Sunday, November 25, 2012

Let it Snowflake!

Today, I spent very nearly the entire day, from 11:30am to nearly 7:00pm, working on decorating our house for Christmas, and we're still not quite done.  One of the items still on the to-do list for my favorite holiday: putting up the paper snowflakes in the dining room.

Last year, inspired entirely by Shane Odom's enthusiastic love for snowflakes and cutting paper snowflakes, I found myself unable to stop making them.  I must have cut out at least thirty or forty paper snowflakes, and my hands are already itching to make more this year.  I'm still not that great at it, but the process of randomly cutting notches out of the carefully folded paper is so soothing and zen, I don't want to ever stop!  

The entire concept of a snowflake is one of enchantment and wonder, and definitely Domythic.  Snow is a blanket of white that covers even the ugliest part of the manmade world in nature's glittering beauty.  And the idea that this blanket is composed of miniscule crystals, each of which is entirely different than the other, is incredibly awe-inspiring.

So without further ado, here are some excerpts from Shane's directions on making paper snowflakes.

"How full of the creative genius is the air
in which these are generated!
I should hardly admire more if real stars fell
and lodged in my coat"
~Henry David Thoreau, 1856

Firstly, and I  feel, most importantly, is that real snowflakes are always hexagonal  symmetrically. That is, they have Six point, and very rarely, twelve. It  is part of the fundamental atomic structure of water and immutable. I  won't go on about this to much, but I would recommend anyone interested  in creating really nice paper snowflakes, familiarize themselves with the  real things. Start with the man who started it all, Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. Then check out the work on snowflakes by Kenneth Libbrecht, professor of physics at Caltech, at  Dr. Libbrecht is a neat guy and has published a number of books on the  subject. Suffice it to say, that I am a little nutty for snowflakes and  have taken up macro-photography of them. Here is one of my pictures from  last year to illustrate the geometry.


So, take a piece of paper. If using 8.5"X11" printer paper, you need to  make it square. I have a stock of very thin old government issue memo paper that I use very sparingly for my best work. It has a National Seal as a watermark and I get a kick out of using it and seeing what of the Seal is visible. I have found that Oragami paper works very well, and is already square, as well as other thin papers. However, as is often the case, I reach for printer stock. Fold the a square into the paper and cut of the strip remaining.

The stripe makes a great paper chain piece, and I like to split it length wise to get two links and make a very long chain very quickly. More on that later.
Fold the triangle in half again.  

This is the tricky bit, (Grace here: I can attest to this.  After folding thirty or forty, I STILL don't quite have this part down right) but essential to getting a proper points.  Snowflakes are crystals, therefore show hexagonal symmetry. Achieve this  by folding the two ends of the triangle inward, overlapping equally in  the middle. All I can say is that this takes practice, but after a few  flakes you should have it down. I do some wiggling to line up the point,  which helps.

I really can't explain that part better than has been done in some of the links and there are sites that give you the angles etc., so please explore more if you need to. If you find it difficult, understand, that I have shown lots of people how to do it and many have a bit of a trick getting it. When they see me fold it that say I make it look easy. I reply, "Well, a few hundred times of practice helps!"

You will then have two points sticking out of the wide end of a cone shape. Cut those off across the line.  

Now comes the drawing! This is a fun and tricky part. I use pictures of real  snowflakes for inspiration often. You have to understand that the  structure of snowflakes to get it right. The folded side of the  triangle, shown by arrow, is the end of the one of points, so you are  drawing half a main point. 

Always remove the smaller sections within the body of the flake before  doing the larger upper portion. There are many options for scissors. If  you work with fine origami paper, manicure scissors can make very  precise cuts. Working with office paper, I tend to use kids scissors as  they can do what I need and are comfortable for extended use.

Once you have cut away, open and up and press it. I use books, or sometimes an iron on low steam.  I cut A LOT OF THEM. My family kinda accepts that the house will be filled with bits of paper.

Snowflakes in the window of Shane's home.

Acorn and oak leaf snowflake design by Shane

Christmas tree snowflake design by Shane

Shane cutting snowflakes live in a store window..

(Grace here again)  Believe me...if you're anything like me, once you get the folding part down and do a few flakes, you will find it utterly addicting.  

And if, on the off chance, you don't decide you love the process, you can always buy one of Shane's annual snowflake collections, available on Etsy!


  1. This is too funny! I made a ton of paper snowflakes last year and put them in all my windows. I hadn't cut paper snowflakes since I was in grade school. I can't wait to do it again this year. Would love to get several people to come over and make a paper-cutting party out of it.

  2. This is definitely a project for me and the boy child this Winter. Just seeing all of the intricate designs makes my fingers itchy for snipping!

  3. Bryony, after a while, even the folding of the paper, though the hardest part, is soothing. I can't wait to see the designs you and he create!!

    Crydwynn, a paper cutting party is a marvelous idea! One or two people could also work on making the paper chains from the cut piece of paper you have to discard when you fold the snowflake!

  4. Oaks are hands-down my absolute favorite tree, so naturally I *love* the acorn/leaf one! :) Does Shane have the pattern available anywhere for public use?