When we think of origami, the art of folded paper, it doesn’t seem to relate to quilting. Take a minute to look a little deeper, however, and you can find ways to experience the art of origami right along with your quilting skills.

Origami is one of those folk crafts that has been around almost as long as quilting. Some might argue that it has been around longer. The Japanese folk art craft began in the 1600s and became very popular in the mid 1900s. As it is with quilting and many other arts, origami evidence can actually be traced to other countries as well as Japan. Some say the technique was created in Germany, Spain, and China long before the Japanese began creating the paper art. And even though reference to folded paper art wasn’t made until a poem written in 1680, history shows that Samurai warriors during the period of 794-1185 would often exchange small gifts – coins made of folded paper. The term breaks down as “ori,” or paper, and “kami” which means folded.

The first quilt that comes to mind when I think of origami is the cathedral quilt. If you have ever seen one, you know that the most fascinating part of the design is how pieces of fabric are folded and stitched into place to create the unique design.

Obviously, the cathedral quilt is not a type of origami, but you can incorporate origami into your quilt designs.  One book that will explain it all is Fantastic Fabric Folding: Innovative Quilting Projects by Rebecca Wat. In it, the author shows you how to turn your fabric into origami to make unique quilt blocks. One of the nice aspects about these origami quilt blocks is that they give beautiful dimension to your quilts. As an added benefit, you learn a new technique!

Wat has also written A Fresh Twist on Fabric Twisting – 6 Techniques, 20 Quilt and Décor Projects. In this book, you will see some familiar quilt block motifs such as pinwheels and bow ties. You will also get instruction on creating butterflies and flowers with dimension.

You can also use your cotton fabrics to create more traditional origami projects. Using your favorite origami instruction book, use scraps of fabric from your stash to make the folded art. It will probably help to starch your fabrics before beginning to fold them. This will help keep the fabrics and the lines more crisp as you work with them. You can preserve your folded fabric origami by tacking in place with a stitch or two here and there when you have completed it.

It is important to note that you won’t ever get your fabric to fold as crisp as paper. So, if you are a perfectionist, fabric origami may not satisfy you. If this sounds like you, stick to origami made traditionally with paper.

If you just don’t seem to have the knack with fabric folding or if the lack of crispness disturbs you, there is another way to coordinate your fabric with origami art. If you have a favorite piece of fabric you want to use for an origami project, scan an image of the fabric into your home computer. Even easier, you can make a color copy of your fabric.

Don’t have a scanner or a color copier? That’s okay, too. Just take your fabric pieces to a shop that makes copies and they will do it for you. Once you have your color copies, you will essentially have “paper fabric.” You can easily fold it into all the traditional origami projects of your choice!

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