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28 Feb 2022

Family crafts: make a fishing fleet mobile

Learn how to make origami fish and fishing boats, and turn them into a beautiful mobile inspired by Hugh Miller’s folktales of Cromarty and its fishing fleet.

Hugh Miller’s stories

2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories! Hear from children’s storyteller Lizzie McDougall as she brings to life four of folklorist Hugh Miller’s Scottish tales (featuring giants, witches and mermaids) which are the inspiration for our Cromarty fishing fleet mobile.

Fireside tales: Scottish folklore for children

To make your mobile you will need:

  • origami paper
  • wool
  • willow branches or an embroidery hoop for you mobile’s frame
  • scissors
  • needle/sharp pencil and thread

How to make an origami boat


Hello and welcome to this tutorial about how to make a little origami fishing boat. This is the little fishing boat we're going to be making.

He's quite small, and quite cute, and you should be able to make it in about three minutes or so once you get good at it, so it'll take a little bit of practice.

First thing you'll need is a sheet of origami paper. As you can see, origami paper has one pattern side, and then one plain side. This just makes it easy to understand which side of the paper you should be working on throughout the steps.

Step one is to take one long side of the paper and fold it to meet the other side. Unfold this and then do the same thing on the other side.

Unfold this again, and then you should see that you have a nice folded cross in the middle of your paper.

Flip the paper over to the pattern side, take one corner and fold it right the way across to meet the other corner on the opposite side, to create a diagonal fold.

Unfold your paper again, and flip it over so you've got the blank side facing you. Take each corner and fold it into the middle. Make sure you press your edges down, and try and do this as neatly as possible.

You should now have a slightly smaller square with all these flaps in the middle.

You should be able to see now that there is one crease that runs right through the middle of this square. Position this crease so it runs parallel towards you there.

Take one of the flaps and fold it in on itself by about one centimetre.

Do the same on the other edge. If you fold this one slightly more or less than the other side, then your sails are going to be slightly different heights – it makes quite a nice little effect.

Okay this is the tricky part then: if each corner is labelled A, B, C and D, what you want to do is take corners A and B and fold them behind your blank flap. The middle should come in and you should be able to press A and B together. This might take a little bit of angling.

You can see that the middle of the paper comes in, and it should be able to lie quite flat. If you do the same with C and D, making sure all the middle pieces are lying nice and flat, you should be able to just push the middle and they should come to meet the other side.

You can see your boat taking shape. Lay it down on the table and press everything nice and flat again.

He's almost there – all you have to do now is take the bottom corner and fold it up on itself.

You can fold it at an angle to make it look like the boat is coming out of the waves slightly.

And there you have it – one little fishing boat.

How to make an origami fish


Hello, welcome to the video about how to make the little origami fish for your fishing fleet mobile.

This is the fish you're going to be making. This is the back of them. They're quite easy to make.

First of all you're going to start off again with a piece of origami paper. Now if this is the size of the paper that you use for the boat, you're going to need about a quarter of that for the fish, otherwise your fish are going to end up to be bigger than the boats themselves.

So again, origami paper has one pattern side and one blank side to make it easier to work out which side we should be working on.

To start off with, fold your piece of paper in half. Unfold it, and then fold it in half the other way as well to make another cross.

Unfold that, and you can see your folded cross in the middle.

Next take one side of the paper and fold that into the middle. Press it nice and flat and try to make this as neat as possible.

Fold the other side into the middle as well. This is what it should look like.

The next step is to take one of the longer edges and again fold that into the middle. Do the same thing for the other side as well.

Open out your last two folds.

Next take one of the centre flaps, pull it up and out to the side – you should see the edge of it should line up with the middle of your piece of paper – and fold that angle down. Do the same thing for the other side.

This is what it should look like at this point.

The next step is to push the flap down and fold that flat. Again, this is what it should look like. Do the exact same thing for the other side, pulling up the centre flap, lining it up with the middle, folding the edge down – doing the same thing on the other side – and then pushing the whole flap in to lay it nice and flat.

This is what your piece of paper should look like now.

Your next step is to take one of the points, and fold it into the middle. Do the same thing with your other side.

Your next step is to fold the blue dot into the yellow dot in the middle

Press this edge nice and flat, otherwise your fins are going to stick out at a weird angle later.

Next fold the tip of this flap all the way back down again.

Do the same thing on the other side, blue dot into the yellow dot in the middle. And fold the tip back down, and that makes the fish's tail.

Last few steps then, fold the bottom corner down to the right as shown. Again, press this nice and flat otherwise your fins are going to stick out. Do the same thing on the other side.

And there you have your fish! This is the back of him and this is the front.

He goes along with the rest of the fish you need to make for your mobile.

How to assemble your fishing fleet mobile


Hello in this video we're going to be assembling your little fishing boat mobile.

To do that we will make this hoop – I made this out of some willow branches and some wool, but you can just use an embroidery hoop to save time.

To start off with get a nice big bunch of nice flexible sticks – like I say I'm using willow because I find it to be very flexible – and all you're going to do is take one of your bigger pieces and tie it in the hoop at about the size that you want it to be. Double knot this to prevent it from coming undone.

Take another one of your sticks – you can see here I'm pre-bending it –and that just makes it a little bit easier to form into the hoop.

Add this onto your first hoop by just tying it on the opposite side. This stops the hoop from being too tough to manoeuvre in any one spot.

And then just tie the length of the stick around. I'm using the original tie to tie it down.

And then just keep going, adding more sticks until you've got your hoop to a sufficient thickness.

And there you have the base of your hoop. Now I'll admit that mine is a little bit wonky, and the sticks don't lie nice and flat, but we're gonna fix that in the next step with the wool wrapping.

I've chosen this nice green wool, I think that the colour looks really nice next to the wood of the sticks, and goes nicely with the boats and the fish that we've already done.

To start the wrapping, simply double or triple knot the wool at a random point on your hoop, you really don't want this coming undone part way around. It's also really important to leave a little bit of a tail, and you're going to use that right at the end to secure the end point of your wool.

Then all you need to do is start wrapping the wool around.

Place your thumb over the start of the wool and that will stop it from spinning as you go. Yeah, just keep wrapping the wool all the way around the hoop.

Make sure you tuck in any bits of the sticks that are poking out, and once you get to the ties – the bits of string that you use to tie everything together – I like to cut these out, and that just keeps the finished product looking nice and neat without little bits poking out everywhere.

Once you've made it right the way back to the start all you're going to do is cut your wool, leaving yourself a nice length, and just tie this piece with the beginning tail that you left yourself.

Again, double or triple knot this to stop it from coming undone at any point. I'll also glue this sometimes to make extra sure that it doesn't come undone.

Then all you're going to do is trim off the tails.

Make sure you don't trim too closely to the knot, or you'll find the whole thing unravels.

And there you have your hoop. It's a little bit wonky, but because the sticks are so flexible, if you push and pull it in certain places then it can come out to a nice round hoop.

Next we're going to make the hanger for your mobile.

All you're going to do is cut three pieces of wool that are all the same length.

Take your first length of string and tie it on opposite sides of your hoop.

Take your second one and start tying it part the way around your hoop.

Now it's important that the lengths are exactly the same length – so you can see here I am measuring by pulling up the first loop, and making sure that when I tie the second bit of string, it's the same length as the first one.

You can see here that because my two pieces of string are the same length, that my mobile is hanging nice and level.

Then simply repeat that step with the last bit of string.

Again, make sure that it is the exact same length as the first two pieces, otherwise you'll find your mobile is going to hang off to one side.

Now we're going to make the loop which you're going to hang your mobile from. Try and make sure that all your strings aren't in a mess like mine were. Then simply lift the mobile up so you know it's going to hang level, and pinch the strings part the way down to make a loop. Then just use another bit of string and tie this off.

An extra set of hands would have been helpful here.

And there you have your hanger is basically complete. All you're going to do is make sure all of your knots are nice and secure by double knotting them and maybe even gluing them down as well, and just trimming off all of the tails.

The next step you're going to need to bring back in all of the origami you should have done.

I will admit I did glue some of the origami flaps down, as I found when they started to hang they started to come open slightly.

For this method you're going to need a needle and thread. Take your boat and poke the needle and thread through the top sail, and simply knot the thread on either side of the sail.

If you don't want to use a needle and thread, you can instead use a pencil and a piece of wool. Take a sharp pencil, and poke a big hole through the top sail and simply push a piece of wool through that hole using the pencil, and then just tie it on either side of the sail like you would have done with the needle and thread.

And now onto the fish. I like to poke a hole through the top fin of the fish to make sure they hang nice and level.

Once you've put string through all of your origami, all you have to do is then just tie them onto your hoop.

Experiment with putting them at different levels: I like to put the boats at the top and the fish underneath.

And there you have your finished herring fishing fleet mobile.


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