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Origami for Beginners: What a Bicycle Racer Can Teach Us

Origami butterfly by Evi Binzinger. Video instruction below.——-

Simple Origami: What principles for cycling success can apply to origami for beginners?

In this year’s centennial edition of the Tour de France, 2013, I watched with joy the masterful cycling performance displayed by the 23-year-old Colombian cyclist, Nairo Quintana.

A newcomer to the Tour de France this year, I followed Nairo through the Pyrenees and Swiss Alps mountains and valleys as he displayed his dominance over other more seasoned riders.

To the delight and admiration of many, Nairo earned the white jersey as the tour’s best young rider under the age of 26. He also earned the much coveted King of the Mountains polka-dot jersey for the best mountain climber. After riding more than two thousand miles, he finished just five minutes behind this year’s Yellow Jersey winner, Chris Froome of Great Britain, securing a second place finish for this year’s tour.

I felt proud of this fellow Colombian! As I read about him and listened to interviews, I thought about what is needed to be successful, whatever the endeavor. Some of those principles for cycling success apply to our learning origami at any level, but especially when we are beginners.

Here are some success principles of origami for beginners

Enjoy what you do This was Nairo’s response when he was asked for advice to young people wanting to pursue cycling. This is basic principle in the practice of origami too. If we don’t enjoy it why do it?

Work with resources you have at hand  As a young boy, Nairo had to pedal his way to school, rain or shine, riding more than 10 miles up a very steep mountain road every single day. The bicycle he rode was a second-hand mountain bike his parents had scraped and saved for.

Origami can be practiced with any kind of paper, even recycled paper from old magazines or wrapping paper. There is no need to have  fine and costly papers when you’re beginning.

Practice and be patient During these early years of tough journeys to school, Nairo had no idea that he was training himself to ride at the highest level of world professional cycling. He didn’t dream he would participate on the great stage known as The Tour de France. Nairo’s daily practice, climbing that mountain, was the seed and discipline that would develop him into a professional cyclist.

When we are beginning with origami we need to start by folding the simpler models. And then we need to practice over and over. Fold some origami figure every day, and eventually you’ll be able to do those models that are more complex. Repetition is key. Successful people are often distinguished  more for their resolution and perseverance than for extraordinary natural talent.

Do not give up This was another of Nairo’s suggestions for people who want to become better at what they do.

Sometimes we feel frustrated because we fail at folding a figure. Our results aren’t as beautiful as we think they should be! When that happens we need to be persistent and try again.

When we absolutely cannot fold something, when we want to wrinkle the paper into a ball, one useful strategy is to put the model aside. We must leave it for a few hours or even a few days. Then come back to it and make a fresh attempt. Our mind works in mysterious ways. Sometimes we just need to stop thinking about our challenges in order to solve them.

Here is a video update on how to fold a swallow-tail butterfly that was designed by Evi Binzinger. The video instruction explains the folding process in a greater detail than a video I shared on a previous post.

If you are a beginner at origami, making this origami butterfly might seem like a tall mountain to climb. You might want to train and practice first by folding these pieces of origami for beginners.

But I do challenge you to come back to this origami butterfly and travel with your fingers through the valleys and mountains as you fold this model. I’m sure that one day, in the near future, you’ll be the king or the queen of mountains and valleys in the land of origami.

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Click here to download printable origami paper to fold a Colombian-flag butterfly.

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8 thoughts on “Origami for Beginners: What a Bicycle Racer Can Teach Us”

  1. This is just a perfectly executed video tutorial. And thank you for your kind words of encouragement to those of us who get frustrated learning new things. A great reminder.


  2. Acabo de hacer una. E inmediatamente necesite hacer una segunda! creo que esta semana llegará la primavera a mi casa aunque estemos en invierno…

  3. so true, and such an inspiring connection to make!
    I especially liked the part about working with the resources you have at hand – i learnt origami using any materials that came my way – magazines/old wrapping paper/junk mail/envelopes. It was a great way to learn about how paper works, and it meant I really appreciated the beauty of ‘proper’ origami papers when I finally started using them :)

  4. Leyla,

    Thank you for the wonderful piece connecting cycling and origami. I’ve been actively practicing origami for close to 20 years (as a member of OrigamiUSA), and cycling seriously (over 7,000 miles per year, mainly commuting daily) and following the Tour closely for over a decade, and really thought that there was no good way to tie two of my favorite pasttimes together – you’ve done a fantastic job! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Yaacov Metzger

    • Thank you Yaacov. Wonderful that you put all those miles on your bike and that you use it to commute to your job! It was very exciting to watch the tour this year and to be able to make a connection between cycling and origami.

      Nairo’s performance and history has been a great inspiration for me! I love cycling too, but I don’t pedal nearly as much as you or as my husband, who also loves it. Do you attend the OUSA conventions? I hope I can shake hands with you personally at the next one!

      • Yes, I’ve attended every year, for over 15 years. Had a slight conflict this year (my son’s wedding) so didn’t make it. I haven’t been lucky enough to take any of your classes yet (I’m really sorry I missed the frog and the fly!), but there’s always next year. See you then!

        Teaneck, NJ


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