Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making the Hezi

So these are the pattern pieces from Butterick's #6766 for an evening dress.The pattern was pretty old and it was tough figuirng out the instructions from the faded pattern markings. All pieces need to be cut out twice, one time with the inverse side of the pattern placed on the right side of the fabric.

For this pattern, the structured bodice is made to reach the waist, while according to my research, the Hezi does not fully cover the stomach area. I cut short the pattern pieces as such, and also modified the princess seams to better fit my body shape. I also straightened out the back seams.

Edit: The left side of Pattern 4 here needs to be taken in a bit more to match the curve for the front piece (Pattern 3). I did those changes while sewing and have not adjusted the muslin pieces yet.

I cut out three sets of patterns in all; one from the Chinese brocade, one from the Bemsilk lining, and one from sew-on interfacing which I used for underlining. Next, I sewed the interfacing onto the brocade pieces according to the pattern instructions, and applied Fray Stoppa to all the cut edges to stop the fabric from fraying. (Chinese brocade frays like crazy and that tends to damage the weave of the fabric if it is not stopped.)

Seams need to be pressed flat open. It's pretty hard to do that for the curved, clipped seams; I think a tailor's ham is necessary. I improvised by using a scrunched up pile of old fabrics.

After that, it was time to put in the boning. I got some from Spotlight, but they only sell the plastic type that comes in a fabric casing. The boning is sold in a circular length, like this:

Unfortunately, because it is stored in this curved position over a long time, the plastic won't lie flat and cannot be directly sewn into clothing.

Using the curved boning would pull the fabric away from the body, instead of helping to structure the garment according to the body's contours. It might also cause the fabric to tear where the bones strain the fabric at the edges.

To solve this problem, the bones need to be heated up and remoulded. This tutorial suggests boiling the plastic, and then pressing them with a stack of books, but I decided to try ironing first and it worked just as well. I ironed the boning on high heat and steam through a piece of wool, and then pressed them under a stack of books.

The boning needs to be pressed for at least 30 minutes until they have completely cooled and retain their new shape. Unfortunately they still curve a little bit towards the sides, even though they now lie flat on the surface. Perhaps they need to be pressed a little on the sides too. It isn't much of a problem, however.

Once the boning is straightened, the edges need to be trimmed and filed into a rounded shape so that the ends won't poke out of the fabric casing. More details on how to handle boning can be found on this excellent tutorial here.

I pinned the fabric casings to the seams of the lining fabric and sewed them down. It's a lot easier to attach the casing to the lining as the fabric is much softer and eaiser to manipulate than the Chinese brocade. In addition, the sewing on both sides of the fabric casing won't show through on the right side of the fashion fabric, unlike in a corset where the boning channels sometimes becomes a part of the design. Once that is done, sew the lining fabric to the fashion fabric. Understitch the lining fabric and press. (Understitching is, by the way, one of the most brilliant sewing tips I discovered recently. See Coletterie's wonderful guide to doing it here.) 

I decided to complete the finishing closure with hook and eyes instead of a using an invisble zipper in the end because the hezi is really quite short, and putting in a zip wouldn't allow much width for the garment to open. The hezi is also really tight, and it was quite impossible to pull it over my shoulders with the zipper tape securing the bottom end of the opening seam. So it seems like the Hezi needs to be a wrap garment, like the corset, if it is constructed in this way. (For the Butterick pattern, the zip extends past the waistline into the skirt section of the garment so it makes sense.)

I hand-sewed 11 hook and eyes, each about 1 cm apart, onto the edge of the closing ends of the hezi. For the closure to be flat, many many hook and eyes need to be used, but the end results are well worth the torture of sewing by hand:

While I am really pleased with the fit, I might alter the hook and eye placements to make the hezi a little looser, and to get rid of those shear lines on the fabric. I think I will also add a cloth strap in contrasting colour to finish the garment later on.

And here is the final piece! The skirt in this picture is from an old gown which isn't going to be a part of the Tang costume. The actual skirt will have a waistband that covers the tummy. The only problem with this Hezi I've found so far, is that the interfacing is really really warm, which would make it torturous to wear in our tropical climate even without the robe and other layers.

Will be starting work on the robe next. While the festivities are still in order, here's wishing everyone a blessed and fufilling year ahead. Thanks for reading!


  1. omg Sharon I am constantly in awe of your skills! :D It looks great! (:

  2. What an amazing blog! I found you tonight because I have decided to make a hanbok. But there is so much on your blog and its all so fascinating I am going to have to make time to read through it all.
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thank you for dropping by! :)