Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Tai Chi Uniform: Selecting the fabric

I haven’t been able to visit many bricks and mortar fabric shops so far this year. For this reason, I decided that I needed to order some swatches to select an appropriate fabric for my Tai Chi uniform.

First of all, let me try to explain the original fabric on the jacket I am copying. The fabric is a poly cotton blend in navy blue, with quite a smooth surface texture. It is quite crisp in nature, but crinkles smooth out relatively easily. It is quite light-weight too and I am guessing when I say that my inclination is that it is made of something like poly cotton sheeting.

I ordered four quite different cotton fabrics from Minerva crafts. I was keen to avoid a poly cotton blend and chose cotton fabrics only. I imagined, even before I ordered these fabrics that they would be more substantial / thicker than the fabric of the original jacket. I liked the idea of a thicker fabric, particularly as we have been practicing Tai Chi with the doors open for months (and some sessions I hardly seem to get warm despite an hour and a half of exercise). However, I didn’t want this concession to compromise the drape or flexibility of the design.

The fabrics were as follows:

  1. Sevenberry Kobe Cotton Twill Indigo
  2. Mind the MAKER Stretch Cotton Twill Indigo Night
  3. Soft Duck Canvas Navy
  4. Klona 100% Cotton Navy

Unfortunately it looks like navy blue photographs as badly as black so you’ll have to take my word about them all being different! The links to the Minerva site should provide more of an idea about these fabrics.

Four samples for my Tai Chi Uniform: clockwise from top left: Sevenberry Kobe Cotton Twill Indigo, Mind the MAKER Stretch Cotton Twill Indigo Night, Soft Duck Canvas Navy, Klona 100% Cotton Navy

Straight out the packet I noticed that the four fabrics were very different; colour, thickness, softness all varied, so I made a grid to assess them. I assessed the colour on the basis of its proximity to the colour of the original jacket. With drape, I screwed the fabric up to judge how crisp it was and also looked to see how much the crinkles were retained when I smoothed it out again. For the surface texture, again I visually judged how close this came to the texture and weave of the original.

FabricColourDrape*Weave / Surface TextureTotal
Sevenberry Kobe Cotton Twill Fabric Indigo2327
Mind the Maker Organic Stretch Woven Cotton Twill fabric Indigo Night44311
Soft Cotton Duck Canvas Navy Blue3216
Klona 100% Cotton Fabric Navy1146
Comparison of different jacket fabrics *see crinkle test above

As you can see there was an overall winner. The Mind the Maker cotton twill comes quite close to the original fabric. Strangely, it is described as a twill fabric, but the weave is quite fine so this is not particularly evident at first glance. My only reservation with this fabric is that it is a stretch woven, unlike the others. Perhaps this will in fact improve the comfort of the finished jacket, and hopefully won’t be too obvious.

Looking at the uniform I will also have to order the frog fasteners and some contrast fabric for the facings and cuffs.

Tai Chi Uniform jacket: Note the contrast cuffs and the frog fasteners.

My next step will be to order my fabric. Of course, drafting your own pattern means that I will have to work out how much fabric I need too. No handy envelope guide here!


Tai Chi Uniform: First thoughts on designing the pattern

I was intending to crack on with sewing more of my #makenine for this year, however a new make has jumped to the top of my schedule. I have practiced Tai Chi for some while with the Wu Tan Tai Chi school.

My teacher has long been nagging me to sort out my clothing and wear something more “Tai Chi”, but knows I do make my own clothes. So, she has lent me some jackets to try on that I can use as a basis for a sewing pattern.

Tai Chi uniform

Naturally, I decided to also purchase some more Swedish Tracing Paper, which I reviewed here. I have used it previously and really liked using it. It has the added bonus that it behaves more like a fabric than a paper so you can sew it and try it on!

My first dilemma on trying on the jackets is that to me they seem quite restrictive in the shoulder. The grown-on sleeves actually pivot downwards. This means that with any movement of the arm at shoulder height or above, tends to make the bottom of the jacket ride up and all movements quite restrictive. I suspect that my square shoulders are contributing to this problem, because on less square shoulders I’m sure that the fit of the jacket would be fine.

I decided to investigate if there were any Chinese jacket or Tai Chi uniform patterns on line. My search revealed various different arm shapes, some with sloping arms and some with completely horizontal arms.

This is a wrap design, which isn’t what I’m after and the arms are too flamboyant, but it does have the horizontal arms.
This is the Chinese Jacket #114 from Folkwear patterns. This resembles the overall design of my jacket, but does include the horizontal arms too.

My first step is to make a sewing pattern using the Swedish Tracing paper. As I already have the sloping arms, I will make this pattern with horizontal arms and see if it improves the fit for my shoulders. The jacket is made of a quite light-weight cotton. It looks like and feels like a high-thread count sheeting. I don’t know if I will be able to get something similar (and I don’t want to use poly-cotton sheeting). I suspect that I will end up purchasing something heavier weight, so any restrictions in movement will be exacerbated by this.