Kaleidescope Origami – Repurpose Your Tea Bag Wrappers!

Kaleidescope Origami – Repurpose Your Tea Bag Wrappers!

By Annie Ballin

It’s that time of year when the holidays dominate our lives. We all recognize the customs of these well-known dates — from Halloween and Thanksgiving on through Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. These events are the typical inspiration for children’s art projects at school. Now for something completely different!

So, what’s the deal about December 16th? It is actually a very important date in United States history. On December 16, 1773, a group of colonists, calling themselves the “Sons of Liberty,” donned disguises and snuck aboard three British ships docked in Boston Harbor. The cargo of these ships contained a total of 92,000 pounds of loose tea. For political reasons, the Sons of Liberty dumped all of the tea into the harbor. The amount of loose tea dumped overboard would have filled approximately 18.5 million teabags! Some say this defiant act marked the beginning of the American Revolution and led to our country’s independence from Britain.

As I thought about crafts, the holidays and The Boston Tea Party, I wanted to avoid the common holiday-themed art projects and go a little outside-the-box. So, how could tea be the inspiration for a holiday craft? With a little searching on the Internet, I found the art of Tea Bag Folding, also known as kaleidoscope origami.

It all started in 1992. A Dutch woman was lamenting the fact that she did not have any decorative paper with which to make a birthday card for her sister. As she sat at her kitchen table, she began to bend and fold the paper wrapper from her tea bag. Ta-da! The craft known as Tea Bag Folding was born (although it’s really the wrapper, not the bag, which gets folded!)

Tea Bag Folding creates lovely colorful patterns. While you can still use tea bag wrappers, today’s high-tech world offers all sorts of downloadable templates (see the link below).

When you try your hand at Tea Bag Folding, keep in mind: no matter what size you start with, the squares must be exactly square. Start with larger (3 inch) squares, then work your way to the smaller sizes once you have mastered equal folds.

Think about symmetry and patterns. You will be creating predictable patterns with repetition. Challenge yourself to make a design using complementary colors. Think about this when selecting your papers. Can you expand your basic design by adding another element of depth or contrast? This open-ended project explores shape and design while increasing fine motor skills.

Have fun with this project! Don’t be afraid to transform this lesson and create interesting holiday projects. ‘Tis the season!

What you will need:

  • Square tea bag pouches or wrappers or small squares of colorful paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue (Elmer’s works fine)
  • Cardstock
  • Embroidery thread
  • Needle or pin

For more information on the art of Tea bag folding (also known as miniature kaleidoscope origami), go to http://www.origami-resource-center.com/tea-bag-folding.html

For more information on the Boston Tea Party, go to http://www.history.com/topics/boston-tea-party or http://www.bostonteapartyship.com

Leave a Reply