Teabag folding is a paper folding technique which originated in Holland. It involves folding tiny squares of patterned paper and combining them in attractive geometric patterns to form a larger design. Using elements of the traditional Japanese paper folding technique, origami, teabag folding is also known as kaleidoscope folding or miniature kaleidoscope origami.
How It Began
Contrary to its sometimes misleading name, this craft does not involve folding teabags! The technique is widely attributed to a Dutch lady called Tiny Van Der Plas, who decided to work with the decorative envelopes used to hold fruit teabags. The story goes that the crafter was trying to come up with a unique birthday card and started absently folding a spare teabag envelope. This gave birth to the art of teabag folding, which has evolved to modern folding techniques, with individual patterns and designs. The finished motif is a symmetrical medallion which can be used for scrapbook embellishments or on handmade greeting cards.
You don’t need many materials for this craft, just a cutting mat, metal-edged ruler, craft knife, scissors, glue and paper. With the developing popularity of this new, unsual paper folding technique, the use of actual tea bag envelopes has virtually disappeared and craft papers specially designed for teabag folding are available. These come in a varietyof designs and colours, and have been produced with patterned squares ready to cut out and fold.
You can buy these papers in most craft shops, or some crafters even like to design their own. These are often knownas ‘tiles’. Performing a search on the internet will yield several websites with free tiles to download. If youwant to create your own, then any patterned paper could be used but rememberthat part of the attraction of the assembled teabag patterns is the repetition of the design elements.Folds and MethodsUnlike more traditional origami, tea bag folding uses several small identical squares of paper. There are usually eight of these squares and they all have to be folded in exactly the same way, either interlocked or laying side by side. There are literally hundreds of different folds available, and the result is a stunning symmetrical medallion featuring repeated geometrical designs.
Your patterned paper will usually have shaded areas which represent the right side of the paper, whilst blank areas represent the wrong side of the paper. Folds are usually marked as dotted lines. When folding your paper, make sure to keep the creases as sharp as possible, using a metal-edged ruler. The more crisp the lines, the more spectacular the design will look at the end. You will need to fix the medallion with glue as you assemble theshape. If this is your first try it might be best to assemble it dry to start with, then stick it with adhesive when you are satisfied you have the correct method. When complete, the finished design can be mounted onto greetings cards, attached to scrapbook layouts or simply used as ornaments.
Find Out More
There is a variety of books, websites, workshops and magazines available on the subject. You will need patience and dexterity to do lots of teabag folding, but the results are worth it.