all Origami

interlocktetrahdra As you can see, I completed the interlocking tetrahedra model that I mentioned in my previous post.  The individual tetrahedra were not hard to construct but interlocking them was another matter.  I had to follow the video step-by-step to get the pieces fitted correctly.  I normally just make notes from the videos and follow my notes when I’m ready to make the models.  However, this was one model that really needed the video instructions.

langmodelsThe second photo shows the Robert J. Lang models and WIP slinky that I also mentioned in the last post.  I was disappointed with my attempts at the creatures so I hadn’t bothered to photograph them until now.  However, I’ve decided that it’s more honest to show all my creations whether they worked properly or not.

The Origami Binge Continues

gardenJune3When I haven’t been in the garden (weeding mostly) and doing chores, I’ve been folding paper.  I’ve been feeling guilty about not spending more time in the garden though.  The sun has been shining harder and longer here in Ireland than it has done for years (dare I say within living memory).  I feel like I need to make the most of it while it’s here.  But I’m not used to it.  After a while I start turning pink and flopping around like a Dali watch.

twinboat icosahedronI’ve found a few more nice modular origami models on YouTube.   The first one, on the right, is a “twinboat icosahedron“, along with one of its units (on the right of the photo).  On the left of the photo is the supply of triangular units I have built up since my last origami post.  (Only a few thousand left to go…)   tetrahedraplusslinkyThe second YouTube model is “5 intersecting tetrahedra” by Thomas Hull.  I’ve only made two of the tetrahedra so far (see photo on left).  The pieces on the right of this photo are the beginnings of an origami slinky by Jo Nakashima.

12pieceball1Those last two models are going to take me a while to finish so in the meantime I wanted something quicker to do.  I found this last model on a blog.  It looks good with patterned paper 12pieceball2but I wanted to see how it turned out using plain coloured paper.  Not too bad.

I just tried to make a beautiful orchid from “Origami Design Secrets” by Robert J. Lang but I had to give up for now.  It was too tricky.  I made a few models (hummingbird, lizard and pegasus) from this book but my versions are a bit rubbish so I haven’t photographed them.  I think I’ll stick with modular origami for now.

Getting Excited About Folding Paper

origamiWhen I was young someone gave me a couple of books by Robert Harbin and I fell in love with folding paper.  I’ve done it on and off over the years but this year I’ve gone on a bit of a binge.  It started in February when I revisited my favourite models from the Harbin books and tried a few new ones from a book I got for my birthday a few years ago.  My children joined in for a while and our models are shown in the photos on the right.  (Click on the pictures if you want to see them enlarged.)

I was unsure about the modular origami in the new book.  I used to be a bit of a snob about origami in the past – if you needed scissors, glue or more than one sheet of paper then it wasn’t “proper” origami.  In fact, even after I committed heresy and made my first modular origami piece, I was still a little underwhelmed by the whole idea; it felt like cheating.  Then I came across this blog – Razcaorigami – and I started to warm to it a little because it’s hard to deny that some of his models are pretty darn impressive.  I followed his YouTube instructions on how to make the units and wrote a comment that I would patiently wait for his instructions on making his cool-looking egg.  I held off for a few hours but then (sorry Razvan) I scoured the Internet and found someone else’s instructions [but forgot to bookmark them :(].  hina_ningyoI made an egg.  I was hooked.  I found instructions for a ball but mine didn’t come out ball-shaped.  I dismantled both models and used the shaping technique from the egg video and the spiral pattern technique from the ball video to make the ball pictured below.

first modular origami modelsThen I came across Sergei Tarasov’s model of St Basil’s.  His models are amazing and they are made of tens of thousands of the little triangular units.  I’ve found that I can make my units at times which I normally find annoying; like waiting for my laptop to boot or during ad breaks on the TV.  I’m trying to build up a stock of differently coloured units to make a new model of my own invention.  Watch this space blog!Harbin's Jackstone made from a single square of washi paper

Last night I found a different kind of modular origami on the Internet and a model called a Bascetta star.  I got really excited about making it because it’s like my favourite Harbin model, the Jackstone (see right), but it’s even more pointy (see above)!  I realised that this is about the most excited I get about anything.  I love making things.  Some of you who get a kick from bungee jumping or whatever, might find getting excited about folding little pieces of paper a bit odd.  I used to find it odd too and I’ve written a post about coming to terms with being a nerd.