How to Make Paperless Origami

comments (31) December 10th, 2010     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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Forget about buying high-priced holiday décor this year and make your own instead. Its easy with a dollars worth of fusible interfacing and a favorite origami pattern.
Fusible interfacing is widely available at most fabric stores and online. Mine cost about $5.00 for two yards—enough to make a whole herd of holiday reindeer.
Because a hot iron causes the material to fuse to itself, your model will remain strong and sturdy even after many years of handling.
Forget about buying high-priced holiday décor this year and make your own instead. Its easy with a dollars worth of fusible interfacing and a favorite origami pattern.

Forget about buying high-priced holiday décor this year and make your own instead. It's easy with a dollar's worth of fusible interfacing and a favorite origami pattern.

Photo: Jeff Rudell

I am an advocate for paper—its flexibiilty, its versatility, its durability, and its inherently ephemeral qualities—but the fact of the matter is, paper wilts. Nothing is more discouraging than putting time into making a paper project only to watch it slowly droop over to one side. This is less a problem for small projects, but with larger projects one runs a far greater chance that whatever you've made will eventually begin to curl, wilt, or become misshapen under its own weight. Consequently, scaling a project up to a larger size usually means increasing the thickness of the paper in order to prevent it from collapsing. A two-inch-tall origami swan may be an exercise in grace and elegance, but the same swan rendered at two feet tall is no small feat of engineering when you consider the amount of foam-board struts and hot glue needed to keep it standing upright.

This year (again) I attempted to create some origami pieces as holiday decorations, and this year (again) everything I made ended up sagging or tipping over after two days. Then, while looking through my supply closet for hot-glue sticks, I happened upon a sheet of fusible interfacing I'd forgotten I had.

For those crafters who are unfamiliar with fusible interfacing, it is a sort of stiff, heat-activated adhesive, available in sheets, that is often used to add body or shape to collars, lapels, hats, and other fabric items. However, put to use as a paper substitute, it is this crafter's newest dream material.

So, for this one post, I hope you will forgive me if I set aside paper—my first love—and exalt the virtues of a pretender. Like paper, fusible interfacing is easy to cut, fold, twist, and crease. My brothers and sisters who craft in fabric are no doubt already fans, but for anyone new to fusible interfacing, get ready to have some fun.

Fusible interfacing is mostly used to stiffen fabric, but why not put it to work this holiday season as tabletop décor.


Cut a square of material (mine was 18 inches x 18 inches) and follow your favorite origami pattern (my "Deer" pattern is from The World of Origami by Isao Honda). Follow the origami pattern with special attention to firmly creasing all folds.


Fusible interfacing is, as you might imagine of a fabric stiffener, a bit stiff. Don't worry if your model wants to unfold; a little ironing will solve this problem.


Press your project for 15 seconds using a very hot iron. Be careful to keep your iron moving or you're likely to impress the pattern on the bottom of your iron (little circles, in my case) onto your model.


A detail of the ironed model shows how the material fuses together to form a tight seal at all of the folds and overlaps.


Tie a pretty ribbon—or even a jingle bell—around the finished piece.


My model stands an impressive 13 inches tall and makes a perfect centerpiece for a holiday table. I plan on using the same material to make bunnies for Easter and maybe even a fat little origami pig the next time I have a barbecue.

Just a reminder: I'm still taking requests on my YOU Be the Client post. If you have an idea of something you'd like to see me build, please submit your concept. The editor of and I will be choosing one of these ideas after Thanksgiving and I'll be spending the holidays doing my best to bring it to life. A lot of people have already submitted some spectacular ideas. Why not add your thoughts to the mix? Thank you, Jeffery


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Comments (31)

JoMart writes: This is a brilliant alternative to paper! I have a book about origami and I'll be trying my favorite ones using this material.
Posted: 4:26 am on February 13th
Sweet_Meats writes: I just love ingenious new uses for common materials. Brilliant! I'll bet you could use this in tandem with patterned cotton fabric as well to really get that "origami paper" look.
Posted: 6:15 pm on January 17th
nanacosta writes: Jeffery, this is a wonderfull idea to many ways!!! you actually enlighted me, and I am going to look for a simpler design to decorate a christmas table at an orphanage where I am going to be giving a Ch.dinner on the 24th, and it will be lovely to work with the children of the place so we arrange the table. Thanks a million and have a very merry Christmas!!!
Posted: 1:36 pm on December 21st
loyl writes: i love this too man wish I came on here sooner!!
Posted: 7:49 pm on December 20th
quilties writes: That doesn't look like the kind of fusible I have in my stash, but I love the idea...might have to get out and find some! I have plenty of origami patterns.

Thanks for the brilliant solution to a problem I've had too!
Posted: 6:12 pm on December 14th
Jetmuis writes: beautiful , lovely and sooo pretty, such a smart solution, thank you for the great tute and the sharing, must try this out soon too;-D
Posted: 5:00 am on December 12th
deemail writes: ooh, ooh.....i just found Santa in his sleigh!!!! down a bit in the origami 'deer' list on Youtube!
Posted: 11:52 pm on December 10th
deemail writes: As always, my first stop was Youtube....they list several different types of deer, reindeer, etc. They also have several other animals, etc., in case you wanted to have a 'theme''ll have to watch to see which is the best for you...there's even one who throws a tantrum because she put it on Youtube and then insisted it wasn't a 'how to' video....just keep looking down the list, you'll find one for you...I don't mind making mine from paper, so I'll see all you others playing those 'reindeer games'....
Posted: 11:50 pm on December 10th
Patzee writes: Thanks....this is a crafting idea I really like. It does not look homemade (but homemade is good too!).
Posted: 4:36 pm on April 12th
seabeegirl writes: I am looking for a poinsettia origami pattern. I want to do them in fabric for a Christmas tree skirt. I want something simple

Posted: 4:11 pm on January 16th
dotted writes: I can't believe it! I have that book! I bought it when I was a kid.( I've got 3 of my own now)I haven't used it in ages. It is a really neat book. I've just pulled it out (pg114), now to see what I have for interfacing.
PS: I just found your site today via lazygirl
I look forward to checking out your other posts.

ISBN 0-87040-383-4
check they have some good finds under $20 (I just googled around)

Posted: 2:31 pm on December 8th
Jeff_Rudell writes: Lorell: Yes, my fusible interfacing is the woven kind. I actually bought it at Village Fabrics on 1st Avenue and 11th Street in NYC. It came of an enormous bolt so it didn't have any identifying labels or direction. It is woven, though, and the man who sold it to me said it was "double sided" so I did not fold it with the fusible side inward.

I have a dedicated "craft iron" that (sadly) doesn't get that hot anymore so I didn't have any problem with "stickiness." However, on my first attempt I did use a Silpat baking pad between my iron and the fusible material and that seemed to work well at preventing any residue from adhering to my iron. Thanks for offering tips on this material. I'm quite new to it so I appreciate all the guidance I can get.
Posted: 2:04 pm on November 18th
Lorell writes: Hi again,
One more thing, typically fusible interfacing has one side fusible..did you deliberately fold the origami with the fusible side in toward itself? For new crafters out there, there is a product available that is a teflon press cloth..basically nothing sticks to it. It's great to use with fusible interfacing between the interfacing and the iron to prevent 'stickies'!
Lorell Girard,
Who crafts in between baking, clarinetting and other projects!
Posted: 9:55 pm on November 17th
Lorell writes: Hi Jeffery,
Are you familiar with using the fusible interfacing for fabrics? There are woven fabric fusible interfacings, and non-woven fusible actually has a weave in it like a piece of broadcloth..from your photos, that looks like what you you happen to have the plastic labeling sheet that came with the interfacing to be able to name for all of us what you actually used? And if you've tried other brands/products?
Lorell Girard
Bend, Oregon
Posted: 9:52 pm on November 17th
BajaSusana writes: This is lovley! I was searching aimlessly on the web for some new table decor ideas.
HOWEVER! Living in Baja California Sur ( 1,000 mile south of the US Mexico border) there is no way I can buy the book.
I will see what I can create.
Also to those asking, I would use a medium weight interfacing.
And there are two sided fusibles, so you could use fabric on one side.
But it is so elegant in white.

Posted: 9:07 am on November 17th
Jeff_Rudell writes: cavalierking and craftiretiree: I've looked into the reported printing problems and I have been unable to duplicate them on my end. When I attempt to print this post, all pages and all images print fine. I even tried printing from a friends PC (I'm on a Mac) and everything seemed find. I've asked the CraftStylish crew to take a peek at it and we'll see if we can correct the problem.

sfucella: I'm newer to fusible interfacing than you since I didn't even know if came in different weights. I haven't a clue what weight I used but I would suggest you try something supple enough for you to crease it and crease it again (four layers) without the material being too bulky. I hope you'll post pictures of your results.

To all the others who left glowing and appreciative comments, thank you thank you thank you for all your encouragement. It means the world to me to hear your thoughts on these posts. Such encouragement is a gift. Jeffery
Posted: 10:06 pm on November 16th
LazyGirlJoan writes: Hi Jeff,

I love this idea. I'm including a link to this post in my blog post.

Great idea!
Posted: 11:19 am on November 16th
sfucella writes: There are many different weights of fusible interfacings available. What are you exactly suggesting we use for this project. I love the idea but don't want to buy the wrong product as these fusible products can be rather expensive.

Posted: 8:44 am on November 16th
javadiva writes: I haven't been able to get these stars out of my mind. A few years back friends hung large stars from their vaulted ceiling. I don't remember where they got them, but they had a Pier 1 feel. The stars were creased like those barn stars, but they weren't one-sided like barn stars. They were completely 3D and not 5 pointed either. 6 and more points. Stunning. I don't know how one would go about making something from paper so large. But I'm happy you've done an article about fusible interfacing as an option for 3D home decor. Thank you!
Posted: 10:03 pm on November 15th
craftiretiree writes: This sounds wonderful.
However all I can get to print is PAGE 1; Pages 2&3 are blank.
Advise please!


Posted: 6:51 pm on November 15th
weslen1 writes: After finishing, you could use powdered chalks to color these. Apply the chalks with makeup brushes or q-tips.
Posted: 12:29 pm on November 15th
jtomas writes: simply lovely!
Posted: 10:54 am on November 15th
wildenfunky writes: Hi there Jeffery, thanks for that. Unfortunatley we don't have a library here. But we can order books from one of our two book stores in Lusaka. You've given me an idea and if it works out I will indeed post it...she says boldly!! Many thanks Jeffery. Cheers Adrien
Posted: 1:11 am on November 14th
cavalierking writes: I have not been able to print out pages 2 and 3. please advise.
Posted: 3:12 pm on November 12th
cavalierking writes: Jeffery, Love your inspiration! Paper is EVERYWHERE!!
Great stuff.
I look forward to more.
Posted: 3:08 pm on November 12th
eyesaflame writes: Yup! Brilliant! If you get the kind that's fusible on one side, could you attach fabric to it first? Or paper? You know, for color! Hmmm . . . endless possibilities, no wilting!
Posted: 12:11 pm on November 11th
Jeff_Rudell writes: Dear Wildenfunky: Any origami pattern will work with this tutorial, of course, but if you are interested specifically in this deer pattern, it is, to the best of my knowledge, only available in the book The World of Origami. The author has created a series of "composite figures" made of up two crane bases and this is one of them. They are not particularly difficult to make (which I love) but I've not found anything like it elsewhere. You could check with your local library or search for it second-hand online. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you'll post pictures of your work on the site for us all to enjoy. Craft on. -- Jeffery
Posted: 4:31 am on November 11th
wildenfunky writes: Jeffrey you are quite BRILLIANT!! I just love this 'deer'. But pardon my question. How do I find the pattern? I went onto that website to check it out and couldn't find the 'deer'.....maybe I should buy the book, is that what I'm supposed to do? My three girls are REALLY going to like this one!! Many many thanks, I ALWAYS look for your stuff every day when I check out craftstylish!! I too am a paper fanatic, but I cannot compare to you! Not going to try. Just going to love your stuff!! Cheers, Adrien
Posted: 4:05 am on November 11th
Average_Jane_Crafter writes: Diane, I'm with you. I'm gonna go lie down and take some deep breaths. I need to remember not to look at Jeffery's posts without a paper bag nearby to catch my holy-smokes-that's-brilliant-and-beautiful-and-beyond-perfect breaths.

Oy! I love this. :)
Posted: 12:38 pm on November 10th
JenniferStern writes: I know how you felt when I posted the embroidered paper...I have bolts of the stuff and it never dawned on me to use it like that!
Posted: 11:11 am on November 10th
Sister_Diane writes: That is so genius, I might just have to go lie down. Amazing idea!
Posted: 10:39 am on November 10th
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