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Tea Bag Folding—A Flat Unit Origami Craft

Updated on January 20, 2017
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Ms. Venegas has been using origami to make rosettes and medallions since 2003. She shares art/craft techniques and ideas on the Internet.

tea bag folding - Flat unit origami
tea bag folding - Flat unit origami

An Introduction

Tea bag folding is a paper folding craft. Some enthusiasts compare it to origami because the basic origami folds are used, such as the water bomb and the square base to make flat units interlocked together into a "paper faceted" rosette shape.

It is as absorbing as origami because your output can be endless. Each finished paper craft project for card making or scrapbooking is as varied as a kaleidoscope.

If your curiosity is sparked, read on for information and instructions for three easy flat fold origami patterns to use for greeting cards and other ideas. If you feel compelled to see more there are some older book publications and over a dozen websites offering patterns, paper tiles, galleries and project ideas.

What Is Tea Bag Folding

This paper folding craft will keep you busy for some time. I was hooked almost at once. It is basically a flat unit origami technique.

Start with eight squares or tea bag tiles, all printed alike, and fold each the same, then interlock them together into a pie or medallion using a dab of glue.

The medallions or paper rosettes can be used for handmade cards, gift tags, or scrapbooking. You decide. Use specially printed tea bag folding paper or any paper that suits your fancy. The rosettes lay flat and are suitable for mounting on scrapbook pages and greeting cards to be sent in the mail.

Use the dollar notepads or list pads in the bargain bins at your craft store.

This page is organized with the origami water bomb as the beginning step to creating and making pattern variations of your own.

My first suggestion is to pull out some scrapbook paper, colored printer paper or the printed stationery paper for the letters you never sent out.

So get out your paper and try the tea bag folding instructions that follow.

Greeting Card

The pink rosette above was made from decorative handmade paper from Nepal. It is made from the lokta plant and is an ancient craft. The variety in the pack makes lovely variations and there are several different colors.

What Follows?

Two Pattern Variations of the Origami Waterbomb

Step one
Step one

Lesson One

Follows is a step-by-step pattern for a tea bag fold medallion or star. This is the very first pattern that I learned from an instruction book bought at a scrapbooking fair.

Step One

You will need eight squares of paper cut 2x2 inches. I will refer to these squares as tiles and a glue bottle with a tip or a toothpick to dab glue.

  • Start your pattern by folding your square 4 ways. Opening the tile up again after each fold as follows.
  • Fold corner to corner. Open.
  • Fold the other corner to corner. Open.
  • Fold one side to the other side. Open.
  • Fold the other side to side. Open.
  • The folds will look like the picture above.

Step Two
Step Two

Step Two

  • Now make the tile into an origami water bomb base

OR

  • Squish the sides in to create a double triangle

Step Three
Step Three

Step Three

  • With your double triangle flat, swing the left side to the right and fold up to meet the center.

Now your unit should look like this.


Step Four
Step Four

Step Four

  • Do the same to the opposite side.
  • Take the right side and swing to the left and fold up to the center.
  • Your folded tile should look like the one above. It is a triangle with a pop-up diamond in the middle.
  • Fold seven more tiles the same way.

Now It Is Time to Assemble the Star—(P.S. I Switched Paper for Better Pictures.)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Take two folded tiles and interlock them as shown in photos. Think of one piece in each hand. The point of the piece in the left hand goes under the diamond of the tile in your right hand and meets at the arrows.Use a dab of glue like shown.This is what the two tiles look like when glued.Here we illustrate how the tiles may look for a project. Each tile is folded identically so the motif is matching on each tile.The finished star.
Take two folded tiles and interlock them as shown in photos. Think of one piece in each hand. The point of the piece in the left hand goes under the diamond of the tile in your right hand and meets at the arrows.
Take two folded tiles and interlock them as shown in photos. Think of one piece in each hand. The point of the piece in the left hand goes under the diamond of the tile in your right hand and meets at the arrows.
Use a dab of glue like shown.
Use a dab of glue like shown.
This is what the two tiles look like when glued.
This is what the two tiles look like when glued.
Here we illustrate how the tiles may look for a project. Each tile is folded identically so the motif is matching on each tile.
Here we illustrate how the tiles may look for a project. Each tile is folded identically so the motif is matching on each tile.
The finished star.
The finished star.

Variations of Your Paper Rosette Above

Folding paper should not be something to hinder your creativity. Get what's out there. You do not have to use your printer or that expensive printer ink. Click photos below to get instructions.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Additional examples with different papers. I used list pad paper from the bargain bin for these stars. This kind of paper is thinner making it easier to fold. Hint: Do not hesitate to fold because of materials. Try any paper you may have.Look closely above and you will notice that these two stars are opposite. The second star was interlocked clockwise. Hint: Before you are ready to assemble your star try it both ways to see which is more attractive. Last the stars are turned over and you see the back side. As can be noted the back is as artful as the front.Here are the two medallions in Lesson One made into 4.24 X 5.5 inch note cards. You can see that all is needed is background paper to mix and match and a greeting card is ready for sending. Add a note in your own handwriting.
Additional examples with different papers. I used list pad paper from the bargain bin for these stars. This kind of paper is thinner making it easier to fold. Hint: Do not hesitate to fold because of materials. Try any paper you may have.
Additional examples with different papers. I used list pad paper from the bargain bin for these stars. This kind of paper is thinner making it easier to fold. Hint: Do not hesitate to fold because of materials. Try any paper you may have.
Look closely above and you will notice that these two stars are opposite. The second star was interlocked clockwise. Hint: Before you are ready to assemble your star try it both ways to see which is more attractive.
Look closely above and you will notice that these two stars are opposite. The second star was interlocked clockwise. Hint: Before you are ready to assemble your star try it both ways to see which is more attractive.
Last the stars are turned over and you see the back side. As can be noted the back is as artful as the front.
Last the stars are turned over and you see the back side. As can be noted the back is as artful as the front.
Here are the two medallions in Lesson One made into 4.24 X 5.5 inch note cards. You can see that all is needed is background paper to mix and match and a greeting card is ready for sending. Add a note in your own handwriting.
Here are the two medallions in Lesson One made into 4.24 X 5.5 inch note cards. You can see that all is needed is background paper to mix and match and a greeting card is ready for sending. Add a note in your own handwriting.
medallion
medallion

Why Is It Called Tea Bag Folding?

Tea Bag Folding may have been around for a few decades by the responses I have heard at craft fairs. Nonetheless, it is thanks to an artist in Holland that it has worldwide recognition.

Tiny Van Der Plas came upon the name as she was sitting with her cup of tea. Of course, her artist mind was whirling and as she was thinking about a greeting she wanted to make, she was also working her fingers with the papers that covered her tea bags. European teas come in fancy papers. I am sure one thing led to another with her friend Janet Wilson.

They have written more than three books together about this fun craft. So it may have been around for decades but it is these two women that have given it a new name and sparked enthusiasts everywhere. Especially in England, Australia, and the United States.

The fold at the right is from one of their books titled "More Tea Bag Folding: Celtic and Oriental Designs".

Mixed Media: Fanciful Seaweed

TBF
TBF
Step One
Step One

New Arrangement for Fold Above—Lesson 2

Another variation of the water bomb fold.

Step One

  • Start with the water bomb base following steps 1-4 from Lesson One.
  • Make eight units making sure the patterns end up all the same.

  • Now unfold them and fold down the two top corners to the center.
  • The creases will already be there from your previous folding.

Step Two
Step Two

Step Two

  • Squish the sides in. The shape is the triangle with the diamond on top. Now you have a unit that looks like Step 5. The diamond folds are
  • The shape is the triangle with the diamond on top. Now you have a unit that looks like Step 5. The diamond folds are
  • Now you have a unit that looks like Step 5. The diamond folds are
  • The diamond folds are inside, causing it to pop up even more than in Lesson One.

  • Your unit should look like the photo to the right. Fold all the tiles in the same manner.
  • Hint: The white excess on the lower left can be trimmed off for a cleaner look.

Step Three
Step Three

Step Three

  • Take the right wing and fold into the center as in the photo to the left.
  • The point will be pointing down.
  • Do the same to the left wing.

Step Four
Step Four

Step Four

  • Cut a scrap of paper into a one-inch square and glue four units onto it.
  • Dab the glue at the tip of the triangle on the back as in the photo below. The diamond shape needs to be free of glue.
  • You will slip the other units under them.

Dabbing the glue in the same manner as above take the four remaining units and slip them under the flaps of the ones already glued onto the square.

Step Four
Step Four

Complete

The back of your project should look like this.

Your finished project should look like this.

Gently bend up the four top units so there is a valley effect in the center.

Idea: Use tiles 3 inches and the scrapbooking paper that is a heavier thickness. Your star will be three dimensional and use it as a gift box topper.

Our New Variation as a Greeting Card

The project we just finished is the card on the left. A punch out die cut frame matches nicely. The card on the right is our assembled like the star in our first lesson. This is a good example how the same paper can look different with each project fold.

Video Showing a Simple Fold

This tea bag fold is easy. Give it a try. Sometimes a video is best for some beginners.

I'm Curious--How Many Tried Rosie's Fold?

After seeing the video above. How many of you gave it a try?

Did everyone stop after one project?

Which statement best fits you after seeing the video above.

See results
paper craft medallion
paper craft medallion

Final Thoughts

These two lessons gave you variations of the same basic pattern.

Start with the basic origami water bomb, use some imagination, and you are armed with many projects to keep you busy.

See the water bomb working at Tea Bag Folding Christmas Tree Pattern and More for instructions on a Pretty Holiday Tree for Christmas using the origami fold.

If you have a question or comment on these lessons feel free to leave one in the section that follows.

Paper rosette
Paper rosette

Find Out More About TBF on the Internet

To find out more from the internet search for tea bag folding, tea bag folding paper and flat unit origami.

Flat Unit Origami Framed

Framed Art
Framed Art

© 2008 Sherry Venegas

Did your introduction to tea bag folding leave you folding paper?

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    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm afraid my hands are too stiff these days to add one more hobby requiring intricate use of my fingers, but how beautiful these designs! I chose this page because I had read another of your tea-bag-folding pages the other day and was curious to learn more. Thank you for including a segment on the origins. What an interesting and beautiful art medium.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Teabag folding is such a fun craft, I have done it on a number of occasions and enjoyed the beauty of the designs that can be created just by folding.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 4 years ago

      I'd never heard of tea bag folding! Some of these are very beautiful, and your illustrated instructions are wonderful. Itching to give it a try after work today!

    • Spiderlily321 profile image

      Spiderlily321 4 years ago

      Had to come back and is it this page one more time because there are some really awesome tea bag designs to make. I had so much fun learning how to make these and I made some really cool ones. Thanks again for sharing

    • Ibexing profile image

      Ibexing 4 years ago

      I'm so impressed with what can be achieved with this craft I reading this has made me want to give this a try. Interesting read.

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