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Found Paper: 12 Types to Fold a Bird -Which is Best?

Found Paper: 12 Types to Fold a Bird -Which is Best? post image

In the practice of origami, I have learned to  keep my eyes open to the possibilities and spirit of any paper that comes into my hands and I can recycle to fold origami models. According to the model we fold there will be papers that are more appropriate than others for each particular case.

The following is a list of found  papers I have reused to fold the traditional flapping bird.  All of them present different qualities. I evaluated them in terms of their colorfulness and the ease with which the resulting bird flaps.

Examples of origami flapping birds folded from different recycled papersClick on image to view it larger.

  1. Paper from newsletters. These papers tend to be thick. The resulting birds don’t always flap easily, and they might tear, but can be colorful and bring different patterns and textures. You might want to try them for non-action models.
  2. Paper from glossy magazines (color pages). Use pages with advertisements, which are usually colorful. These papers are usually thin and the flapping action is acceptable.
  3. Paper from the back of  business envelopes. Paper from envelopes is thick. Birds make from it don’t flap as easily, but they have nice and delicate patterns.
  4. Fruit wrapping papers. This paper is just like tissue, so it is not very firm, but the flapping action can be very good.
  5. Shoes and clothing wrapping papers. I have found great tissue-like paper inside shoe and clothing boxes. You can use it as it comes or sprinkle some color on them. Just as the previous one,  it is not very firm, but the flapping action can be very good.
  6. Baking paper. Excellent paper to get the flapping action of this bird. In this case I added color to it.
  7. Paper from magazines. The black and white pages of text can be striking. These papers are usually thin and the flapping action is acceptable.
  8. Christmas gift wrapping papers. Save your Christmas wrapping papers of this year to fold birds or cranes as presents or ornaments for next year’s holiday. Gift wrap comes in different thicknesses, so each will give you a different flapping result. Experiment!
  9. Bread wrapping papers from bakeries. This is a sort of thin parchment paper similar but thinner than baking paper and it’s very firm. It is not too colorful, but it is resilient. In my experience this is the best to make flapping birds as they flap easily and there is no tearing of the paper with the first pull.
  10. Paper from outdated tourist maps. This paper can be thick and might tear, but it’s colorful and evocative.
  11. Paper from old notebooks. Note that the hand writing add to the pattern and texture of the paper, although it is rather thick and not easy to get it to flap.
  12. Paper from old yellow pages books. This paper is fragile, but colorful and the resulting flapping action is quite good.

I like to cut a 4-inch squares out of each piece of found paper.

Here is a video with on how to fold the flapping bird.

What kinds of paper have you found to re-use and make origami?

Share your experiences here!

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Susan June 22, 2017, 3:51 pm

    I sometimes fold models out of candy wrappers like the individually wrapped Andes Mints, or Ginger People candies. The paper-backed foil on some chocolate wrappers is fun & smells like chocolate! Sometimes you can use both the inner & outer wrappers depending on the weight of the paper & the complexity of the model.

    Waxed paper or sandwich wrapping paper can be fun too because it’s semi-waterproof. Freezer paper is plastic coated & waterproof, but it’s stiff & springy, which works for some models & not others.

  • David Tuttle November 1, 2010, 5:40 am

    Leyla: I have found that paper from old encyclopedia Brittanicas is excellent paper for folding. The paper is quite thin, strong ,acid free and will take repeated folds quite well. The other good thing is that there is a lot of obsolete encyclopedias around. People bring them in to the library next to the place I work at for the book sale. You could try used book stores and places that sell second hand donated stuff like Salvation Army. I love your website. Dave T

    • Leyla Torres November 2, 2010, 1:46 pm

      Hi David,
      Thank you for the tip. I will be on the look for an old encyclopedia Brittanica tome. Leyla

  • Ancella September 15, 2010, 9:04 pm

    Hi Leyla,

    This post was an interesting read. I have mostly tried folding origami out of newspaper, wrapping paper from gifts, copy paper which I find around at times as well as the gift wrapping tissue paper. Once, I have even tried folding a swan out of the inner paper lining a cigarette box :) But I daresay, I have never attempted an action origami before.

    – Ancella

    • Leyla Torres September 15, 2010, 10:54 pm

      Thank you for your comment and welcome here. Maybe we should try and fold a flapping bird from the inner paper lining a cigarette box, or a foil chocolate wrapper and see how it behaves.

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