How to Use Scraps of Knit Fabric to Make Origami Squares, Part II

comments (6) January 24th, 2009     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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I think the tone-on-tone origami blocks and squares are more sophisticated than contrasting-colored blocks.
Heres a close-up of the neckline before I added the origami squares.
The squares are a little big for my taste, so Im going to scale them down a little bit.
I think the tone-on-tone origami blocks and squares are more sophisticated than contrasting-colored blocks.

I think the tone-on-tone origami blocks and squares are more sophisticated than contrasting-colored blocks.

Photo: Jen Stern

The origami squares in part I came out great, but there was something about them that bugged me. I realized I didn't love the gray on white left me feeling like I needed more "Anthropologie" in my moment to make this technique really wearable! So, on top of showing you how to fold the fabric another way, using the same fabric as the base shirt, I wanted to use something more stylish than a T-shirt. My favorite thing about Anthropologie is that all the clothes are creative, hip, and stylish; the unfortunate thing is that sometimes it's hard for me to find a top that I'm not squeezed into or falling out of. This is part of my motivation to have these "Anthropologie moments"...I've been trying to design tops that have the same hip, stylish feel but fit my large "rib cage." I decided to try adding some gathers at the center front neckline on one of the tops I'm working on. When I finished sewing it together, I tried it on and was very excited to see that it was flattering. I think adding the origami squares on the neckline will make it even more interesting! 

If you want to try this technique using the same fabric as your top but you don't want to sew a whole garment in the process, why not start with a long-sleeve shirt.  Trim the long sleeves into short sleeves, and use the extra fabric to make the origami squares. This is a good way to get more mileage out of a long-sleeve top as spring approaches.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A finished top you want to embellish
  • Scraps of matching knit fabric
  • Thread to match the fabric

I've mixed some of the origami squares from Part 1 with the blocks I'm going to show you how to make now. Having played with this a little bit, I've discovered that it's easier to work with larger squares to get the technique down. Also, the heavier your knit is, the harder it is to work with a smaller square. To get really "delicate" results, use tissue-weight knit and 3-inch squares. The 5-inch square that I used for this example will make a finished block that is almost 2 inches wide and 5 inches long! (That's pretty bold; I might scale them down a little bit.)

cut 5 inchs squares
I'm working with 5-inch squares here. You can play with the size of your squares. 

To form an origami block with a tail, fold three of the corners of the square to the center. Press.

Press three corners to the middle
Remember to go easy with the steam.

Then, fold down the two top corners to the center point. Press.

Fold the top two corners to the center
Try to keep the folded edges snug against each other.

Position the origami shape so that the folded side is face down on the ironing board. Press the straight sides to the center (so they are centered between the two pointed ends).

turn orgami shape over so folded side is face down
With the folded side down, press the straight sides to the center.

To finish the origami block, fold the top point down so that its sides are snug against the diagonal edges of the sides.

finish folding orgami shape
Finish the block by folding the top point down. 

This origami block may be attached so that the tail hangs down straight or on an angle. Or, attach it so the tail is trailing above. To give it added dimension, you can stitch down the center of the tail to gather it up slightly. Start stitching at the tip of the point (tacking it down), and continue to the end of the tail.

sew down the tail
To get small gathers, do not lengthen your stitch length.  You're stitching such a short distance, you'll be able to pull the bobbin thread enough to gather up the knit.

Pull the bobbin thread until you've gathered the tail up as much as you would like.

gather it up
Gather up the tail by pulling the bobbin thread. 

Pin the origami squares and blocks along the neckline, playing with the design until you're happy. Pin them directly to the finished edge of the neckline. Use the bar tack feature on your sewing machine to hold them in place. See Part I for tips on how to do this. Alternatively, you can stitch them to the shirt by hand.

plan your design
Here's a close-up of the gathered tail on one of the origami squares.


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Comments (6)

samsstuff writes: I love this idea! It's very current, in terms of style & the directions are easy to follow (unlike many other origami directions). Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 2:12 pm on February 23rd
JenniferStern writes: Hey Jocole--Thanks, and I'd love to see what you come up with...I haven't filed this one away yet, I'm thinking of using the orgami squares to form a halter style neckline as the base for a chiffon tunic--when is the weather going to warm up?
Posted: 9:51 am on February 3rd
jocole writes: LOVE it ... the minute i saw that shirt on anthropologie i knew i could figure out how to do it ... instead you did all the thinking for me. thanks! i can't wait to try other origami shapes ...
Posted: 12:46 am on February 3rd
Love_it writes: Great designer element. This has commerical appeal. Contact Designers life Donna Caron and the likes to sell your ideas.
Posted: 2:34 pm on February 1st
JenniferStern writes: Hi Susan, and thanks...I knew the minute I put those gray square on the white tee that I needed a "Part II". My first love is drafting patterns, so I was more than happy to have the excuse to squeeze a new design into my tight schedule...then I had scraps of the same fabric to work with! It's a bonus really because the gathers at the neckline are very flattering to my "growing" bust line. If you're interested, you can see some of the process in my blog at!
Posted: 8:44 am on January 24th
susanbrownknitting writes: I agree that you have now created a very sophisticated look However, by posting the original you (a) showed the technique clearly because of the contrast and (b) have now shown us how colour/texture etc impact on a design. It is good to open our minds to how often we might make a quick judgment about a technique, when it is really the colour that is not quite what we want.

I, for one, appreciate seeing a process of developing a design, then tweaking it a little. Thank you!
Posted: 4:36 am on January 24th
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