Pleated Christmas Hearts

December 2015 Niniel Sanders

A lot of people know The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes, or the The Little Match Girl. Many might also know that these fairy tales are written by the Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, a celebrated author of fairy tales, who has written more than a hundred such stories, as well as a number of novels and plays.

Writing wasn't the only thing he did though. He also made the world's first known pleated heart, something which has since become a staple on Danish Christmas trees. Traditionally pleated hearts would be filled with nuts and cookies and other edible things eaten on Christmas, but these days they are usually empty and simply meant for decoration.

So, enough about the history. How do we make one?

You will need:

  • (Glossy) paper, not too thick - two colours
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape
  • A template

How to do it:

Print the template. You can print it any size you like, but a good tip is about the size of your hand. The smaller it is, the more difficult it is to work with.

Cut out the template.

Fold the glossy paper, then place the template on the paper with the dotted line at the folded edge. This is very important. If it is not at the folded edge, it will not work.

You need two of these to make your heart, one in each colour paper.

Draw along the edge of the template on the glossy paper, and cut along the lines that are filled in. Make sure not to cut the folded edge. When you unfold it, it should look like this, with a fold along the dotted line and everything else cut.

Fold the two pieces again, so that the colour you want your finished heart to be is turned outward.

Place the two halves on top of each other at a 45° angle, so the 'strips' are on top of each other. You should already be able to see the heart. Now for the pleating.

Start at the top of the heart, where the two curves meet, and take the first strip of the piece that lies on top - in my case, that is the white piece, but it makes no difference, I only reference it to help identify the strips.

Put it through the first strip of the other piece - the red here. Now put the middle strip of the red piece through the first white strip, and then the white strip through the last red strip.

It should now look somewhat like this. It will seem weirdly loose. That's OK.

Now take the second white strip and put the first red strip through it. Then put the white strip (still the middle one) through the middle red strip and finish this strip by putting the last red strip through the white middle strip.

Push the two finished strips as high up towards the curved part as possible. You're going to need a bit of wriggle room for the last part.

Take the last free white strip and put it through the stump of the first red strip. Then put the stump of the middle red strip through the white one, and then carefully wriggle the final piece of the white strip into the last piece of the last red strip.

If you've done it correctly, it can now open at the top and look like a little heart-shaped basket.

Cut a piece of the paper and glue or tape it to the inside of the heart on both sides to form the strap. Let it dry if you used glue. You now have a finished Christmas ornament to hang on your tree or in your window, or anywhere you like really.

As you become more comfortable with the technique, you can cut several more strips. Just make sure they are always the same width all together.

If you become really adventurous there are also several patterns that will not only give you a checkered pattern, but will allow you to make little pictures on the hearts, or more complex geometrical shapes.

Here are a few examples of patterns you can try (Graphics used with permission: