What is Teabag Folding?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Teabag folding is a kind of origami that was developed late in the 20th Century in Holland. Origami itself is a Japanese art of paper folding that dates back to antiquity. However, it has become a popular craft in many places around the world and has given rise to new designs and trends such as teabag folding.

Teabag folding is a kind of origami that was developed late in the 20th Century in the Netherlands.
Teabag folding is a kind of origami that was developed late in the 20th Century in the Netherlands.

Teabag folding was developed by a Dutch woman named Tiny van der Plas. She had been practicing origami for quite some time before she came up with this technique. The story goes that she was sitting at home one day having a cup of tea when she realized that she'd forgotten to get a birthday card for her sister. As she sat there, she began fiddling with the small paper envelope that her tea bag had come in. This gave her an idea for a new kind of origami.

Teabag folding can be used to embellish pages of scrapbooks and photo albums.
Teabag folding can be used to embellish pages of scrapbooks and photo albums.

This new kind of origami that Ms. van der Plas developed is made by using small square pieces of paper, like the packets that tea bags come in, and folding them in such a way as to create a three-dimensional interlocking design. Following the history of how this kind of origami was invented, teabag folding is often used to create embellishments for greeting cards. They are also sometimes used to affix to gifts and certificates of achievement. They can also be used to embellish pages of scrapbooks and photo albums.

The most common kind of teabag folding begins with a basic kite fold which is used to make three-dimensional rosettes. Because of this rosette shape, this common kind of teabag folding is also sometimes called "miniature kaleidoscope origami" or "kaleidoscope folding."

Since origami is a craft that lends itself to invention and personal expression, many paper folding artists have found ways to create other shapes using similar techniques to the one that Tiny developed in Holland. Some teabag folding designs yield flowers, birds, butterflies, snowflakes, or even religious symbols such as crosses or the Star of David.

If you are interested in learning how to do origami, you might want to begin with a slightly simpler pattern than teabag folding. Because the folds rely on precise symmetry and intricate work, this might be a difficult project for a beginner. To get started, go to your local craft store and look for a book on origami for beginners. You should also be able to pick up paper that is the perfect size and quality for your first projects.

Origami paper can easily be cut to the right size for teabag folding.
Origami paper can easily be cut to the right size for teabag folding.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


Tea bag origami is so neat and can be so different! I have never done origami myself, but friends have, and I just love seeing the new designs that they learn or come up with on their own! I am a big fan of any type of art, so I love just looking at the many different colors, shapes, and designs.

Tea bag origami seems like it would be something for a more advanced person in origami to try. I wouldn't think most people who are just learning could pick up on these intricate folds on a small piece of paper like the envelope of a tea bag! These tea bags turned into origami make great embellishments on cards and scrap-booking.


There always seems to be clever people who think of alternative ways to do something. The lady who started teabag origami was very creative. I can see how teabag origami could be used to decorate homemade greeting cards, a wall hanging, or a table setting.

I have seen a collection of very intricate origami using a dollar bill or two dollar bills folded together. This man was amazing. He made such things as a camera, a toilet, all kinds of fish, a very realistic looking crab, and many other items. There were many folds and a dollar bill is pretty heavy paper. I don't know how he did it.


I've done a little origami folding with regular origami paper that is fairly thin. I've always used one of the larger pieces of paper. The larger paper is a lot easier to work with when you are just beginning.

Using teabags to fold into intricate designs sound like fun. If you drink the tea anyway, the paper wrapping is free. I think it will take quite a bit of practice, but it would be fun. I'll have to get a book or video about how to do it. It's a good activity to keep your fingers nimble as you get older.


My daughter got married last year and her husband's mother is really into to teabag folding. As a feature of the wedding she made hundreds of rosettes that they then scattered around on all of the tables at the reception.

It really was a nice touch. They are so small and curious looking that you couldn't help but pick one up to examine it. I think that most people left with a least one of them in their pocket. That was a magical night for lots of reasons but the teabag origami just made it that much better.


I took a class on teabag origami at my local library and now I am hoked. I am a big tea drinker to begin with but now that I have this cool skill I can do with the empty envelopes I find myself drinking more tea than ever.

I have put all my creations on a table in my living room and I also make a habit of giving out a paper sculpture any time its someones birthday or Christmas or whatever. Its cheap, easy and a lot of fun to do and people really seem to get a kick out of getting my origami.


I received a hand made card from a friend who is very crafty and enjoys doing things like this. This card had some beautiful, unique embellishments on it that I was fascinated with.

She told me they were made by a process called teabag folding. I was amazed what could be make out of a small piece of paper.

I don't think I would be able to follow the teabag folding instructions without having someone show me what to do as we went along.

I am sure it is not that complicated once you get the hang of it, but it looks hard if you have no idea where to start.

My friend likes to make all her own birthday and Christmas cards and spends a lot of time on this. I always appreciated the cards I receive from her because I know how much she has put in to making them.


I have a little bit of experience with origami, but have never tried any teabag folding patterns.

One of the things I like about origami is all the different patterns and designs you can make. The brightly colored paper also adds to the fun of it.

Teabag folding does sound a little bit complicated if you are just starting out. I went to one class on learning how to do origami. I have a few books with patterns and have watched some online videos to get a better idea of how to do it well.

This is something that seems to come easier for some people than others. My sister picked up on it much faster than I did. I enjoy doing it, but it was easier for her to visualize and create the patterns than it was for me.

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