Fold between 400 and 450 triangular units (instructions here). These can be made while watching TV, while sitting in the bus, or while having coffee/tea with a friend. In a classroom setting, 20 students can easily fold 20 units each to make a total of 400 units.
Note that there are 2 slits which are called "pockets". Units are connected by inserting the pointy parts into the pockets. There are 2 ways to position the triangular units.
Position A: the triangle rests on the short edges of the triangle with the pockets still visible.
Position B: triangle rests on the broad edge of the triangle: similar to a mountain; pockets are also visible.
Row 1: begin by arranging 30 - 35 triangular units in a row. These units will be Row 1 of the swan. The number of units you use will depend on the thickness of the paper used. In this example, 30 units were used.
Row 2: connect Row 1 into a ring by using "connector" triangular units. These connector units will become Row 2 of swan. To do this:
- place two Row 1 units side by side in position A;
- insert the points into the pockets of a connector unit (also in position A)
- this forms a cluster of 3 units
Continue in this manner:
- place the cluster made above beside another Row-1 unit;
- connect them together with another triangular unit;
- this forms a cluster of 5 pieces.
Repeat until all Row 1 units have been assembled. Connect the first and last pieces together to form a ring. At this point you would have used 30 units for Row 1 and 30 connector units which make up Row 2 of the origami swan.
Turn the ring over so it no longer looks like a cone: now it looks more like the bottom of a bowl.
Row 3: continue assembling the body of the 3D origami swan by adding more triangular units. Note that the triangular units are now added while in position B. Be sure to insert the points of two different units into one connector unit. Inter-locking the units in this manner will keep the 3D origami swan body together.
Shown: half of Row 3 assembled. Note how you can identify where the next piece goes by counting the layers. Bottom right shows 3 layers (= 3 rows) while top left shows 2 layers of units (= only 2 rows assembled).
Rows 4 to 6: Continue adding more triangular units until you have completed Rows 4, 5, and 6.
Row 7: Add triangular units to form Row 7 as above. Remove 2 triangular units across from one another. Shown: the units at "12 oclock" and "6 oclock" have been removed.
Rows 8 - 20: continue to add more triangular units row after row. In each row, use one less triangular unit. The 3D origami swan will get more and more narrow forming two triangular wing sections. Row 20 will only have one triangular unit on each side: it is the tip of the swan's wing.
As you assemble, allow the pieces to curve naturally to form a bowl-like shape.
Head and Neck: connect approximately 30 triangular units in a linear manner. Position the units in position A and insert one unit into the pockets of a second unit. Allow the pieces to curve naturally. A question mark shape works well, but other neck shapes are fine.
Tail: simply connect 4 or 5 triangular units in mountain position (position B).
Depending on what the 3D origami swan will be used for, you may wish to add a drop of glue in each triangular unit of the neck. The neck is the most fragile part of the 3D origami swan so glue is good. Glue is not needed for the body and wings of the swan.
Insert the neck at the "6 oclock" position. Insert the tail at the "12 o'clock" position.
Optional: you can fold a black sheet of paper into a triangular unit and use this as the swan's bill (insert in position B). You can also embellish with googlie eyes.
3D Origami Swan Tips
If you have done everything up to here then you've done a great job. Swans will look even better if:
- use clean crisp paper. Don't start with soggy or dirty paper - that would just make a grungy looking swan.
- fold each triangular unit accurately. Align the paper well and avoid bits of paper sticking out where they shouldn't be. The final swan will only look as good as each unit. Sloppy units will make a sloppy swans.
- insert the triangular units with equal pressure. This will make each unit the same distance from one another and create a regular grid. Units that are equal distance from one another will make a balanced swan that is not lopsided.
- adjust the location of the units frequently. Don't wait until you have completed the entire swan to adjust. Once the pieces are interconnected, it is difficult to nudge them around.
- avoid using triangular units have have been used before. These used units will have pockets that are already stretched and they will assemble differently.