I first heard about the Chinese Thread Book from my sister-in-law in early February, 2013. Apparently textile collectors had known about them for some time before that, but this was probably about the time people in the book arts started to notice them. Her email mentioning them included a link to a textile forum with images like these:
I thought they looked interesting and might have potential as a book structure. I filed the idea away in the rather chaotic storage system that is my memory. The Chinese Thread Book started popping up more frequently on the internet about two years ago, with multiple websites either showing pictures from workshops or posting instructions.
Then, about two weeks ago, I was looking at Pinterest and spotted this:
a Zhen Xian Bao with its top pockets folded quite differently from the twist boxes I had seen previously.
I clicked on the image and was taken here where I found all the images replaced by the same message.
Not especially helpful.
Off I went, down a wormhole in the internet, looking for more information on the folding pattern.
I found images on sites in foreign languages with no instructions.
I found more images
that just led me to notices like this:
One image in particular gave me more clues as to how the box was folded.
The hunt was still on.
(To be continued next week!)
In case that left you feeling a little frustrated (I certainly was!), I also started making my own Zhen Xian Bao, using starch-coated Indian cotton rag paper. Because the paper is fairly thick, I am doing twist boxes for the top layer rather than a more complicated fold.
The twist box is similar to the paper coin purse I posted in 2014. Having now looked at images of dozens —possibly hundreds?!— of Chinese Thread Books, it became apparent that the commonest method for constructing the twist box used two pieces of paper. I planned my boxes to be two inches on a side. You can download a pdf of my template here. You can either work from a printed copy or just use the pdf as a guide.
The first step is to cut and score the longer piece. Make sure all the folds are well pressed and sharp, as this will make collapsing the box easier.
Glue the long strip into a tube by attaching the tab at the right end of the strip to the left side of the strip. The easiest way to do this is to fold the strip in half at the middle, then fold the tab over. Glue the tab on the outside of the tube. After the glue is dry, twist the tube so that it folds flat. This is a bit tricky without a bottom attached, but it will work with a little patience. Set the box upside down on your work surface so that the tabs for attaching the bottom are visible.
Glue the tabs at the corners where they overlap (see yellow pointy finger), then —after checking that it fits, trimming if necessary— glue the bottom square to the tabs. Gently open the box immediately. If you leave the box closed and there has been any glue seepage, the box will be permanently glued shut. Here are my boxes drying.
Next week’s post will describe the successful conclusion of my hunt for the star fold box. I will also include instructions for several different styles of boxes that can be used for the top layer of a Zhen Xian Bao, as well as information on making the boxes for the lower layers.
In other book arts news:
Another stage in the postcard swap has been completed. I am not showing the card so that it will be a surprise for the recipient, but I can show you the decorated envelope that it arrived in, along with some bonus goodies.
In other news:
The garden is doing well, though we did sustain a little hail damage in a recent thunderstorm.
Cousa getting too big:
Some of the volunteer sunflowers (self-seeded and bird-planted) at the north end of the garden were starting to shade other plants. I took this picture before David removed some of them.
The deer fence is eight feet tall, and some of the sunflowers are much taller! The cut ones have not gone to waste: David mulched the stems and brought the best of the flowers in. Here’s one of the two large bouquets.