Origami Crane Pattern and Tutorial

At long last I’ve managed to do a tutorial for my Origami Crane block (finishes at 12″).  I’m planning to request it as my block in an online quilt block swap, so it seemed only fair to provide some instructions to go with!  If you’re confident with foundation piecing, you can download the pattern here: Origami_Crane_pattern and get started (print the pattern with no scaling!), or see below for how I pieced this block.



Basic sewing and rotary cutter skills will be useful.


You will need:

  • the pattern – printed with NO scaling!
  • three different fabrics (background fabric, fabric 1, fabric 2)
  • fabric scissors
  • paper scissors
  • a rotary cutter
  • a cutting mat
  • a quilting ruler with a 1/4″ mark
  • pins
  • neutral-coloured thread for piecing
  • a seam ripper (hopefully not necessary, but just in case!)
  • a sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board (steam setting OFF!)

The pattern is intended to print on A4 paper without scaling, though I have tried to ensure that it will print ok on US Letter paper.  There are six pages – five with different parts of the block and one with an overall joining scheme.  Each block part also has a list of fabrics that correspond to the labelled areas on the block part.


On each block piece page, there is also a grey 1″ square for checking the scale – if this square is not 1″, the block will not be the right size!  I recommend printing just one part to begin with and checking the size of the grey square to make sure your printer settings are correct before wasting paper printing out all the pieces at the wrong scale!


Once all the pages are printed, cut out each part carefully around the outermost lines and make sure to keep the piecing lists:

The outer line is the seam allowance for joining the block parts – don’t cut it off!

Lastly, make sure you have shortened the stitch length on your sewing machine.  About 1.5mm works well.



Here’s how I pieced part A – the other parts are all pieced in much the same way.

Important!  When cutting out fabric pieces, always make sure that the fabric is right-side facing down and the foundation paper is printed side facing up.  This will ensure that the fabric always ends up the right way round and less fabric is wasted due to miss-cuts.

In my example, I have chosen a cream music-score print as the background fabric, a big floral print as fabric 1 (the main parts of the crane) and a solid pink as fabric 2 (the smaller detail parts of the crane).


The first piece (A1) of part A is background fabric.  I folded the paper along the stitch lines so that I could get a good idea of the shape of the piece, then cut out a piece of background fabric with a very generous seam allowance.  It’s a good idea to secure the first piece of fabric to the paper with a few pins to stop it wandering off where it shouldn’t.

I then repeated the process to cut out A2 (here, A2 is cut from fabric 2).

When held up to the light, you can see that the fabric comfortably covers area A2 with plenty of seam allowance.

Next comes the clever bit!  I stumbled across this trick on the internet, but can’t remember where, I will add a link if I find it again.  This is an easy way to join the two bits of fabric and make sure that they cover the right areas.  It seems fiddly initially, but it works brilliantly and soon becomes second nature.

First, make sure both pieces are covering their respective areas, then pin along the stitch line between the two areas, like so:

When the piece is flipped over, the pins create an anchor point for where the seam will be.  You can check whether the seam allowance is large enough, and trim it back a little if it’s very large.  (I recommend caution with trimming, though – if something goes wrong then that extra fabric might be useful for re-alignment.)

Next, fold down and pin the main flap of the second piece (A2 here) so that the fold runs snugly along the stitch-line pins, like so:


Try not to distort the fabric, and make sure that the pin(s) does not catch any of the seam allowance underneath.  Flip back to the paper side and remove the pins along the stitch line.  This will allow the seam allowance of A2 to be unfolded:


The fold in the fabric should line up nicely with the stitch line.  If it does, sew along the stitch line between A1 and A2:

Fold A2 back along the stitched line to make sure that it is still correctly covering the whole area:


If all is well, the seam allowance can be trimmed to 1/4″ (with a rotary cutter – the scissors are just attention seekers!), set and pressed:

Repeat the process for A3 (fabric 3 here):

The last piece of part A is A4, another background piece, attached in the same way as before:


Once the whole part is pieced, it can be trimmed to size along the outer edges by using a ruler and rotary cutter (there is no need to add an “extra” 1/4″ allowance, it is already included):

If you have cut out the paper parts carefully, the risk of cutting paper with the rotary cutter blade should be minimal – the 1/4″ seam allowance should line up with the 1/4″ mark of the ruler.


Part A is finished!

Assemble parts B-E in the same way. and join them as described in the pattern.  Note that the seam for D6 can be trimmed to 1/8″ if necessary.

Joining the parts

For larger areas of fabric (particularly the background), it is helpful to pin it in place to the paper to stop it wriggling and wrinkling during the final assembly.

Part A is joined to part B:


Use pins to line up the two parts so that the points match:

I put a pin straight through the all points I want to match and then use more pins to secure the two pieces together, then sew along the seam line:


Then open it up and check that the points match!

Hooray!  🙂

At this point, I removed the paper that covers the seam allowance between the two parts (this saves a lot of hassle later!), making sure not to stretch the surrounding fabric too much, and press this seam open to reduce bulk:

Part C attaches to part D like so:


Part E attaches to the top of CD:


Last of all, AB is attached to CDE to make the finished block:


If all has gone well, no unpicking will have been necessary and the block will be 12.5″ square (12″ finished):


If the blocks aren’t going to be used for a while, it’s probably worth leaving the paper attached for support; it can be carefully removed if the blocks are to be used straightaway.  Be gentle when handling the blocks and removing the paper; due to the nature of foundation piecing, the fabric grains will be pointing in various directions and it will be very stretchy and easy to distort as a result!


Things don’t always go to plan:


I wasn’t concentrating and attached a new piece before I’d pressed the previous one!  That seam ripper came in handy; luckily I could get away with a partial unpicking to release the pink triangle so it could be pressed properly.


So don’t do that!  🙂

Over to you

I hope this tutorial is interesting and helpful.  If you make something with this block, please link back to me and show me what you’ve made, I would love to see it.  🙂  If you have any feedback or comments, I would also love to hear them – please let me know if there’s something that I’ve missed or if something isn’t clear!

Linking up with Monday Making, Sew Cute Tuesday and Let’s Bee Social when it goes live.

16 thoughts on “Origami Crane Pattern and Tutorial”

    1. Gosh, thanks! 🙂 I’m actually rather new to paper piecing, but it’s a lot of fun – I’d like to try making more designs in the future.

    1. Thank you very much! 🙂 I hope so too, although I have chosen an easier alternative block in case anyone doesn’t want to deal with paper piecing. The blocks should look good together, though. 🙂

  1. I have never done paper piecing before, then fortunately for me you had exactly what I needed, a origami crane for a Japanese quilt I am making…..
    I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the making and know I am hooked…
    Thank You

  2. Thank you thank you thank you!
    I’ve never done paper piecing before… your instructions are so clear I’m not afraid to try!!! And the pattern is perfect to make a runner for my dining room table, 4 crane blocks can turn around to face each person sitting on one side… just lovely!

  3. Thank you for sharing the pattern and instructions. I’m a newbie and probably wouldn’t have been able to figure it out.

  4. This is amazing and I can’t wait to try it. One thing though, I’m very new at quilting, how do I figure out how much material I need for all of the different fabrics? I just don’t want to not have enough, but don’t want to have a ton of leftover also.

  5. I learned to paper piece from a site that commented “no more picking stitches” with paper piecing. I’m sure I have picked more than taking apart an entire quilt! I love it. My sister in law says PPing is “too much fiddling”. For me, every fiddle is fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.