When Chinese New Year was just around the corner, I started having thoughts of sewing a qipao (also known as a cheongsam) for my daughter again. The last and only time I made one was about two years ago (you can read about it in this post) and even though it still fits, I thought it was time for an update. Besides, I wanted to sew up the Laure qipao dress pattern by StraightGrain, which I purchased at its launch in January 2017.
I’m no good with flatlays, and I’ve only been taking photos with my iPhone on the balcony (in natural light), but I think the above picture turned out better than I had expected. The flowers happen to fall neatly within the boundary lines (— I wish I could take credit for fabric placement but it really was a blessed fluke). I’m quite pleased with that piping though. I used a regular zipper foot, adjusted the needle position and went really slow as I pushed the piping against the needle. I couldn’t do the same with an invisible zipper foot.
With a chest size of only 21 inches (or a little less), my daughter fits the size 2. Her height is quite a different matter. I lengthened it by 4 inches, which is the difference in finished length between size 2 and size 5. I was rather slow on the uptake regarding this method (to determine how much to lengthen a pattern) and I’m quite glad An mentioned it in her tutorial. On hindsight, I should have lengthened the lining pieces too but they’re not visible from the outside so it’s fine.
I didn’t adjust the collar pieces or anything else because I did not want to do any complicated redrafting, hence the collar may look rather thin. In a way that’s good because it doesn’t irritate the wearer, which is possible for sensitive young children. The pattern comes with other collar options — fine mandarin (which is similar to the qipao collar but is thinner, doesn’t require piping and is attached using a different method), pussy bow or no collar.
I used a double gauze fabric which I purchased from Sing Mui Heng a couple of years ago. The selvedge tells me that it is by Cosmo Textiles and made in Japan. The flowers (cherry blossoms?) are reminiscent of springtime and 1 yard was more than sufficient for the main and lining pieces, with some left over. I had cut out the fabric for the cap sleeves but omitted them in the end since my daughter asked for the dress to be sleeveless. She had chosen another pink and white double gauze fabric by Robert Kaufman but I decided against it because I thought the pattern was not as suitable.
This was my first time sewing with double gauze. I was afraid that it would fray like crazy so I serged all the edges I could except for curves like the neckline and armscyes, which I planned to staystitch. I would have serged the curves of the front pieces (where the piping was to join) as well but was afraid of chopping something off. Later on I serged them together with the piping because the fraying made me nervous, and then it looked a lot neater. I also serged the armscyes before turning them right side out, instead of clipping the seams.
When I practised sewing on a scrap piece, the fabric puckered. I tried different tension levels and turned to the Google for help, but still couldn’t resolve the problem, so I asked my trusty local group The Sewing Network for advice. The advice I received includes using a walking foot, using a spray starch and adjusting the presser foot pressure, then I suddenly remembered that I own a bottle of Flatter from 2Quilters. Spraying it before ironing made all the difference, as you can see in the top left and bottom left pictures below.
Pardon the poor lighting as I was sewing with dim lighting at night. I found that there was still a little bit of puckering as I staystitched the neckline of the lining (bottom right), so I increased the tension to about 4.3. You can see the difference between the two halves. Just for the record, I used an Organ needle 75/11 and stitch length 2.5. (I find a shorter stitch length neater, even though I read that you should increase it with double gauze.)
I’m not sure if I’m boring you with the technical details (I’m not sure if anyone’s reading this in the first place) so let’s move on. I find An’s instructions very detailed. She also included an external link to her webpage on sewing with piping which was very helpful. I really should have taken her advice to trim off the cording at the ends to reduce bulk in the seam allowances.
The most challenging bit for me was inserting the invisible zipper. Haste makes waste and I would have saved time, and unpicked less, if I had been more careful. First, I positioned the zip wrongly because there are different illustrations for the different collar options and I was looking at the wrong one. Second, I sewed too close to the zipper teeth and it was a little tight pulling up the zip in certain spots. Third, I sewed up the centre back seam from the bottom a little too much. Anyway, lesson learnt. I was relieved there wasn’t a big irredeemable hole in the double gauze fabric, which is so soft and delicate.
The overall fit is perfect but I think I’ll make a dropwaist dress in future because a shift dress either limits movement or causes “indecent exposure” by an over-active preschooler (speaking from experience, ahem).
I hope I haven’t bored you with my sewing journey. Thanks for reading and happy sewing!