Literary Origami – Book Folding 101

Angel Book: Hard cover book stands on its own; top view – the folds all begin at the same place along the top of the book. The same is true for the bottom.

Before I show you how to make a Folded Book Angel – there are a few things you need to know first:

1. Book Folding is kind of a free-form craft. There are a few techniques, however, that make it easier!  If you have never folded a book before, then start with a sacrificial book that you can test on!

2. A few book terms – so that we are all on the same page, as it were. Book pages  are printed two to a book leaf.  The words ‘page’ and ‘leaf’ are NOT interchangeable – if the pattern you choose says you need 200 leaves, you need to use a book with at least 400 pages…

3. Equipment: top left: the ‘toaster tongs’ that my father in law made out of clothes pegs; bottom right, l-r: black cardstock strip, creaser tool, ruler, pencil

Also, choose a hard cover book so that the book will stand up on its own. You might want a book with cleanly cut page edges, not rough cut ones – though there might be patterns that would look good with rough edges.

3. Equipment: Besides the book, you will need
a ruler;
a pencil;
– a strip of cardstock that is about 2 inches by 10 inches (5cm by 25 cm),
– a couple of clothespegs to hold the book open when it would prefer to be closed. I use  some ‘toaster tongs’ that my father-in-law made with two clothespegs (side by side) sandwiched by two strips of wood.)
– a creaser tool to make the folds crisper than your fingernail can make them. People who do a lot of book folding buy a tool called a bone folder. You could also use the rounded back of a spoon. I use a pointy stick that is slightly convex from side to side. (A remnant from pottery making days.)

4. The Dangerous Part: The pencil mark and scored line on the top end of the book.

4. The Dangerous Part – Marking the fold marks on the top and bottom of the pages. You do this so that all your folds begin at the same place on the top or bottom of the book. I do this by Measuring, Marking and scoring. You’ll need a pencil and exacto knife or a regular knife to do this. (Knives – the dangerous bit)

With the book partly closed, stand it on its top covers.  You are going to create a scored line across all the pages. Measure about 3/4 inch (2 cm) from the spine and draw a line like you see in the photo. Using the ruler and an exacto knife or a regular knife, score the line so that you can see the score on each page when the book is flat and open. (It is very difficult to do a nice fold if that top mark is too close to the spine!)

You will do this to both the top and the bottom of the book.

If you don’t want do this step, then you can devise some other way to line up your folds so that they are consistent across the top and bottom of the book.

5. Turn the book so that the top of the book is on your right and the spine is at the top of your work surface. You should be able to faintly see the marks you made on the top and bottom of the book. You’ll make another mark on the side of the page. In this case, for the angel, I made a mark 1.25 inches (3 cm) from the bottom of the book.

Top on the right. Spine at the top of the work surface. The mark on the top and bottom of the book are the ones you scored with the blade of a knife. The mark on the side of the page is, in this case, 1.25 inches (3 cm) from the bottom of the page.

6. Most folds begin (or end if you prefer) from a mark on the top of the page (or bottom of the page) to a mark on the side of the page. A cardstock strip is a handy tool for making straight folds. Align the cardstock so it touches the top of the page mark and the side page mark.

One fold is made from the mark on the top of the page to the mark on the side of the page. The second fold is from the mark on the bottom of the page to the mark on the side of the page. Align the marks along the piece of cardstock.

7. Hold the cardstock securely in place with one hand and use the other hand to fold the page along the cardstock. Press with your finger. This fold made a nice triangle, but it caused the page to overlap the previous page. A second small fold corrects the overlapping situation.

Small fold.

8. Your last fold goes from the bottom page mark to the side page mark.

The last fold.


9. When you are done, use your crease folding tool to make everything crisp.

Make the folds crisp.

10. For some projects, you will have two marks on the side of the page.

The two folds when there are two marks on the side of the page.

11. When you aren’t working on your book, close it and store it under a stack of two or three heavy books. That will help to compress the folded pages.

That is the basics. Other posts in this series:

Literary Origami – Heart and Cat
Literary Origami – Folded Book Angel
Book Fold Angel Decorated
Literary Origami – Book Folding 202 – A Paw Print
As the Month Unfolded – I Folded Easy Angles
Book Folding – the Letter ‘M’ and Fringe Flowers
The Dark Side of Book Folding

7 thoughts on “Literary Origami – Book Folding 101

    1. A book without it’s book cover becomes a different entity! I have to wonder if the author picks the colour of the cover or it is up to the publisher.

      The folding does take quite a bit of time, but the measuring is the only part that takes some concentration. I listen to music and that seems to make the time fly.


      1. It looked challenging Margy but you gave good directions and visual aids. I passed the post along to a fellow blogger who has a Christmas angel collection. I had never heard of a book angel and she said her husband bought her one and it sits on her piano.


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