Origami and Me

When I was in second or third grade, an exchange student from Japan visited my classroom and showed us how to make paper cranes. I have been hooked ever since. I have the paper, I have the instruction manuals, and a continued obsession with making cranes ever-smaller. I can make a paper crane out of a piece of paper 1 cm square. Seriously.


Last week, a gal in my Nerd Club started a story where one of her characters shows one of my characters how to do some origami. She posted a link to a site that explains how to make what they were making – a dragon. I got terribly excited about it and decided to have a go for myself.


Keep in mind: to date, my most complicated accomplishments in origami have been exceedingly miniature cranes and one nice looking frog. Otherwise, it’s all about balloons and boats. Maximum number of steps involved: about 12.

The dragon had fifty steps. Looked like fun to me! I got out a pink piece of origami paper (the color being used in the story) and settled down. The instructions said to use a 10″x10″ paper, unless you could find something bigger. My paper was 5″x5″. “Oh well,” I thought to myself. “If I can make cranes the size of dust bunnies, I can make a half-sized dragon.”

Lesson A: If you’ve never made a thing before, use paper at least twice as big as recommended so you can see what you’re doing. By the time I got to step 35, I was so confused and the folds were so tiny, I couldn’t even begin to figure it out. So I gave up, flopped a few extra (self-invented) folds into the mix, and came up with something “close enough.” It’s what my character would have done.

Pink Dragon!

But, determined not to be shown up by a piece of paper, I tried again at work yesterday. I got the biggest piece of paper I could find (without having to raid the large-format printer stock): 18″x18″. I had to clear off my whole desk to have enough space. Truly, bigger is better. Even with a paper that big, I was running into fumbling finger problems around time to crimp the poor dragon’s legs.

Lesson B: When you’re doing something complicated and the instructions tell you to use two-colored paper, do it. When both sides are the same color, you’ll never know what’s up and what’s down.

Here is my final result:

Pink and Big Dragons

But then, because I was curious what this might look like if a professional did it (since Instructions Man only provided a drawing), I did a little search for “origami dragon.” Check this out:


If that isn’t the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, I’m not sure what is. That dragon took about 40 hours to fold, says the website. That sounds ridiculous until I realize that MY dragon took about 3 hours to fold, and he is infinitely less complicated. I am in awe. The picture links to the site that tells a bit more about how it was made.


65 thoughts on “Origami and Me

  1. Last time I attempted any origami I ended up with something half-way between a spitball and something that could be used for practicing trash-can hoops.

  2. Dragon in flight? Doesn’t sound so stupid. I don’t think normal people are wired right to be able to make things like that 100-fold dragon above. First of all, our fingers are larger than pins. Secondly, I can’t remember more than three things at once (on a good day) so I don’t know how I’d ever remember what the point of making Fold 32x.7 was.

    Anyway – do you have any pictures of your dragon in flight? I’d be curious to see what it looks like.

  3. hey,
    can you send me simplified instructions on that 100-fold dragon? im trying to do it on the zing site but its way too confusing for me.

  4. okay really i need help with that dragon i can’t get past step 8, i don’t understand it

  5. Give me a day or two, Mr. Mr, and I will see what I can do. I found those instructions quite difficult to follow too, and I believe that’s mainly because the author assumes you are already somewhat skilled at origami, and therefore know what he means when he says things like “inside valley fold reverse rotate half clockwise blah blah blah.” 😉

  6. Hi. Erm, yeah! Pretty cool! I’m interested in origami myself and i can do a few things like cranes and birds and elephants and all the simple boxes and napkin fold things but seriously – i’ve never seen anything that cool!

  7. wah gambare apik!Sekali-sekali ajari gawe origami naga po’o? Ntar kalo diajarin origami kayak gitu,aku pasti akan sangat berterimakasih.Lain kali kalo punya kreasi tentang origami yang lebih banyak lagi tolong dimunculin sebanyak-banyaknya karena anak-anak kecil di rumahku suka banget bikin origami.So kalo sempat dimunculin yach……..!!!!!!!

  8. i’ve been doing origami scince i was 6 years old. i’m now 28 and i’ve started coming up with models of my own because i got bored with the complex models i was finding in books and on websites. if anyone has any super complex diagrams i would really like some new challenges.

  9. This is the post that landed me on your blog, and I’m amused to pieces at how opposite we are here: I *can’t* fold cranes. I’ve tried, and mine just look like…well, nicely folded blobs of paper.

    Somewhere around here I wrote a post about using wonton wrappers to fold origami cranes, which you then bake/fry and put on your salad. You could do that! In fact, an origami wonton dragon would look oh so unbelievably cool perched on a salad…!

    Off I go to see what else you’ve written about.

  10. Spider – what a fabulous suggestion! I will be attempting to fold a wonton crane the very next time I find myself in possession of wonton wrappers. 🙂

    Franco – I’m sorry but my Spanish is not very good at all. I think you are asking for instructions to make the dragon? You can look here: http://www.zingman.com/origami/zingoridragon.html for instructions on the simple dragon. For the amazing dragon at the bottom? There are no instructions for that, I’m afraid!

  11. Hey Semiprohippie – thanks for stopping by. Directions to fold the simpler dragon can be found here: http://www.zingman.com/origami/zingoridragon.html

    But as I mentioned to Franco, there are no instructions available. Works of art like that are created by people who are so talented, they invent their own folds. I imagine it might be impossible to describe how to make those tiny little scale folds – it’s probably something you have to have a kind of intuition to do right.

    But the simpler dragon is still a challenge! Give it a try, the instructions for THAT are available to anyone!

  12. I know a really great origami Dragon In Flight, it is named “Dragon in Flight version 2.5x” by Charles Esseltine. You can find diagrams on his website. The finished thing is really awesome and has eyes, teeth, a tongue, ears, wings, a tail, and even legs thrown into the mix. It’s about 70 steps long.

  13. OMg can u please help me that guy who made the zing is so damn confusing he uses words from other origami folds and i keep having to google the terms he uses i got to step 8 then the guys diagram gets all messed up and its been an hour and i havent gotten how that fold can turn into fold 9

  14. aznkid, in the diagram 8 lift the upper layer of the right half of the origami up, so it is perpendicular to the rest of the origami, put the tip of your finger on the tip of the layer you just lifted and push down, push it all the way down and crease
    hope it helped 🙂

    i’m stuck at 10, dont know how to get to 11
    can anyone help?

  15. I too am stuck on step 10 like Neits. A coworker of mine who knows I like to dabble with origami gave me a 28 page printout of the Zingman dragon instructions and after a few searches of the web I ended up here. This site seems to have the most informattion I’ve found thus far on Zingmans design, unfortunately no answer to Neits and my problem on step 10 to 11. If only I cannot figure from his drawings which flap I am supposed to pull in step 10. So far every flap I pull either destroys the whole thing or it collapses back into the previous design step.

  16. I actually figured it out James. This is how you do it:
    Go back to step 8, you see three dark triangles, grab the top one and pull it to the right, that is the flap you need to pull out, than just refold the bottom as it was before

  17. Wow.. that dragon has to be the coolest thing I have seen…
    40 hrs.. thats crazy.. and even urs for 3hrs is crazy!!

    Nice work dude.. even though ur dragon is simple.. its still good..


  18. Thanks for passing along the tip, Neits! I keep saying one of these days I’m going to go in and do a more detailed photo-explanation of that bit (I think it’s the trickiest bit to figure out based on the drawings), but lately I haven’t even been updating the blog. Aah, life. I’ll keep it on my to do list!

  19. The world record smallest paper crane was folded with tweezers and a magnifying glass. The paper was 1mm x 1mm.

  20. Thanks Caniga! I use a very dull xacto knife to help while folding such small papers. I haven’t resorted to tweezers yet, but that’ll probably happen some day. Maximus has presented me with a challenge!

  21. Wow! I made a dragon too, but a different kind. The one I made is easier,but it still is a dragon isn’t it?

    I tried to make cranes out of 1cm paper, but i couldn’t get farther than the 4th step :]

  22. Serously, no kidding, i made a 1/2 centimeter paper crane and i made it with my own fingers,no tweezers becuase I dont want to cheat and I am a 5TH grader!

  23. The dragon is an incredible piece. How beautiful those micro origami dragons are! I love to make cranes and other types of birds too. For something a bit less formal (and to impress people at parties) I knock out one a simple origami frog like this!

  24. I’m stuck in step 46 :S i really can’t understand how to make the back legs and the neck to look like in step 47..
    please 😀

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