Elegant Pinwheels

When you hear the word pinwheel you may think of plastic toy pinwheels for kids made with primary colors, the ones you blow on to send their blades turning.  They don’t always work the way they are designed to so sometimes they don’t spin freely, leaving children feeling a little faint from the effort.  Childhood pinwheels are an entertaining pastime and an easy craft project to make, even for little hands.

All the pinwheels pictured on this page, except one, aren’t meant to be toys, but instead, beautiful decor for any outdoor celebration or event. In this article you’ll find everything you need to know about making a pinwheel including ideas on what materials to use and ways to make them unique.  The basic instructions are at the bottom of the page.

These fully functional pinwheels can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.  Imagine a row of these elegant accents at a wedding, turning slowly with a breeze.  

wedding pinwheels

Bordering a sidewalk to a church or reception venue or placed on the lawn at an outdoor wedding, eye-catching pinwheels can make a unique statement and set a special mood for any outdoor celebration.

Incorporate them into table centerpieces and create a sea of color at a party.  Make them big or small or combine several sizes.  Catching even the slightest breeze, the movement of the pinwheels can be a beautiful sight.  Even on a still summer day, these pinwheels turn easily just from movement around them.


Many materials can be used for pinwheels.  I’ve successfully used copy paper, embossed paper, metallic paper, card stock, stiffened fabric like laces and sheers, foam sheets, vinyl, sturdy giftwrap paper and vellum.

With the huge variety of beautiful textured and embossed papers and cardstocks available at craft and scrapbooking shops today, it’s easy to find a design, pattern and color for your event.

You can also create your own designs and colors on your home printer.  A collage of personal photos featuring the guest of honor will help generate great conversation at a birthday party.  Or if you have artistic ability you could paint a memorable work of art on one or both sides.

If you’re not artistically inclined and need help, look for images on the Internet and print them out.  Print two contrasting pages and place them back-to-back on one pinwheel.

double paper pinwheel

Music theme paper paired with solid color paper.  The raw dowel is wrapped in black ribbon.


Add paint and other lightweight accents like beads and rhinestones to pinwheel blades.  Create clusters in the center of the wheel or place them all over.

rhinestone pinwheel

Wedding Pinwheel - One side is stenciled and airbrush painted in silver.  The opposite side was printed with a message on a home printer in grey type.  Rhinestones are attached with glue.  The dowel is painted white.  Ribbons with the bridal couples names hang from the dowel.

pearl pinwheel

Wedding Pinwheel - Solid silver paint on one side, and lace pattern on the other created with fabric and airbrush.  The 1" wide balsa wood stick is painted white.  Names of the bridal couple are painted on the stick.

Besides beads and rhinestones, think about adding a paper accent in the center of the pinwheel for a different look.  It could be flat with a scalloped edge, or an accordion-pleated bow.  The creative possibilities for accents are unlimited.

accordion accent

Purchased silver embossed paper with accordion pleated center flower accent and silver bead.  Metallic silver ribbon wraps tightly around the dowel.


If you own a digital stencil-cutting machine you can create a whole collection of beautifully die cut pinwheels.  If you don’t own a machine you can still create die cuts if you’re very motivated.  They don’t have to be as intricate as the ones pictured here to be impressive. 

leaf pinwheel

Pinwheel blade design created with a digital stencil cutter.  The dowel is wrapped in a matching color wide ribbon.  Leaf shaped silver beads dangle from the center.

butterfly pinwheel

Butterfly pinwheel blades created with a stencil cutter.  Matching paper strips wrap around the dowel.

Trace a stencil in pencil on each blade of the pinwheel and use a craft knife to cut out the shapes.  Be aware that big open spaces, depending on the design, may make the pinwheel less functional.

Many tools are available for creating unique and interesting pinwheels for every occasion.  Look for decorative craft scissors to cut the outer edges of the squares and the diagonal lines.  Special paper punches are another option for adding designs to the blades.

Have fun experimenting with blade shapes cut with a craft knife or scissors and create a custom design of your own.

Custom designed blades, ribbon bow tie accent and polka dot ribbon covered dowel.

Pink cardstock custom cut with a craft knife.  Polka dot ribbon bow tie accent.  Matching ribbon wraps the dowel.


Use craft paint to color dowels or flat balsa wood sticks as demonstrated with the wedding pinwheels.   Sticks and dowels are available at craft stores like Michaels and JoAnns.  The music theme and pink pinwheel prove that ribbon also makes a pretty dressing for raw wood dowels.  Another idea is to cut the same paper used for the pinwheel into half-inch strips and glue them around the stick for the coordinated look you see in the butterfly pinwheel.

Add streamers, ribbons, and bows hanging from the stick for added movement in a breeze.  Just be sure the item you attach isn’t long enough to get caught up in the pinwheel by an especially good gust of wind.


• Company picnics

• Graduations

• Weddings

• Bridal and Baby Showers

• Ball games

• Birthday parties

• Luncheons

• Summer patio decorations

• A one-of-a-kind hostess gift.

• Some people hang special flags outside the home for different holidays.  Why not make it a pinwheel instead?

• Logo pinwheels are a great way to celebrate a company picnic or a charitable event. 

If you don’t have a need for an elegant pinwheel, consider making them with children as a rainy day project.  Surprise them and print their favorite, colorful, cartoon characters on the pinwheel paper.

Hoops & Yoyo pinwheel

Both sides printed with images on a home printer.  A big black button is glued to the center.


Making pinwheels is simple.  Create a template to follow for the size wheel you choose. The size of the pinwheel is only limited by the size of your paper.

1.  Start the template by cutting a sheet of paper into a square.

2.  Fold the paper diagonally or use a ruler and pencil to draw from corner to corner.

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3.  Make a small hole in the center using a pin or needle.


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4.  Measure out from the hole and make a stop mark on each line.  The placement for the mark will change with the size of the pinwheel.  Generally it should be 1/3 of the total measurement from the hole to the outside edge.


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5.  Cut the lines only to the stop mark.

6.  Create holes on alternate blades of the pinwheel using the pin or needle.


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Your template is ready.  Place it on top of your special paper as a guide for cutting and hole placement.


Besides your special paper, and a stick, a basic pinwheel will require:

• cardstock

• cap from a water bottle

• glue

• 3” nail head wire

• ½” long plastic tube or plastic straw

• round nose pliers


1.  Poke a hole in a piece of cardstock cut to fit inside the bottle cap.

pierce cardstock

2.  Insert the nail head wire into the cardstock and glue it nail head down into the cap.

glue nail

3.  Slide the plastic tube down the wire and glue it to the cardstock.

4.  Slip the wire into the center back hole of the pinwheel.

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5.  Guide the wire into the small corner holes on each blade.

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6.  If you are using a special accent like a bead or paper cut out, slide it onto the wire.

7.  Use the pliers to create a small loop in the end of wire, which will secure the blade ends.  Depending on the size of the pinwheel, the wire may need to be shortened.

step 7(86496) finished pinwheel

Assembled pinwheel.

8.  Glue the back of the bottle cap to the dowel.

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