Do you want to fold a snowflake? There’s nothing like a storm ending in “-zilla” to get you in the mood. I’ve been teaching Meg how to do them, and I’ve got some tricks to make them turn out better, but in my opinion, Mom and Dad need craft time as much as kids (especially after six zillion loads of wet snowpants). I thought I’d put together a tutorial. First, I’ll show how to set up and cut a common or garden snowflake so it actually has six sides, and then I’ll show you a more complicated one—in this case, a Celtic knot-inspired snowflake.
1. Gather your supplies. The compass is optional, but starting with a circular paper is slightly easier to handle. Also, some people like compasses and associate them with that John Donne poem. A cozy beverage is obviously a necessary part of crafting snowflakes.
2. Fold your paper in half. I folded my printer paper into a half-square triangle because that’s a fairly efficient use of paper, but circle, square, or rectangle, the important part is that the paper get folded in half.
3. Fold your paper in half again, but do not crease it down. Only pinch it to mark the center.
4. Lock S-folds in attack position. This is how you make a SIX-sided snowflake. Use your pinch mark as the center, and fold it into three wedges radiating out from that center. You gently fiddle with the curves until all three parts of the S are about equal, and then crease it down. It doesn’t matter whether you started with a circle or a triangle: the S-fold works either way.
5. Fold your wedge in half again. Do not neglect this step, or your snowflake will turn out three-sided. (Voice of experience.)
6. Cut it out! This is the fun, creative part. Sometimes it helps to see a pattern, so I sketched my two. Remember not to cut the fold off entirely, or you will have six snowflakes. I think it looks more snowflake-ey if you cut it asymmetrically, with one side of your folded wedge taller and the other shorter, because if you make both edges equal, the snowflake tends to look twelve-sided, which is overly complicated. And not six-sided.
7. Open and admire. You can let your toddler unfold it and wear it as a hat, but, well, I leave that to your discretion.
When I had the idea of a Celtic knot-inspired snowflake, I needed to cut out holes that were not accessible from the folded edges. I had to fiddle with it, but I came up with a solution. Call this an advanced snowflake-cutting technique.
1. Fold your paper through step 5 above, so you have your wedge folded and ready to go.
2. Sketch your pattern onto the paper.
The idea of a Celtic knot is a thread (or two) that loops around itself in a repeating pattern. We’re going to create the repeats with folded paper, like a chain of paper people, so for this wedge you’re going to copy down a single repeat. You could make up your own, but I think that’s really hard, so I usually find a knot to imitate. I used the pattern on my wedding ring for inspiration. The extra “legs” on the bottom of this are so that my snowflake has a star in the middle instead of a giant hole.
When sketching, it helps to make all the strands the same width, so the paper looks like a cord. The size of the holes on a knotwork snowflake will vary, but the paper needs to be consistent.
When things get complicated, it helps to color lightly the parts you’re going to cut.
3. Cut out the areas that are accessible from the edges.
4. Unfold the six small wedges. Your paper should still be folded in half. Now, re-fold just one wedge. There should be four layers of paper. That’s about as many as I could cut through for detail work.
5. Look at the interior part that you need to cut. Hopefully, there will be a “line of symmetry” – meaning, a line you can fold along so you can access the middle parts evenly. In the picture, I marked my line of symmetry with a dotted line. Fold it down.
6. Carefully cut the interior holes. Start small – you can always make them bigger.
7. When you’re happy with how your section looks, unfold it, and lay a cut layer on an uncut layer. Trace the interior hole. This is your pattern for the next segment.
8. Adjust the folds so four more layers are in position, with the new pattern visible. This is the middle third of your snowflake. Fold the line of symmetry on the new layers and cut. Unfold and repeat on the last third of your snowflake.
If you make any snowflakes, I’d love to see them! Stay warm.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images by Carolyn Bales.