Folding paper cranes

I hadn’t planned on doing origami today. I liked doing origami as a girl, though I never made anything very complicated. I don’t remember much about what I made, other than the origami cup, which I liked because it was both easy and useful (you can actually drink from it, though you’d better do so quickly after filling it). For a long time I had a mobile hanging in my room, made of various origami animals. I think I remember a whale (I remember drawing the eye on it), perhaps a penguin, and I’m pretty sure a swan. But I never tried a crane – it looked way too complicated.

When I entered the public library today to return some books, I couldn’t help noticing a sign about making paper cranes. I took note of the date and time and made a mental note to possibly come back then – and then realized the date was today and the event was going on as I stood there. Well, I figured I had to take a look, see how many people were making cranes and how difficult it looked. There was no indication on the poster where the event was being held, but I figured it would be somewhere on the second floor.

Approaching the meeting rooms, I saw a woman sitting at a table with a boy and a girl who appeared to be middle school age. There was an array of paper on the table, though not origami paper. I had expected to see a larger group, perhaps a number of samples to copy, and a diagram of how to fold the crane. I was wondering if this really could be the right group, when the woman invited me to sit down and join them making paper cranes. I sat down.

There was some origami paper available, but mostly they were using squares of paper cut from magazines. This made for cranes that were not two-toned (usually origami paper is colored on one side and white on the other) but many-colored. I decided to try a square showing a green tree frog with a bright red eye. The woman, named Judy, said it would be interesting to see where the eye ended up on the crane (she later told me about having used a picture with a pink toilet right in the middle, to see where the toilet ended up).

As we folded, we talked. Judy explained that the goal was to make 2000 paper cranes. One thousand would be kept to display in the library, and the other thousand would be sent to a town in Japan. I discovered that Judy had retired from the elementary school that my younger son attended, and that she knew him (I think just about everyone who worked there knew him). I also discovered that folding paper and talking combine very well. At first the conversation was mostly limited to Judy explaining each step as we did it, but before long we were talking about all sorts of things.

She seemed to think I caught on very quickly, though after finishing one crane (the red eye was somewhere in on its back, between the two wings), I doubted I could do another without being shown again what to do. I don’t know how many cranes I made, probably fewer than a dozen, before she told me it was time to “fold up” for the afternoon. By then I had made at least one crane without having to ask for help, but I accepted her offer to take some paper squares home with me so I could practice and not forget how to do it before the second (and last) session in two weeks.

If you’d like to try it, check out animated diagrams for an origami flapping bird. The first several steps create the base from which a number of different birds can be made, including the crane. I like this animation because it shows, more clearly than some of the diagrams I have looked at, how to do some of the early steps. This set of instructions shows how to make the crane, though I’m not sure I would have figured it out without someone sitting right next to me, guiding me through each step. There are a number of videos on youtube showing how to make a crane, which is perhaps the next best thing to having someone show you in person.

I don’t think I’d want to do origami on a regular basis, but I could enjoy an evening now and then, sitting and folding paper while chatting with friends or making new acquaintances. At the church where my husband served in Michigan, we started a crafts group that I enjoyed participating in. I don’t think it was restricted to women, but no men ever joined us that I remember. I remember doing some sewing (that was back when I could thread a needle easily, and I would also do it for older women who could not do it themselves), though I forget what we sewed. Mostly I enjoyed the companionship and conversation, as well as doing something I enjoyed but rarely sat down to do alone.

Some people definitely raise origami to an art form. Take a look at these unique creations made from dollar bills. And for a different kind of folded paper art, take a look at these amazing “pictures” by Simon Schubert.

As for me, I’ll stick to paper cranes, now that I know how to make them.

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