In Japan it is a wedding tradition for the father of the bride to fold 1000 paper cranes for a couple so that they may have 1000 years of happiness. Sometimes cranes will be folded for babies and children to give them luck in life. You can also fold the cranes for yourself and if you are able to complete all 1000 within a year the legend says that a crane will grant you a wish.
I’m not Japanese but I wanted to try this out for my own wedding. I’ve always loved origami and the paper crane was my signature in high school. It was something to do with my hands and it was sure to impress anyone I was with. I even made micro cranes out of half inch squares of paper. I’d sell them to the boys in my study hall for sticks of gum.
This post may contain affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of these links at no cost to you. For my full disclaimer, click here.
I’m the first of my siblings to get married so my mother went crazy finding me wedding books at thrift stores. She’s a big time planner and she loves a good thrift. But I live in the age of the internet and I was getting all of the wedding advice I needed from Pinterest and Offbeat Bride (great for nerdy and non-traditional weddings).
Most of the books were from the nineties and had some pretty weird advice. I wasn’t planning on following any sort of etiquette guide anyway. It seemed like a waste to just throw these books out (the books would be even less relevant by the time my sister decide to get married). So I decided to use one of them for my paper cranes.
The internet used to be so small. There were only about 7000 websites related to weddings.
I cut out 1000 3-inch squares using my Fiskars Trimmer. Let me tell you, you’re going to want some sort of paper cutter because trying to do this with a scissors is going to drive you insane. You’ll wind up with sheets that aren’t quite square that that’s going to mess up how your bird’s beak and tail look. Amazon also has 1000 paper crane sets available. Just be sure to check what size of paper you are receiving. Some are quite small.
I bundled mine up all nice and neat in stacks of 100 so I could really see my progress. Boy was it slow going. Both the cutting and the folding.
Speaking of folding. I’m going to give you my instructions for folding a simple flapping paper crane. I know there are a million tutorials out there, but this is my method. Also mine will flap when you pull the tail, an extra bonus.
Set your square in front of you. If you have patterned paper you will want that facing the table. Fold the bottom of the paper up to the top.
Now fold the paper sideways. This will create a square. Then unfold back to the rectangle. You just needed the crease for the next step.
Fold the bottom corner up to the center so it lines up with the crease you created. Flip the paper over and do this on the other side.
This is what the paper will look like from the top. You will want to pull the center pieces apart this will cause the outside corners to come in and touch each other. Flatten.
When flat this will look like a diamond. Fold each bottom side in to the center line. Then fold the top down over it.
Open back up to the diamond shape. You just needed the folds as guides.
This is probably the trickiest step. Fold the bottom up at the crease where you folded down that top triangle. In my mind I have always thought of this as a canoe. Then it will be easy to fold the sides down flat along the creases from the last step.
You will do this on both sides. Now fold the top part of one side over to the other. Flip the paper over and do the same thing on the other side.
Then it looks like this. You’re almost done. Now fold the bottom portion up to the two points and repeat on the other side. You just made wings.
Now you want to pull the points out from the body just a little bit. You are creating the head and the tail.
Fold the point down on one side to make the head. Then curl the wings outward.
These are the cranes that flap. If you pinch under the head and pull the tail up and back the wings will flap. Don’t pull too hard or you will rip it. Now you just have to make 999 more.
But wait you’re not done yet. Now you have to put these birds on string to display them.
I separated my birds into sets of 25. I didn’t know how long of a string I was going to need so I just started stringing them on there and then measured the rest of the strings to match. You can set them as close or as far as you want to. I wanted the birds to have a bit of space between them.
As you can see there is a small hole where the all the paper edges come together at the center of the bird. Then pop your needle up through the point.
I’m using thin ribbon and a carpet needle (or something, it’s huge). The ribbon I chose is thick enough that the birds stay in place without any glue. I can slide them up and down and they’ll stay put. If your birds start sliding just lay the strand down and put a little drop of glue at the bottom of each bird. That should hold it.
Then you string them up in front of a window and take some fancy Instagram photos. Tell all of your friends about your accomplishment. Because it is an accomplishment.
To keep them safe before the big day I hooked the strands on pins above my living room window. So Pretty.
So in all this took me about 7 months of working on it off and on. If I ever have kids I’ll probably do it again. Kids in this world can use all the luck they can get.
In my new apartment I have them pinned up in the corner. I got kittens and they love to bat at the birds. Spectre likes to pull the birds off and carry them around the apartment. You can find more about that here.