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Alida Valli

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But you too can make Jerome's origami swan with flapping wings!

Getting Started...

All you need is a piece of paper (make it square if it isn't already) and a hard surface. 

Note: Using relatively thin paper, folding straight along the edges and creasing hard with your fingernail will make this easier.

1. Fold your square diagonally.

Turn your square into a triangle by folding one corner to the corner directly opposite and creasing the long edge of your newly formed triangle.

Unfold and repeat with the other two corners, forming yet another triangle and again creasing the long edge.  Again unfold.

Your square should now have two diagonal folds that intersect at the center and lift the corners of the square unsteadily off the table top.

2. Flip your square over and fold vertically and horizontally.

Flip your square piece of paper over.  It should lift up slightly in the center like a tent.  Now fold it in half vertically, bringing the left edge to the right edge and creasing the long edge of the resulting rectangle. 

Unfold and repeat horizontally, bringing the bottom edge to the top edge and again creasing the long edge of the rectangle.  This time, don't unfold.

3. Bring the corners together to make a folded square.

Holding your rectangle with one hand on each of the open corners at the top -- the folded edge of the rectangle should be at the bottom -- and bring all four corners of your original square together, letting the top edges of your rectangle bow out.

Holding the corners together, flatten your new figure into a new, smaller square.  Turn it on an angle so the diagonal fold is running top-to-bottom through the middle, with the open end (the corners of your original square) at the bottom, and the closed end at the top. 

Make sure your new, smaller square has two flaps on each side of the diagonal center line. (You don't want three on one side and one on the other).

4. Make a kite shape.

With the open end of your new square at the bottom, and the closed end at the top, grasping only the top flap of the paper, fold the lower right (open) edge of your square in toward the middle so it runs parallel ( || ) to the top-to-bottom diagonal line and the right corner is about 3/4 up the top-to-bottom diagonal line.  Crease you new lower-right edge.

Repeat with the top flap of the left side, folding the lower left (open) edge of your square in toward the middle so it runs parallel ( || ) to the top-to-bottom diagonal line and the left corner meets the right corner about 3/4 of the way up.  The top side of your square should now look like a kite.

Flip your square over on the table and repeat step 4 on the other side of your square so both the top and bottom sides look like a kite.  (All the open edges of your original square should now be in the middle.)

5. Fold the top of the kite down.

Take the top (closed) end of your kite shape and fold it along the horizontal axis of your new kite shape, creating a smaller triangle (the top of your kite) on top of a larger triangle (the bottom of your kite).  Crease the new edge hard.

Unfold the top of your kite (returning to the previous kite shape), flip the kite over, and repeat the above step again on the other side, folding along the same crease you created above.  Unfold.  The top part of your kite should now bend easily forward and backward.

6. Invert your kite.

Unfold the kite shape on the top and bottom sides of your figure, bringing the old outside (open) edges out from the middle of the kite and returning them to their previous positions on the lower left and right sides of your square.

Now grab the bottom (open) corner of the top side of your figure and bring it up past the top of your old kite so the left and right corners of your square fold in towards each other and meet in the exact middle, creating a new tall diamond shape with a slit down the middle.

Flip your diamond over and do the same thing to the other side, raising the bottom (open) corner up so that the left and right corners come in, creating another long diamond shape with a slit down the middle.

Flatten your new diamond shape and crease the outside edges. 

7. Fold down the neck and tail.

With the split end of your new diamond at the top, pull the left half of the top corner down 90-degrees between the top and bottom flaps on the left side of your diamond and toward the left corner, inverting the (formerly vertical) middle crease so it is now folding the other way and laying perpendicular ( _| ) to the remaining half of the middle crease.

Repeat this with the remaining right half of the diamond's top corner, pulling it down between the flaps on the right side toward the right corner of the diamond, inverting the crease so it is laying perpendicular ( |_ ) to what's left of the middle crease.

The bottom half of your diamond should be intact, while the top half should now have a 'V' in the middle and two arms sticking straight out from each side, looking somewhat like a suspension bridge.

8. Change the angle of the neck and tail.

Find the former left corner of your diamond (now in line with the bottom edge of the left side of your suspension bridge).  Find the top corner of the left side of your suspension bridge (the highest angle). 

Pull the left arm of your suspension bridge down even farther between the flaps until the top corner of your suspension bridge inverts and aligns with what used to be the left corner of your diamond.  Crease the new left edge of your 'V'.

Repeat this with the right arm of your suspension bridge, pulling it farther down between the flaps until the highest angle on the right side inverts and meets the right corner of your old diamond.  Crease the new right edge of your 'V'.

9. Add the head.

Turn your figure so that the three longest points are pointing up -- so it looks like a three-pointed crown, or a 'W' whose middle is taller than its sides.

Much as you pulled down the top corner of the diamond to create the arms of the suspension bridge in Step 7, grab the end of one side of your 'W' and bend it down a little ways between its flaps to create a head on the neck of your swan.  Your 'W' should now be 'broken' on one side.

10. Bend the wings.

Without actually putting a hard crease in them, curl the center points of your 'W' out away from each other and down, angling the tips of your wings slightly forward towards the swan's head (and away from its tail). 

Along the underside center of each wing, where the two open edges meet, make sure the open edge closest to the tail of the swan is free and not in any way overlapped by the open edge closest to the swan's head.  (If it gets tucked under, your swan won't flap its wings very well.)

11. She's done!  Now make her flap!

You've done it!  Now, to make your swan flap her wings, hold her chest with one hand (the bottom corner of your 'W' where the neck meets the body) and gently pull out on the end of her tail (the non-'broken' side of the 'W').

The paper shouldn't tear, so if you notice resistance to your tail-pulling and the wings aren't flapping much, try loosening things up:

  • On the underside of each wing in the middle, stick a finger under the open edge closest to the tail of the swan and pull it out a little, creating a gap between that edge and the top of the wing, giving the back side of the wings a little depth (and causing them to curl down more).
  • Widen the base of the tail by putting a thumb and forefinger on either side of the base of the tail, between the tail and the wings, and moving your thumb and forefinger apart.  The tail will get flatter at the base, giving the swan a wider rear-end and freeing up the connection between the tail and the wings.

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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