Paper-Pieced Origami Animal Blocks ~ A Video Tutorial

on March 21 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 34 Comments

Origami Animal Blocks

Earlier this year we set up a new loft bed for my 9-year-old daughter, Lola. Although we considered putting a desk under the full-size bed, she decided she wanted to create more of a den-like space with curtains, posters (cute animals at this point, thank goodness), and lots of pillows. She is a budding sewist, so we searched online for pillows we really loved and we came across these fantastic screen-printed designs. White isn’t really what I had in mind, and screen print isn’t what she had in mind, so we decided to do something similar in patchwork.

6 origami pillows

I was lucky enough to quickly stumble upon a free dingbat font (Origami Bats by Lauren Ashpole) that had 26 origami animals that Lola and I really loved. I thought we could probably sew them, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. After consultating with a few genius quilting friends, I set out  to learn how to recreate the designs in fabric using  a  paper piecing method.

origami dove

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was totally IN LOVE with the Ringo Pie blocks, but hadn’t done any paper piecing myself.  I started watching videos, reading blog posts and trying out a few tutorials. (I’ve compiled my favorites in a Paper Piecing Pinterest board.) It was a lot of trial and error. I played with foundation piecing, but couldn’t make every animal Lola chose work. I finally decided to use a template freezer paper method.

origami frog

The template freezer paper method is kind of like creating a puzzle. You disect your design on paper, cut it up, transfer it to fabric and sew it all back together. (As opposed to foundation piecing in which you put your design on a paper or muslin pattern, then sew through the pattern to construct your block.)

origami hummingbird

The hardest part for me was learning how to create a pattern. Almost everything I found online was an existing pattern with numbered procedures. It took me a long time to figure out how to make a pattern from scratch.

origami butterfly

After I was done with a few of the blocks I had developed a method for creating the patterns. At that point I realized it might be helpful to other people to learn a few tips for creating their own freezer paper patterns. We decided to create a video tutorial, which we’ve broken into three parts.

origami rabbit

It is my sincere hope that through these videos you can learn how to construct a block using the template freezer paper method and also learn a few tips for creating your own blocks. I don’t provide you with the patterns for the 26 animals, but instead give you some guidance for making your own.

origami fish

You can print this outline of the steps to accompany the videos. If you make any origami animal blocks of your own, we’d love to see them!

Freezer Paper-Pieced Origami Animal Block Part 1 ~ Sew,Mama,Sew!

Freezer Paper-Pieced Origami Animal Block Part 2 ~ Sew,Mama,Sew!

Freezer Paper-Pieced Origami Animal Block Part 3 ~ Sew,Mama,Sew!

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34 Responses to Paper-Pieced Origami Animal Blocks ~ A Video Tutorial

  1. Erika says:

    Great idea! I have an origami-a-day calendar from a few years ago that I have been hanging onto because I thought there was a craft idea hidden in it somewhere (thought of making the box patterns into fabric bags). I will dig it out and see if any of the pictures are suitable for pillows. Can’t believe this was your first video. I expect it will be very helpful. Not sure I understand the bit with the matching the pieces up with pins. You brought out lots of points that I couldn’t have begun to think of.

  2. Taya@TypeB says:

    This is so great! I definitely want to give this a shot. Love those cranes.

  3. Lydia says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderful and original idea. I’m going to use your idea to make some tote bags for my nieces, but rather than paper-piece, do some raw edge applique using sew and bond.

  4. Beth T says:

    These are stunning. Thank you so much for letting us benefit from what have been hours of experimentation to come up with something so lovely.

  5. floribunda says:

    wonderful stuff! thanks for the links and tutorials!

  6. Christine B says:

    Good tutorial! I actually made an origami frog one time but was never able to make a second one. I think I like the fish the best on these pillows. I have some neices and nephews who might like one of these. Thanks!

  7. iHeartQuilting says:

    I love paper piecing, because the points are so perfect and you can use those small scraps that you can’t use elsewhere. My 8 yr old daughter loves Origami, so a few of these may be perfect for her bed!

  8. Megan says:

    Wow, I really love these — origami and sewing, two of my favorites!

  9. Muriel says:

    Great explanation and I love the designs!

  10. njeri says:

    I have always wanted to learn paper piecing but it always looked difficult. Thanks for an amazing video.

  11. rumi says:

    Inspired by this I designed a TANGRAM Easter bunny and egg paper foundation pattern. You can download FREE!–egg-tangram-paper-pieced/10623?fresh=true

  12. Becky Greene says:

    Thanks so much for the videos! I can certainly understand the challenge of creating one of these patterns from scratch!!

  13. Janaina says:

    I just love it!
    I didn’t know this way to do paper piecing, I just use the foundation tecnique, but this was awesome. I’ll try!
    Thank you for the tutorial.

  14. Anke says:

    Love the blocks! a=And love the tutorial. Thanks.

  15. M Evans says:

    I love them! Are the origami patterns for sale anywhere? Before I attempt to re-create them, I thought I’d ask.

  16. MarciaW says:

    I like the pillows and freezer paper piecing seems an easier technique.

  17. Kristin says:

    This tutorial is awesome and I want to try this but am unsure how to use a downloaded font. It doesn’t show up in Work on my Mac. What am I missing?

  18. Aletta says:

    What a cute pillows! I can’t wait to try these!

  19. Aileen Fish says:

    I’ve never seen origami blocks before and really love this in the “mod” fabrics. I see a quilt in my future…

  20. So cool – can’t wait to try these.

  21. Stef says:

    Love the paper piecing & the origami look to the them! Definitely going to try this soon! Fantastic videos too!

  22. SewCalGal says:

    Very creative. I love this project. Great tutorial video too! Thank you!


  23. Anna O says:

    These are fantastic! Thanks so much for the great tutorials and adorable origami figures. 🙂

  24. Heidi says:

    What a fantastic idea! I love these blocks!!

  25. Margaret says:

    Genius! I love these pillows.

  26. These are beyond fabulous!! (Also, I’d love to know what font inspired the designs!)

  27. kathyh says:

    These look fun.

  28. Christina says:

    Wow, those animals are very clever and the idea of this type of piecing is making my mind whirl.

  29. rumi says:


  30. Vireya says:

    Nice videos, they were very easy to follow. Thanks for the ideas!

  31. Jenelle says:

    These are fabulous! I like that the tutorial actually explains how to create your own freezer paper patterns. It’s wonderful to have some more information on how that works as well as the step-by-step directions to make the specific block. Great tutorial!

  32. Galatina says:

    These are lovely. I particularly love the hummingbird. Feeling quite inspired. Thanks.

  33. Kerry Green says:

    Great post, especially for beginner freezer paper piecers! I have added this to my paper piecing resource page on my blog! Thankyou

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