Velella are close cousins of jellyfish. They are a hydroid colony, meaning they have separate sexes. Each colony is considered all male or all female. These little sea sailors have a sail that catches the breeze and are commonly seen floating adrift at sea. They are often at the mercy of the winds and move wherever the wind takes them. Just below its brilliant blue body are stinging tentacles that catch planktons that drift near the ocean's surface.
The following instructions will teach you how to make your own velella using paper. If you're interested in making velella in larva form, check out the link here.
This craft tutorial is created by paper artist, Cheryl Teo (also known as Captain Lulo). Research reported in this tutorial was supported by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative of the National Academy of Sciences under award number NAKFI DBS17. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative or the National Academy of Sciences.
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Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Medium weight blue paper (ideally 160 to 180gsm)
- Blue coloured vellum paper
- Clear vellum paper
- Craft knife
- Fast drying adhesive
- Paintbrush to apply glue
- Blue and black watercolour paint
- Cutting mat
Step 2: Print and Cut Templates
Print out all templates in attached PDF. Templates marked 1, 2 and 3 should have a different shade of blue. Templates marked 4 to 12 should be printed in the same shade of blue. Print the tentacles using a translucent blue vellum paper and the sail using a clear sheet of vellum paper.
Cut out the solid lines only. You can use either a scissors or craft knife to cut. The dotted lines are meant for scoring.
Step 3: Create the Velella Body
The number on each item shows the sequence in which you should attach your templates. Start by applying glue onto template #1 and place template #2 on top of it. Repeat for item #3.
Step 4: Bend the Body
Bend the edges of the body with simple folds so that it looks more natural.
Step 5: Create the Top of the Velella Body
Repeat step 3 for templates #4 to #12. The biggest piece should always be at the bottom.
Step 6: Complete the Velella Body
Glue templates #4 to #12 to the top of template #3. Do not apply glue to the bottom edges of template #4 as you will have to slot in tabs from the sail in between the templates later on.
Step 7: Create the Tentacles
Use a craft knife to cut out the tentacles.
Apply glue to the bottom of the tentacle template. Do not apply glue to the tentacles.
Attach the tentacles to the bottom of the velella body.
Step 10: Score the Sail
Score all dotted lines on the sail using the back of your craft knife. Hold your ruler firmly in place with one hand and run the blunt side of your craft knife along the dotted lines, drag it down gently and create a crease. It is necessary to score your lines before folding them.
Step 11: Apply Watercolour to the Sail
Apply a thin layer of black watercolour paint to the middle of the sail in a semi circle fashion and also the the edges of the sail. After it dries, apply a thin layer of blue watercolour paint to the edges of the sail.
Apply glue to the tabs at the bottom of the sail.
Step 13: Attach Sail to Body
Insert the first tab in between templates #3 and #4. Curl the sail in an ’S’ shape and insert the other tab at the far end into the other side of the template.
Step 14: Congratulations! You Are Ready to Set Sail!
Pull out the tentacles at the bottom and your very own paper velella is completed!