The Dummies’ Guide to the Shuhe, Part 2

Hu Jingming wearing his Shuhe final product, with a leather belt with Warring-States era style bronze buckle.

This post is a continuation from the Dummies’ Guide to the Shuhe, Part 1. The previous guide describes the techniques involved in measuring, tailoring (cutting), drawing patterns onto the material and painting them with acrylic colours. This second part will cover sewing the pieces up, attaching the lining to the clothing, making facing for irregular-shaped edges and hems, and attaching the Hanfu collar.

Source: Hu Jingming’s Shuhe Complete Tutorial, page 2

Part 5: Sewing up the Seams (body)

Tool used: High-speed Sewing Machine (1)

This part of the tutorial primarily targets newbies to sewing altogether, therefore the procedures tend to be more long-winded. If you’re more proficient at it, some of these steps can eventually be skipped. We are doing these extra steps in order to make the clothes look finer, and the finished product will encourage you to make more in the future.

For newbies, seams becoming mismatched or shrinking on one side is a common problem, especially when using a high-speed machine. To this end, we can use a “fake seam” basting as preparation. Using a needle and thread, use a prick stitch (which is easy to take off later) and baste a parallel false seam outside of the actual seam line (the two must not meet, or else it will be difficult to remove). It is OK to use a different colour of thread for this basting job. (2) Taking a piece of material identical to your clothing, test the machine’s sewing tension. Too low a tension means the seam may loosen, but too high means making dimpled wrinkles, which affects its looks. (3) And this picture demonstrates the ideal tension. (4)

Now we can begin. Watch the speed of your machine when starting (start slow and finish slow), and remember to do a reverse run to tie the seam off both ends. (5) After the seams are done, remove the basting thread. A prick stitch is ideal because with its large exposed sections, it is easy to remove with a seam ripper by ripping one section and pulling out the rest. (6) After the removal (7), spread out the seam heads, and flat iron it. Details on this process was explained in the previous tutorial section. (8) (9) Flip it over, and iron the surface as well, to make the seam neat and tidy.

Preparing the Sewing Machine and Sewing the Seams, photos by Hu Jingming.

The treatment for the lining is the same, (1) but remember to change your thread accordingly (surface and inner threads of your machine)(2). The seam’s insides after flat-ironing should look like this (3). Also, on curves and corners, you may have to cut notches – that is, cutting the seam head inside on the turns every 2-3mm, or else the surface will appear warped and uneven. However, making notches too close and too much may cause the seam to loosen altogether. (4) After that is done, the corners will appear much more smoothly (5). The lining is to be treated similarly as the surface material.

Sewing up the Lining's Seams. Photos by Hu Jingming.

Part 6: Attaching the Lining

Lay the clothes on a flat surface (1), then patiently ‘stuff’ the lining into it, allowing the two layers to face each other on its reverse sides (2). First, using the back meridian seam as the starting point, baste the pieces with prick stitches – you must do this step, otherwise it is bound to have problems. (3) The basted seams (4). Because this exemplar I have here needs to show some lining outside, I have treated it like so, where the lining wraps around the edges of the outer layer. (5) A hint: theoretically, the lining needs to be slightly larger than the actual clothing, but one must hand-smooth the lining in the process. If the lining is smaller than the actual piece, it will go awry and cause uneveness on the surface, or even warping and twisting. A trick is to try wearing it after you have basted the layers and see if there are problems. One of the edges can be side-sewn first, because it does not need interfacing or hemming. When doing this, attach the pair of tying sashes while you’re at it. (6)

Attaching the Lining, photos by Hu Jingming.

Part 7:  Inter-facing

This section primarily focuses on the straight bottom hem. In reality, it is these touch-up procedures and detailing that are most troublesome to the beginner. Because there is a special feature in my design that involves showing the lining as decoration, I can only use interfacing edges rather than wrapped hems [TL: the traditional way of edges]. The technique for the wrapped hems will be covered in the next section on making collars.

According to previous projections, I have tailored a strip of red material, then use a straightedged cardboard as the shaper for ironing. This tape made here will be 2.5cm wide. (1) First line up the edges, then press firmly onto the cardboard, and with a medium-heat iron, carefully iron from outside in, careful not to touch and burn the fingers. (2) The ironed edge looks like this (3), and the final effect (4). Because this material I am using here is relatively thin, I will need to instill a strip of fabric inside (5). This strip should be slightly thinner than the width of the tape (6). Taking the whole combination, it is machine-sewn onto the clothes (notice the colour of the edge seam thread) (7). Then, remove the basting thread (8). Finally, this is cross-section of the facing: The black line is the main clothing fabric, yellow is the lining, red is the facing, blue is the stiffening strip, and green is the seaming stitch.

Cutting biased and curved pieces, photos by Hu Jingming.

Next on is the facing for the sleeve edges. As to why this sleeve needs to have a curved edge, I will explain it in the next section – in any case, it is important. The technique for making the facing of this is similar to the hems just then, so I’ll only explain the parts that are different. First, I’ll introduce the following: The red is the cut-out pieces ready for use, while the white strip is used for ironing. Because the sleeve is an evident curve, the edges can not simply apply a rectangular hem (1). Place the white pattern board on the material and adjust the distances between the two edges (2), then iron the edges in with an inward sweeping motion (3). Different from ironing a straight strip, you need to cut notches as you iron (4). Cut notches on the fabric spots that crumple inward, and fold the parts that protrude out, otherwise it won’t curve properly (5), and the final result looks like this (6). Using the original pattern again, you can cut out the insert fabric stiffener strip and sew in like the previous section (7). Sew the seam carefully, as this is a curved line, as well as leaving the 2~3mm inner lining sticking out, as previous (8). Iron the new facing, and it’s done (9).

Making the curved facing hems, photos by Hu Jingming.

Part 8: Making the collar

By now, there shouldn’t be much difficulty in making the collar, as many of the steps are similar to the facing as previous, such as ironing and patterning. The difference explained here, is that the collar is not a single-sided facing but a double-sided wrapping hem, which means that after ironing one side, you have fold and do the same to the other.

Note that when ironing, one side needs to have an extra 2mm width, and when sewing it up, this is usually facing inside, as the seam is made from the outside in. This is done to prevent minor movements that distort the positions and cause the needle to penetrate the edge of the bottom layer (1). Prepare the stiffening layer. What I’ve used here is two layers of material folded together, and sew two sets of seams on top. This is to allow the collar to be stiff and resist deforming. There is also this kind of plastic starched layer that you can buy, but I don’t think that this thing is good. Although you can easily make and starch up a collar with the stuff, but some people just skip the step altogether and not leave out the stiffening layer. This would create a problem: Although the collar would be stiff int he beginning, but it would deform after a few washes. I believe many may have encountered this problem before, and this is the result of makers cutting corners with details.(2) Line up the side seam line of the collar with its counterpart on the clothing, and sew it up. Pay attention to the direction of its matching, as the collarpiece flips over. (3) Another difficult part is the finishing up of the collar. The method is this: First flip the collarpiece over, then using a straightedge, draw out a straight line extending from the perpendicular edge of the clothing, and using this as the side seam of the collar. (4) Cut off excess portions of the collar (5) like so (6), and flip it inside, see? (7) Now slip in the stiffening layer (8) and seam up the other side. That’s done (9). Also, the white collar-protector is largely the same process, so I wont’ explain in detail – just take a look at the cross-section provided below. The black line denotes the clothing material, yellow is the lining, blue is the collar stiffening, purple is the collar protector, and the green is the stitch seam. [TL: See endnote commentary]

Making the collar and straight hems, photos by Hu Jingming.

Part 9: On short sleeves

Now we unravel the mystery of the sleeves. Take a look at the picture of the first attempt at the piece – the sleeve edge is a straight line, while this is time and effort-efficient, it is not much of an issue when the design’s sleeves are long. However, when applied to a half-sleeve, an issue will arise. Since Hanfu does not use Western-style cutting (which involves making curves for the sleeve intersection), the result is that when the arms fall down naturally, much of the sleeve’s volume will be forced inside the armpit, causing discomfort and deforming of the sleeve’s overall structure (1). After some redesign, this is the second attempt (2), the exterior and profile have changed quite significantly (3). Here is an explanation of the second version using a piece of white paper as a model (3). After laying it flat, you can see a small dented corner, just ignore that (4)(5). As I was saying earlier, an extra side’s volume will affect the comfort of the armpit? Most people will instinctively choose to cut off this extra bit, but the method to do so is a bit more complicated. If we use a straight diagonal line (6), the result is one side extending too far while the other goes in, and is quite displeasing (7). But if we use a curve to divide it (8), on the surface it may look like as if there is a series of rises and falls, but after connecting the two ends, it is a smooth curve (9). For reference, here is a photo of a gold-dipped bronze screen supporter, unearthed from the grave of the King of Nanyue in the Western Han period (10) [notice the sleeves].

As for the collar, many may have been familiarized with Ming-dynasty artifacts, and may be unaccustomed to narrower collars. However, during the Qin-Han era, there were many Hanfu with tight edges – The Terracotta Warriors of Qin Shi Huang, or the Terracotta Warriors of Yangjiawan all reflect this. I made mine with 4cm width, with primary consideration that this is summer wear, and wide collars will not only make you very hot, but people looking at the piece will also feel hot mentally, so the collar’s “summer narrow and winter wide” principle have practical meaning physiologically and mentally. (11) As for the position of the sashes, this still requires further experimentation. However, there is a reason for having the extended lapels narrower than the layer behind – that way, the collar will shape up on your body closer, and is less likely to fall down and outwards.

Curved edges for short sleeves? Explanation and photos by Hu Jingming.

Afternote commentary: By Xiaofu-C (小傅C), Post #222

“The General [Hu]’s collar-making method is not the best. While I’m not too sure about the inner stiffening layer, his method is indeed the simplified shortcut route, but is not the most detailed way. The most delicate way is to not see the seam from even the outside. Also, the General’s collar-protector also has some problems. I used to do it like this too, until my grandmother told me this other way. Machines are not all-powerful, as finishing stitches have to be all done by hand. Since someone else was doing a similar project and was asking me about it, let me demonstrate with this diagram:

Handstitching the collar protector, diagram by Xiaofu-C. Red denotes machine-sewn, while green is hand-sewn seams. "内" means inside, denoting that the hand-sewn seams are all on the inside, invisible to the outside.

First, the interior of the collar-protector must cover the original collar as much as possible. Anyone who has worn a collared shirt will know, the dirtiest part is always the bottom edge of the collar, and the protector will be useless if it’s too far up. If everyone will take a look, if you’ve worn a piece all day and your collar protector is still white, it isn’t doing its job.

Second, the hand-stitched seam: A straight seam by machine is “1”-shaped, and the hand stitches should form many “Z”s inside. Collars and collar-protectors alike should both use this technique to ensure the best effect, and the visible stitches should be as short as possible – pretty and practical. Everyone should try it out.

Translator’s afterword: Although there was an account on the trousers, it isn’t much more detail other than simply throwing on Ganling’s diagram (provided in an earlier post) and several pictures of the result. The trousers’ band is sewn on similar to the collar, and one needs to pull the two trouser legs “flat” while doing so.

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August 2010
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