Rust and Indigo For A Chinese Thread Book

Thanks to the delightful kindness of Kit Tyrrell, one of my blog readers in the UK, I have received two booklets by Ruth Smith about folded books that can contain many compartments. One such book is the Chinese Thread Book (AKA the Miao Dong thread-and-needle case) that I mentioned in my last post. Kit had found the booklets at a textile show in the UK and had made the needle case using soft Japanese paper. She was so generous in sending them to me to have a go, too.

One of Ruth Smith's instruction books:

(You can see the thread book on the far right of the cover pic)

The traditional Miao thread and needle cases can have up to thirteen folded 'containers' stacked on top of each other and enclosed within covers that shut like a pocketbook. Miao embroiderers kept thread, needles, patterns, etc, in these “pockets”

For the annual CBBAG (bookbinding) swap ( themed “Envelope” this year) I was looking for an interesting way to bind and/or contain a collection of 20 artistically-made 'envelopes' containing creative enclosures.

We were encouraged to explore the 'Conceal-Reveal' concept inherent in the theme. I had in mind to make a multi-pouch container based on the traditional needle-and-thread cases made by the Miao people of South West China. Their needle-and-thread cases are usually made from paper, often handmade, and decorated with symbols and designs of cultural significance. (In fact, the Miao designs are a principal means of handing down their history since until recently, the Miao people were 94% illiterate, having no written records, relying instead on oral and graphic-image storytelling and record-keeping to transmit and preserve their ancient culture)

Instead of paper, however, I decided to use my (pre-reduced) indigo and rust dyed fabrics (stashed from last year) because of an indigo connection: the Miao people are famous for growing indigo (three species) and for indigo-dyeing their handwoven hemp clothing that they later applique with exquisitely skilful embroideries.

In addition, I thought that placing the CBBAG Swap envelopes inside still other 'envelopes' that also 'conceal' then 'reveal' seemed another appropriate and enriching concept to explore, and one that links to the curiosity, excitement and mystery we might experience in turning the pages of a book.

This is what my Chinese Thread Book looked like when it was done: I needed four larger compartments each topped with one smaller 'box' or 'envelope'; the eight compartments are mounted on cloth-bound book board covers. Each of the larger 'boxes' contains five art envelopes (about 5″ square) with an enclosure; the smaller box on top contains small cards bearing the name of each participant in the project.


But first, there was many a trial and much mess and often, confusion…More books of instruction and also You Tubes were gratefully consulted…

After the confidence-building reading and video-watching, on to the trials – playtime!

On the studio table is some rust and indigo dyed cloth laid out for auditioning as book cloth (cloth backed with paper to use in bookbinding)

Some trials with paper – origami folds to make a box:

 

The vintage linen (below) dyed with rust and indigo was successfully backed with thin mulberry paper to make book cloth. I adhered the cloth and paper together with Heat 'N Bond and Steam-a-Seam; no wet paste or glue for this application, though I have used it very successfully before. But wet glue had been a mistake in a previous trial with another kind of cloth). Lessons learned from paper trials and the cloth-wet glue trial led to success with the first of the four folded cloth 'envelopes' AKA origami-fold boxes:

Smaller boxes are stacked (glued with PVA) on top of the larger ones and open up to reveal their contents:

The paper layer of the bookcloth of which the wee boxes are made is painted with indigo; the cloth side is rust printed cotton. Some of the thin mulberry paper tore but I fixed that easily with acrylic glazing liquid – in fact, giving the whole mulberry paper layer a thin coat of glaze which serves both to enhance the indigo blue colour and to strengthen the paper. (The Miao people varnish their paper). One has to give some thought to the colour of the paper that lines the cloth before adhering cloth and paper together and folding it – something I failed to do! The result: a lot of unwanted white showing! So I made a wash from the indigo and CAREFULLY painted it on the white paper/outside of the boxes…though after the thread case was finished, not before, which would have been safer.

Inside the wee box, a little card for each artist with their name:

 

Inside the larger folded boxes five 'envelopes' with their enclosures:

 

On top of each of the five 'envelopes' inside the larger box I placed a lid made from my hand made and hand dyed indigo and rust paper. I intended the 'lid' to conceal the contents briefly even after the box is opened…you lift the lid by a wee loop.Each of the four lids is different:
 
 

 

 

This box shows my own CBBAG 'Envelope' inside:

 

The case for the folded boxes is covered with rust-printed linen and furnished with ribbon ties: It looks like a hard-cover book.

 

The covers fold flat to keep the folded boxes flat inside, and they are wrapped around with a ribbon:

 

And a final protective 'envelope' : one to slip the ” Envelope” case inside, made of indigo and rust printed cotton and linen; free motion stitched label.

 

Next time: A look at some of the envelopes and their enclosures!

And maybe some Philip Taafe ( I must stop making that promise…the truth is that I took some photos at the gallery where his show took place but have not received permission to use them…so until I do….I did write and ask for permissiom at the gallery but the answer I received was not clearly a YES or a NO…so I have to clarify…I do believe an artist has the right to the work being represented by images that he or she wants so I cannot go barging ahead to publish my own little snapshots without a clear OK…But if I cannot use my own photos, I know I can use theirs)

And thank you once again to Kit Tyrrell who, through her amazing kindness, provided me with the necessary instructions for this interesting and challenging bookbinding project

Wendy

 

Advertisements

March Means…

…Gardening indoors and thinking plants! The Kaleyard is still under deep snow…so this is a quick little post to remind us all that spring is on the way- no matter how wintery it looks here:

IMG_0834

Undeterred by the white stuff (and the hungry bunnies eating the shrubs I planted last year – they have severely “pruned” the serviceberry and the purple sand cherry – will I any have eco dye materials left? ), I have been updating my dye plant page (see sidebar) knowing that readers are ‘thinking gardens’ also and have begun checking on other gardener-eco dye enthusiasts’ experiments.

I am adding native plants to the current list; and even though I garden in Zone 3-4 USDA, gardeners in other zones, higher and lower, can safely try many of the plants that give pigments for me in this neck of the North American woods. (I was very interested to read in “The Founding Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf that Jefferson, Adams and Franklin, the U.S. Founding Fathers,  found inspiration for native American plantings when they saw how well North American natives were growing in British gardens.)

In other biz: Bookbinding experiments! CBBAG gave a workshop last weekend.

We learned the caterpillar stitch. It’s a little tricky to start out with – I found it best to practice making the ‘head’ of the critter a few times before moving on to the body; using waxed thread and two colours helped a lot,  too, and so did YouTube!

IMG_0814 I tried out the body of the critter on some fragments of painted canvas ( from my chair project, reported here): not very neat wrapping of the caterpillar body…but I like the long antennae and tail.

IMG_0818

 

The final effort came out like this: I used traditional book cloth to cover the boards and black waxed lined thread to sew the caterpillar. We punched holes in the boards to make the shape of the critter. Then we stitched across the signatures with a chain stitch first, top and bottom. to hold the cover boards in place; then stitched across the signatures using the caterpillar body stitch.

IMG_0858A close-up of the wrapping: I knotted the thread so that a ridge would form on the caterpillar’s back:

IMG_0861Our awesome teacher, Mary McIntyre, is the Pres of CBBAG and a conservator at the national archives. Needless to say, her caterpillars rock:

IMG_0826Next time, Philip Taafe ands his patterns (I promise)…plus a report on how I am binding the envelopes with enclosures that we made for the annual CBBAG swap last month.

I am experimenting with the Chinese Thread Book style. I have twenty envelopes to bind and I was thinking some kind of interesting container would be nice. I found a lovely blog at http://www.barleybooks.com whose author mentioned this binding and so I went looking for how-to ‘s. (Not many available…) The structure is actually a needle and thread case devised by the Miao and Dong peoples of China, both famous for their embroideries. Their needle- thread cases held pattern pieces, also, in a series of ingenious folded pockets made in paper and textile.

Meantime, welcome to all the new readers and thank you for joining us.

Wendy