The Dummies’ Guide to the Shuhe, Part 1


Source: Baidu Hanfu Bar
Author: Hu Jingming 琥璟明, President, Art Association of Hunan Normal University. 

Translator’s note: Hu Jingming (b. 1991, courtesy name Zongwu) is an expert on Hanfu, Chinese armors, and martial practices (including archery). A “Mount and Blade” and “Total War” fan, and member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Hu has published various articles online regarding the process of reproducing armor and military wear, raising the awareness of Chinese armors as an artisanry and for practical purposes. He despises how modern TV dramas create ludicrous mockeries of historical armors, which would be “disasterous if actually used”. He is currently a Fine Arts student in the Hunan Normal University. 

A Shuhe (“Shoo-huh”) refers to a tight-sleeved cross-collared top that extends to the knees, coupled with tied trousers. It is the basis of almost all underclothing, the casual outfit of commoners and labourers, and is usually the clothing worn under armor.

Asides from being a Shuhe tutorial, Hu’s detailed accounts are also an excellent beginner’s guide to making clothes and tailoring practices. Because of this level of detailed instruction, this tutorial is split into two parts, with the first section covering basic tailoring of the pieces, suturing, and hand prints. The latter half will cover curved hems, collars, and seaming.

*** Tutorial: Shuhe Making Complete Tutorial *** 

Version 1 and 2 of Hu's Shuhe tops.

Let’s use my set of Shuhe here as reference: We can actually hit three birds with one stone with this pattern. Of course, I am also continually searching for new methods, as my technique probably isn’t the best. I’m sharing this in hopes that it’ll help newbies, as well as sharing expertise with others. If you have a proposal for a better method, please share it with me here [on Baidu]. 

Note: Please note that I’ve made this twice, with the latter fixing defects from the first. Hence, there is another problem: Some of the images I’ll be using in this tutorial were taken during the first run. Hence, I will do some explanation in the content later, but I am making this statement in the beginning to clarify. 

Overall style: Mix-and-match
Design concept: Ambiguify dynastic boundaries and traits, using more saturated colours to match.
Primary difference from Shuhe found today: First off, it is measured more generously. When dealing with this problem of room in this design, it has considerably increased body and sleeve measurements. In layman’s terms, it is wider. The second significant change is that the side seams are not open, similar to the cutting of a straight-hem (Zhiju) Shenyi. This is actually the cause for the previous difference: A design with a completely closed side seam must increase the width of the clothes in order to maintain freedom of movement. 

Let’s take a look at some of the details: 

Details of the inner lining and hems.

1. Create the pattern

First of all, sketch out the basic shape of each piece of the pattern. Of course, don’t imitate what I did here – I lost my original sketchs, so this is just a rough replacement to prove my point. 

After that, we will require some actual measurements from the body, such as height, bust, neck circumfrence etc, combined with sleeve length and width and shoulder width, we can then calculate the necessary sizes. Then, we can draw and cut out 1:1 ratio patterns on pattern paper. If you don’t know how to do this, then you might not be able to do the content after this step.  The edges of each piece should include 1cm seam space, and needs to be included in the calculation. (1) 

After the pattern is complete, take a piece of pattern board and thumb tack it under the pattern. (2) 

Then, using a tracing wheel, trace out the edges along the pattern, which will be copied to the board underneath. Why do you need to copy it? This is because keeping the original pattern is useful to any changes you may make: that is, if your result contains defects, you can alter it as required on the pattern. (3) 

Removing the pattern, use a transparent ruler to link the pressed dots on the lower pattern board. After that’s done, you can cut it out. (4) There is a rule when it comes to pattern making: You do not make multiple copies of the identical or mirrored shapes. (6)

Making the Shuhe's pattern. Photos by Hu Jingming.

2. Tailoring the piece

Lay out the material on a flat surface, and then place the pattern on top. If the material is slippery, then hold it down with a heavy object. (1) Using the edge of the pattern and ruler, outline the shape onto the fabric – I am using pencil here, but marking chalk is better, as long as the line is clearly and finely marked. (2) If you recall what I said earlier, this pattern includes a 1 centimeter seam space, hence you can draw another outline inside the marked shapes (if you are familiar with recognizing that seam size, you can skip this). (3) This line will become the basis of your seams. Also, if you come across a curve, don’t worry, and try to find a series of equidistant dots (1cm) and link them up. The more dots there are, the more precise the curve. (4)

Below is the layout of all the pieces, (5) and after layering them, the shape of the clothing becomes evident. (6) Then comes the tailoring of the lining. Note that you need to slightly modify the curves and spots for those which need to be loose or tucked in. (7) This lining material I’m using here is slippery, so I’m holding it down with a heavy canvas. (8) On a final note, these images were taken during the first attempt, as I made modifications on the second time on the sleeves. Also, regardless of what type of fabric, do not use the edge as it is of a different material from the fabric itself. This is the edge shown here (9).

Measuring and tailoring the pieces. Photos by Hu Jingming.

3. On treatment of the material

First, iron the tailored pieces of material on medium heat (1), then suture the edges with a suturing machine. If you don’t have such a device, then you will have to use a ‘hiding stitch’ for all coming steps [explained later], otherwise the fabric will start to fuzz and strands will fall off (2). As a side, here is an explanation for something I didn’t do earlier: Curves are drawn this way. Actually, you don’t have to worry too much about the perfect curve, as it can be generally be understood as “many short straight lines put together”. (3) The sutured edges look like so (4). Mechanical suturing will somewhat deform the edges (5), but this is easily solvable – just iron it again (6) and it’s back to normal (7). The same process is to be done with the lining material, and it won’t be re-explained (8).

On treatment of Fabric. Photos by Hu Jingming.

Next, I will talk a bit about seams.

Ways to sew the seams. Top: Sutured pieces and straight seam; Bottom: This seam hides the loose, unsutured ends of fabric.

Pieces that have been sutured can use a straightforward straight seam. The image on the right shows the material in blue, with red as the sewing line (cross-section). A straight seam means that the pieces face each other on the outside, and sewn from the side and ironed, as you see to the right.

If they’re not sutured, the best way is to use the “hidden seam”, which is commonly used since antiquity. The method is to have the backsides face each other and sew a straight seam. After cleaning the loose edges, you flip over to have the front face each other and then sew again. This would wrap the loose end inside the fabric, hence “hidden”. After that, you back-iron it, meaning that the protruding fabric layers fold to one side as they are ironed, as seen to the right.

4. Hand prints on the clothing

Hand illistrations must take place after suturing, otherwise the repeated flipping will cause heavy fuzzing on the sides. First, you design or select the pattern you wish to have on your clothing, and print it out at 1:1 ratio. Or, you could draw it on directly, but if you’re talking about symmetrical or more complicated images, I suggest the following method to ensure the quality of the print. (1) First, print it out. Here is the original for reference (2). Next, we need to do a copy. We are using a soft lead pencil, preferably a 6B or 10B. [Transl. note: Or, use carbon copy paper.] (3) Using the pencil flat on its side, wipe it across the back of the design page (4). Make sure that you do not forget to cover the area for the outlines. (5)

Sketching the pattern and prepping the copying agent. Photos by Hu Jingming.

After that will be positioning the image on the clothing pieces. First, fold the body pieces at the centre meridian seam (1). After finding the fold line [by the shoulders], use your ruler to measure forwards 2.5 cm. This is because if you try to copy with the fold as the centre, the image shifts to the back. (2) On this same line, measure 9.5cm away from the collar edge (this varies by design and shoulder width of the person, with the intent on the image sitting right on the tip of the shoulder blade) and find a marking spot. (3) Referencing from this point, position the design on the fabric (4), and once the location is confirmed, pin it down with thumb tacks (5). Using a ballpoint pen (or any pen with a firm and fine tip), trace the entire design’s outline without missing anything (6). Finally, remove the design paper, and the lead on the back of the paper will be imprinted onto the material. Don’t worry, this is only a trace. After this is done, it can be simply be washed away. (7) In additional note, hand prints cannot be done on a completed piece, as finished clothing cannot be held down and laid flat completely, so the best timing is when it is half-done.

Carbon-copying the image onto the fabric. Photos by Hu Jingming.

Then, prepare the paints: here we can use acrylic or fabric dyes, which can be easily purchased at any stationary store. This type of paint cannot be easily washed away after it is dried. (1) Test the paint using a small piece of leftover fabric. The requirement is that the paint cannot be too thick (hard to manipulate, handle, and lumps after drying) or too thin (colours become uneven and fading spots will appear, and makes the edges particularly displeasing). When this is done well, the paint will become slightly hard – this is normal (2). Then, use a small brush and paint directly on the pattern imprinted on the material (3), like so (4). Finally, use a small outliner to fix the details (5). The finished product looks like this (6). Finally, allow it to dry for 2 days or so, and iron it on high heat, allowing the paint to melt onto the material and boosting its adhering bond. Please be careful not to burn the fabric, though (7).

Painting the hand-drawn design onto the fabric. Photos by Hu Jingming.

This tutorial will continue onto part 2, coming soon.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Blue fighting garb | [Tsumaranagatta]
  2. Jesse Riggs
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 11:58:56

    – Is there any good way to get in touch with Hu Jingming? I’d love to contact him to discuss more about his research related to the SCA.


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