Sunday, January 02, 2005

Fabric Origami

I have discovered fabric origami. However, to say "fabric" origami is a bit of a contradiction. Origami means "to fold paper" in Japanese. However, the techniques of paper folding can be transferred to fabric. Some fabric folds are inspired by origami but depart from it. And other fabric folds, such as napkin and towel folding, aren't considered origami but are of interest to paper folders.

When I first heard of fabric origami, I thought it would be necessary to stiffen the fabric first. I found fabric stiffener at Hobby Lobby, thinking I would transfer directly to fabric what I know from doing origami. I shortly realized that origami made with fabric stiffener wouldn't survive a wash. It would be great for wall hangings, though, and for making origami ornaments ("kusudama" origami) out of fabric. There are some great examples of kusudama origami at a Brasilian website called Kusudama: Arte em Origami. Unfortunately it's in Portuguese, but the origami is beautiful. I have several books on kusudama origami and look forward to doing some fabric origami using fabric stiffener.

Rebecca Wat has some fabric folds for quilt squares in her book Fantasic Fabric Folding. These don't require anything but ordinary cotton fabric, finger-folded into shapes such as flowers, stars, and pinwheels. They hold together through washings and are merely tacked in a couple of places to keep them from losing their shape. These fabric folds are then incorporated into quilts the same as quilt blocks.

Kumiko Sudo's beautiful fabric origami folds are not strict origami folds like several of Wat's. They are folded fabric pieces that are sewn onto wall hangings or appliqued onto quilts. They will not hold their shape unless they are sewn, and most of the ones in her book Folded Flowers really do belong on wall hangings that will not be washed. They are, however, sensational. There are many more examples of Japanese quilt designs which employ fabric origami techniques.

Napkin folds aren't "strictly origami" but are based on the techniques of paper folding. They are made out of ordinary napkins instead of paper...although you could fold a paper napkin! (I've done it.) There are dozens of different napkin folds. For example, Linda Hetzer has a book of 94 napkin folds, and one of the reviewers at criticized her book for omitting some key folds.

Fabric yoyos are a bit like fabric origami (see post below on fabric yoyos). They are "folded" when the thread around the outside is pulled to form a circle half the size of the original fabric. Although fabric yoyos are often appliqued onto a quilt or other piece of fabric, I like the yoyos that are connected at the edges and are not foundation pieced. In other words, they are the quilt, not attached to the quilt. Yoyos are used as applique in a quilt called "Hurricane Party" by Amy Stewart Winsor. An example of a yoyo quilt is at

Right now cross stitching is my priority, but I hope I will find time to do some fabric origami in the near future. I'd like to do all kinds!

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