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Iris Folding-Instructions and video tutorial

Iris Folding

Iris folding is a paper craft technique that involves folding strips of colored paper in such a way to form a spiraling design. The center of the design forms an iris -- similar to the shape of the iris of a camera lens.

Iris folding originated in Holland.  Designs initially were made using patterned paper cut from the inside of envelopes. Any light weight paper, such as scrapbook paper, origami paper, wrapping paper, the inside of envelopes, pages of magazines or even ribbon can be used. I would not recommend using card stock.  It becomes too bulky when folded in half.  The Designer Series Paper from Stampin' Up!  is perfect for Iris Folding.

Iris Folding can be used as the front of a greeting card, as a scrapbook embellishment or on numerous other paper crafting projects.

Supplies for iris folding include a pattern, strips of colored paper, permanent adhesive, cutting tools and a temporary tape such as painters tape. The temporary tape is used to hold the pattern in place while the design is created.

Iris folding always begins with a pattern.  Iris folding patterns are available in books or can be downloaded from numerous web sites. My favorite patterns are found in the book Iris Folding Compendium, Iris Folding with Iris Folding Paper and Iris Folding with Greetings  by Maruscha Gaasenbeek and Tine Beauveser.  I purchased this several years ago through

The main 3 patterns for Iris Folding are the square, the circle and the triangle.  Click on the link below to view.

Basic Iris Folding Patterns

1. Trace your design on card stock and then cut out with a pair of detail scissors.  You may also use a punch, Big Shot and dies, or the Circles Scissors Plus from Stampin’ Up!  For the Christmas ornament design below, I used this circle pattern  and cut a 3” circle using the Circles Scissors Plus.  Be sure to to do any embossing, stamping or other additions to the front of the card before starting the iris folding pattern.  The front will be too bulky to add these designs afterwards.

 2. Decide on your design and cut your paper into 3/4" wide strips. The number of strips needed will depend on the pattern and the length of the paper.   Fold the strips in half lengthwise.  I find the final project is less bulky if you glue the folded strips closed with Mono or SNAIL adhesive.  While most of the instructions I’ve seen for Iris Folding say to use scotch tape to secure the folded pieces, I find this creates added bulk and prefer to use Mono or SNAIL adhesive. Be sure to use a bone folder to get sharp, crisp crease.

Tip:  Once you have decided on and have cut the paper you’d like for your design, lay the strips in front of you in the order that you will be using them. Keep them in this order as you are working on the pattern.  Or write down a description of the design (circles, stripes, solids etc) and number them in the order of use in the margins of the pattern you are following.  It can get confusing once you begin working with the paper, especially if you are working with a more complicated pattern.  

5 designs of cut 3/4" x 12" paper:

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3. Lay the pattern down on your work surface face up.  Lay your cut or punched piece of card stock FACE DOWN on the pattern.  You always work with the back side of the project.  Adhere the card stock to the pattern on the right or left side only using painters or scotch tape, creating a hinge so you are able to lift up your card stock to check the progress on the front side as you go.

Back side of card secured to pattern creating a hinge:

  Iris Folding 017
  Hinged card opened to the front:

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Strips of paper laid out in the order of use along the side of the pattern.  You are ready to get started!

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For this circle, pattern color 1 will be placed on sections 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31

color 2 will be placed on  sections 7, 12, 17, 22, 27, 32

color 3 will be placed on sections 8, 13, 18, 23, 28, 33

color 4 will be placed on sections 9, 14, 19, 24, 29, 34

color 5 will be placed on sections 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35

4. Begin with folded color 1, placing it over section 1 exactly against the line of the pattern with the fold facing towards the middle.  Apply Mono or SNAIL Adhesive to only the outside facing ends to adhere the strips to the back of the project.  If you apply it towards the center of the paper, the adhesive will show on the front of the project. 

5. Take color 2 and place it on the section 2 of the pattern.  Take color 3 and place it on the section 3 of the pattern.  Continue with color 4 placed on section 4 of the pattern and color 5 placed on section 5 of the pattern.  You will now have completed the first spiral of the pattern.

1st spiral of the  pattern has been completed.  View from the back side of project:

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6. Continue working the pattern with color 1 placed on section 6, color 2 on section 7, color 3 on section 8, color 4 on section 9 and color 5 on section 10. 

As you progress with the spiral sections, be sure to check your work by viewing the project from the front, lifting the card stock using the hinge created with the painter's tape.

2nd spiral of the pattern has been completed.  View of the back side of the project:

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 7. Continue working the pattern in sections until you have a hole in the center which is the "iris".

Back side of completed pattern with hole in the center left for the iris:

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8. When you have completed the pattern, it is time to add the iris to the center of the pattern.  Use a stamped and punched image or an attractive piece of paper to cover the hole in the middle, again adhering it from the back.

Front view of Iris with rhinestone brad in the center.

Iris Folding 003

9. Once complete, remove the painter's tape and remove the project from the pattern.  To finish, apply Sticky Strip to the 4 edges of the back side of Iris Folded design, then attach to the card base.  I find that Sticky Strip best helps adhere the card front to the card base, especially with the bulk of the folded paper.

 Iris Folded Ornament Card

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Supplies Used:

Stamp Sets: Sweet Centers (the top of the ornament), Cute by the Inch (iris) and Four for the Holidays (greeting)

Ink: Cherry Cobbler

Paper: Cherry Cobbler, Very Vanilla, Jolly Holiday  12 x 12 Designer Series Paper cut into 3/4" x 12" strips.  I used approx 1 1/2 strips for each part of the pattern.

Accessories: Big Shot, Finial Press Embossing Folder, Circle Scssors Plus and Glass Cutting Mat, 1 1/4" square punch, rhinestone, paper piercing tool and mat, sticky strip


As promised, I have completed my iris folding video tutorial!  Still learning the ropes, especially when it comes to the lighting.  Check below for the video link.  Please leave a comment.  I'd love to hear what you think.

I used my stamp-a-ma-jig to align the gondola to the punched circle.  I have learned to really like the stamp-a-ma-jig!  A stamp-a-ma-jig tutorial will follow soon.

Stamp Set: Sweat Centers, Stem Sayings

Paper: Whisper White, Rich Razzleberry, Razzleberry Lemonade DSP

Ink: Rich Razzleberry, Ballet Blue, Pixie Pink, Lovely Lilac (for clouds)

Accessories: 1 3/4" Circle punch, Scallop Circle punch, Large Scallop Circle die, Big Shot

To download the circle pattern, click here


Iris Folded hot air balloon 020



Happy Stampin'!