Monthly Archives: April 2017

Occasional Book Club Two

Make: Zhen Xian Bau (needle thread pockets)

Cake: Chocolate Brownies

The second OBC happened on 19 April 2017. The invitations were little folded books that fitted into A7 envelopes. I have been keen to test what gets through the postal system and whilst three survived without incident, one ended up arriving in a ‘apologies we have tried to kill your post’ bag.

The lovely Muriel (heidihanddyes) took the lead and introduced the group to Zhen Xian Bau (needle thread pockets). These are a little known Chinese folk tradition that she had discovered through the books of Ruth Smith. She showed us some beautiful examples that she had made from her textiles and used to form a part of gifts she had given.

“It features making ingenious paper-folded containers for storing embroidery threads, packets of needles, paper patterns, often a precious family photograph and personal memorabilia. The reason for their little known history is partly due to the fact that ‘zhen xian bao’, as they are called in Mandarin Chinese, are utilitarian, made for use in the home, and being made of paper wear out with use.” Ruth Smith

Click to access zhen_xian_beyo.pdf

Following on from the first OBC and the conversations about the secrecy and hidden messages, Muriel suggested the group try these. The lovely Steve had produced the instructions for after use (thank you Steve) and frenzy of folding and gluing began. The first two layers (we went for the 5 box book… the 15 one will be coming!) consisted of measuring and folding to make three collapsible boxes. One large base and two half-size one top. This went by without too much incident (although my basic ruler and mental maths skills left a bit to be desired!). The top layer, with its twist and fold pockets caused much furrowing of brows and muttering as fingers and paper manipulation were not always playing the same game. It echoed the clockwise twist and fold of the OBC one ‘puzzle purse’ where suddenly, once you are almost ready to give up and eat more cake, it happens and you don’t know how you did it. The sense of achievement was palpable, well done all and thank you Muriel! I loved it so much I made a neater one soon after using scraps of end papers and white paper.

Occasional Book Club One

As a way to get making and baking again, the Occasional Book Club (OBC) was set up to bring a small group of people together to share thoughts and ideas whilst making books. I am also increasingly drawn to the ideas of ‘potlatch economies’ where the personal exchanges of ideas, skills and action replace those of money and goods. Finally remembering that ‘thinking about it is not the same as doing it‘, I made a call for a response. The invites (thankfully) survived the postal service and as a result the first OBC took place on 14 March 2017.

Make: Victorian Puzzle Pouches and Envelope Books

Bake: Yummy, Scrummy Carrot Cake + Pear & Ginger Loaf

These require no gluing or stitching, just folding. They are designed as containers for other books/objects/gifts. We have all experienced the pleasures of receiving and opening a gift, the promise of a handwritten envelope on the doormat… an effort that makes a simple connection and spreads some joy. The idea was to move away from, or subvert conventional formats, to add curiosity, intrigue and engagement of the recipient.

PUZZLE POUCHES were very popular in the Victorian era. They were easily made by hand and many were covered with intricate hand drawn or painted patterns. They were often used to pass secret Valentine messages, a lock of hair or other personal gift.


Getting to grips with the folding, remembering that 1mm out at the start can become a metre by the end!


It was a simple way to start and gave the time for people to get to know each other. Lots of common ground was discovered, ideas were shared and help offered. We discussed ideas of the haptic both as maker and receiver and how the thought and the hand work added value to the action. It was also a very useful way to recycle and re-love some of the small mountain of ‘that will come in useful for something’ scraps I have hoarded. Paper and covers were recycled from old prints and make ready sheets or from paper off-cuts. Additions were made with rubber stamps, sequins and googly eyes. Jane won the inkiest hands competition and I think lovely time was had by all.