Everything You Need to Know About Iris Folding
What is iris folding?
Iris folding is a paper craft technique that has been around for decades! It’s thought to have originated in Holland during the 20th century when people would cut old envelopes into paper strips and then fold and stick to create a unique spiral effect, like a camera lens.
Usually, iris folding requires a template (or pattern) with lines and numbers to guide you through the process. The technique can be used to create a wide range of things such as greeting cards, home décor, handmade gifts and paper party decorations.
How did I start iris folding?
I learned to iris fold when I was only 8 years old!
Me (Bethan Aspland) as a child doing some after-school crafting.
When I was younger, after-school craft activities were a regular in my house. My mum would often set up kid’s craft sessions on our dining room table, even our school friends would come round and join in!
Both my mum and gran have always enjoyed being creative as well. They used to attend a local card making group where they’d try out craft techniques like stamping, tea bag folding, embossing and, one day, iris folding! Soon after, they introduced the iris folding technique to my brother and I, we both loved it! Well, me more than him but occasionally he’ll still join me for an iris folding craft session. I just loved the feeling you get when you’ve finished placing the folds and you can turn the design over to reveal the beautiful spiral effect!
Iris folding has always been one of my favourite hobbies. I’ve made iris folding cards and handmade gifts for friends and family for years! But it wasn’t until the covid-19 lockdown that I started to share my work and post about it online. Little did I know that a year later, 41,000 of you would be following me. But maybe you didn't grow up in a house like mine? So how can you get started? Read on to learn more!
Why should you do iris folding?
Well you may have your own reasons - but here's why I do it! As some of you know, in 2015 I was suddenly diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I spent the next 2 years in a wheelchair.
Whilst I was in my wheelchair with my dogs at University in 2017.
During this time, I struggled to manage the emotional impact my new health condition had on me. I suffered from both anxiety and depression.
I knew I needed a form of escapism, something to bring joy back into my life. Then I remembered the craft technique that I loved as a child, iris folding! It was the mindful practice I needed to improve my mental well-being and bring a sense of calm to a stressful time.
Mindfulness involves noticing what’s happening in the present moment without criticism or judgement. Slowing down, paying attention to colours and patterns, repeated folding and placing paper strips - all of this makes iris folding a really helpful mindful practice.
Repeatedly practicing this technique can help you to feel calmer, less stressed and more grounded. It can lead you into what’s called a ‘flow state’. You become so immersed in what you’re doing that your anxieties and worries fade into the background. So, once you’ve gathered your tools & materials, simply pause, take a deep breath, in and out, and then begin!
Iris Folding Myths
- “It’s too complicated.” If I had a penny for every time I heard this one, I would be rich! Iris folding is actually a pretty simple paper craft technique that requires very little skill. Just make sure you’re using a professional iris folding template (pattern) with matching pattern guide. It’s pretty much as easy as paint-by-numbers, just with pretty papers instead! Granted, learning something new does require a bit of patience, but once you get going, you’ll be an iris folding addict in no time. Read on to learn how!
- “It looks stressful.” The truth is, iris folding is quite the opposite! We all know craft can be therapeutic and iris folding is just that. By practicing iris folding, you can create your own mindful craft experience!
- “I’m not creative enough to do that.” I’ll be honest with you, I thought the same! I’ve always been confident when it comes to numbers and spreadsheets, but art? Definitely not! In fact, if you’d have told me a couple of years ago that in the future I would run a craft business, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second! But the reality is, anyone can be creative, you maybe just don’t realise it yet. Instead of focusing on the end result, allow yourself to be present in the moment and enjoy the creative process of iris folding.
How To Do Iris Folding
Before you start, gather the following supplies:
- 1x Sheet A4 card
- 1x Sheet A4 plain paper
- 3x different pretty papers - choose colours you love that go together
- 1x Small piece shiny card (for the center)
- Sticky tape
- Glue Stick (optional)
- Double-sided tape
- Pencil & ruler
- Blue Tac
- Craft knife
- Cutting mat
- Download and print the heart iris folding pattern PDF (free to Pretty Paper Community members – join here)
- Cut along the dashed lines to cut out the pattern, template, guide and instructions.
- With your A4 piece of card landscape (long edge horizontal), line the top and left of the template along the top & left of the card.
- Use a pencil & ruler to draw a straight line on the card using the lower edge of the template as a guide, and then cut the card along the pencil line. (When folded your card will be square.)
- Again, place the template on your card, lining up the top & left edges of card & template.
- Using a blunt pencil, trace the outline of the heart, pressing down firmly so that it leaves a score line on the card below.
- Using a craft knife and cutting mat, cut out the heart shape following your score line.
- Lightly secure the heart pattern to your table with a little blu tack.
- Place your cut-out window over the pattern with the heart on the left. Secure in place with blu tack.
- Taking your pretty papers, cut two long narrow strips of each paper, approx. 2 cm wide.
- Fold each strip over lengthwise to make a long border roughly 7mm wide.
- Decide which pretty paper corresponds to which paper colour A, B & C. Then place the folded edge of colour A exactly along line number 1. Trim the strip so that it covers this first section with a little overlap at each end. Stick the strip down at both ends with sticky tape but make sure no tape crosses the window.
- Continue adding paper strips in number order, and sticking them carefully along the numbered lines, moving around the heart. (Follow the pattern guide). Note strip 4 extends over two areas of the pattern.
- When all of the strips are in place, cut a small piece of shiny card, large enough to cover the hole in the middle (the iris) and stick this face down with some sticky tape.
- Turn over your card to reveal your heart.
- Fold your card in half (score first for a nicer finish).
- Take your A4 piece of plain paper and cut it so that it is just slightly smaller than the card template. This is an insert for the card which will also cover the messy paper folds.
- Fold the insert in half. Make sure it is the right way round to place inside the card, fold to fold, then attach some double-sided sticky tape to the back of the left side of the insert. Stick this in place over the messy paper folds in your card.
- And you’ve finished! You now have your very own handmade, iris folding greetings card! You may like to add further embellishments to the front using any peel offs, paper punches etc. that you have.
If you’d like to learn how to make other iris folding designs, check out the links below!
Crafting love, B
Printable Iris Folding Patterns – Download and try one of my other iris folding PDFs.
Iris Folding Craft Kits – All your resources in one box ready for a paper crafting session!
Instagram – A community hub for iris folding inspiration, craft tips and meeting other iris folding crafters.
YouTube Channel – Iris folding video tutorials for cards, cake toppers, party decoration and home décor.