Paper Projects -

How To: Fold an Origami Crane (and it’s for a good cause!)

Tutorial and one-handed photos by Aryn Henning Nichols

Read an inspiring story about Decorah’s Spencer-Berg family and their four-month sabbatical in the Summer 2011 Inspire(d) Magazine, online, starting on page 20. The Spencer-Bergs are folding cranes for a good cause. Here’s how it began, from the Spencer-Berg’s themselves:

The crane project actually started over a year ago when Anna and Aidan were looking for a way to raise money for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. They made earrings using tiny cranes that are smaller than a dime (the square of paper that you start with is 3/4” square) and also made strings of cranes interlaced with colorful glass beads. When the earthquake and tsunami happened in Japan it seemed a perfect time to bring the project back with a few changes. And after Anna and Aidan and their family experienced the massive earthquake in New Zealand, they had renewed interest in the plight of people suffering from natural disasters and especially earthquakes. The sisters have been organizing crane-folding gatherings, so far bringing together more than 40 people. Collectively they’ve folded about 800 cranes. Anna’s goal is raise $1000 with the proceeds going to earthquake/tsunami relief for Japan.

Inspiration for the project came from the story a real-life girl named Sadako who died from leukemia after the bombing of Hiroshima.  She folded cranes while ill with a goal of reaching 1000.  These cranes were folded from anything she could get her hands on including the labels from her IV medications and wrapping paper from gifts received by fellow patients. She died before reaching 1000. A memorial to her stands in Hiroshima.  Her efforts to bring about healing for herself and her nation through the simple act of folding peace cranes has been an inspiration for Anna’s project and the many other crane-folding projects across the country.

Anna’s hope is that more crane projects will continue to form. It’s so easy to forget about a natural disaster within a few weeks as new disasters come along to grab our attention, but the people of Japan will be suffering for years to come.”

Join Anna Spencer-Berg on her crane-folding mission. You can adopt a “family” of beautiful beaded cranes that are strung in smaller sets of three to five. (Suggested donation is $5 per bird – so a string of three would be $15). Adopt a “flock” of cranes – simple garlands of cranes without beading. (Suggested donation is $1 per bird.) “Adoptions” come with a lovely picture and thank you message that can be displayed in your home or business along with the birds. Offer to host a “sale” of cranes. More information is coming soon at

Tips from the Spencer-Bergs on starting a crane project and folding origami:
• Be in it for the long haul. It takes a looooong time to fold 1000.
• Consider playing some quiet music from Japan in the background (itunes or pandora are nice sources)
• Number your cranes so you are accountable to yourself for getting to 1000
• Before starting the crane take a minute to pause and reflect, write a simple message on the blank side of the paper and sign your name. It will not be visible but the message inside will be carried with the bird where ever it goes.
• Be creative with paper sources. We’ve used opera scores, postage stamps, maps, old books with Sanskrit poetry, and traditional origami paper. One time Aidan was in the bathroom longer than usual and emerged with a lovely gentle white crane folded from a square of toilet paper!
• Take time to get the angles of the neck and tail just right. Gently shape the wings into a gentle arc rather than creasing them into a harsh flat shape. Treat each bird gently and with respect, appreciating the delicate beauty. Don’t give into the temptation to be in “assembly line mode”.  It’s not about getting to 1000 so much as it is about the journey along the way.

Upload pictures of your cranes to Inspire(d) Media’s Facebook page when you’re done, pretty please!

1. Cut the page out of Inspire(d), or use any square piece of paper (fold a piece of printer paper diagonally and cut the extra – that will make a square!).

2. Fold in half one way.

3. Fold in half the other way.

4. Fold diagonally.

5. Fold diagonally the other way.

6. Open up your sheet. Turn it so it’s a diamond, not a square.

7. Take the right hand corner and fold it into the bottom corner, using the folds you’ve made.

8. See! Like this!

9. It will then be square with the right corner tucked inside the square (make sense?).

10. Run your finger down the middle to make a strong crease.

11. Take the left corner and do the same thing, folding it down to meet the bottom corner.

12. See! Like this!

13. You should now have a smaller diamond, with two corners folded in.

14. It’ll look like this from the bottom.

15. If you’re using the sheet from the magazine, you’ll see there are many fold lined inside. That’s because we’re going to be making folds on these parts of the diamond.

16. Take the right corner and fold it over to meet the middle, like you’d fold a piece of New York pizza.

17. Do the same on the left side.

18. Flip the diamond and repeat on the other side. It will look like a little kite.

19. Open up the flaps you just folded (I know it seems silly, but trust me).

20. Do the same on the other side.

21. Now this is the tricky part. You’ll pull up the bottom point.

22. And bow the edges in, following the folds you’ve made.

23. It will look a bit like a boat as you’re bringing the sides together.

24. I find it helps to make sure the bottom of the boat is creasing here at the back.

25. Then bring the sides together and flatten the boat out.

26. Do the same on the other side, remembering how the boat folds together.

27. Make sure your creases are strong.

28. Your crane should now look like this – more a tooth than a crane. The bottom half can separate, the top can’t.

29. Now pull the right flap up…

30. And fold it into the middle, like that pizza before.

31. Do the same on the left side.

32. And repeat on the other side.

33. Now it’s a skinnier tooth!

34. Pull the right flap toward you and look at the crane from this side (basically turning it 90 degrees).

35. Pull the bottom fang up …

36. And invert the fold.

37. This can be the tail! Make your crease strong, having the tail lean toward the back a bit.

38. Now look at the tooth from the other side…

39. Repeating what you just did.

40. This can be the head!

41. Use your nail to fold down the head, flattening out the crease.

42. Fold down the wings, making arches in each.

43. Carefully pull on the wings to puff out the center part. Continue to tweak the wings, head, and tail to be the way you want, and you’re done!