Go Fly a Kite: Kite History and How-Tos

July 6, 2016 by Erin Behan

     
Let's go fly a kite! It’s hard to resist the call of a breezy day, which begs young and old to take part in that time-honored tradition of sending a colorful, dancing kite up into the sky, supported only by the “magic” of the wind. That desire to take string, paper and frame and set it aloft has been alive for a very long time — although historians don't quite agree on just how long, or who sailed the first kite.

Go Fly a Kite: Kite History and How-Tos
Most believe that kites were invented in China (also the birthplace of paper and of the world's first paper airplanes) by Chinese philosopher Mozi around 300 BC. His kite differed from those of today: It was a wooden bird that reportedly flew for just one day. Many historians think that kites made from leaves sprung up independently around the same time in the Indonesian archipelago, to help catch fish.

Wherever kites first took off first, they quickly became beloved the world over, jumping to Cambodia, India, Japan, Korea and beyond. India holds a yearly festival, called Uttarayan, where thousands of kites fill the sky over Ahmedabad. And in Japan, the Hamamatsu Festival puts kites in the air over the Nakatajima Dunes. Kite festivals crisscross the United States, from Cleveland, Ohio, to Long Beach, Washington.

Part of the beauty of kites is that while they can be intricate affairs requiring great skill to craft (and they be made from everything from silk to nylon to paper to feathers), you can also make one with common household items. To build the simplest of kites, all you need is a sheet of paper, a wooden skewer or plastic straw, string, ribbon, scissors and tape. For easy instructions, check out Indestructables, and you'll have created a kite in less time than it takes to get it up into the air.

Go Fly a Kite: Kite History and How-Tos
Of course, you can also buy a ready-made kite. We recommend getting one at a store dedicated to kites for the best selection and for help in picking out one that’s right for you. If there’s not a shop near you, check out the mom-and-pop online shop, WinwardKites.com, where you can go high-end, pro-style with a Flowform 7.0 Para-Foil kite for just under $500, or opt for one of its easy-flyer kites like this Rainbow Orbit kite for $31.50.

The main trick to getting any kite into the air is to go fly your kite on a day when there's steady wind. Anywhere from 5 to 25 miles per hour will do. Of course, you’ll want to be in an open space where your kite and its string won’t tangle with things like tree limbs or power lines or other kite strings — beaches and open fields in parks are preferred for this reason.

Go Fly a Kite: Kite History and How-Tos
To get your kite in the air, put your back to the wind. If there's enough of a breeze, you can let out your line, and it'll pop right up. In more challenging conditions, it helps to have a friend walk your kite out a few feet and give it a light toss. You can also try letting out some line and walking or jogging away from your kite. Whatever you do, don't pull a Benjamin Franklin and fly it during an electrical storm with a key attached. That's the sort of kite-flying history you don’t want to be a part of.

SHOP AT Distinct Papers to find paper for your kite.


Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.

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