I am a beginner when it comes to making the Chinese qipao or cheongsam dress. Let me be clear and upfront that by writing this piece I am in no way claiming otherwise. My aim however is to show that with a little time and patience even those with basic sewing knowledge (yes thats me) can make a kids Chinese cheongsam qipao dress.
For those of you who want clarification on my “beginner status” in clothes making, here is a brief recount of my history on the subject and the thought process and inspiration that got me started. Iv’e always fancied the idea of designing and making or sewing clothes but always been a bit put off with expectations of complexity, ability to execute, fit and suitability of the finished garment. So much so, that I didn’t get around to trying. When my dd came along, the thought of being able to dress her in mummy’s lovingly handmade unique pieces compelled me to finally give it a go.
Only having had a few Home Economics classes at the age of 13 under my belt where I made an oven glove (it did not fit), I had zero previous experience in sewing garments when I started this about a year ago. Using the internet as a guide and my daughters existing clothes as patterns, I’ve made a couple of sleeping bags (she loves these and won’t sleep without them) and two simple shift dresses (one of which was too short and I ended up making her wear it as a top). Then with the wind in my sails and Chinese New Year around the corner I decided to try my hand at making a qipao or cheongsam. That was last year and I haven’t made another one since till now. So no, I’m not beginner in the sense of brand new but I certainly am so far as I have very little experience (I don’t sew regularly, just now and then) and what I know is really self taught. So; as they say “without further ado” here it is, my easy kids Chinese qipao or cheongsam dress instructions with pictures.
You will need
Needle and thread
Print out of Kids qipao pattern
80 cm length of cotton fabric
2 m of 12.5mm bias tape
35 cm invisible dress zip
1-3 pairs Chinese frog/knot buttons (depending on your preference)
1. Iron your fabric flat and pin the paper pattern on to your chosen fabric. Cut the pattern out on to your fabric.
Tip: If your fabric has a pattern and you would like the design to match up on the finished qipao you will need to take account for the seam allowance of the zipper and line up the design.
2. Where indicated in the image below use the sewing machine to zig zag stitch along the edges.
3. Match up the two back pieces, right ways facing and hand sew on the seam allowance to temporarily hold in place. Open out.
4. Position the main front and back pieces of the quipao together right ways facing, pin in place and sew the shoulders together using straight stitch.
5. Open out the shoulder seams and iron flat.
6. Matching two pieces of the collar right ways facing, sew a line using straight stitch along the shortest edge. Repeat for the other side of the collar.
7. Turn the collar upside down and sandwich the neckline in between. Pin in place and use a straight stitch to sew along the pinned edge with a 1cm allowance. Turn the two collars up so that the wrong sides are facing.
8. Iron the collar flat. Sew the open sides together using straight stitch with a 5mm allowance. Trim off and neaten up any edges.
9. Open out the back seam of the qipao and position the zipper facedown so that when fastened the top of the pull ends just shy of the top of edge of the collar. Pin and hand sew it to the dress to temporarily hold it in place. Trim off the excess ends.
10. Then using the sewing machine, sew the zip into place using the zipper foot. Hand stitch the top of the zipper to the inside of the collar so that none of your stitches are visible from the outer side.
11. Sew straight stitch to attach the remaining back of the dress together. Remove the temporary stitches.
12. Starting with the wrong side of the dress, pin the bias tape onto one of the armholes. Using straight stitch, sew a line as close to the (edge) as possible in matching thread.
13. Turn the dress the right way facing then fold over the bias tape (tucking in the edges or sides) and pin in place. Again using straight stitch, carefully sew in place. The back stitches should be invisible from the front and the front stitches should hold the back and front folds of the bias tape in place.
14. Repeat steps 11 and 12 for the other arm hole, neck line and hem.
15. Turn the dress right ways facing and pin in place. Sew the sides together.
16. Turn the dress the right way around and position it flat. Pin the front opening in place and hand stitch it using small hidden stitches. Check the work as you go along to make sure it is still sitting flat.
An opening at the front is more traditional as it is usually accompanied by a side zip which allows the wearer to put the dress on, but as I’ve moved the zip to the back, the opening doesn’t really serve much practical usage and I find stitching it down makes dressing easier, especially for little ones.
17. Finally, add frog or Chinese knot buttons to the front of your dress, one at the base of the neck and as you like along the faux front opening.
Take your time working through each step and allow yourself a few days to finish this project especially if you are a beginner.
The measurements given are for the dress I made which fits a 3-4 year old.
You may need more or less depending on the size you are making.
If you the fabric that you are using has a pattern that you wish to match up at the back, you will need more fabric to be able to line up the pattern (the amount depends on the pattern. As a rule of thumb, a big pattern will require more fabric)
Unless otherwise stated, the seam allowance on the dress is 10 mm.
Image credit: Anna Hui