I love to find and learn Origami toys, but I can't memorize the steps.

I often manage to learn models or just while playing with papers I discover a new model; if I stop practicing them for a few weeks, I forget them.

So, how do artists memorize the origami steps? Do they repeat one model again and again and again? I can recall, once, quite accidentally I made (own, new) a butterfly which can be hung on wall-hook in 'wings open' formation. It can also be inserted at a slit as 'wing closed' formation. But just a few days later I had to almost completely re-discover the steps. To make it fluent, I had to repeatedly practice it again and again, on several (3 or 4) days; and I still need a revision at an interval of a few months.

I think I'm able to feel to-some-extent the symmetry, patterns and 'fit'-s. But when level of complication goes slightly up, I can't hold them at mind together, and I need to enter cramming or rote.

In contrast, I've seen, many people including cheerful tiny kids, can effortlessly memorize the fold sequences for long times. So I guess; I'm doing something wrong way. (And I've seen in any subject or fields I've to apply any rote memorization or cramming, I did very bad, accumulate some headache, and forget all informations within minutes). So I guess those peoples (including cheerful kids) not using rote memorization. Am I right?

Or rote learning (cramming) is the way kids do? Could it be method that artists uses?


I have problems with mental arithmetic, and have a very lousy short term memory. I fail to hold multiple bits of information at the same time.

  • Not sure if this is a good question for our site. Learning by repetition is one way that people do learn things. I have been making too many pokeballs lately so I know the instructions without having to read them. It I stopped for a couple of months maybe I will forget and need to refresh. There are other memory tricks as well and some people just have an eidetic memory for these things as well. Best you might be able to get is some peoples approach on the subject or a list of memory techniques in general.
    – Matt
    Oct 17, 2016 at 17:52
  • To learn an art, advice on mnemonic would be an important part. Especially when it is a 'disciplined creativity', which is always hard. Just like a manner, sports is always related to advice on physiology, psychology and physics.
    – user1091
    Oct 18, 2016 at 7:11
  • I was searching for tags 'mnemonic' or 'practice'. or such. But I couldn't find. As well music.se contains a 'practice' tag. though practice is not directly music. It is preparing for music. In the same way I would like to classify it as a 'practice' question. I've experience in some field practice in wrong method could do really bad so there is role to correct method of practice.
    – user1091
    Oct 18, 2016 at 7:15

2 Answers 2


It's because you are still at a stage of learning where you are simply memorizing a series of steps, without really understanding the more nuanced principles of and techniques of origami and how these forms are constructed.

In neuroscience, it's called 'chunking', and it's a crucial part of becoming proficient at any skill, and it only comes with repetition, study, and practice. With more nuanced learning, instead of memorizing the simple mechanics ("fold this, then this half way, flip over and tuck back"), you'll start thinking in the patterns and techniques that combine a relatively simple variety of folds to make increasingly intricate designs.

Think of it like cooking. You can follow (or memorize) a recipe and cook a chicken dish that you can prepare over and over without any real understanding or context. But once you learn the more intricate principles and science behind cooking, you start to understand why things are done that way — so now you are no longer blindly following a series of steps, but following the patterns and techniques you learned to achieve the desired result. Now when it comes time to "memorize" yet another recipe (or come up with a creation of your own), you'll already know about 90% of it before you even begin. That is how you build a repertoire of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of "recipes" without having to memorize each step of each individual creation without context.

The same goes for the techniques of origami.

  • Yes I can corelate quite with cooking. I never need to memorize a recipe. I just imagine the smells flavors and textures of the final stage. Perhaps Origami is too done in that 'soft' way which I can't perceive, but can guess... that is why I asked the question.
    – user1091
    Oct 18, 2016 at 8:14

Why not use diagrams? Have you learned Yoshizawa-Randlett notation?

It might make sense, as with a recipe, to simply write down/draw the steps as you go, so you don't have to memorize it, but can look it up at need. Similarly, designers often use crease patterns to keep a shorthand all-in-one record of base designs. And as long as you have a model to observe and unfold/refold, you do have a record of the design.

Obviously, this isn't the same as actually memorizing the folding sequence, but some sequences can be especially long and complex and don't lend themselves to memorization well, while others may be easier to grasp and remember. And everybody's memorization skills and techniques are different.

Memorizing a model and learning origami are actually two different goals, in my experience. And while memorizing models can help you learn some origami fundamentals, it's much like the difference between memorizing a piece of music for performance, and learning to compose music. If your goal is to be a designer/composer, than possibly rote memorization isn't actually going to aid your explorations of design principals as much as being able to notate and record your designs and design variations.

See also: Robert Lang's "Origami Diagramming Conventions".

  • Thanks for your advice... Feeling fortunate at 'memorizing model and learning origami are different'. I follow a book by engineer Narayan Sanyal and Pradip Dutta (Dey's Publication)... that includes various notation methods and provided many authoritatve references, too. However when I was admitted to a nursery school, they taught same thing as just that 'memorization' and I was baddest in those tasks (and all other tasks like wearing the boot-straps)
    – user1091
    Oct 20, 2016 at 4:05

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