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How a Large Origami Samurai Hat Was Made

The idea behind Papernautic has most to do with scratching a personal itch of mine. Being on the internet for the last 15 years now, I’ve seen paper craft go from niche geek interest, serviced by hand-coded, rudimentary HTML pages, all strictly functional, to hobbyist paradise with flowery blogs, soft focus photos and oodles of Pinterest photo-porn by people who either see it as a solemn craft or a childish pastime. Lots of colour, decoration and mood, very little seriousness and fun. Yes, fun can be serious, and that’s where I wanted Papernautic to fit in.

In keeping with that general direction, I wanted to make a clear visual statement of intent. This could not be another flowery crafting site with people smiling at the camera in their profile pictures, posing in to their pristine living rooms or gardens. This needed to be a little different, and so I wanted my profile picture on my about page to be different, striking rather than inoffensive, and so I came up with the idea of the picture you now see on the about page. Long-haired guy screaming into nothingness, wearing a paper hat, is not exactly your standard hobby-site fare. At the time I was setting up the site, the hair I had in abundance, so the question was, how to make the large origami paper hat.

The right hat

If clothes make the man, then surely this hat would make my about page, so the choice of hat was important. If this was one of those colourful, parent or child-aimed sites, a simple conical dunce hat might have been a good enough visual joke, or something more playful. The idea of the raw-looking profile picture brought to mind something warrior-like, and so samurai hats were the place to look.

Two different models of origami samurai hat

The most basic origami samurai hat, the top one in the picture above, was a little too basic. Not so much because of the shape, but because it is a very simple model which lacks much structure. When worn, it becomes an almost conical rounded shape and doesn’t have the standing, literally and metaphorically, which I needed to make the picture look serious. I looked around a bit and came back to a model I’d made for my Instagram account, a taller origami samurai hat model from a slim origami book published by Daiso. This model, the lower one in the picture above, I though would do nicely, so now I had to make a really large one I could wear.

Large origami paper

The original samurai hat I’d made for my Instagram photos, like the one above, was made of a small square of note paper, and the result was wearable by my finger. To make up for the difference in size between my fingers and my head, I’d need a much larger piece of paper to start with. From the proportions of the small hat to the small paper, I figured out that to fit my head I’d need a square that was almost a metre long on each side. I was fairly sure I didn’t have such a large sheet lying around.

Roll of cheap drawing paper, tape , scissors and knife to assemble a large sheet of paper.

If this were meant to be a finished piece for display, I’d have sourced a single large sheet, but since this was only for use in a photo and not meant to stand up to close physical scrutiny, I decided to use what I had around the house and make my own larger sheet. Rolls of paper are good because they have near infinite length in one direction, and so you only have to patch them together in one direction. An IKEA roll of children’s drawing paper I had around felt solid enough to work with. IKEA sells them as rolls of 40 metres of paper, so even though this particular roll has been in use for years, length was not an issue.

Composite large square of paper with tape seam visible against the light.

The roll is 47 cm wide, so two pieces of 47cm X 94cm, joined along their length would make a square close enough to the 1 metre size I needed. I used a narrow band of paper masking tape to create the seam. The paper tape would fold and blend into the large sheet much better than a plastic tape, so it was the simplest choice. Once the two sheets were joined, I had a large 94cm square sheet of off-white paper to work with.

Folding on the floor

Large sheet of paper being folded into a samurai paper hat on the floor.

I’ve made some very tiny origami. I trained myself to make paper cranes by touch alone, under my school desk, from squares just 2cm across. This 94cm square was by far the largest sheet I’d ever tried to fold anything out off and it was an enlightening experience. Straight-line creases that you take for granted at smaller sizes become challenging at this scale, and more complex tucks become easier because of all the extra real-estate you have to work with.

Origami samurai hat - finished and worn

After not too much folding on the floor, the hat came together quite nicely, and most importantly it fit. As paper hats go, although theatrical, which was what I was going for, it looked quite distinguished and strange. Ultimately I did get my giant origami paper hat, and I shot my profile photos over an hour or so with a tripod, and after much trial and error. The final result is on the about page and I think Papernautic is the better for it.