Book Art · Zhen Xian Bao

Covering the Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread Book

Zhen Xian Bao, derivative
Zhen Xian Bao, derivative

A few days ago I saw a message asking me about putting covers on Chinese Thread Books.  I’ve written lots about assembling this structure, but haven’t much mentioned its covering.  I’m scheduled to teach a 2-day class in the Zhen Xian Bao at The Center for Book Arts in NYC in about 10 days. so this was a good time to get a question about the covers.

There’s many ways of treating the outer layer of Chinese Thread Book, as many ways as you can think of. That’s what I love about this structure: there are no set rules, just variation after variation. Here are some of the ways I have dealt with covers.

In the photo above I’ve used Asahi bookcloth, which I purchased at  I’ve glued two wrong sides together with straight PVA (white glue), and glue the boxes on to the cloth with straight PVA. If I had a bit of wheatpaste made I might of added small bit it to the PVA just to the adhesive easier to work with, but that didn’t happen this time.

Upcycled Leather Cover

An easy cover material to use to leather. Occasionally I will come across some leather scraps which I just cut to size and glue to the bottom layer of the Zhen Xian Bao. I nearly always use either double sided tape or PVA, or combination of the two.

Handmade Paper Cover
Handmade Paper Cover

Here’s one that, technically, can be said to have no cover. What’s going on here is that I made the bottom big box layer out of a really sturdy handmade paper, then called it a day. No extra piece needed.

More Handmade Paper Covers
More Handmade Paper Covers

Here are some decorative handmade papers that I’ve had around for years, I wish I could tell you something more about them. They made great boxes, and they are beautiful enough to double as covers tood, like with the former photo.

Bookcloth and Endsheet covers
Bookcloth and Endsheet covers

The covers of these two thread books are made from bookcloth, but, I’ve lined the inside of the cover with decorative paper, sort of like a case binding with endpapers. It’s great having some bookbinding skills as it lets me think about all sorts of possibilities.

Old Levi's upcycled
Old Levi’s upcycled

One of my favorite materials to use for covering thread books is my husband’s old dungarees. I can generally find a decent enough piece to use. Looks like I re enforced the edges of this one with a running stitch, and used the seam of the pants to use as a tie around the book.

Wallpaper Cover
Wallpaper Cover

I have many wallpaper sample books around here. When I want to make a thread book to carry around to  use as a workhorse for storing supplies while I am travelling, I will use paper from my wallpaper sample books for both the inside and outside of the zhen xian bao.  The samples that I have have a vinyl-like feel to them, which make them really sturdy.

Wallpaper inside
Wallpaper inside

Here’s the inside of that book above. What I love about the wallpaper books is that there are so many wild designs to play around with. I probably used white glue to keep this all together. Maybe some double-sided tape too.

Paper and Wallpaper
Paper and Wallpaper

Sometimes I want a really simple cover. The one one the left is a prototype for short class in which I will be taking every possible short cut. The insides are made with paper, and I will likely use glue sticks to hold things together. The thread book that is laying down is another wallpaper book.

Here’s a video, shows a few more books, and the inside of most.



10 thoughts on “Covering the Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread Book

  1. Paula, you are one of the cleverest and most creative people ever! I also teach classes in making Zhen Xian Bao and love the flexible design possibilities. That being said, my creations look staid And predictable. The video was lovely – the wrap around covers were terrific but the biggest revelation was playing the top boxes upside down to create the triple boxes when open – brilliant!

    I don,t want to intrude on your time, but I am going to post a few photos of my Chinese Thread Books, just for fun.

    Thanks for the inspiration and instruction! Warmly, Nancy Akerly

    Liberty Grove Paper Arts Sister Bay, Wisconsin 54234


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Instead of arranging to have my sent back I’ve donated to the “Third Annual Reza Fund Art Auction. The auction is a fund raiser for the Reza Sarhangi Memorial Fund which supports travel grants for students to attend Bridges. Last year’s auction raised almost $4000 and has allowed Bridges to provide travel grants to 7 students to attend Bridges in Linz.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s