My embroidery and creative stitching experiences.

Symmetrical Shapes from Cut Paper Squares

symmetrical shapes using black paper. symmetrical shapes using black paper.

In this chapter I have used squared paper to illustrate the folds visually but I will also try to explain them verbally too. Some examples also have the negative shapes included.I used a quarter of a 6 pointed star as the design motif for this chapter.


1 negative

1. The first fold and cut I did resulted in a 6 point star which is what the unit I used throughout this exercise came from. I placed the long edge of the shape along the folded edge and cut away the excess not really thinking about what was about to happen  so it was a nice surprise!

2. This time I wondered what would result by placing the shape edge on the outer side rather than the fold of the black paper. It resembles a bow tie and the negative is quite interesting too. It is amazing how dramatically different shapes can be achieved, by one small shape and movement.

3. I  halved the square on the horizontal line and then on the vertical. I then folded this square diagonally. Quite elaborate folding for a very plain result!


4. A simple cut.

4. Where the design shape is placed has a great influence on the end result as well as the sort of folds which have been made. Some of the results I achieved were surprising and delightful like the next example.Keeping it simple this time I folded the paper in half vertically twice. I placed the long edge on the opposite side from the fold, the shortest side of the shape along the shortest edge of the paper. A very different result again from quite simple folding.

Complex fold , simple cut!

5.Complex fold , simple cut!

5. Negative image.

5. Negative image.

5. I folded the paper in half along the diagonal line to form a large triangle. I then folded in the left hand corner and the right hand corner until they met in the centre to make a small square shape. With the side showing a complete square (not showing any folds) I placed the long edge of my shape along the top edge which had no folds. A very different and interesting shape was the result of  these efforts.

Once I stuck sample 5 down I made a mess! I did not notice the paper had glue on it where I wrote the number 5. I tried to remove the marks with a rubber and a damp cloth but it went from bad to worse. I had to scrape the sample of the paper and cover the mess with a new piece of paper. I re-did the folds and cut out the shape again. However it resulted in sample 5b! It looks like a new design for a spaceship!

I had placed the design unit on the opposite edge. Learning from this error I was then able to redo number 5.

Long edges almost together.

Long edges almost together.

Lots to cut out carefully.

Lots to cut out carefully.

6.This time after the 1st diagonal fold I turned the top/centre point down to the fold. I then folded in the left and right points to meet in the centre beside the first point and forming a rectangle. I then placed the shortest edge of the star on the shortest edge of the rectangle with no folds facing up. I think I have designed a new super hero mask or two here!

7. 3 folds and a simple cut.

7. 3 folds and a simple cut.

7.  8 point star, the negative shape.

7. 8 point star, the negative shape.

7a. I folded the paper in half on the horizontal and vertical lines and again on the diagonal to make a triangular shape. I placed the longest edge of the design shape on the longest folded edge. It is ironic that at the end of this unit and after producing some bazar shapes, this one resulted in an 8 point star!

Trying the motif in a different position.

Trying the motif in a different position.

Two halves making a whole!

7b. I wondered what the result would be if I did the same folds as in 7a but placed the shortest edge of the shape  on a different folded edge. The star shape has been halved and the points are in slightly different positions.

There will be other permutations for each fold and position of the shape as well as the ones I have done here. Perhaps I will explore these at a later date.

An alternative negative image.

An alternative negative image is created by inverting the positive shapes.

Asymmetrical Shapes. 

asymmetrical shapes cut from black paper.  Asymmetrical shapes cut from black paper.

I tried several different folds and positions of my star shape and could not get a satisfactory asymmetric shape so I have to admit to cheating slightly!


The above design sheets show how the final design shape was developed in this exercise.

1.I made 2 folds. One on the centre line horizontally and the second just off the vertical so that it was more diagonal. I then placed the motif in line with the centre fold and cut it out.

Looking at the resulting shape I could see it had potential for making it asymmetrical by manipulating the shape more than the positions of folds.

Development of shape

The shape on the left was altered slightly to look like the shape on the right!

I was happy with this design and made several different patterns using the new asymmetrical star.

I cut repeat shapes from the inside of the star until I could not reduce it any more. (Or cut it safely!)


3. I cut out 6 stars from ‘concertina’ folded paper. This resulted in a paper chain. How much fun can you have with paper chains? I loved them as a child…ah, happy memories. They were so much more satisfying than cutting out snowflakes! I then used the stars to create new asymmetrical designs. I cut them into halves and placed two halves which were from the same side of the design, together but turned in opposite directions.

I also played around with the negative pieces from these designs.

4. Using a small version of the star shape I placed it on a piece of paper which was folded into quarters. I drew around the shape then cut it out . Only two points were still linked but this gave me an indication of how the shape should be displayed. I played around with it first and saw how I could do something similar but create a different centre.

5a. This was cut out as in 4. above but the star shape was placed at a different angle with the longest point at the centre point of the folded paper.

5b.I thought the negative image was very attractive too.

6a and b. I drew around the large star shape template and then drew lines radiating around this. I cut them out and made these two designs, b. being the negative of a.

7. I folded a square in half along the centre line and then off centre on the diagonal line. Using the small motif I drew around it and cut it out. I thought the negative shape was more interesting than the positive shapes because they had become disjointed, but after playing around with all the pieces I thought they all worked well together with the negative and positive shapes displayed symmetrically. Which is quite ironic as I have spent all my time trying to avoid symmetry!

To end this part of chapter 4 I have included some other interesting images from the negative shapes left over from my paper chain!

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Cut and fold designs in coloured papers.

In this section of chapter 4 I used my coloured papers. Each design had to be made up of 3 layers and colours had to be considered within this too.

I made images 8cm x 8cm as I was concerned I would not have enough paper and rather than using an A3 sheet to display these I put them in my sketchbook, which makes storing them easier too!

I used a selection of printed and plain papers from my blue to purple and yellow to orange range.

I used a 6 point star motif in most of the combinations but also used the star anise shape in two of the symmetrical images. (Because I like the shape!).

Page 1. Layered Symmetrical shapes in indigo and orange.

page 1

1. Top, left.

Base: Yellow paper sponged over with indigo. Middle: Dyed indigo tissue paper. Top: Stamped, light orange paper.

After folding the paper into quarters, I cut out small stars. This was layered over paper which had the stars cut  from the outer corners.

2. Top, right.

Base: Gold, printed card. Middle: Blue/Purple tinted paper, crumpled for textured effect. Top:Stamped, light orange paper.

The middle layer has been cut to show small half sized shapes top and bottom and the centre has been cut entirely away to leave the negative image of 2 stars some distance apart.

3. Centre.

Base: Plain orange coloured newspaper. Middle: Indigo tissue paper.  Top: Yellow paper sponged over with indigo. Bright purple paper.  Edging: Yellow card printed over with orange.

Parts of the centre star overlap the edging. I added the edging as I thought it made the design look more finished. Before this it looked too bare and unfinished.

4.Bottom left

Base: Indigo dyed brown wrapping paper stamped over with bright yellow. Middle: Yellow paper washed over with red (it should have turned orange!) and indigo. Top: Orange wrapping paper.

The top layer is a simple star outline but interest is added to the overall design by the background prints and the edges and colours of these.

5.Bottom right.

Base: Orange paper. Middle: Indigo dyed paper, yellow shapes printed on top. Top: Blue/Purple tinted paper, crumpled for textured effect.

The middle and top layers both had the star anise shape cut from the centre to leave the negative image. These were then overlayed to create a sun shape in the centre.

Page 2. Layered Symmetrical shapes in purple and yellow.

page 2

6.Top left.

Base: Yellow card. Middle: Bright purple paper. Top:  Blue/Purple tinted paper, crumpled for textured effect.

The middle layer has a 6 point star cut from it to show the yellow base. The top image is the positive shape cut from the middle layer of  design 2. It has been placed centrally to create other symmetrical negative shapes.

7. Top right.

Base.Purple printed paper. Middle. Pale purple/lilac paper. Top. Gold, printed card.

The centre star is really part of the middle image as it only overlaps the base layer. The edge of the middle layer’s star is outlined with the same paper as the centre star creating a third layer and connecting the centre with the third layer. A narrow border was cut around the middle layer to reveal more of the base’s colour although I have not made a great job of this as I thought of it after I had stuck it down!

8. Centre.

Base. Pale purple/lilac paper. Middle. Bright purple paper and yellow card printed over with orange.Top. Pale purple/lilac paper.

The centre of this design is made from the positive shapes cut from designs 6 and 7. They were placed so that they fitted in with the yellow/orange outlined shape which was cut from the edging on design 3. The base and the top star were from the same sheet of paper so the colours although slightly different, relate well to each other.

9.Bottom left.

Base. Pale purple/lilac paper. Middle. Yellow paper sponged over with indigo. Top.  Blue/Purple tinted paper, crumpled for textured effect.

The centre square is the negative image from design 3’s centre shape. It leaves a nice border of the base showing. The top layer is the positive shape from design 5’s top layer. Some of the base can be seen in spaces created between the top and middle layers. The base and middle colours work well because they are opposites. The top layer is somewhere between blue and purple and so relates to the marks on the yellow paper and the purple of the base.

10.Bottom right. (not numbered in picture.)

Base. Bright purple paper. Middle. Dark purple paper. Top. Plain orange coloured newspaper and gold, printed card.

The middle coloured paper almost merges with the base but the colour is darker and duller than the base colour. The top layer was left over from an earlier design. It was cut into sections and spaced across the other layers. The centre section had another star outline linked on to it before sticking it down.This became more asymmetrical than symmetrical as the design progressed. I had forgotten about symmetry and was just enjoying the design!

Page 3. Layered asymmetrical shapes in purple, orange and yellow.

page 3

The first 4 designs on this page are made from asymmetrical negative shapes.

Top left. The top layer is an outline of a light purple star. I overlapped the middle layer at the top end and tucked this shape underneath at the lower end, creating other interesting shapes within the design.

Top right. Parts of the top layer were cut away to reveal more of the middle layer at either side. The middle and top layers have the same shape cut from the centre but the top layer was positioned the opposite way around so that different shapes would be revealed underneath.

Middle left. There are 4 layers to this design. I used alternating purples and oranges. The second layer has a smaller shape cut from the centre than the other layers. I think this design has a feeling of depth to it.

Middle right. In this design the centre images are linked together and positioned so that they look like they are falling off the edge of the design.

The last 2 designs on this page used layers of asymmetrical positive shapes.

Bottom left. This is a very simple design with one shape layered on top of the other. I tried to make some of the points touch the outer edge to create interesting shapes on one side. I could have made the contrast in space on either side greater for more impact.

Bottom right. I cut slits in the sides of three star shapes at different angles and slotted them together. I added a border to frame the stars and give the design a more finished look.

Page 4. Layered asymmetrical and symmetrical shapes in purple, orange and yellow and blue.

page 4

I am seriously running out of paper now!

Top left. The symmetrical sample is underneath the top layer. The design here is the same as the one used in the middle layer on design 2. Both layers were positioned at an angle to the base.

Top right. To be honest I can’t actually remember what I did here and it is so well stuck together that I can’t even peek under the top to find out what the middle looks like! I think I have placed a negative asymmetrical design off centre with the top layer centred.  I don’t think it works that well , oh well you can’t win ’em all!

Middle. This one is more interesting! The positioning of both layers reveal nice sections of colour from the base and middle layers which in turn distract from the symmetry of the top layer.

Bottom. This was a bit of a mish-mash of shapes as I was running out of paper (especially pieces big enough for the background), ideas and steam! I used part of the positive shape left over from design 5 on page 1 as the middle layer so that new shapes would be created between it and the top symmetrical layer. I added a small star to the corner of the top layer but it looks a bit out of place and lacks purpose. Perhaps a different colour would have worked better here!

The ones that got away!Here are some of the shapes that were extra to requirement, mishaps and homeless!

This chapter has been challenging both from a design point of view and a technical one as I have tried to create a visually interesting blog instead of using the same old format in every blog. However it is true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (not overnight anyway!) and after much frustration at my own ineptitude, I have had to revert to old habits in parts of this chapter but who knows what the future may hold!


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