Tailoring(3): The Making of A Hand-“Qian” Coat
Notes of Apprentices is practice and observation about "craftsmanship". Pictures and words in the Tailoring series is provided by Springzi and translated by Lin Biaojie. Please reply"T1" and "T2"if you want to review the first and second part of the tailoring series.
By saying that this is a piece of clothing whose craftsmanship outweighs its material, I mean that the fabrics are not expensive, yet the piece is largely hand-made. The fabric chosen is double-layered cotton gauze with checker patterns on one side, and polka dots on the other. Cotton gauze is one of my favorite kinds of fabrics because of its comfortable and breathable nature. It is actually widely used for the making of children clothing. Though the original width is 140 Fu (which is about 103 meters), yet at the time when I started making this coat, I wasn't left with very much of it. The fabric costs 23 yuan per meter. Given that I had to make done with what's left of it, the cost for the material is thus much less than a hundred yuan.
What I conceived of this coat was a simply cut, drop-shouldered, low-neck-lined summertime coat with a beautifully draped front. It was made to encompass the western-trench-coat-style neckline and features of Chinese casual coats. Measurements that needed to be done for the coat included body length (is measured starting from the height of the philtrum from the back, and adjusted according to personal preference), sleeve length (which is also called “Chu Shou”, is measured from the same starting point as that of the body length, to the point where you want the cuff to be), neckline (which is also called “Ling Da”), armhole width (which is also called “Gua Jian”), shoulder width, bust, hip line (the circumference around the crest of the hip), cuff circumference.
Next comes the specific crafting process. For 100% cotton or silk fabrics, it is of crucial importance to rinse before cutting, given their propensity to shrink. Rinsed and air-dried, the fabric then needs to be folded and evenly laid, ironed evenly along the weave line. There are 2 things need to be noted: 1.The interior of the fabric should be on the upside, preventing the exterior being blemished during the making; 2.The patterns of the upper and lower layers should be matched perfectly.
Given that the cutting is rather simple, we can therefore skip the patterning and sketch directly on the fabric. First being made are the 2 pieces constituting the front.
Firstly, the top line and the bottom line can be drawn using the measured body length. It is important to bear in mind that for this fabric, checker matching is necessary. Therefore, the bottom line must be set first and its location well remembered. Measuring from the bottom line, as long as the front side and the back side are well aligned, the top line can be drawn according to body length. Though the bottom line is first drawn this time, it is not a set order. Choice is made given the complexity of the upper part of the coat. Secondly, the process called “lifting” should be conducted on the bottom line, for about 3 fen (= 1/3 cm, which is the normal size, for clothes with rather wide hem line, the 3 fen need to be increased. Veterans can tell intuitively).
Draw out the bust and hip line (which should be, respectively, 1/4 of the bust and hip line that are measured beforehand). The position of the bust is decided according to the width of the armhole.
Draw the neckline, both the width and neck-drop. They are both 2/10 of the circumference of the neck. Yet that is not a strictly set length, both adjustable according to individual variations. For example, it will be more comfortable for me myself to wear if 1 fen is deducted from the width and added to the drop. Or if one prefers a deep dropping collar, it can be adjusted freely.
Hint for the front neck curve: trisect the neck-drop: connect the second point of trisection to the philtrum line and draw a curve line from the first point of trisection joining the connecting line.
The top of the collar can be drawn according to the Zi Kou line (which indicates the extension line that is parallel to the philtrum line. The section circumvented by the two lines are called the Da. Da is the part where the top and bottom layers of shirts, jackets and coats are joined together. The size and shape of the Da are also up to alteration).
Sketching the sleeves: shoulder drop – which is normally 1/20 of the bust, can be altered according to preferences and needs with regard to body shapes. A lifted, leveled or dropped shoulder is common among designs to different people. After setting the shoulder drop, continue sketching according to shoulder breadth and leave some leeway as well (which is also up to preference. The shoulder line of my coat is rather flat with the intention of not wanting a conspicuous shoulder silhouette). When reaching the sleeve, set the position for the sleeve opening. Finally, draw an extension line (whose radian can be set to your preference, with a straight line also being practicable) connecting the sleeve opening line to the hemline.
Radian of the sleeve connection at the arm hole can be set according to personal preference, a1, a2, a3 are all applicable examples. The same also applies to the radian of the top of the collar, b1, b2 for example.
Comparatively the front side is more complicated than the back side.
1.Sketching out the top line and bottom line are also needed as they are on the front side, so is the “lifting”.
2.Bust and hemline.
3.The collar section, however, is a little bit different with the neck width being the same yet the neck-drop being set at 7 fen.
Hint for sketching the back neckline: trisect the neck width and draw a curve starting from the second trisection point to the top line.
4.Sketching of the sleeve is also the same as that on the front, yet with the shoulder drop being lifted about 2 fen comparing to that of the front in order not to immobilize the back.
By far the sketching has come to an end and next comes the cutting. It is important to first bear in mind that given the fact that we are sketching according to the net sizes, a 3 fen leeway for sewing must be taken into consideration. Moreover, in cutting checker, streaked or dotted fabrics, the top and bottom layers should be cut out in turn. After cutting out the upper layer, match the patterns with the bottom one before proceeding to the cutting of the latter.
The next procedure is needed only in the case of double-layered fabrics: separate the part about 1 cun (= 1/3 decimeter) to the peripheral of the silhouette by hand. The threads connecting the upper and bottom layers should be split carefully.
Piping: For that the axial threads are not elastic, they need to be evenly stretched, which is called “straightening (Zhi Bo)”. Tilted threads, on the other hand, are elastic, and slack prone. In preventing the tilted threads from becoming slack and non-conforming, they need to be secured with pipings. A habitual procedure in making clothes: straightening the axial threads and securing the tilted threads. The pipings are covered with glue on one side, and thus can be attached to the fabric once ironed. Therefore, it is important to figure out before ironing, feeling with hands, which side is covered with glue. Otherwise if ironed conversely, the glue may thus stick on the iron and will be both hard to get rid of, and possibly sear the fabrics.
Securing the tilted threads with piping
Handcrafting: Using the sewing machine to stitch shoulder seam, neckline, side seam and hemline, all for 3 layers only, leaving one layer untouched. Moreover, stitch 2 layers only at the one cun leeway left beforehand, in order to make it easier to fold and seam.
2 layers only for the last 2, 3 fen
After stitching the 3 layers, iron and up-fold the last layer, secure it with seam threads (which are auxiliary and need to be get rid of after the process). Then skewer the cloth by hand（which is also called“qian”）and with one thread only, without leaving any trace of threads.
Iron inwards after stitching the 3 layers
Up-fold the uppermost layer
Secure with seam threads
Only 1 thread for every stitch, skewer and keep a short distance between each stitch
At last, fold the two layers of fabrics at the neckline, neck edge and hem (which is what’s meant by the above “Stitch only 2 layers for the bottom part”). In Chinese, to “guan”.
Be careful because the neck edge is curvy, so cuts must be made first before folding. 3 cuts will be enough on the curve. Sizes of the cuts mustn’t be too large in preventing the advent of holes after sewing. Lengths of the cuts mustn’t exceed the outermost line.
There is actually no specific requirement for the sewing process. Normally the clothes are sown interior-to-exterior. Moreover, during “qian” and “guan”, fabrics need to be consciously and constantly stretched to keep it even; otherwise the threads may pucker when being too taut.
The last process being making the encircles the wrist (which is aslo called “Xiu Ke Fu”), which is one side at the sleeve opening. It should be made according to the width of the sleeve opening. Yet you can decide its width on your own. When attaching, needle works should be done on the interior of the sleeve seam (which is suitable for flimsy fabrics and the outcome will look cleaner). In other words, the untrimmed edges of the sleeve will be concealed in the stitches. The way of doing it is the same with the way the whole coat is made, leave only one layer alone and skewer the rest. That one layer is then up folded and qian-ed.
A Chinese-Western hybrid coat is then finished, and is wearable with both sides. Perfect for being a warm keeper in an air-conditioned room in summer.
Note 1: 1 cun = 1/3 decimeter
Note 2: when "qian", the threads are visible on the exterior; when “guan”, threads are visible on the interior.
“Guan” – the needle is weaving through under the threads
“Qian” – the needle is weaving through over the threads
Either way, trace of threads is not visible on the exterior of the fabric
Note 3: When using fabrics with patterns need to be matched, extras must be purchased beforehand. For example, fabric sufficient for making 1 and a half pair of trousers needs to be bought when trying to make only 1 pair of trousers.