After exploring the net and reviewing various qin sites of my colleagues, I came across Judy Chang’s blog in which she talked about making a 琴囊 or traditional qin bag used to carry your qin around (http://www.tcfb.com/guqin/qinbag.html; the original postings of the making process have since been removed). These are still made today but are often made from cheap cotton or polyester fabric which leaves a lot to be desired. I have two; one from NAGA which is a polyester blue one which I had copied Gong Yi’s calligraphy onto it in gold acrylic paint to make it stand out more, the other came with my ZCW qin which is made of brown cotton.
After looking at the Gugong Guqin book, I saw examples of rather beautiful qin bags with luxurious brocades used to make them and I want a similar qin bag to show everyone that there is a precious treasure hidden and wrapped within it. So, I scoured the net to find a suitable brocade. I had one or two in mind but only found those tacky Chinese ones which are either too plain or too gaudy with dragons that can be found at any shop. No, I want something more sophisticated and yet beautiful and if Chinese brocade can’t offer that, then a British one will.
M. Perkins & Son (http://www.mperkins.com/) is a British cloth manufacturer who weaves a line of damasks and brocades for the ecclesiastical, academical and ceremonial dresses. The quality is superb, but more expensive than your average fabrics. Since I want the best, I would have to fork out a lot for a once in a lifetime qin bag.
The broacde that caught my eye was the Fairford design, particularly, the two-coloured version:
It is truly beautiful and inspired by the designs of William Morris (reversible also). I’m juggling between the Red/Gold, Blue/Gold and the Violet/Gold combos. The cost, however, is £65 ($113 USD) pm from Mary Collings (the only place I know of online that sells it by the metre): http://marycollingscf.co.uk/items/fabrics~trimmings/yarn-dyed-brocades/list.htm. I would need 2 metres of the stuff (for the design to run straight down rather than across) so that’s £130 ($226) already (not inc. the padding and lining silk)! I, of course, could use the extra material to make another one and sell it for around £70-80 ($122-140) or so thereby there would be no waste, etc.
It would be a truly beautiful qin bag. Of course, I’ll have to wait for enough money to flood in before I start my adventures in qin bag making.
 囊: pronounced nang2 (奴當切音橐), the radical is 口.
nang2: bag; sack; pocket.
With all the materials obtained, I can start to make the qin bag.
First, I transcribed the measurements as indicated on Judy Chang’s pattern onto a template and cut it out.
I made some adjustments to the positions of the sound holes to match that of my qin. I then used the template to cut out the shell, padding and lining material accordingly.
I carefully bast stitched all edges that needed to be stitched together for the shell and the padding-lining. I ran them under the sewing machine.
Afterwards, the tail end of the shell and padding-lining was sewn shut. The head end of the shell and padding-lining was sewn together and the padding-lining was flipped over and inserted into the shell itself.
The tying cord was made from a strip sewn on one edge and turned inside out. The ends were bound with the lining.
The cord was a little bit too short so I had to cut it in half and sew the ends at the sides of the head of the bag.
The opening was then sealed with hand stitches, as were the sound holes.
The finished qin bag:
1. The qin bag was a little shorter than expected. Could do with an extra 5 or 6″ longer so that the head end would reach the shoulders of the qin and the cord would wrap more snuggly.
2. The bag was a little too wide at the shoulders and so should be reduced to avoid scrunching at the shoulders and neck.
3. The cord should be longer and more slender so that tying would be easier.
4. Instead of using the above method, one could sew all the layers together (using the turn-out method) and sew the edges and end shut to form the tube than to sew them separately and inserting the insides into the shell. That way, you will avoid the hand sewing and since much of the inside seams and stitches would not be seen, it simplifies the process greatly. The current process is probably used for a qin bag that can be used double sided.
5. The padding is just right so there is no need for extra thickness. But in fact, the tail end should have an extra layer of padding for strength’s sake.
In the end, I removed the ties and sealed the corners of the body of the bag and added an extension piece to the ties to create one long piece and then sewed it onto the flap of the bag so it is similar to this:
This makes tying easier.