Practiced by the staff of cruise ships and upscale hotels, towel art or towel origami is the practice of folding towels into decorative animals, the most common being elephants and swans. Fast and easy to fold, these animals may be crafted by anyone to bring charm and class to guest rooms and bathrooms. They may even be created with cloth napkins to produce attractive centerpieces for place settings at weddings, dinners or other festive events.
Lay the first medium-sized towel flat on the floor. Fold 1/3 of the towel toward the middle. Fold in the remaining 2/3 of the towel.
Roll the towel inward, creating two rolls that meet in the middle of the towel.
Fold the resulting roll in half so that it forms an arch. Stand the arch and set it aside. This will form the legs of the elephant.
Unfold the second medium-sized towel. Push your finger into the center of one of the longer sides of the towel to hold the towel in place.
Roll the top right corner of the towel inward towards the center. Move down the length of the towel, rolling in the sides and pushing them inward towards the center to form a long, tapering roll. Repeat this process for the other side to create one long, tapering roll.
Stop rolling a few inches from the end of the towel. This will leave you with a long, tapering roll with flaps or “ears” for your elephant dangling off the back of the towel.
Turn over the roll and curl the tip of the towel toward the center of the roll. A tight roll should leave the tip of the roll curled to resemble an elephant’s trunk.
Fold down the back of the towel a few inches to make the “ears” flop out. The roll should now resemble an elephant’s head. Finish the elephant by setting the “head” on top of the arched roll.
Unfold the large towel and lay it flat on the floor. Push your finger into the center of one of the longer sides of the towel to hold the towel in place.
Roll the top right corner of the towel down and toward the center of the towel to create a tapering roll. Repeat the process for the other side to create a large tapering roll with flaps at the end of the towel.
Turn over the roll. With the tip facing away from you, bring the back of the towel forward, folding it into the middle so the two flaps at the back of the towel dangle over each side of the roll.
Curl the flaps under and back them toward you. Flip over the roll and tie the ends of the flaps into a knot.
Turn over the roll again. Bring the tip of the roll up and pull the roll back toward you. Curl the tip up and away from you so the roll resembles an “S” in shape. As with the elephant’s trunk, a tight roll should cause the bend to stay in place so the towel takes the shape of a swan.
- "The Lost Art of Towel Origami"; Alison Jenkins; 2005
- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images