Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


Everyday Origami
Everyday origami is paperfolding which serves a practical purpose and which forms part of the general culture of a society as a whole rather than the special culture of those who are particularly interested in paperfolding as an art or craft. This page lists examples of everyday origami, in alphabetical order. If you know of other examples that should be added please contact me. Thank you.

Airmail letters were sheets of very thin paper which were first written on, on one side only, and then folded up and glued together to form an envelope, the idea being to save weight and thus postage cost. They have largely fallen out of use.

Bags of all kinds are commonly made from folded paper.

Boxes are commonly made by folding card or cardboard.

Small booklets are commonly made by folding printed paper sheets into three.

Larger booklets are often made from sheets of paper folded in half and saddle-stitched along the fold with staples.

Books are frequently made by sewing a number of sections of folded paper sheets together.

School books and exercise books are frequently protected / decorated with book covers made by folding paper. Book covers made from plain brown paper have also sometimes been used to cover up the titles of books, usually about sex, which were deemed unsuitable for children to read.

Doilies are commonly made, especially in primary schools, by folding and cutting paper.

Hardback books are sometimes provided by the publisher with book covers in the form of protective and decorative dust jackets made from folded sheets of paper.

Envelopes to contain cards, letters, vouchers or money are commonly made from folded paper.

Fast Food Containers are often made of folded cardboard.

Fish and Chips meals are often wrapped in paper. Newspaper was formally often used for this purpose but it is now considered unhygienic to do this.

Folded paper or card can be used to make flexible novelties which can be used for advertising or as toys.

Folders to hold papers or documents are commonly made from folded card.

In Games such as Consequences or Le Cadavre Exquis paper is folded to conceal information from view.

Garlands made from two long strips of paper, traditionally crepe paper, wrapped around each other, were often used in the past as homemade Christmas decorations. In Holland these garlands are known as muizentrapje (mouse ladders) and in Germany as hexentrap (witch's staircases). There does not appear to be a corresponding traditional name in English.

Gifts are often wrapped by folding specially decorated sheets of paper around them.

Greetings Cards are commonly made by folding a printed sheet of light card in half. They may also include a second internal decorative sheet of paper which has also been folded in half.

There are several kinds of traditional folded paper hats. Traditional newspaper hats were once commonly worn at the beach as sun hats, in the same way as knotted handkerchiefs were. Printer's hats were used to protect the hair from ink stains.

Several sheets of paper can be held together by folding down their corners, tearing a small slit in the folded edge and folding one section of the edge inwards again. This was once common practice in offices.

Lampshades are sometimes made from folded paper.

Letters are commonly folded in thirds or in other proportions before being inserted in envelopes.

A number of classic magic tricks, such as Troublewit, the Buddha papers and the torn and restored newspaper effect involve folding paper.

Folding down the corner of a page is often used to mark a place in a book.

Some simple mathematical models, such as mobius bands, are commonly made by folding paper. Polyhedra can also be made from nets which are cut out of card and folded up along the line of the edges of their faces.

All kinds of packaging are commonly made from folded card over printed with logos, information and advertising material.

Parcels often used to be wrapped in brown paper (and tied up with string, sometimes also secured with sealing wax ) before being sent through the post.

Home-made party invitations are often made by folding a sheet of paper into half then half again.

Playground folds are paperfolds which are in common use by children in schools and which survive by being passed down from older children to younger. In the UK the most common playground folds are the basic paper dart from a rectangle and the Fortune Teller from a square.

Place markers used at weddings or conferences are often made from folded card.

Folds can be used to transform pictures printed on shewets of paper or in magazines to change the naturee and meaning of the image. Mad magazine frequently featured fold-ins of this type. They have also been used as political propaganda.

Paper is frequently weakened by folding so that it can be torn into smaller pieces along the fold lines.

Old-fashioned room decorations such as witches ladders were often made by twisting and folding long strips of paper.

Many old fashioned children's toys were made from printed paper and cardboard which was then sometimes folded, either to make the toy three-dimensional or to enable the various separate parts to be joined together. One common toy during the 1950s and early 1960s was a cardboard doll whose paper outfits were held in place by folded paper tabs attached to the shoulders..

Wedges made by folded paper are commonly used to stop furniture from rocking or to hold doors open.