Introduction: Paper Mold Origami Fabrics 1- Linear Pleats

Origami is a combination of science, math, and art. Now imagine applying origami patterns to flexible materials and exploring the possibilities of utilizing origami folds in fashion, wearable techs, and architectural purposes. In my work, I am interested in combining digital design processes with fashion/textile designs by working with digital fabricators in order to achieve better quality and more precise outcomes, as well as reducing the time it takes to make designs by hand. In this Instructable, I intend on showing you an easy and practical way to do this with familiar origami patterns. You will learn how to apply folding techniques onto fabrics by using software and laser cutting methods in order to create identical folding patterns of origami. This method also makes large folding applicable and easy.

This is the first pattern to begin the project.

You can also view the second pattern (V pleats) and the third pattern (complex) to get the overall idea!

Step 1: How to Choose Fabrics

In this project, I demonstrate how to use paper molds to sandwich a fabric and apply the heat-setting process to set origami folds onto a fabric. There are several kinds of fibers that can be used in the heat-set process: natural fibers, like silk and wool, as well as synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon. In this case, I suggest using fabrics made from synthetic fibers, which can easily achieve our desired structure and geometry due to their thermoplastic nature. Fabric weight and structure also influence the shaping. In this project, I use synthetic organza due to its stiffness and sheer quality, which will enhance our origami patterns.

Step 2: How to Choose the Paper for Molds

Normally, thinner and lightweight papers are the most common choices for practicing folding/origami, but when using origami with heat-setting fabrics, thicker and stiffer papers are more suitable to work with. When making a small sized origami fabric, the thickness of the paper doesn’t need to be taken into consideration. But for this project, making a larger sized origami fabric, the stiffness of the paper gives strength to hold the fabric in place inside the sandwich, and lasts longer as a mold. Foldable thickness is also needed in order to achieve the clean edges of the folds, which is an essential element. Avoid paper with glossy and printed finishes because these will perhaps melt with high temperatures. In this project, I use Artist Drawing Sketch Paper (90 Lb).

Step 3: Creating Linear Pattern for Lasercutting in Software

Draw the linear pattern like this, with an even number of folds, which will create a symmetrical pattern. The cutting size (red outline) should be slightly smaller than the paper size. Be sure to have a "cut" outline for the paper mold, and not just draw the lines on the actual size of the paper. Given the exact size (red outline) of the paper pattern, helps achieve the accurate shape of the paper mold. The linear folds (blue outline) are the etching lines for laser cutting in the next step. In this case, the pattern is slightly smaller than the paper size, 24''x 18”. The document size, 32"x 18", is the size of the laser cutting bed. For the laser cutting, the stroke is 0.1pt. Here are the files of my cutting pattern in Adobe Illustrator.

Step 4: Start Laser Cutting! Be Sure to Test First.

In the downloadable file, we have: the cut (red outline) for the shape of the paper mold, as well as the etch (blue outline) for the folds of the origami. The etch is for creating easy-folding lines on the origami pattern. Therefore, we have to make sure: (1) the etch is not too deep, which would weaken the paper, and (2) not too light, so that we can create the folds.

For the heat setting process, I measure the thickness of the paper (0.01 inches) for the Z-index and have the suggested power setting from the Materials Database. I test the etch several times and adjust the speed to make sure that it does not cut too deep, but still has a clean, foldable edge. Once we get the right etch, then we can laser cut two copies of the pattern.

Step 5: Cut the Fabric As the Same Size of the Paper Pattern

Put the fabric under the pattern and cut the exact same size of the paper. Put weights or heavy objects on the pattern to secure the fabric is not moving.

Step 6: Folding Patterns

1. Use the edge of a table to help with folding straight lines.
2. After folding all of them in one direction, start to fold them in the order of: mountain fold- valley fold- mountain fold- valley fold… and so on.

3. When all of the folds have been made, collapse the paper into a narrow stick, and press it in order to sharpen all the folds.

4. When you are finished folding two paper patterns, put them together to check that they match perfectly or not.

Step 7: Put the Fabric Between the Patterns

1. Flatten the paper patterns and put the fabric between them. Try to match the edge as close as you can. Due to the thickness of the paper and the space between, the fabric may be larger than the paper patterns.
2. Even out the space and sandwich the fabric.

3. Collapse the pattern and press it flat.

4. Secure the stick in place with wires.

Step 8: Bake the Sandwich~ (paper Mold)

Put the paper mold into an oven, set the temperature around 160 Celsius or 350 Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

Step 9: Check the Results

Open the paper mold to see the Origami Fabric!

Now you get the concept of the pattern. Try to twist and play with it. You will get a better idea about how to apply and edit the design into your personal project!