Cardmaking Techniques: Iris folding

Creating unique cards for a very special occasion is very gratifying. Iris folding is a time-consuming technique, but looks very impressive when it's done.

Basically there is a spiralling centre of small strips of paper inside a cutout window.

For our wedding, I made over 200 thank-you cards using this technique. It is the second most popular design I 've worked with so far!

Iris fold card on pointA lovely spiral design inside a cutout window

Materials required

  • card
  • 3x3 inch square
  • 16 strips of 1x4 inches
  • 5.25 x 8.25 rectangle of paper
  • cutting mat
  • metal ruler
  • craft knife
  • scoring tool
  • fine tip glue pen
  • glue stick
  • washi tape

Where to start

Let's begin with the card itself. You can use purchased blank cards, or create you own! I use a full sheet of 8.5x11 inch cardstock, folded in half to give a card of 5.5x8.5 inches.

Now we need the shape for the window we want to cut out. In the beginning, keep it simple - squares or diamonds are the easiest shape to work with.

In this example, I'm using a square.

Square position on CardPlacing the window on the card front

I cut a square of 3x3 inch paper as a guide to see where the window should sit. I liked the look of it turned on point, the top point about 1 inch from the top of card and centered horizontally.

I like to have space underneath the window to add a sentiment later, so that's why I didn't centre the window vertically.

the Tricky part

Cutting the windowCarfeully cutting out the window on the card front

Open the card, laying face up, and cut out the window.

I like to use a metal ruler and a craft knife for this step. Line up the ruler with the edge of your 3 inch square and carefully cut.

The corners don't have to be cut perfectly - those little over-cuts can be covered later.

Remember to cut only 1 layer of card - just the front! -sage advice of experience!!

the Time-consuming part

This cut-out will need 4 rounds of strips. That means I'll need 16 strips of paper cut, 4 for each side of the square.

You can make each side a different colour, or use only 2 colours, or got totally multi-coloured!

In any case, cut enough strips of the colours you'll be using.

I'm using 4 colours, one for each side and I need the strips to be 1x4 inches.


scoring toolsMany common things can be used for scoring

No, scoring is not about making a goal! Scoring is using a dull object to make a dent in the paper. This dent will make folding the paper easier, and the fold will be smooth.

Anything with a small blunt end can be used to score: the backside (non-sharp) of scissor baldes, the backside of a craft knife (although this is often too narrow and can cut the paper if you press too hard), a scoring or embossing tool, even a ballpoint pen cap!

Use a scoring tool just like a pen - only you are making dented lines on the paper instead of ink lines.

Lay the strip of paper on a mat, lining the edges of the strip to the lines on the mat.

If  using patterned or one-sided paper, make sure you score on the back side!

Place the ruler 1/2 inch from the strip edge (this is the centre line) and use a scoring tool to mark this line.

Pressing the foldPressing the fold and burnishing the folded edge.

Now we take each strip and fold along the scored line. This should be easy to do with your fingers!

To make this fold extra sharp and crisp, press along the fold again with a tool.  The idea is to press that fold as flat as it can be.

I like to use the side of the burnishing tool, a pen or ruler for this step - don't use the pointy end of the tool, use the side!

Trick: Lay a pen on the table, and roll it along the fold. You can also use more pressure by sliding the pen along the fold.

Putting it together

iris fold first stripLaying down the first strip of the iris folded design

Go back to the card. Open the card and lay it face-down on the table - you should be looking at the backside of the window opening.

Lay the first strip, starting at the top point and ending about 1/4 inch from the point on the right.

Make sure the fold is on the inside of the window!

Add a dot of glue to each end of the strip and hold in place.

Tip: a glue pen is very helpful for this technique. you don't need a lot of glue on each strip, and glue sticks are too wide for the strips - and messy!

iris folding: first roundLaying out and gluing down the first round

Start at the corner with the fat end of strip 1, and make that the point end of strip 2.

Tip: flip the card over to see the triangles forming. The corner with the fat end of strip 1 has the point end of strip 2.

When placing strips, make sure the folds are on the inside. Also make sure the fat ends are not quite as fat as your folded strip - you want to keep the open edges of the folded strip hidden on the inside of the card.

Keep adding strips until all the strips are used.

Remember to work in a clockwise direction for all strips. This keeps the spiral going in one direction!!

iris folding: last roundHow the iris folded technique looks from the wrong (working) side

After all your strips have been added, flip the card over and take a look.

If you placed your "fat ends" closer together than I did, you'll have a larger window than I did and you may want to add another row or two.

You may have to trim off some of the ends of the strips if they extend over the card fold or off the card. That's OK!

Now cut a piece of card slightly smaller than your card front, in this case: 5.25x8.25 inches

This rectangle will help to secure all the strips and cover up the wrong side of your work. You can use a glue stick or white glue for this step. Glue all around the edges of the rectangle, and add glue to the back of your strips, then glue the rectangle in place.

Make sure you are gluing the good side of the rectangle to the bad side of the card! You'll be able to see this rectangle through the tiny spiral window!

I like to place waxed paper on the table, then the card, another sheet of waxed paper then a stack of books and leave overnight to dry completely.

Iris fold card square on pointFinished card!

Now you can use some ribbon or washi tape to frame the window opening on the card front.

Embellish however you like - a small sticker in the spiral window, patterned paper or stamp around the large window, make a title plaque and mount under the window - as much or a little as you want is awesome!

Voila! a card that Hallmark can't compete with! Congratulations!!

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