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How-Tuesday: Make Your Own Kite

Apr 30, 2013

by Clare McGibbon handmade and vintage goods

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” While more than 2,000 years have passed since the flight of the first kite, you can recreate that magic moment (and add a little wonder to your weekend) with a handmade kite.

This project will take about two hours to complete. Once it’s done, be prepared for wide-eyed glances from everyone in the park.


You will need:

  • Tissue paper
  • 1 3/16” dowel
  • Masking tape or clear tape
  • Plastic gift wrap paper
  • A skewer
  • A round file
  • A pencil
  • A craft knife
  • A paint brush
  • Paint
  • A ruler
  • A small saw
  • Cord
  • Scissors
  • Side cutters
  • A self-healing mat (not pictured)


Step 1: Cut and Paint


Cut the dowel with your saw so that you end up with a dowel piece measuring 22 inches long and another measuring 20 inches long.


Take the 20 inch dowel and draw a line midway at 10 inches.


At the 10 inch mark of the 20 inch dowel, use the file to sand down a curved shape in the wood.


With your saw, carefully cut a notch about 1/8th of an inch into the side of each dowel, making sure that the notches on both ends of each dowel are parallel.


After protecting your work surface with parchment paper or newspaper, paint each dowel and set aside.

Step 2: Make a Tassel Tail


Lay out the clear plastic gift wrap on the self-healing mat. With your ruler and craft knife, cut thin strips about 1/4 of an inch thick and 9 inches long, leaving a strip approximately 1 inch wide along the top.


Take your skewer and let it rest at the edge of the top 1 inch strip. Roll along the strip until the circumference of the skewer is covered.


Tape the plastic wrapped stick onto the strip. Roll with your fingers along and around the strip until you have reached the end of the plastic and tape it off. Remove the tail from the dowel, making sure to keep the hole open. Repeat this process until you have three tassels.

Step 3: Connect the Dots


Mark the 22 inch dowel at the 5 1/2 inch mark.


Place the 22 inch dowel perpendicularly on top of the 20 inch dowel so that the 5 1/2 inch mark fits right on top of the notch that you sanded down with your file. Cut a piece of string about 24 inches long and tie the two dowels together with a double knot, leaving a tail of string about 4 inches long on one end. Wrap the string around both dowels in an X formation, linking the dowels together perpendicularly. When you are done wrapping, grab the 4 inch tail and the end of the wrapped string together, tying another double knot to hold the dowels securely in place. Trim the excess string.


Cut two yards of string, and slide one end of the cord in the end notch of one of the dowels.


Slide the cord into each notch, working your way around until you reach the first notched end.


Making sure that the string is taut on all four sides, tie the two string ends together firmly using a double knot like the one you used to secure the perpendicular dowels in the previous step. Clip the excess cord.

Step 4: Add a Sail to Make it Soar


Lay two sheets of tissue paper out on your work surface. Trace a line all the way around the corded sides of the kite with a “seam allowance” of about one inch to create a diamond shape on the paper.


At each corner, line up your ruler against the dowel tip and trace a line straight across to join the traced side lines.


Hold the two sheets of tissue paper together and cut out the diamond shape along the traced lines with your scissors. Lay the sheets down on the table and fold a “seam” over one side so that the fold line rests up against the cord. and tape it down. Repeat this step until all four sides are folded and taped.


Tape up each corner of your kite by running it along the last two inches of the dowel ends.


Pinch the tape around the dowel and onto the paper. Cut the tape an inch or two away from the dowel end, and fold it over to adhere it to the other side of the kite.

Step 5: Attach the Tassel Tail


Slide the end of a 2-foot piece of cord through the hole in the top of the tassel. Slide the tassel along the cord so that the taped tassel tip is about 5 inches away from the end of the cord. Tie a knot in the cord on the tassel end, and go back over that knot two or three times to make sure the tassel cannot slide down the cord.


Follow these steps with the other two tassels, working your way down the cord to create a fluffy kite tail.


Tie the tail to the dowel at the bottom corner of your kite using a double knot. Tape over the cord between the knot you just made and the end of the kite.

Step 6: Add a Leash


Make a notch with your pliers approximately 6 inches up from the bottom of the 22 inch vertical dowel, and another notch right above where the vertical and horizontal dowels meet perpendicularly.


Delicately pierce through the paper right next to those two notch marks.


Cut small round holes into 4 cut out squares of tape using your craft knife and self-healing mat.


Tape the pieces on the inside and outside of both piercings that you created next to the notches.


Tie a 3 foot piece of string to the top notch and another 3 foot piece to the bottom of the notched dowel using a double knot.


Slide the strings through the taped holes so that they come out the the other side of the kite. Measure and mark the string coming out of the top hole of the kite at one foot’s length. Hold this top string vertically at a 90° angle from the kite’s surface. Take the second string from the hole at the bottom of the kite. Make it meet the vertical string at its one foot mark at a diagonal. Tie a prusik knot at this point on the string.


Tighten the knot that you made with the bottom diagonal string around the top vertical string. This knot will allow you to adjust the towing point of your kite and make small adjustments while flying.


Tie a loop to the end of the top string so that you can attach your flying line (bobbin of string).


You’re ready to fly your handmade kite!

All photographs by Romain Laurent.


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