Making a Zhen Xian Bao/Chinese Thread Book: Part Two

Part of the problem with my internet search for what I was calling a ‘star box’ was finding the most effective search terms. I Googled ‘Zhen Xian Bao’ and ‘Chinese Thread Book’. I did Pinterest searches as well. I tried ‘origami star box’ and found many pretty things but not what I was looking for. I Googled ‘Ruth Smith Chinese Thread Book’  and found an online abridged copy of an article she had written for British Origami magazine. I got quite excited when I saw this (only a drawing, but exactly what I was looking for):

Unfortunately, while the article states that Ruth Smith had discovered that “such pockets were entirely made by folding”, there are no instructions in the article or any reference to where one might find any.


I went back to searching origami sites. I found this version on Paper Kawaii, but it didn’t look quite right. It also involved making small cuts in the paper which bothered me.

I folded it anyway, though the points folded in at the edge were definitely not what I was looking for.

On another origami site I found this variation:

It looks pretty good at first glance, but there are extra points on this one too. In this version, however, the points can be used to hold the box shut.

You can find an instruction video here. There was one step that I had to watch about eight times before I figured it out, and apparently I did something a little differently because my points interlock alternately!

I was beginning to think I would never find the instructions, and would have to try to work backwards from the pictures I had found on-line. Lying awake in the middle of the night, I finally decided to just give up trying to sleep. I picked up my iPad and opened Pinterest. There, under suggested pins, was this:

Charming enough on its own, there was something even better in a comment about half way down the page that the image linked to.

(The saga will be continued next week.)

Back to making my own Zhen Xian Bao:

I decided to let my top layer boxes determine the size of the rest of the boxes in the Zhen Xian Bao. It seemed logical to work up from the smallest size, though I suppose you could choose a layer in the middle and work both up and down in size, or start with the largest box and work down in size. The diagonal measurement of my top box is 3 inches, so that is the side measurement of the second box.

I constructed the second layer boxes the same way as those in the top layer. The second layer boxes have angled folds in different places so that the sides of the box fold flat toward the middle. You can download a plan here. Please note this is to scale, but not full size. The width of each section is 3 inches, the height of the box is 1.5 inches.

After measuring, cutting out, and scoring the vertical folds, I determined the midpoint on the first and third panels by folding and pinching. The pinch points are indicated by pointy fingers on the image below.

I then scored (as indicated on the plan) from the pinch point to the outer bottom corners, and folded along the score lines.

I folded one of the strips into a tube (no gluing yet), then tested folding it closed. There was a bit of overlap in the middle, so I opened it up and trimmed a little off the upper edge.

I tested again,

trimmed the other three strips to match, and assembled the boxes just as I had done for the first layer. I glued the four strips to make tubes, then folded them shut and turned them upside down.

I glued the corners of the tabs, then glued on the bottom squares. The final step was to glue the top boxes to the completed second layer boxes. I scored a line on the back of each upper box,

applied glue to one half, then attached each of them so that it was centred over the opening in the lower box.

Two layers completed!

More layers next week.

In other book arts news:

If you are looking for typographic activities this summer, you might want to obtain a copy of graphic designer Sarah Hyndman‘s recent book, How to Draw Type and Influence People: An Activity Book.

From the publisher’s website:

In knitting news:

The brown cotton version of the Ruxton shawl has been completed, but not blocked.

I like the pattern enough that I am now knitting another version in a heavier cotton yarn.









About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than thirty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004. I also create prints and drawings that are frequently text-inspired or text-based.
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11 Responses to Making a Zhen Xian Bao/Chinese Thread Book: Part Two

  1. Gabriele Lundeen says:

    I started to send a comment about Chinese Thread Books. I belong to the Toronto CBBAG and have taught workshops on how to make them. I learnt from Ruth Smith’s instruction booklets. They include detailed instructions on the star pocket. Unfortunately, I am on vacation at the moment and can’t send you the instructions. However, If you order from Ruth, they will be there in less than a week. One of last year’s CBBAG journals has an article on Chinese Thread Books and Ruth’s email. She responds quickly. I really enjoyed her book on the background of this structure as well. Worth buying.


  2. OMG that pinterest image never showed up in my feed!!!

    I sleuthed the trail you left .Love your path to solve this mystery. .My story ended up with the actual book that you found on-line, but with an ever so maddening detour along the way. I will save that story for your next post. What I want to say here is that the directions in Ruth Smith’s book are awesome and create the structure perfectly, but sequence of foids are different and, less satisfying to me than what you found.

    I love the simplicity of your second layer box. I’m going to try it out, though will likely try to modify it so I don’t have tabs, as tabs tend to trip me up.

    It’s great to read these posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynn in Tucson says:

    I believe I ordered a back issue of Letter Arts Review that had a pattern in it. (It’s several years old by now.) If I can find it, I will let you know when it was published.


  4. Hilke says:

    You do know how to keep the suspense up here 🙂 Unfortunately I didn’t find the time to check my folder to see whether I have the instructions in there. But I do think that in my instructions it was just the rosette glued into the top of the box in a decorative fashion rather than it being part of the folded design. So it would probably not be what you were looking for anyway. Will have to remember searching for it, though…

    Your box seems to be coming along nicely. I like the solid colours you chose. Looking forward to seeing more!


    • Byopia Press says:

      Ah, there’s nothing like stretching a subject out over multiple posts! ; ]
      I like the paper and the colours. It will also be easier to distinguish the layers as I add more.


  5. Pingback: Making a Zhen Xian Bao/Chinese Thread Book: Part Three | Byopia Press

  6. Pingback: Little Projects | Byopia Press

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