Zhen Xian Bao

Zhen Xian Bao Workshop Prep

Assembling and Weighting pieces for a Chinese Thread Book
Assembling and Weighting pieces for a Chinese Thread Book, or Ironing out the Details

Here’s a look at my prep for a two-day workshop teaching the construction of the Chinese Thread Book.

The last time I taught this workshop, in the bindery at the Met, the participants brought in papers from their own collection (many of which they had decorated themselves) or used pieces from the bindery’s ample collection of decorative papers. This time around I am bringing papers to supplement what people might bring. What I’ve done is created designs for papers that fit the boxes that we’ll be making. What this means is the design on the papers will actually guide many of the folds.

Papers for Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread book
Papers for Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread book

I’m also printing the designs on to the paper in such a way that they can be cut out without doing any measuring.

Pieces for the Chinese Thread book, Designed, folded, and fitting together together
Pieces for the Chinese Thread book, Designed, folded, and fitting together

There are too many variations of the Chinese Thread Book that can be readily consumed in two days of teaching, but I want to be able to offer more to the people who may want more. I know that there will be at least one person in the class who has already been folding this structure, so I want to be able to teach, as an extra, the flower top box to anyone who want to learn it.

Flower top origami box for Chinese Thread Book
Flower top origami box for Chinese Thread Book

This flower top box is extraordinarily lovely.  I could write a whole post about it, but that would be silly because Cathryn Miller has already written the most wonderful post I can imagine about it. She provides links, her own set of hand drawn instructions, and lots of photos: Cathryn Millers post on Flower Top Box. 

Since Cathryn wrote the post, what I can add to the conversation is the video:


Through a stroke of great luck, I had a having the perfect visitor this past weekend who was able to test drive this video tutorial for me.

Whose hands are these? To be revealed...
Whose hands are these? To be revealed…

For my own future reference, here’s the list that I sent for the participants:

bone folder
Cutting tools:
     large scissors
     small scissors
     cutting blade, such as utility knife or exacto
     personal cutting mat (this is totally optional!!!)
Weight (about 5 lbs, can be a heavy book)
Glue stick (totally optional…we may not even use these, but they can be nice to have around)
Double sided tape (but only if you have some, as, again,  we may not use it)
IF people have papers they want to use, bring them, but I will have enough paper for people to use,
Now, here’s the paper I’m bringing with me, fresh off the press, printed on Strathmore 25% cotton writing paper,
Papers for Chines Thread Book
Papers for Chines Thread Book

My own list of what to bring:

PVA in squeeze bottles, double sided tape, papers, scissors, rotary trimmers, cutting mats, wax paper, weights, measurement paper for marking thirds, pencil, pamphlet making supplies, bone folder,velcro, utility knife, rulers, Ruth Smith’s books, and Zhen Xian Bao models.

Sampler for Chinese Thread book
Sampler for Chinese Thread book

That’s about it.

Many thanks to my helper this weekend: The marvelous Susan Joy Share!

Paula Beardell Krieg and Susan Joy Share, at play
Paula Beardell Krieg and Susan Joy Share, at play

The lovely flowers here came along with Ed Hutchins and Steve Warren, but the fellows left before we thought of taking a photo, so the flowers are their stand in.

Now, time to finish packing.








Arts in Education · Beads on Books · math · Working with Paper

Loose Ends



A handmade paper book cover
A handmade paper book cover

Last week I worked on organizing my desks and workspace.

This week I’ve been trying to clear ideas out of my thoughts by getting out the things I’ve been thinking about. Writing posts and making videos are like my pensieve in the Harry Potter movies.

So today I did a video dump. Three videos on three different topics. Getting these out will let me move on in a more focused way.

The first one is a video about working with paper. I was tearing some paper for this book cover, and took the opportunity to make a video to show how and why I tear. Here’s the link:

Next video is to accompany a post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago, about a project that I did with 5 year-olds about counting beads to create groups that add up to 10 beads. The kids enjoyed this project so much that I revisit the project with a video.

Bead counting book
Bead counting book

Here’s the video that describes the project. The cover photo of this video makes it look like it might be upside down, but everything is there right as it should be.

Next up is a video about a math problem that I saw on Mike Lawler’s blog  

Calculus problem that is more than just calculus
Calculus problem that is more than just calculus

I was swept away by this problem because it illustrates how a problem with really easy calculus in it (really, I could teach the calculus part in like five minutes) is scaffolded on top of math from geometry, algebra, and pre-calc. I love how skills from many parts of math have to be used together here. In many ways this is like the bookmaking that I do, in which I use many different skills to create one thing.

Thank you WordPress for giving me a place to clear my brain.

In about 10 days I will be teaching a two-day Chinese Thread Book workshop. Between now and the, it what I mostly hope to be thinking about. I will be seriously over preparing! Looking forward to it.

Making designs on papers
Making designs on papers for Chinese Thread books





Someone Else’s Treasure Chest Pop-Up

a kagisippo design
a Kagisippo design

A friend from my Williamsburg Brooklyn days emailed me and asked me to make this treasure chest pop-up for his wife.  Although this is not something I would be attracted to do on my own, there was no way I was going to turn down this request from this very special person. In fact, his request came at a good time, as, rather than being in the middle of a project, what I am in the middle of is taming my workshop. I’ve been organizing my papers…

a “before” picture
After. Every corner of my work area is getting this kind of attention.


…and clearing my desk.


Yay! Cleared desk. First time I’ve seen this much desk in a while. The “before” picture is too scary to post

Having a little project that required absolutely no creativity from me was just the thing I needed right now. As it turns out this little treasure chest pop-up was an absolute delight to construct.

Little pocket inside
Little pocket inside

The paper engineering of this structure is quite wonderful. Actually really, really wonderful.  The tutorial video for it is here  and the printable templates can be found on this page.

I printed the template on card weight paper (about 67 lb),which worked great, and used mat board where it called for cardboard. Next time, though, I will use card weight (about 110 lb) for the cardboard. I think something got lost in translation: the board was really not the right thing to use.

This project requires the use of razor blades and precise folding and cutting.

Oh no. Now my desk is no longer clear…

…this is is how is begins….






Counting & Arranging, with 5 year-olds

Flower person
Jeffrey’s Flower Person. Jeffrey is five years old.

I’m writing about two separate projects here that seems to have nothing to do with each other, but there was something about doing them, one right after the other, that worked so well that this is how I am going to be writing about them.

The first project is a structured bookish making project that references counting and the composition of numbers.

The second project is one I’ve written about before,, is recomposing natural materials to make images that look like people.

The first project is not a creative activity for the kids, rather it’s more about discovery, trying to get them used to the idea that the number 10 can be seen as a composition of smaller numbers. The second project, using flower petals, leaves and other natural materials, has loads of room for improvising. There was something about following the structured project with the unstructured project that really worked for these kids.

items for bead counting project
The pieces for the Composing 10 project. Needs 10 pony beads, yarn to string them on,a hole puncher and PDFs, which are posted below

The counting project is simple to assemble, Everything is printed on a heavy copy paper. The piece with the words on it is folded into a simple pocket. I did the folds for the pocket (which is just folding up an edge on the line, and then folding in half to so it becomes a folder), punched two holes near the top, and tied a piece of yarn to one of the holes.

Here are the pdfs if you want to make this with a group of your own:

five plus five

four plus six

seven plus three

eight plus two

NIne plus one

bead counting pocket

and here’s a pdf of all of the above in a single document, which will be trickier, but possible, to use if you want to use a variety of colors Bead counting all pages together

Here what it looks like assembled.



So, ten beads. Cards go in pockets, Kids separate the beads according to the card below it, then…

…they remove the card and compare the beads on the card to their own beads.  This card then gets put in the side pocket and the next card shows…

…and the activity is repeated.

I was floored by how much the kids liked doing every bit of this activity. They took it so seriously, counting the beads and checking, and doing it for all the cards. It was lovely.

No question, kids love using beads.

This took only about 25 minutes. For about the next forty minutes we made flower people.

Cora at work

Not going to say too much about these, other than OMG. Loved how these turned out.

I photograph these, then remove the backgrounds.

Lily’s flower person

Just today I finished taking away the backgrounds. Am making prints to give to the kids.


I just love this project. Kids worked very seriously on their creations.

I had plenty of materials to work with because I had put out a request on Facebook for people in my community to drop off flowers to our classroom in the morning. Tons of stuff showed up: it was awesome. 

So much variety!

Looking forward to doing this again next summer.

addendum Sept 16, 2018

Here’s a video showing how to make the beads book.