Ruth Smith’s Folded Secrets 1 and 2

In the summer of 2017, when I was looking for the folding pattern for this collapsing box,

I discovered the Chinese Thread Book/Zhen Xian Bao and the work of Ruth Smith. I learned from the internet that she had written books containing projects based on the traditional Zhen Xian Bao in a series called Folded Secrets. I even found out that one of the books contained the folding instructions I was looking for. I could not, however, find Ruth Smith, or a way to order books from her. (There were some used single copies available, but I didn’t know which one I wanted.)A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Ruth Smith, who had seen my posts on the Chinese Thread Book online. She offered to sell me the book with the folding instructions. I treated myself and bought all four books in the series.

I will show you the first two this week and the last two next week.

Like all the books in the Folded Secrets series, Book 1 is A4 in size, with sturdy paper covers. It contains instructions for making your own version of a Zhen Xian Bao, and for a couple of smaller variations. The instructions are clearly written and well illustrated.

There are photos of various Zhen Xian Bao, images of decoration to inspire the reader, and pictures of other people’s work based on Chinese Thread Books.

The inside back cover, as in all four volumes, suggests paper choices and lists some English stockists for papers, fabric, and authentic Zhen Xian Bao.

Book Two contains nine little projects inspired by the Zhen Xian Bao.

Like Book 1, there are photos of the thread book taken in China.

The instructions are again clear and well-illustrated, and should be easy to follow for even quite young makers.

There is a bonus chapter on using transfer dyes which I found particularly interesting. (For non-British readers, Vilene is a German interfacing marketed in North America under the brand name Pellon.)

If you are interested in ordering any of Ruth Smith’s Folded Secrets project books, you may contact her at to make enquiries.

If you want to read about my explorations of the Zhen Xian Bao (with instructions), you will find links to all the related posts here.

In other book arts news:

The November issue of the Book Arts Newsletter is available for download here.


I haven’t posted anything map-related for a while so I am happy to share the news that the British Library’s entire George III Topographical Collection of maps and related images is now available on Flickr.

I particularly liked the map shown above. It was drawn (on birch bark) by Elizabeth Simcoe about 1795, and is titled Sketch of Upper Canada.

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.
This entry was posted in artist's books, book arts, review and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Ruth Smith’s Folded Secrets 1 and 2

  1. dinahmow says:

    ooh! something for later…


  2. Ellie says:

    Hi Cathryn – After owning a couple of Ruth Smith’s books for several years, I’m using our second lockdown to get around finally to making the Chinese Thread books. I’ve been referring to your original posts for reference too, with their helpful onward links, finding more fascinating variations and ideas along the way. When I checked your most recent post from today, I had to treble check the date – it seemed such a coincidence that you are posting on this subject again. What fun to get an insight into the books by Ruth that I don’t own (yet), too. Many thanks for providing so many invaluable resources. Best wishes, Ellie (from the UK)


  3. Jade Q says:

    Aloha Cathryn – I must admit that you and Nancy Akerly (Liberty Grove Paper Arts) inspired me to get in touch with Ruth. I, like you, got all of her books and have been combing through them. The pictures are also wonderfully colorful and an intriguingly small glimpse into the culture. I wonder how many women there still use their Zhen Xian Bao? I go back and forth between the book and youtube especially for the flower collapsing box when I need a more visual guide. Do you build from the smaller boxes to the larger ones or vice-versa? Always looking forward to your posts – Jade


  4. What better than a successful book and artist hunt!


  5. Jade Q says:

    Thank you for the information! That was going to be my next question! I am also subscribed to Paula’s newsletter but will definitely go over the links you sent me. We will be going to the desert in December to check out the Geminid meteor shower and we could while some of the daylight hours away in making some mini Zhen Xian Bao. I do so enjoy traveling through the different rabbit holes that is the internet and the internet of things! Sometimes I end up with too much stuff in my monthly update and have to cull the information to be used at another time! You have been featured many a time! Thank you again for the information and newsletter! – Jade


  6. Jade Q says:

    Aloha Cathryn – I just remembered that I have an alternative to the twist box for the top layer. It is a twist squash fold (that is what I am calling it) that I figured out from watching a foldfactory youtube video many times since it is only 8 seconds long. No glue, no cuts, just a square piece of paper. I have a hand drawn crease pattern. Would you let me know if you like a link to the youtube video and/or have me send you the crease pattern? You have shared so much and I thought I could share something in return. – Jade


  7. Pingback: Ruth Smith’s Folded Secrets 3 and 4 | Byopia Press

  8. Jade Q says:

    Hi Anita and Cathryn,

    Here is the link – – to the twist fold that Trish just published. I challenged myself to figure out the crease pattern from her original 9 second video here –

    About my newsletter – it is a simple email with lots of book and paper arts related information that I send out once a month connected to a centralized calendar with lots of book and paper arts. I would happy to add you to my mailing list. I left a message for you on your contact page with the information.

    Thank you, again, Cathryn, for all that you share! – Jade


  9. Rajeania Snider says:

    How can I purchase Book 1?


  10. Regan says:

    How and where can I order Ruth Smith’s Folded Secrets books?


  11. gmovassaghi says:

    I find myself following you down different rabbit holes, years later. Thank you for leaving such a clear trail! ; )


  12. Monique Armand Vachey says:

    Bonjour. je découvre votre site avec beaucoup de plaisir car j ai essayé, il y a quelques années de faire cette réalisation avec de mauvais résultats.lLa partie historique est très intéressante. Pouvez vous me dire où je peux acheter vos livres car j aimerais me lancer à nouveau dans cette réalisation
    Merci d ‘ avance, avec toute mon admiration.
    Avec mes excuses pour mon message en français, je suis très peu douée pour l’ ecrire en anglais.


  13. Pingback: Fabulous Festival Costume - Ruth Smith -

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