Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hanbok Project Part III: Making the Goreum

The goreum refers to the ribbons that tie the jeogori shut. It is super easy to make. Sew two rectangle pieces wrong sides together, leaving one side open. Invert the piece right side out, press, and slip stitch the last side shut.

But I'm giving it a post of its own because of my quest for the perfect goreum fabric, which led to some pretty interesting experiments with lots of red cloth and a love-hate relationship with duchess satin.

What I really learnt from making it is this; when you want a particular shade of fabric for your design, seek until you find. Don't compromise with the cheapest or closest alternative you can get. If staring at substitutes makes you unhappy because you see in your mind how more perfect it will be in the colour you can imagine, wait, and then search harder. Because it exists, you just have to find it, and that is just a matter of time.

Of course you can probably choose to dye your own cloth as well but I chose not to go down that road, because I don't know anything about dying and it didn't make sense paying $10 for dye when I just needed 1/4 metre of cloth.

So then. In my original design I wanted the chima to be dark red, but after working on the jeogori and thinking about what goes with black and gold, I knew I had to use dark red for the ribbon. The red cloth that Sonjjang sent was more of a pink warm red though, and the transparent undertones didn't work with the gold. So I went to window shop in Spotlight with some fabric swatches and found the perfect shade of red in Chinese brocade with black flower motifs. Think qipao fabric. Unfortunately gold peonies did not go well with black Chinese flowers and the motif was too virulent on the cloth to be cropped out.

So I got a swatch from the Spotlight counter (If you don't know can request for little bits of sample fabric if you bring the roll to the cutting table and ask nicely. I just found out the other day!) and took it to the ribbons section but it didn't match anything they had on the shelves...which were orangey-red and dark pink-red. I then went to Arab street as Kim Soon looked promising, but they didn't have the shade I wanted either. On my way back to the MRT with Charmaine we decided to check out one of the cloth shops that was positively begging to be explored with its rolls and rolls of fabric, and in there, I found this.

A beautiful, beautiful dark red duchess satin. Actually it was polyester duchess satin. My first encounter with the fabric. And it draped so beautifully and felt heavy and expensive and perfect, I couldn't imagine how much better the real thing could get.

Texere Silk describes it:
French for ‘skin of silk,' Peau de Soie is a stout, soft silk with fine cross ribs. A medium weight fabric with satiny finish, it looks like Charmeuse, but Peau de Soie has a moderately stiff drape. Used in evening wear, bridal gowns, and elegant dresses. Sews easily, but pins and needles leave marks.
Designers prefer duchesse satin because the skirt keeps its full draped curves, instead of fluttering, as would a thinner fabric.

McQueen dress. Enough said.

Anyway when I reached home and started making the goreum I realized I had been so seduced by the fabric that I had completely forgotten about the properties of a ribbon:

1, it has to be flat, and stay flat so it can be tied neatly. You can't press duchess satin flat flat. As Gertie says, it rolls like the dickens. And two layers of duchess satin inverted rolls even more, trust me. After steaming and pressing and a few averted finger burns with the iron I gave up trying to make it flat.

2, it has to be light. I was prepared to be flexible on this one, but the duchess satin weighed more than the entire jeogori itself (made in the lightweight Korean whanggeum cloth) so the ribbon was pulling the whole piece forward and drooping sadly in front.

So I took a look at the alternatives, a horribly shiny acetate satin (bottom), and the red-pink okdolgyeon intended for the chima (middle).

The duchess satin (top), as you can see, best matches the gold fabric, the okdolgyeon gives a nice matt sheen while the acetate satin is shiny in a cheap disgusting way. (Please, whatever you do, don't buy this fabric. For $3 a metre it cannot be used to make anything decent!)
The quality of this cloth is so horrible, the corners kept fraying and popping out when I tried to invert it. Also, it was as hard to press as the duchess satin.

I then thought about making the goreum with the okdolgyeon, which is actually quite acceptable and normal given that a lot of 20th century hanboks have slightly transparent, very well pressed goreums. HezaChan's hanbok is one example:

And so is the hanbok here:

Okdolgyeon has that stiff structure and clean transparency when pressed, so it would work perfectly, but the red-pink colour was really putting me off.

The duchess satin was still calling out to me, so I knew I had to find some way to make it work. One solution was fusible interfacing, which stops the fabric rolling, but it adds to the total weight. Then I thought of a tutorial on Interfacing Alternatives I read some time ago, which suggested the use of cheap fabrics like canvas/cotton to give weight and body to silks. Two layers of duchess satin was still too heavy for the jeogori, so I thought about backing one layer of satin with a layer of stiff okdolgyeon, since it was transparent and would let through the satin's darker red on the back side of the ribbon (thus losing its pinkish colour).

After sewing them together, the duchess satin was still all rolled up and twisty.

Okdolgyeon on the top layer here. But then came the miracle, purely by experiment. Using the okdolgyeon layer as a press cloth, I steamed the duchess satin on high heat, and voila!

A flat ribbon! This is how the okdolgyeon underside looks:

Still a bit pink but I could live with it. As it is I am pretty happy with the results and the fact that the beautiful duchess satin was put to use, plus I found the exact colour I was looking for.

A proper picture of the jeogori to come after I sort out the dongjeong.

In the meantime, some tips on tying the goreum. Always remember that the left ribbon is longer than the right one, and the finished bow should point towards your left side. There are two ways to tie the ribbon:

One is HezaChan's method, posted on youtube:

The other is here, where you wrap the second tie around the loop instead of pulling it through. Watch the video from 1.00 onwards. I personally prefer this method because you have more control over the shape of the wrap and it looks neater (at least when I try it).

There you go :) Chima making next.


  1. Thank you for this great blog. I am trying to make Hanbok for a doll. This is a big help!! I'll pass on to you the Blog award!

  2. Thanks for visiting!
    (Wow I can imagine it's all going to be so much harder making it micro-sized.)