DIY Japanese Washi Tea Tins

One of my favorite hobbies is origami, the art of Japanese paper-folding.  I used to fold all kinds of pieces including little kimonos for paper figures that I would frame and give as gifts.  They must have had at least some charm because surprisingly, people really seemed to like them and would even showcase them in their living rooms.

Not much has changed in the time since then, as I still love origami but haven’t had much time to partake.  This project is a nod to my love of origami, a sort of grown-up application of using beautiful, brilliant Japanese paper prints.

In fact, this project involves no paper-folding whatsoever.  This project makes good use of beautiful Japanese Chiyogami paper, a paper very similar to Washi paper but cheaper and easier to find.  I found my papers at Paper Source and the Japanese American Museum giftshop in Little Tokyo, when I was there for the Los Angeles Tea Festival a several weeks ago.

Chiyogami paper has a medium thickness but is still quite pliable.  It is also very fibrous and almost cloth-like in texture.  If it is exposed to any kind of moisture it actually absorbs it in a sponge-like manner, which is why the Modge Podge glue works really well in softening the paper so that it adheres to the tin exceptionally well.  And when it comes to patterns, I like to choose patterns that are smaller and compact in imagery so that I can get a more interesting look to the tin.  If you have another type of paper that is similar to Chiyogami it may work, but just remember that the goal is that it doesn’t warp and is reminiscent of fabric.

Traditionally, Washi tins have a pretty tall lid in proportion to the overall height of the tin itself.  Here, it’s best to get a tea tin with a lid that is quite short, not exceeding an inch in height.  This makes the tin easier to cover, since we don’t have to worry about covering the top part of the lid.  I found some tins perfect for this project at

I went to Teavana over the weekend, and although I just love their tea and products, a Washi tea tin would set you back about $12 there, and no, there is no tea included in that tin.  These tea tins are just as beautiful, and cost a fraction of the price.  They make unique, classy gifts, and the best part is that you can fill them with any variety of lovely teas that you know your friends will love (not just green tea).  You can even fill them with cookies, sugars, or other small items.

You’ll be really amazed at how easy these are to make.  The key to a beautiful tea tin is to get the right type of paper and the right style of tea tin.  Basically just cut the paper precisely and the rest will come into place.

DIY Japanese Washi Tea Tin


Chiyogami Paper (in your favorite print), cut in rectangle (1/4” more than tin circumference) x (tin height)

Modge Podge glue, for paper

Exacto knife and cutting surface/board

sponge or brush for glue

tea tin(s)

piece of paper (8.5” x 11”) to work on


labels (I used Martha Stewart)

strong double-sided tape (optional)

rubber bands


Cut the Chiyogami paper into rectangular pieces:   length is (1/4” more than tin circumference),  and width is (tin height).

Paint an even layer of Modge Podge glue on the back of the paper, with piece of regular paper underneath.

Line up paper with tea tin and start to roll…

Match the edges of the paper to line up with the tea tin and roll up, making sure the paper adheres snugly and evenly to the tin’s surface.

Finish the tea tin with a small piece of ribbon and labels.

Use dabs of glue or strong double-sided tape to secure the ribbon and label.  If you are using glue, use a rubber band to wrap around the ribbon and label for 24 hours or until the glue completely dries.