Book Art · Box · origami

Terra Cotta and Green

Variations on Chinese Thread Book
two more Variations on Chinese Thread Book

My thought was that I would make a model based on the Chinese Thread Book, then make variations of said model using different papers. Turns out that using different papers resulted in creating many more questions than I anticipated. My next few posts will be showing how these questions got answered, one Zhen Xian Bao at a time.

Zhen Xian Bzo variation in Terra Cotta and Green
Zhen Xian Bao variation in Terra Cotta and Green

Whereas my previous thread-book-variation has a romantic feel to in, this one feels earthy to me, like it’s meant for keeping track of seeds, gardens, and planting/harvesting info. The green print is Chiyogami paper from The Paper Place, and the solid green on the left is Neeneh Classic Linen Cover, Augusta Green.

Variation of Chinese Thread Book in Green and Terra Cotta, Paula Beardell Krieg
Variation of Chinese Thread Book in Green and Terra Cotta

The pamphlet on the left is constructed with a five-station pamphlet stitch using waxed linen thread. The book block is Mohawk Superfine. The second tier box on the right is machine-made paper infused with flower petals.


Both the pamphlet and the rectangular trays fold away to reveal a big rectangular tray as the bottom layer, made with handmade paper from India. You can also see in this photo a sleeve made from Metallic Stardream paper. underneath the second tier try.


Inside the pamphlet is a small envelope that expands into….


…a little box.


Unlike my Indigo, Gold and Red version, I didn’t use the Chiyogami paper for the outside wrapper. I tried out lots of options, but this handmade terra cotta paper purchased long ago from Dieu Donne Papermill was the best choice. I still have just a bit of this paper left, so I can continue using this for a few more wraps, but just a few. It’s hard for me to use up a paper that I may never see again, but I remind myself that I have it so that I can use it.

It takes awhile to assemble these thread books, but what has taken me the longest is to mix and match my papers until I am happy –and I demand to be really happy– with my paper choices. I try to let the papers I start with suggest the rest of the paper choices.  Since this part takes so long, I am trying to make at least two of each paper/color combination, in an attempt to do at least a bit of streamlining.

One surprising discovering is realizing how well Stardream Metallics match the Chirogami. I’ll be showing more of this match in the next post, which, by the way, will feature a thread book that has a suede wrapper.  I didn’t see that coming, but it’s what worked. I feel like I’m just the messenger…

geometry and paperfolding · Zhen Xian Bao

Zhen Xian Bao, Post #five-and-a-half

Zhen Xian Bzo in progress
Zhen Xian Bzo in progress

Last spring, when I saw Elissa Campbell’s posts about the Chinese Thread Books that she was making, they reminded me that this was structure that I had been intending to explore. Elissa expressed, in her posts, that she just couldn’t stop making them. I didn’t understand what she meant by that at the time, but, wow, I get it now.

img_0513Before finishing my posts on how to make this structure I thought I’d take a step away from making the models and put together some of these thread books, experimenting with different papers. It was much harder to make a completed Zhen Xian Bao than I could have ever imagined, but not for the reasons that are obvious.

img_0537My problem was that at each and every step of the constructions I had to stop and admire the way everything looked. The geometry of the  each piece, as well as how they looked together, just blew me away.

Click on this picture to see the pattern on the paper up close. It’s worth the look

Not only that, but, also, I got to use papers that I have never been able to find uses for, like this delicate paper embossed with a spiderweb motif. It’s like I was holding on to it for all these years just so I could use it now. Not only did I like the way it looked, but the spider web pattern seemed to be completely appropriate for a thread book.

img_0528At each step, shapes and patterns emerged. I would have to just pause and look at everything over and over again. This is no way to work if you want to get something finished.

img_0547Even the pieces that I was cutting away to discard caught my attention. It was a bit ridiculous.

img_0555I also got to use this nearly sheer blue, fiber filled Japanese paper that I had stored in my flat files for many year. I love flat files.

img_0554It felt painful to attach the boxes together in the proper way. I wanted to be able to look at all pieces of the thread book at once.

img_0541I took way too many pictures.


One of the hardest decisions I had to make was what to use for the covering material. Traditionally the Zhen Xian Bao is covered with indigo cloth. I happened to have, tucked away in my flat files, a large sheet of sturdy,handmade indigo paper. It wrapped nicely around my boxes. Have I mentioned that I love flat files?


When I was finished I decided I needed to make another thread book immediately. This one was smaller because I had some beautiful orange paper that was 21 inches wide, so I started with 7 inch squares so as not to waste paper.


In fact, I just kept raiding stashes of gorgeous papers that I have collected over the years but could never find suitable projects to use them in. Part of the adventure of making these books is seeing how all these lovely papers work together.


My favorite papers to use were thin, strong, textured papers. All my models that I’ve made in my previous posts were made from smooth, machine-made, standard weight (about 24 lb) papers. I liked using them for demonstrations and practice, but enjoy that more unusual papers for finished pieces.

img_0602As soon as I finished the second Thread Book I wanted to make another. I was thinking of using paper bags from the grocery store, to see how they worked. Actually, I want to try out so many different papers and combinations of papers. This feels like such an adventure. But I stopped here, as I actually have to do other things in my life.

img_0605My final decision about these books is still not made…what to use to keep them closed? I have many ribbons, but they all seem to slick.  For now, I have them secured with this pale lavender ribbon that is water stained in a way that seems to go with the wrappers, but I’m not convinced it’s perfect.  In any case, enough of this for now. I’ll be turning my attention back to the final bits of construction soon. The big tray part of the Zhen Xian Bao is what’s up next. And it’s awesome.

Box · how to construct Zhen Xian Bao · Zhen Xian Bao

Zhen Xian Bao, Post #5: the hidden tray

Starting with a square that's 3 x 3 masu box widths wide
Starting with a square that’s 3 x 3 masu box widths wide

There’s a hidden box layer in the Zhen Xian Bao.

It can be thought of as the third layer of this structure, but that can be a bit misleading, as there can be numerous layers of the masu-type box above it.

Two masu boxes hiding the rectangular tray underneath

Many of the directions I’ve seen for this layer include templates so that you can make simple cuts and folds then do some gluing to create the box. I have nothing against templates (well maybe I do…) but the fact is that the template makes  a box that is not nearly as elegant as this origami folded box.

Paper Making Workshop in Shiqiao Village
Paper Making Workshop in Shiqiao Village

However, if the maker is using paper which is like those made in workshops in the Shiqiao Village, then using a template might make more sense, as it appears to me that  using a hardy paper with the origami method would make an overly bulky box.  In any case, whatever method you use is your decision. That’s what’s so awesome about the Zhen Xian Bao: there are lots of personal decisions to make.

Marking a paper strip, 2 masu boxes wide
Marking a paper strip, 2 masu boxes wide

At the end of the post there’s a video on how to make this box. There’s some key points that I want to emphasize here. The first is that this box is made from a square. If you want the rectangular tray to fit exactly under the boxes above it, which is what seems to be typical, then you must  start by first making  the boxes of second layer .  The width of three of these boxes will be the side measurement for the square. Measuring by using the actual boxes is the only way to go, as different weight papers used for the masu boxes will yield different slightly different measurements. There is no purely numeric way to do this. You need to measure using the actual boxes.

The Square
The Square

Once you have the correctly sized square, the next step is to fold the square into thirds. Not halves, which is easy, but thirds, which is tricky.

Folding one-third

Maybe not so tricky, though. After all, your masu box should be right there with you, and the width of the box is a third of the square, so just line up these boxes on the edge of the paper and fold the far edge to them.


Then fold the other edge to the fold you just made and the paper is folded into three equal sections. Yah!


The two outer thirds will be folded in half again…and this is the last of the pictures of the process. The video at the end of this post to show how to make this, from beginning to end. If I make a one-page tutorial on this, it will eventually show up in my blog.

img_0430Here’s the finished box.


Here’s that box, with another next to it, hidden under two masu boxes.

The Reveal
The Reveal

Lifting up the masu boxes reveals the rectangular tray below. You can stack many rectangular boxes for more surprises.

The video of the making of this box: