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Making paper cranes is a Japanese tradition which symbolizes hope, peace and healing. Legend has it that if you fold 1,000 origami cranes, you will get a wish. People have been making paper birds for this reason for hundreds of years, but origami was not popularized globally until the 20th century, when paper became a more readily available product.
“It is a conscious practice. It’s a tool people can use to take a break, ”says Michael James Wong, author of Senbazuru: Small steps towards hope, healing and happiness.
Michael encourages the making of paper cranes as a mindfulness tool and as an alternative to other mindfulness methods like meditation. “Sometimes the best thing we can do when we need to slow down is have something else to do that’s a little slower,” he says, explaining that origami is a way to calm your brain without getting frustrated. having to sit still and try to think of nothing for a long period of time.
The paper crane became a universal symbol of hope after the Hiroshima disaster, says Michael. There is the story of a young girl who developed leukemia as a result of the bombing and decided to try folding 1000 paper cranes as a method of healing. “If you go to the Hiroshima memorial sites, there are paper cranes everywhere,” says Michael. “It’s something that has transcended cultures and communities.
What you will need to make paper cranes
Traditionally, origami paper is used to make paper cranes, which are thinner and more delicate than conventional paper. But Michael says you can use any paper to fold, like scrap paper or an old newspaper. “The only real recommendation is that it be square,” he says. This is so that your paper crane does not get wobbly.
You can buy origami paper at almost any craft store. In his tutorial, Michael uses colored paper on one side and plain on the other.
Making paper cranes is beginner friendly, and Michael would like to stress that you shouldn’t rush the process. You should take advantage of each fold to get the most out of it.
How to make paper cranes
1. The diagonal fold
Start by folding the paper in half diagonally with the colored side of the paper facing up.
Fold the corners A to C, undo the fold and then fold again from B to D. Secure the paper at the beginning so that it does not come loose.
Run your fingers along the edge of the two folds, front and back, giving each one enough pressure to make sure the edges are sharp.
Then unfold the paper and lay it flat on the table.
2. The fold of the book
Turn the paper over so that the colored side is now facing down.
Fold the right side of the paper to the left horizontally like a book.
Repeat the fold again, folding the bottom of the paper up. This should give you a + on the x you created in step one.
Reopen the paper and return the sheet to the original square shape as it was when you started. The colored side of the paper should face down.
3. The sandwich fold
Position the paper like a diamond rather than a square, as you will find it easier in this position to maneuver the next fold.
First, gently take the two outer corners of the paper, one in each hand between your thumb and forefinger, and pull them inward toward the bottom corner. This will create a square at the base, with a triangle shape sticking out.
To complete the fold, press the tip of the protruding triangle to meet the other corners. Tap to create a flat square.
4. The kite fold
Place your newly created square like a diamond on the table with the open side facing you.
Take the right corner (B) and fold the top flap up and toward the middle line (i.e. the junction where all the lines intersect between points A and C). The corner should touch the center line, and the edge you folded should go down along it.
Repeat this same fold with the left corner (D). Bring only the top flap up and to the center as before.
5. The triangular fold
Once you have completed the folds of the flaps, carefully fold the entire top triangle over your shape.
Take a moment to run your fingers along the crease, deepening and firming the crease.
Now unfold all the folds you just made.
6. The shell fold
Then lift the bottom corner of the top layer, while keeping the other three corners of the bottom layers pressed, to reveal the belly of the fold. It should look like a frog’s mouth. In the center of the belly will be a strong fold that you made earlier.
Pull the top corner up and back so that it is flat (C). This should turn the outside corners inward to create a diamond shape above the folded square.
7. The diamond fold
Turn the paper over and prepare to fold the second side to make a diamond.
Repeat the same process as before.
Take the right corner of the square and fold it back towards the center line. The corner should touch the center line, and the edge you folded should go down along it.
Repeat this same fold with the left corner.
Then carefully lower the entire top triangle of your shape.
Unfold all the folds you just made.
Then lift the bottom corner of the top layer, keeping the other three corners of the bottom layers pressed, to reveal the belly of the fold.
Pull the top corner up and back so that it is flat. This should turn the outside corners inward to create a diamond shape. It should reflect the shape of the diamond below.
8. The feather of hope
Start by taking the top layer from the right corner of the paper (B) and folding it towards the middle of the shape so that the outer edge lines up with the center line.
Repeat on the other side, folding the left corner up and toward the center line. The edges of the two folds should meet along the center line.
Turn your crane over and repeat on the other side.
9. The chopsticks fold
Now lift the entire upper right side of your shape and fold it over to the other side, as if you were turning the page of a book. To lean on.
Turn the paper over and repeat this fold in the same direction on the other side.
10. The fold of the crown
Lift and bend the top wand (it’s one of the longer triangles that should point towards you) so that its tip meets the other points at the top. Press the flap.
Then turn the paper over and repeat on the other side.
Then, as you have done before, fold the entire top layer from the right side to the left like the page of a book.
Turn the paper over and repeat the fold in the same direction on the other side.
11. The fold of wisdom
Then remove the long pieces of paper, these are the neck and tail.
Put your thumb through the crease in the neck. Measure with your thumb about a centimeter from the top of the neck.
Gently pinch and fold down. This should create the shape of the crane’s head and crown.
When you create this crown fold, you will need to reverse the fold to create a pronounced shape for the head.
12. The final fold
Then fold down the wings, holding the base of the crane with one hand as you make the fold.
Use your thumbs to crease it firmly. If it helps, place your crane on the table to use the hard surface behind to make sure the fold is deep.
Finally, very gently spread the wings of your crane.
What to do with your finished crane
Once you have made your paper cranes, there are many things you can do with them. “They represent special moments. Sometimes you keep them to yourself, sometimes you make them with the intention of giving them away or leaving them in sacred or special places, ”says Michael.
He likes to carry one in his suitcase when traveling and he also likes to write intentions inside his paper before he starts folding, almost like making a wish.
Another tradition is to start folding paper cranes a year before a special event, such as a wedding or a big birthday, with the intention of making 1000 for good luck.
Michael James Wong, author, speaker and meditation teacher
Michael is the founder of the mindfulness app Breathe. He is an author, speaker, community leader, and meditation teacher dedicated to expanding the conversation around the mind and mental health.
Images: Michael James Wong and Penguin