The Lovers Knot is a very interesting and complicated origami model. It is a “traditional” model which is to say that it has been around for so long that no one really knows who invented it. More about the history of this origami model here.
The idea goes like this: in the old days, you would write a letter and then have a messenger deliver it for you. But, there is always a chance that the messenger, or someone else, can read the message before it is delivered. To prevent this, rich people would seal the letter with wax and impress upon the wax a seal or emblem. One would have to break the seal before one could read the message.
“Lovers Knot” (above) not to be confused with “Love Knot” (left)
Poor people have wax from candles, but they don’t have a family emblem to seal their letters. A generic seal wouldn’t work since the seal could be broken and then re-sealed with another generic seal. One way to secure their messages would be to fold the letter in a complicated manner so it could not be opened without tearing; or if opened, it cannot be refolded in an exact manner. If a person receives a letter that is ripped or looks like it has been unfolded and re-folded, he would then know that the message has been tampered with.
The Lovers Knot is one such fold. The folding sequence is quite convoluted such that it would be quite difficult to re-fold the paper into its original state. There are two ways to fold paper into a Lovers Knot:
• the original method which uses the blintz fold, and
• the second method which uses the waterbomb base.
Both methods give the same end result. Or, a third option is the
Love Knot: this one is very easy and is more for fun than for secrecy.
Lovers Knot (original method)
- Start with a square sheet of paper with the white-side facing up.
Fold and unfold in half both directions (top to bottom; then left to right).
- Using the above creases as a guide, fold the 4 corners in towards the center (blintz fold).
- Turn the model over.
- Fold the 4 corners towards the center again (double blintz).
Turn the model over again.
- At the center of the model, peel the 4 corners of the paper up and away.
- Keep pulling the paper away from the center and pinch the sides of the model so it becomes 3D, star shaped.
- Rotate the model so it lies on its side and then compress it flat.
- Finger the layers of paper a bit and ease away the top layer of paper.
- Pull one layer of paper down making a rectangle shape.
- Turn the model over.
- Repeat step 8 & 9 on this side of the model.
- Fold the top-corners down to make a triangle shape.
- Repeat on the back side.
- Rotate the model so you are looking at it from the bottom towards the top.
- Slide your thumb down the inside of the model; pinch the layers together; then pull apart gently.
- The model will expand into this distinctive, yet indescribable shape.
A Little Bit of History
According to Michel Grand, The oldest diagram of this model is from “Boy’s Own Paper” (#814 , v16 , pg 731, Aug 18, 1894) under the title “How to Fold a Chinese Love-Letter”. You can see it indexed here or you can see a partial scan of the 1894 diagram here.
Andrew Hans provided a scan of a modified version of this model from the magic magazine, The Phoenix (#251, pg 1004, March 21th, 1952). In this article, Gershon Legman calls the model “Lovers’ Knot or Lotus”. See scan here.