Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Icosahedron Ornament Tutorial (A.K.A. The Recycled Christmas Card Ball)

Its name may sound complicated, but this ornament is really easy to make and it doesn't take nearly as long as it looks like it will. (Sorry about the name - it is the math teacher in me. An icosahedron is a 20 sided three dimensional geometric figure where each side is an equilateral triangle. OK, I digress...) If you are a home schooler this ornament can be a great geometry lesson.

I made my mine out of old Christmas cards, but I think for my next one I'm going to use pictures of my children. It would also look cool if you made one out of 20 identical cards. I'll have to wait to see how cheap they are at the day after Christmas sale...

Here's what you'll need:

About 20 old cards
template material - I used old sour cream container lids
ball point pen
glue - I've found rubber cement works quite well
liquid glue (if you plan to glitter the edges)
ribbon for hanging
clips for securing the pieces as they dry

Here's what to do:

The size of the finished ornament depends on the size of the circle you start with; the bigger the circle, the bigger the ornament. Feel free to use this image and resize it, or you can draw your own. If you draw your own, it is easy. Start by tracing a circle and cutting it out. Fold it in half in a couple of places to locate the center of the circle. Then, fold in a portion of the circle so the curve touches the center point. That fold line is one side of the triangle. Fold another piece into the center - just make sure one end of the fold touches the end of the first fold. Where the two fold lines meet will be one of the points of the triangle. Fold in a third piece making sure it forms the last side of the triangle. If that doesn't make sense let me know and I can write more detailed instructions.

Use your drawing to create two templates. One of the circle and one of the triangle. I used the tops of disposable plastic food containers. You may need to trim off very thin strips from the sides of the triangle. You need to make sure that the triangle will fit inside the circle. I had to trim off very narrow pieces - perhaps 1/16 of an inch (1 0r 2 mm.)

Use the circle template to trace around images on the cards you like. From most cards you'll only get one circle. Next, cut them out. You'll need 20. Don't worry if some of the black lines show up, you'll cover them later.

Turn the cards over so the image is down. Center the triangle on the back side of the card.

Use the ball point pen to trace around the triangle. Press hard! You want to score the card so that it will fold on those lines. I placed the images right side up on the front of the card, but they don't all end up being right side up on the finished ornament. For my next one, I don't plan to pay attention and I'll just place them willy-nilly. Do one and then go on to the next step. That way you won't have to redo all 20 if you make a mistake.

Now, fold the card toward the printed sides on the scored lines. If it doesn't fold fairly easily, you want to press harder when you trace the triangle.

Do this to all 20 circles.

Now you can begin to glue. Put rubber cement on one back side of the flaps on each of two circles.

Glue the flaps together and clip them in place so they an dry without sliding. I used big clips and they worked really well.

Glue 5 of them together into a kind of circle. I clipped each one together to let them dry. Think of this five sided piece as the "base" of the ornament. I let mine dry for a while at this point, but you don't have to. Next you'll start building up...

Here's the same piece from below - you can see how it is still clipped together.

Next you'll start building up and around. In this picture you'll see the five pieces of the base on the bottom of the photograph and the two pieces I added up on top.

Next put another triangle, upside down, in between the other two and glue into place. Does that make sense?

Keep going around the base until you have gotten all the way around. Then fill in the top with more triangles.

When you get to the last triangle, stop for a minute. You need to think about how you are going to hang it. I used a very thin gros grain ribbon with a piece of felt tied to it to keep it from pulling out though the cards.

Stick the end of the ribbon down into the center of the ornament, then put in the last triangle and glue and clip it into place. At this point you want to let the ornament dry for a while. I left mine over night.

Now it is time to use glitter to conceal those not-so-perfect edges.

Put a thin ribbon of glue along the edge of both sides of a curve. Sprinkle on the glitter until you are happy with the coverage. Then continue working your way around the ornament until all the edges are glittered. Let it dry and you are done!

Please let me know if anything is unclear and I will do my best to clarify the instructions. Also, if you make one of these, I would love to see it. Have fun!


Anonymous said...

I love this!! I hope to find time to make one, or two ,or three ....

Mum-me said...

Hey that's a great idea! I knew I saved all those old Christmas cards for a good reason.

Your instructions were very clear, except the bit about geometry. It just fell into the geometry-shaped black hole in the ack of my brain.

The DO said...

That is really darling! I'll have to start saving my Christmas cards... if I ever stop moving long enough to get any:)

Anonymous said...

Oh! Cute! Great tutorial.

I am kicking myself for recyling my Christmas cards from last year now.

Anonymous said...

What a great idea to conceal the edges with glitter! This is indeed a perfect recycling craft for cards.

stitching under oaks said...

this is so fun..we're going to have to try this. Thanks for such a great tutorial! Merry Christmas.

Manoute said...

That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

Simply Stork said...

what a great idea to use old christmas cards.


ps my kids would love this!

Amanda Jean said...

I LOVE THESE!!! some year I will make some!!!

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! However, I am mathematically challenged!

Marcia said...

Great Tutorial. I've been saving cards for a project for some time now. Definitely a gift of love.

Kristyn Knits said...

Thanks for stopping by my little space.

Just today I was thinking "I need a craft for all of those Christmas cards." and then your blog arrived! Thanks for the tutorial.

Yarni Gras! said...

I never throw Christmas cards away...this is something worth trying! Thanks for the tutorial!!!

Angie - said...

Very cute!

BJ_Mama said...

I always save my Christmas Cards! I use them to Scrapbook....but this looks so fun!

Katie said...

Very cute idea! I'll have to try it next year when I have more time :)

Anonymous said...

As a geometry teacher who teaches solids right before Christmas, this is definitely going in my file for next year!

MissC said...

Fantastic! My brother made one years ago in the 1960s as a school project, and I was hoping to get the same teacher. We moved away from L.A. the next spring, so I missed out on making my own until now.

Thank you so very much for this!

Odalisk said...

I saw something similiar to it many years ago, but the cards were cut in a diamond shape. I lost the pattern and have never been able to reproduce it. Thank you for your ornament pattern.

ali naqvi said...

Its really great post appreciating idea..!!!!! Plastic card

Unknown said...

I've been making these icosahedron ornaments with slight variations for over 30 years. I've make them yearly out of recycled Christmas cards and have a collection of about 25 of them. I actually learned this idea from MY geometry teacher! Only recently have I added glitter and use binder clips, just like you! The coincidences are incredible. Great tutorial. The only thing I can add is that I plan the rotation of each facet (10 triangles pointing upward, 10 triangles facing downward) so that each facet will be right-side-up when complete. I'm afraid I'm not as good as explaining as you are.