Edited by Jane Rosemarin
Madonna Yoder’s Advent calendar of daily tessellations.

Many origami folders have admired tessellations from afar for years, intimidated by the apparent difficulty and the length of preparation needed just to get started. Others have dabbled in tessellations at in-person or online conventions or in books but come away frustrated because they get lost and can’t continue or the instructions are unclear, or they aren’t able to recreate what they folded, much less extend it to fold repeats.

Folders often look for the right paper or the right tools to make tessellations easy but don’t realize that the way they’re attempting to fold the tessellation — by precreasing and collapsing — is much harder than folding twist by twist. Additionally, learning from a book is often much harder than learning from a recorded video with a top-down view, especially if those videos are coming from someone with hundreds of hours of tessellation teaching experience.

The first tessellation in the series.

It was with these facts in mind that I designed Advent of Tess — a series of recorded, online tutorials with supplemental crease patterns — to introduce tessellation techniques to folders who had been intimidated by tessellations in the past. More than 800 folders signed up to join me in a tessellation exercise for which I released a new mini-tessellation tutorial each day from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, 2022, Christmas Day.

These tutorials built skills gradually, moving from beginner level to high intermediate (on the tessellation scale). I first introduced closed triangle twists, then closed hexagons, open hexagons, open triangles, closed rhombi and open rhombi, while showing the various possibilities of twists to put around a given starting setup.

Since everything was folded on a 16-fold triangle grid on a hexagon, it was easy to prepare paper in advance, and several folders prepped all of their grids before starting the tutorials. The limited paper size also made the patterns more approachable: something to fold in 30 minutes instead of two-plus hours.

That’s not to say that people didn’t struggle — they definitely did — but it was easy to get help in the community I set up for the challenge, and my longtime students even offered to set up Zoom meetings and help in real time. When I checked my statistics at the end of the month, I saw that at least 40 people were posting photos of their own folds every day, and I know that many more were folding without posting.

The project for the 24th day.

So, why am I sharing this now? Because you can still participate.

If you’ve been looking to get into tessellations the easy way, I don’t know of any better resource (and many comments I’ve received agree). It’s free, it walks you through step-by-step, there’s no precreasing after the grid is done, and you can get daily reminders with extra guidance by signing up through my site. The videos are also on YouTube, so you can translate the captions into whatever language you prefer.

And once you’re done with the challenge, I have videos here and here to help you apply these patterns to larger grids.

So, go ahead and start folding the tessellations of your dreams today. I’d love to see what you make!


February 22, 2023 - 9:57pm Prple

I’ve only folded a couple of the tessellations… but worth working thru… Madonna is a great instructor and this is an amazing resource for any folder!

February 23, 2023 - 4:16am theprofessor

I have folded all the tessellations from Advent of Tess, and Madonna Yoder has taught each one very clearly. Suggest all them to try it out.