Iris Folding for your Altered Book


Iris folding is a relatively new papercraft that is said to have originated in Holland. It's simple to do, easy to learn, and economical. Essentially, you fold strips of paper in a pattern reminiscent of an eye's iris. iris folding

I made the heart-shaped sample to the left using three varieties of ribbons. I added a little diamond glitter to finish it off.

The red organza ribbon is folded; the other two are used "as is". All three came from Michaels Arts and Crafts store, and were on sale for next to nothing. As you can see, you are not restricted to papers when doing iris folding. You can use ribbon, lace, fabric, specialty papers such as mulberry, and even metals.


First, this technique is much easier to do than to explain. If you want to see pictures of the process, I would direct you to Search the site for "iris folding" and you will be rewarded with pictures showing every step of an iris folding project.


  • Card stock or mounting material.
  • Iris folding pattern or template
  • Scissors and/or paper cutter
  • Pencil
  • Repositional tape or temporary glue
  • Permanent tape (ie ordinary old Scotch tape)
  • Strips of papers, ribbon, metals, lace, etc.

You might be interested in this video demonstrating iris folding.


free iris pattern I made this iris pattern for you to experiment with. It is a dress form, or a woman's body, whichever you prefer. Print it and use it if you wish. Tip: Internet Explorer users, right click on the image. You will get a menu offering a number of choices, including print, save to disk, email and copy to your clipboard.

The four colors represent the four different papers you will need. Use the numbering as your guide. In other words, you will fold and tape paper strips working from #1 to #2. all the way to #31.

Making the Iris Design

  1. Print your pattern onto printer paper, and cut it out.

  2. Assemble four complementary color papers or other materials that you plan to use in the folding. The pink in the pattern represents Paper #1; the blue represents Paper #2, and the yellow represents Paper #3. Cut these three papers into several long strips about 3/4 inches wide. Fold these strips in half so they are about 3/8" wide. For the red color in the middle (the iris) , select a small scrap of paper. Some people prefer holographic paper for the iris. I do not, but that is just a preference.

  3. Select the card stock or mounting material that you are going to use. Turn it face down on the table. Center the iris patter, face up, on the card stock. With the pencil, trace around the edges so you draw the pattern's shape on the back of your mounting material.

  4. Using the scissors or other cutting tool, carefully cut the dress form shape out of the card stock. Your card stock will now have a hole in it the exact shape of the dress form. Discard the card stock shape you have cut out, or use it for another purpose. Tip: Stamp a design on it and use it to make an art doll.

  5. Using repositional tape or temporary glue, attach your iris pattern, face up, to your table top or work area.

  6. Position your mounting card stock face down over the pattern. The pattern should fit nicely into the shape that you cut out.

  7. Using temporary glue or repositional tape, attach the card stock to the table top with the pattern aligned in the cutout space. This holds your card stock and pattern in place while you work.

    Now, you should have the BACK of your card stock facing upwards, with the front of the iris pattern showing through the cut-out shape.

  8. Begin by covering the #1 pink space. Take a strip of paper that you are using for the pink section, and align the folded edge of the paper so it matches the inner line of the #1 space, and completely covers the space. Cut your paper so a 1/4 inch or so extends on either end of the #1 space. Using permanent tape, tape both ends to the card stock. You have now covered the first space.

  9. #2 and #3 are also pink. Repeat, using the same paper and the same procedure.

  10. For Space #4, switch to the paper that you are using for the blue areas. Attach as above. Continue folding and taping, working your way through the pattern numerically.

  11. When you reach #31, tape the holographic (or other paper) to cover the iris.

  12. Untape your card stock from the table top, and turn it over. You should have a beautiful design on the right side of your card stock. Add embellishments as desired.

  13. Remove your pattern from the table.

Iris Folding in an Altered Book

Use as embellishments, or create the designs directly in niches that you have cut into a patterned shape. Let your imagination run wild.

Locating Patterns

Patterns are plentiful. You can buy books and magazines containing iris patterns. You can purchase iris patterns on the Web, or find free ones. It is not difficult to create your own, especially if you are skilled on the computer.

Here's how to make your own: Find or create a suitable shape. Get the image of the shape into your computer, either by scanning, downloading from the Net, using clip art from a CD, or whatever. Open the image in an image editing program. Resize the shape as desired. Using a drawing tool, mark the image into spaces suitable for iris folding. Color code the spaces. Number the spaces if desired. The latter step is not necessary once you become familiar with this technique.

Books at Amazon

Iris Folding With Paper by Maruscha Gaasenbeck, Tine Beauveser

Festive Iris Folding by Maruscha Gaasenbeck, Tine Beauveser

The Search Press Book of Traditional Papercrafts: Parchment Craft, Stencil Embossing, Paper Pricking, Quilling by Janet Wilson

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