Sunday, May 3, 2009

DIY Sunday: Papel Picado

Cinco de mayo (a celebration, not of Mexican independence, as many Americans believe, but of Mexico's defeat of the French army) is this week, and so I thought I'd offer up a seasonally-appropriate craft. Papel picado, or pierced paper, is like an advanced variation of the snowflakes you might have cut during your second grade Christmas party.

Here's a professional version of papel picado, courtesy of chuchomotas at Wikimedia Commons
In Mexico, and many areas of the U.S. where Mexican culture is prominent, papel picado designs often provide holiday decorations for Easter, Christmas, and Dia de la muertos. You may have seen garlands of these designs at Mexican restaurants, community fiestas, or other holiday events. But how can you make your own - albeit less-sophisticated - versions?
You'll need:
Tissue paper (you can re-use tissue paper you've been saving from holiday/birthday gift bags)
Very sharp scissors or a craft knife
A cutting board or cardboard if you're using a a craft knife
Step 1: Take your lump of tissue paper, and cut it into a rectangle. Then, fold the rectangle in half. If you'd like, cut a design (a zig-zag is common) along the vertical edge.
Step 2: Just as if you were cutting a snowflake, cut designs on the folded edges - such as triangles, hearts, circles. Remember that any designs you cut on the edge, when unfolded, will be doubled.
Step 3: Fold in half again. Cut more designs on the folded edges.

Step 4: Repeat Step 3 as many times as you can.

Step 5: Unfold. Voila! You've got a beautiful design!

A caution: Tissue paper can be a bit hard to work with. Make sure you have a flat surface to work on. You don't want to get tissue paper wet; the dye will bleed.

You could make a series of small papel picado designs and string them on a piece of yarn for a garland.

Also, you can create more sophisticated designs by creating a template on copy paper and using it to cut your design. Each line must be cut outside and inside (like the outline on the skull below).

Have fun - incidentally, this is a great craft to complete with kids.

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