- Arts and Design
Free Iris Folding Patterns & Instructions
What is Iris Folding?
Iris folding is a simple paper folding technique that originated in Holland. Color coordinated strips of folded paper are taped into place over a pattern, creating a spiralling design that resembles the iris of an eye or camera. Originally, Dutch crafters would cut their strips from envelopes with patterned interiors, but now it is common to use lightweight papers including wrapping paper, and paper used for origami to create iris folded designs.
Iris Folding by Lisa Vollrath
Most iris folding designs require the following items:
- Lightweight papers for folding.
- Permanent transparent tape.
- A ruler or paper trimmer.
- A work table or board on which to mount your pattern and aperture.
- Removable masking tape or drafting tape.
Lightweight Paper Sources
Stuck for lightweight papers? Here are some ideas on what to use, and where to find them:
- Origami paper comes in a large variety of patterns and colors, and is an ideal weight for iris folding. You'll find it in many craft stores, in the kid's craft section.
- Stamp on regular bond paper. I like to use text background stamps, or small rubber stamp images stamped repeatedly.
- Gift wrap is often the right weight for iris folding, so save your scraps when wrapping presents.
- Magazine pages make great iris folding papers. Look for large areas of solid color, or repetitive pattern. Decorating magazines are good for both.
- Check the inside of your bill envelopes. Some compaines use a pattern inside the envelope to protect your privacy, and those can be used as folding papers.
Basic Folding Instructions
Almost all iris folding patterns can be executed using these same basic instructions.
Trace or copy the pattern you want to use. Cut the pattern out around the outer edge. Position the pattern where desired on a piece of cardstock, and trace around the outer edge.
Create an opening in the cardstock by cutting away the traced shape with a sharp craft knife. This will be your aperture, or frame.
Turn the cardstock over. You will be working on the wrong side of the cardstock to create your design.
Position the pattern in the aperture, and lightly tape both the pattern and cardstock to your work table with removable tape.
Using a paper trimmer, cut patterned paper into strips, a little more than twice as wide as the largest section of your pattern. Fold the strips in half lengthwise, creating strips with one folded edge.
Assemble the strips into piles, one pile for each paper design. Asign each pile a letter that corresponds with your pattern: A, B, C and so on.
TIP: To create an attractive pattern, you can either alternate light and dark designs, or arrange your paper designs from lightest to darkest.
Start working your pattern with section 1A. Place the folded edge of paper A against the 1A line closest to the edge of the aperture, covering section 1A completely.
Tape the strip in place with permanent tape, and trim any excess length away.
Now, pick up the paper strip of paper B, and tape it over pattern section 2.
Next, use paper C paper to cover section 3.
Keep following the pattern, working your way around, one paper at a time, covering each numbered section in order.
It's very important to follow your numbers and letters. The design won't look very pretty from the back side, but that's OK. It will look lovely from the front.
Resist the temptation to pick up the piece and peek at the front side, because it's often difficult for beginners to realign their pattern once it's been moved.
When all the sections have been covered with paper strips, your design is almost complete.
Gently remove your cardstock from the work table and turn it over to reveal your iris, with an opening in the center. This opening can be filled with apper or a photo. Simply tape it in place from the back side of the design.
Often, you will want to cover the back side of your iris folded design, both to protect it, and to hide all the tape and ragged edges.
For cards, it's easiest to work the design on a flat piece of cardstock, and then trim it down to create a card front. Apply this to a card of the appropriate size.
For other items, simply cover the back side of the finished design with a piece of paper or cardstock
Basic Iris Folding How-To & Patterns
These links will lead you to iris folding instructions and patterns.
- What is Iris Folding? by Lisa Vollrath
My brief article on iris folding, plus some basic supplies you'll need to get started.
- Iris Folding Projects at Go Make Something
Here are three basic, simple shapes for you to practice: square, circle and oval. Step-by-step instructions and a pattern are included in each lesson. I use the square to teach iris folding at trade shows, and nobody ever fails to learn how!
- Iris Folding at Circle of Crafters
Iris folding instructions and a pattern, plus links to many more free printable iris folding patterns.
- Iris Fold Greeting Cards
Many lovely card examples that include materials lists, instructions and .pdf patterns.
Free Patterns - Animals
Free Patterns - Christmas
- Fun Firs
A lovely fir tree pattern, with some very pretty sample cards. This is a .pdf download.
- Swirly Snowman
A snowman with a circle iris fold for his body.
- Three Christmas Patterns
A Santa, a string of lights, and a Christmas tree.
- Two Christmas Patterns
A stocking and a bell.
A nicely designed sleigh pattern that's a little more elegant.
Free Patterns - Garden Themed
- Five Petal Flower
A simple flower shape.
- Six Color Flower
Six petals, and six colors make up this flower.
This shamrock pattern is really three hearts worked separately. Need a four leaf clover? Add a fourth heart to the design!
- Four Leaf Clover
Four connected leaves with a stem make up this pattern.
Two tulips with leaves, sized for a card front.
- Maple Leaf
An easy maple leaf pattern. Perfect for fall!
Another easy fall design.
Free Patterns - Summer Theme
- Memories of Summer
A group of beach-themed patterns from Circle of Crafters' challenge.
Free Patterns - Girl Stuff
Iris Folding Groups
Want to find other folks who are into iris folding? Try these communities, where there are often piles of free patterns, links, and plenty of people to answer questions when you get stuck.
If you know of some free iris folding patterns online, please post a link to them, and I'll take a look.