Tuesday 26 May 2015

Zhen Xian Bao ..... The art of folded secrets, thread books.

The little known subjects of this book have until recent times been hidden from wider attention, even in China, where people only relate to zhen xian bao if they have been part of their local tradition. The reason for their secret history lies partly in the fact that they are made for use in the home, to store the sewing accessories used in decorating elaborate costumes that are worn during festivals and ceremonies. Yet in themselves they are significant works of art reflecting distinct local artistic styles.

Needle woman the world over have some sort of container for there precious needle work haberdashery and tools of the trade.  As you know I met Martin Conian at Deans Court textile fair last Wednesday and he told be about these beautiful folded paper ones made by Chinese woman to hold their tools of the trade.

Unfortunately it has become a dying art and the older women, whose sewing days are over, are selling these Zhen Xian Bao to textile dealers and tourists.  As a result of this, the provenance and other valuable information about them is often lost.

Ruth Smith and Gina Corrigan have written a wonderful book about it and you can find copies on Amazon or order one from your local book store...

This book show you a basic construction of the twist and fold pop up paper boxes contained in these stitching wraps also goes into the history and regions that they were made.

Tracing the history of folded paper (zhen xian bao) has proved extremely difficult for lots of reason.  Firstly, paper disintegrates faster than other art materials and being utilitarian these little thread books wear out.  The second problems is lack of historical records as the Miao and Dong do not have written languages so basically there is nothing really written about these wonderful stitchery thread books...

The materials and techniques that go into making one of these beautiful sewing kits is quiet
something.  It includes paper making, weaving, indigo dyeing and paper folding, as well as the decorative techniques such as woodblock printing, painting, calligraphy and making paper cuts...

The book is worth buying to read and to look at some of the most beautiful sewing kits you will ever find and all made of paper!  Some have been covered in fabrics, patchwork style and also have the old type Chinese script in them.

This is a truly facinating read and the book has some wonderful photographs and explanations.  It is worth buying if you love stitchery and textiles .... which if you read this blog regularly you must... I love learning about new things, I had never heard of these before and would like to thank Martin for introducing me to this wonderful art  ...

This is the book and it really is a great read.  I hope you have enjoyed this toe dipping into this beautiful art of fold and twist paper thread books...... Happy Stitching!


  1. These threads books sound fascinating - I'd love to find out more!
    The book you recommend isn't available on Amazon - any suggestions??

  2. Hi Gill

    I thought is was on Amazon but I will have a look or contact Martin for you so that you can purchase one... I will message you when I have found out for you.
    Kindest regards
    Sarah x

    1. Hello! Can I buy your copy? Or do you know where I can get one? Thank you!!

    2. I got it second hand years ago. So sorry I do not know now where it can be purchased.

  3. This book is VERY expensive !!! Prohibitive.
    Do you know any other books on the subject please?