In Japanese legend, cranes are thought to mate for life—and to live 1,000 years—making them a powerful symbol of fidelity. Traditionally, the father of the bride gives sen bazaar, 1,000 origami cranes, to use as wedding décor. The lucky birds make a gorgeous ceremony marker on tree limbs, or you could also turn a smaller group into place cards, with the guest's name on one wing and the table assignment on the other. Get the step-by-step instructions below, or buy them pre-folded at KeikisPaperFolds.Etsy.com ($27 for 100 large white cranes, $22 for 100 small white cranes, and $18 for 50 small gold cranes).
Tip: Folding a paper crane takes practice. As you work, be sure to make your creases sharp and to match corners and edges carefully.
1. Start with a square of origami paper, colored on one side.
2. With the colored side facing up, fold the paper diagonally into a triangle. Crease well, and unfold.
3. Fold diagonally in the opposite direction. Crease well, and unfold.
4. Flip paper over, so the colored side is down.
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5. Fold in half vertically to form a rectangle. Crease well, and unfold.
6. Fold in half horizontally, and crease.
7. Unfold, but don't flatten the square.
8. Bring all four corners of the paper together, folding one at a time, until you have a flat square. (There will be one open end and two flaps on the left and right.)
9. Lift the top flap on the right side, and fold toward the center, as the arrowindicates. Crease along dotted line a–c. Then repeat with top flap on left side, creasing along dotted line a–b.
10. Fold the top point (d) down along dotted line b–c, and crease.
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11. Unfold the three folds you just made. Lift the top layer of paper at point a, and fold it back, creasing on the inside along dotted line b–c.
12. Press down on points b and c, smooth-ing the paper into a long, flat triangle. Flip the paper over, and repeat steps 9, 10, and 11 on this side. The folded paper should look like a diamond with two "legs" at the bottom.
13.Taper the bottom (the legs) of the diamond by folding the top layer of each to meet the center, along dotted lines a–e and a–f. Flip the paper over, and repeat tapering folds.
14. Lift the upper flap only at point f, and fold over in the direction of the arrow, as if turning the page of a book. Flip the paper over, and repeat this "book" fold.
15. Lift the upper layer of the point at the bottom (point a) and fold it back so it meetswith the top points, creasing along dotted line g–h. Flip paper over, and repeat this step on the other side.
16. Lift the top flap on the right side at point f, and fold over as if turning the page of a book. Flip paper over, and repeat.
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17. You will see two points, a and b, beneath the top flap. Holding the bottom, pull each one outward, as shown, and then press down at points x and y to secure them in place.
18. Fold the end of one point downward to form the crane's head; reverse the crease in the head, and pinch to form the beak. The other point will be the crane's tail.
19. Finish by pulling the wings outward and gently blowing into the opening underneath the crane to fill out the body.