Christmas index

Paper cutting

Paper cutting is fun. Most of this doesn't need glue, or any special equipment other than paper and scissors. You can use any sort of paper (I've done it with newspaper!) but to start with, use fairly thin but strong paper, like computer paper. You can certainly use paper that's already been printed on one side. Make sure that the scissors cut well. They will need to cut through several layers of paper at the same time, so they wasn't be too blunt. This is NOT work with plastic scissors! If you are going to do paper cutting with children, I strongly recommend that you do it by yourself first, to check you've understood it!

Doily
Snowflake
Cut paper chain
Conventional paper chain
Magic paper chain

Doily

Paper doily

A doily is an ornamental mat. This is a square mat, made of paper. Take a sheet of paper. The paper must be thin, or the folding and cutting will be too difficult. Fold it in four. One corner will be the centre, where all the folds happen (see the red arrow). The other corners have the edges of the paper.

Paper snowflake

Fold again from the centre to the opposite corner, to make a triangle. It will be quite bulky by this time, which is why it's easier with thin paper! Make it into as neat a triangle as possible. Make sure all the folds are made firmly and as straight as possible.

Paper doily

Cut out small shapes along the folded edges (blue arrows). Try to cut through all the layers of paper (another reason to use thin paper!) If you are do this for the first time, then start by cutting out a couple of smallish triangles.

Paper doily

Unfold it and see what happens. You can refold it and try cutting more holes. They don't have to be triangles. You can make cuts on the edge (green arrow), which will alter the shape. The one thing that you must not do is cut across from one edge to another. It is possible just to cut a corner off, though.


Paper snowflake

Snowflake

The previous pattern is square. For a snowflake, it's best to start with a round shape. So start with a circle of paper and fold it into four.

Paper chain
Paper snowflake

Now fold that into three (as opposed to two). This is easier with thin paper. Try to make these folds accurate and straight, and press them firmly down.

Paper snowflake

Do the cuts along the long edges for holes within the snowflake. You can also cut along the curved edge, which will alter the shape of the snow flake. Experiment how big you can make the cuts. The one thing that you must not do is cut right across from one long edge to another, or make one shape cut into another. It's best to start by cutting out small shapes, unfold and see what it looks like, then refold and cut some more. You don't need many cuts for a good effect. Unfold it after a few cuts, then fold again and try some more.

When you have finished, the snowflakes look much better with bright or dark coloured paper behind them to show up the holes and shapes. The snowflake will need thin paper and good scissors, and careful folding. If that is too difficult, then just do the square shapes as decorations. Use different coloured paper, and mount them on contrasting paper.

If you want to combine this activity with some mathematics, then you are producing a symmetrical shape. The folds are the lines of symmetry. This is reflective symmetry (although it happens to be rotational as well!)


Cut paper chain

Paper chain

You could stick the doilies or the snowflakes together, possibly with tape, to make a paper chain. Here is a way to make a chain with a single piece of paper. Get a long strip of paper, possibly by sticking together several pieces, or make a small strip from a single piece of paper. It must be a lot wider than it is high. Fold the strip of paper into a zigzag.

Paper chain

Neaten up the paper. You can make random cuts as above, or you can cut a specific shape. This will be a line of angels. The edge of the wings must be along the folded edge (the blue arrows) or the angles will be standing on each other's heads!

If you are making random cuts, then you can use any sort of coloured paper, such as (unwanted) magazine pages, or you could paint the paper before you start. Allow it to dry first, though! You could stick on sequins or sparkly stuff afterwards, or even colour them afterwards, although the holes will make this a little awkward.

You could make several separately, then tape them togather to make longer strings.


Conventional paper chain

Paper chain

This is the way to make old fashional conventional paper chains. It's best to have brightly coloured paper for this. You can use up coloured paper, or paint paper (and let it dry), or use old magazine pages with bright pictures in. Cut a lot of strips, all the same size. They must be several inches long and about an inch wide. Bend the first strip round into a circle, and glue (or tape) it.

Paper chain

Poke the next strip through the centre of the first, and bend it round to glue it. Now you have two linked loops. Carry on adding more and more loops. You can have several people making chains, and link them to make one long chain at the end. The main problem is the glue. Most glue safe for children takes some time to dry or tends not to be very strong. So perhaps the children could be put in charge of the cutting of the strips, and a responsible adult do the gluing, or you could use sticky tape instead. Paper chains can be very fragile (even with strong glue), so they are easily torn if someone treads on one end.


Magic paper chain

Paper chain

This was originally a magic trick: how to walk through a postcard. But it makes quite a pretty (if very fragile) paper chain from a small piece of paper, especially if it is brightly coloured. The paper must not be too large or it will be hard to make regular cuts. Postcard size (6 inches by 4 inches) is fine, but for a try-out you can use something smaller. The chain will be very fragile, so don't use paper which is too thin. Fold the paper in half.

Paper chain
Paper chain

Make a number of cuts. Where these are is very important. The first cut is from the folded edge (blue arrow) to near the opposite edge but not all the way to it. The next cut is from the opposite edge to near the folded edge, and so on. For the most impressive effect, there should be a lot of cuts, close together. But when you start, only make a few cuts, so you understand what's going on. The cuts are shown in green in the diagram.

Paper chain

One last cut. Cut along the folded edge from the first cut to the last cut. This is shown in red. Do not cut from edge to edge. Now pull it apart very carefully. It is fragile, but if you don't tear it, you will have a large circle of paper, which you can probably step through, if you made enough cuts! But you can also use it as a paper chain or train decoration. This does need careful cutting and handling, so probably not suitable for small or clumsy children. Perhaps you could do it to entertain the children! But try it out yourself first.