Monday, December 20, 2010

No-Sew Fabric Origami Crane Ornaments - Tutorial

In my earlier post about the Chinese take-out box, I mentioned my past work creating origami cranes in fabric. It's an easy no-sew project with some stiff interfacing, fabric remnants - holiday themed, if, like me, you like to give these as ornaments - and a good steam iron. I thought I would share my FabriCrane technique, for easy last-minute gifting.

My photos begin a little after the first step, which is to select a length of fabric - fat quarters are good - and to fuse a stiff interfacing to the wrong side.

Next, you want to cut your fabric into precise squares. A rotary cutter, mat and ruler are essential for this to be exact. I've found that a 7" square is just about the bare minimum at which this technique can be successful.

So, now you have your 7" square. What next? It's time to paper-fold some fabric. It helps if you are familiar with the basic technique for folding origami cranes. If not, read through the link above, and then follow along. All will become clear.

You want to press in interfacing-together creases in the middle of all sides. This means your right-side fabric will be facing outward.

Then, press in a diagonal crease with interfacing sides in and fabric sides out.

Next, press in a diagonal crease in the opposite direction with interfacing sides out and fabric sides in.

You should see something like what appears below.

Fold the inward-facing creases on the right side in their natural direction and press again. You should get something that looks like this.

Now, starting where the points of the raw edges meet, open out the fabric to create what origami enthusiasts call the "canoe" shape.

Make the edges and corners meet as precisely as you can, and press.

Do the same on the other side of your original square. You should have something that looks like this:

Now it's time to begin forming the neck, head and tail. Take the edges of your "canoe" that are open, and fold them in to meet the prior raw edge. Press. Then do the same thing on the other side, for a result that looks like this:

Here's the tricky bit. You need to take the two sides you just pressed and fold them back on themselves, into the void between the two crane "wings" you've just created. Press one, and then the other, for this result:

From here, choose which side to form the crane's beak from, and which the tail. If you need to trim fiddly bits where too much interfacing shows, use a small pair of embroidery scissors. Press the result into place.

Now that all the folds are complete, it's time to give your crane dimension. Grasp one of the "wings" in one hand, the other in your other hand, and gently pull apart. You will see your crane begin to take shape.

Press down slightly on the "boxy" section that forms the core of the crane's body. This "inflates" it so that the whole becomes structurally stable.

Now you need to find a way to hang your crane. You could certainly do a simple fabric loop, but, as a beader, I like to add some wirework to the mix.

I start by using my jewelry tools to cut a length of wire at minimum 12" in length. Using freeform techniques or coiling tools, I make about 2/3 of it into a spiral shape. If you intend your cranes for Christmas ornaments, the looser the spiral, the better.

The next step is to use either a sharp darning needle or a tailor's awl to poke a pilot hole in the top of the "box" shape you created when forming the crane.

Insert your coiled wire through the pilot hole, coil upwards. The fold leaves a natural hole on the bottom, so there's no need for another poke.

Now you need some way to stop the crane from sliding right off the bottom of the wire. My answer? Beads!

After making sure you have a nice right-angle in your wire after the spiral, and determining that you like where the crane will end up as the beads stop its descent, add whatever beads you wish as a dangle, finishing with a coiled loop for safety to close off the work.

Behold! Your finished crane is done and ready to fly on your holiday tree!

FabriCranes can be used as more than ornaments - as decorative mobiles, or to adorn holiday wreaths. And you need not stop at just the fuse-and-press stage - you can certainly embellish finished FabriCranes with beads, trims and more.

A few helpful hints:

The pressing process is...well, steamy, especially since the maximum steam setting is most effective in setting the folds (if your iron has a shot-of-steam function, definitely use it). I have found that it's useful to prepare several FabriCranes to the initial square stage at once, so that you can move in sequence from one to another, working efficiently whilst sparing your fingers from handling too much hot fabric.

While you could indulge in Fray-Check on the edges, I've found it's largely unnecessary.

Happy FabriCraning, everyone! I hope at least a few of Magpie Shinies' readers will have a flight sailing on their trees this season, and that you'll all pass the technique and the message along in the service of Peace On Earth.


  1. I have one on my tree right this moment!!!!!!

    These are so beautiful.

  2. And your box of beads made me swoon.

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  4. I've never seen these donw with fabric...very cute idea.

  5. This is really different idea..i will try someday..thanks for the nice tutorial...

  6. Thank you for your tutorial, and most especially for helping give me the confidence I wasn't being "overboard girl" yet again when I thought of making a fabric crane for my square of a friends wedding chuppah! I just finished folding my silk taffeta crane, sans interfacing, and it came out beautifully! I still need to sew him on my block, but that should be the easy part :)

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  8. Loved your idea and have put it on my "to do soon" list,
    You rock!


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