Chinese Sewing Box – the sequel

In my last post, I talked about the Chinese Sewing Box workshop I attended with Erin Sweeney. I decided to take another run at the structure on my own. Luckily, we were given a mini kit to take home after the workshop – thanks Erin!

Chinese sewing box kit

I tackled the square Masu boxes without any difficulty. Hooray! Then came the thread containers. Oy.

I reviewed my template (with its written instructions). I started folding the paper and quickly came to the realization that I had no idea what the heck I was doing.

I opened the template. I closed the template. I tried to do the same thing with my new paper – I could not get the dang thing to collapse correctly. Could you hear me swearing from wherever you are?

Victorian puzzle purse in progress

There was no way I was giving up on this thing. I decided to refer to Alice Simpson’s tutorial that I linked to in my last post. Best. Idea. Ever. Alice’s detailed instructions and clear photos were invaluable in the regaining of my sanity.

Victorian puzzle purse in progress


After that, there were four rectangular Masu boxes, two collapsed on the short sides and two on the long sides.

Rectangular Masu boxes

Annnndddd…this is when I tore my large Masu box template…phooey. Enter Washi tape.

Repaired Masu box template

Thankfully, I was able to fold the new box without incident.

Rectangular Masu box

I took pictures of the assembly, as I could glue in my own sweet time. I hope my descriptions make sense – if not, let me know where I lost you and I’ll try to clarify it better.

You start by taking two small rectangular boxes (collapsed on the long sides) and glue them to the top sides of the large rectangular box.

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

Two small rectangular boxes (collapsed on the short sides) are then glued to the top of the previous rectangular box, only applying glue to the top sides that are closest to the edges of the large box on the bottom.

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

Next, four small square boxes are glued to the top sides of the previous rectangular box. Admission – I oriented my square boxes incorrectly when I glued them. I’ve decided to refer to this as an “improvised feature”.

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

The last gluing step is to attach the four thread containers to the top sides of the square boxes. My thread containers flare out towards the sides of the structure, rather than towards the top and bottom (which is how it was supposed to go – oh well).

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

All done with the gluing! The very last step is to fold the belt. This was definitely easier this time around.

Folded origami paper belt

And it’s time for the icing on the cake! Well, for the belt on the book, anyway. Ta-da!

Chinese sewing box

The spine of the structure was a bit stiff, so I rolled it around the handle of my glue brush – this created a soft curve and the spine is much happier now.

I am definitely digging this structure. My plan is to make the next one with Reversible Unryu. I’ll let you know how it goes!

30 Responses to “Chinese Sewing Box – the sequel”

By Mary Lee - 1 April 2016 Reply

Hi Elissa…thank you for these great blog posts! Do you have any suggestions on measurements and resizing? If not….could you share measurements from the sample kit for us?

By Elissa - 4 April 2016 Reply

Mary Lee –

Here are the measurements (in inches) of the components in our kit:

  • Square Masu box: 6.625″ x 6.625″
  • Thread container: 6.9375″ x 6.9375″
  • Small rectangular Masu box: 6.8125″ x 9.3125″
  • Large rectangular Masu box: 14″ x 15.375″
  • Belt: 2.125″ x 26.625″
  • I haven’t tried resizing the components yet, so I don’t have much to offer you. I can say that the paper for the thread container has to be a bit smaller than the paper for the square Masu box. I hope that helps.


    By Leslie - 8 August 2016 Reply

    Do you have a diagram for the rectangular masu box? Thank you.

    By Elissa - 10 August 2016 Reply

    Leslie –

    I’m sorry, but we didn’t get written directions for the rectangular masu box. 🙁


    By Ljc - 10 August 2016

    Thank you, Elissa. I have a couple I have been trying.

    By Elissa - 11 August 2016

    Leslie –

    If you find a good tutorial online, let me know about it and I’ll share it here.


    By Amy - 1 April 2016 Reply

    Thread containers that flare out towards the sides of the structure are a design element, right? And hooray for happy spines 🙂

    By Elissa - 4 April 2016 Reply

    Amy –

    Oh yeah, I meant to do that with the thread containers (fingers crossed behind back).


    By Kristin - 1 April 2016 Reply

    My brain hurts just looking at the sequence of photos! Making these is probably at least as good as doing Sudoku or crosswords, in terms of expanding the ol’ grey matter.

    By Elissa - 4 April 2016 Reply

    Kristin –

    I agree that the structure is a bit mind-bending. Having templates to look at really helps – Erin was smart in providing those.


    By Liz - 21 April 2016 Reply

    Thank you! These are wonderful.

    By Elissa - 22 April 2016 Reply

    Liz –

    Thanks! I thought of you while making this structure – you’re just the kind of person to take it and run with it!


    By Paula Krieg - 22 April 2016 Reply

    A few years ago a woman from Alaska, Sue Coe, wrote and asked me about this structure. It was totally unfamiliar to me, and there was very little on the internet about it at that time. Sue originally contacted me hoping to find information about this structure, but eventually started sending me photos and resources about it. What a wonderful structure! I’d planning to dig in and make a some of these now, with a dedication to Sue Coe, who died about a year ago now (I really miss her presence on my blog and inbox). I appreciate being about to include you in my resources now. Great posts. Thank you.

    By Elissa - 22 April 2016 Reply

    Paula –

    It’s wonderful that you can learn the structure and honor someone special in doing so. If you have any questions while you work, just let me know.


    By Anne - 16 May 2016 Reply

    Hi Paula, when you figure it out you can explain it to me!

    By Elissa - 16 May 2016 Reply

    Anne –

    You should check out this post that I wrote about the Chinese Sewing Box workshop I attended. It includes links to tutorials that can help you get started with the structure.

    If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help!


    By Jill Diaz - 16 May 2016 Reply

    I have wanted to make this for so long, I have beautiful papers just waiting… thank you so much for your clear instructions!

    By Elissa - 16 May 2016 Reply

    Jill –

    I’m glad you found the post useful. Go forth and fold!


    By Nancy Akerly - 29 May 2017 Reply

    After reading about these forever, I finally finished my first one today. It is such a wonderful blend of so many elements. I am torn between using pure origami components and those in Ruth Smith’s books, which are much less bulky. I am intrigued by the Hedi Kyle belt. Can you tell me where I can find directions for this cool way to close the .Thread Book? I have enjoyed your blog a great deal! Thanks,
    Nancy Akerly
    Liberty Grove Paper Arts

    By Elissa - 9 June 2017 Reply

    Nancy –

    Who says you have to choose between traditional and origami-based elements? Use both! I think that both approaches have something to offer. I say try out different combinations until you’re happy.

    I got the directions for the Hedi Kyle belt in a class, so I’ll have to ask the instructor if she’s cool with my sharing them. They’re not written – the steps are illustrated with pictures. I think that they’re easier to follow that way.


    By Billie Jo Harned - 30 September 2017 Reply

    I am mesmerized by the Chinese Thread Book and having completed one in the traditional manner and using kraft paper, I’m anxious to move on.

    I have been attempting to contact Ruth Smith to purchase her books, but the e-mail address seems to bounce everything back. Do you have another way to contact her?

    Thank you, in advance, for any assistance you can provide.

    By Elissa - 30 September 2017 Reply

    Billie Jo –

    The email that’s circulating for Ruth Smith is Is that the one you’re using?


    By Billie Jo Harned - 1 October 2017 Reply

    Yes, the message I’m receiving is that her “system” is refusing all incoming e-mail. I have an address for her, so I will write and see what happens.

    Thank you.

    Billie Jo

    By Elissa - 3 October 2017 Reply

    Billie Jo –

    Bummer! Do let me know if you finally get a hold of her. I’ve had her books on my wish list for a while. I’m regretting having waited!


    By Billie Jo Harned - 3 October 2017 Reply


    I did get in touch with Ms. Smith – via e-mail. I don’t know what the computer fairies did to “fix” the problem, but I decided to make one last attempt before writing a letter and it went right through. I have purchased the books and they are on their way.

    Don’t regret – just get yourself an early end-of-year present

    Thank you for your reply and I look forward to following your blog.

    By Elissa - 3 October 2017 Reply

    Billie Jo –

    Glad that worked out for you. I’m trying to remember how many books Ruth has – is it four?


    By Paula Krieg - 3 October 2017 Reply

    Billie Jo,
    I emailed Ruth this morning and she responded right away. Maybe there’s a typo in the email address that you are using?

    By Elissa - 3 October 2017 Reply

    Paula –

    It looks like Billie Jo is all set. Thanks for chiming in, though. 🙂


    By Anuradha. - 8 June 2018 Reply

    Hello Elissa,
    Paula Beardell does a uTube tutorial and blogs for this which tells you how to work out any size. I’ve used it to make the size I wanted and have made templates for various sizes.
    Hope that helps.

    By Elissa - 11 June 2018 Reply

    Anuradha –

    Thanks for the tip!

    Here’s a link to all of Paula’s Chinese Thread Book videos, for those of you who might be interested.


    So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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