Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Iris / Lily
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the origami designs known as the Iris and the Lily. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

The Iris is folded from an uncut hexagon and has three petals. The Lily is folded from an uncut square and has four. The folding method is the same for both designs.

In Japan

Diagrams for the Iris can be found in the Kan No Mado, which was written in 1845.

I do not know of any publication of the Lily in Japan before it appeared in Isao Honda's 'The World of Origami' published by Japan Publications Trading Company in 1965.

In West Europe / America

As far as I know the first publication of this design in the West was in the American children's magazine St Nicholas, volume 41 part 1 of November 1913 to April 1914 in a letter to the editor by Horace J Rice. (Information from Oschene.) It is noteworthy that the letter-writer mentions learning it from 'a Japanese student'. The letter also explains how to make a six-petalled variation.

The 'Nantasket Sink' referred to in the opening paragraph of the letter is a misremembering of 'Nantucket Sink', a design which had appeared in the issue of St Nicholas for August 1887, and which turns out to be an alternative name for the Sanbo On Legs.


The four-petalled Lily also appeared in Album 4 of 'Images A Plier' (the fourth of a series of 6 booklets intended for school teachers) published in 1932 in Paris by Librairie Larousse. In the foreword the author is said to be M R Chasles.

Robert Harbin mentions this publication in the bibliography of his book 'Paper Magic', although he mis-spells the name of the author as "Charles".


Diagrams for the Lily also appear in Margaret Campbell's 'Paper Toy Making', which was first published by Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd in London, probably in 1937, although both the Foreword and Preface are dated 1936, which argues that the book was complete at that date.