Folding thicker paper can be difficult because it is literally harder to fold, but also because the paper can crack and rip when you crease it and open up the models. This can also happen with thinner handmade papers as well depending on how brittle these papers are.
My Introduction to Folding Thick Paper
If you've ever been to the scrapbooking/open stock paper section of a craft store you'll have noticed many gorgeous prints and colors available for sale. Unfortunately for anyone who is looking for pretty paper to fold into origami models, these beautiful papers are far from ideal. Ordinary paper is already thicker than origami paper, and these sheets are even thicker than that - these are more of a cardstock.
In the summer of 2016 I was so determined to work with these beautiful papers that I bought several sets of correlated loose sheets and got busy creating some new mobiles with these patterned papers. I immediately learned that to successfully fold origami with these papers I would have to modify the papers or the environment I was folding in. From this experiment I created the discontinued Aqua Mobile, as well as the Pink and Gold and Map Print Mobiles that are still available.
How to Make the Thick Paper Thinner
I quickly learned that most scrapbooking paper is made up of three layers - the top layer with the print/glitter/shine, the smooth bottom layer in a solid color (usually white), and a middle fibrous layer where these two come together. Many of these open-stock paper can be separated down the middle, leaving you with two thinner sheets of paper - one with the pretty print that you want, and the other one with a solid color that you may or may not need.
To separate the layers, you first bend a corner of the square just enough to get the layer to split apart in the corner, then carefully peel the layers apart slowly so as not to rip the paper. Depending on the paper, you may have to be extra careful to keep the thicknesses the same on both sides as much as possible while peeling the layers apart. Other papers peel apart easily with little to no risk of damaging the pretty layer. Keep in mind that every scrapbooking print behaves differently when peeled apart, and this is a trial and error thing.
Using Steam is the Secret to Folding Thick Paper
When it comes to actually folding this paper, there is a trick to making it easier. I’ve found that exposing the paper to steam causes the paper to soften, which makes it easier to fold and prevents the cracking and ripping that would otherwise occur. This idea occurred to me in the winter while I was folding and ripping paper that I had used with no trouble during the summer months.
I assume that using a humidifier would work for this purpose, but since I didn’t have one at the time (and still don't), I resorted to folding over steaming water. It works wonderfully and the stiff paper becomes soft, super malleable, and easy to work with. I even open up the paper cranes’ wings over the steam so they won’t rip in the process.
*Do BE CAREFUL when working over steam, as it is very hot and can burn your hand! Also be careful not to drop your model into the steaming water!*