From scratch

The anatomy of a DIY dressform

   This is by no means a tutorial. If anything, this is more like “The mistakes to avoid while DIYing a dressform” guide… except even if you do make these mistakes you will end up with something semi-similar to your body and semi-useful. So here comes the lowdown of how this “little” baby was built.

   The essential ingredients for a proper duct tape dressform are at least 2-3 rolls of duct tape (obvs.), a bin bag/ old t-shirt,  preferably polyester batting for filling and 2 helping hands. My version’s ingredients were slightly different:

  • duct tape (1 roll),
  • a bin bag,
  • scrap fabric,
  • shredded paper,
  • plastic bags,
  • and a massive paper tube.

   The first problem was the lack of duct tape. We ran out of it before my body was covered in the first layer. I tried to patch it up with masking tape, then with cling film, once we ran out of that too. After we cut it off my body, it looked as if it pretty much lost its shape, but once I started filling it up, it looked just fine. (Sorry about the blurry photos, click on them to make them big…and blurry)

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    Once I had the shell, I wanted to find a stand for the dressform. We bought a carpet a few weeks ago, and I kept the paper tube that was holding it in place during delivery. I then laboriously cut it in half and “drilled” some holes into it so that I can insert some screws to hold the form later. This tube went straight into the duct tape body and I cut a cardboard in the shape of the bottom of the form, attached it and closed the bottom bit with some masking tape. Then I started filling it with shredded paper.

   The funny thing about paper is that you can compress it. Did you know that? Yeah, I apparently didn’t. I only realized this, once I was pushing the paper to the edges and the form became heavier and heavier, and it felt like the 2 large bin bags full of shredded paper won’t even be enough to fill up my bum.

   After I filled my double up with the remaining paper until my waistline, I could see that it was a little lopsided. Even though it looked pretty big, according to the tape measure it still was a few centimeters short from my actual hip measurement. I padded the form out with some wool leftover fabric, and stuck plastic bags and whatever scrap fabrics I could find to fill out the top half. The most difficult bit was moving the paper tube around so that the form stands up straight on its own.

  Once I closed the opening on the back, I started taking measurements and compared them with my real size. This was very much like sculpting, as I was just taping pieces of batting on parts where it needed some centimeters added and where it didn’t look symmetric.

   When it finally looked balanced and proportionate, and the measurements were close enough, I put an old bra on and filled it with batting, to create some shape in the breast area. I made the cover by pinning the fabric on the form and cutting the excess off. The cover is still open at the bottom as at some point I might come up with a way to put something inside the tube that will serve as a stand, although it is hard to imagine that I’ll ever find something steady enough to hold its weight.

  I have already used it to try to take photos of some finished projects, as well as for draping (yes, I’ve skipped using a toille fabric, because I’m that lazy! 😉 ). Even though it is not a perfect copy of my body, it really is close enough to use it. Putting pins into the dressform is not exactly easy, but I’ve managed so far, and the first dress draped on it has already become one of my favourite makes.!

   All in all, I’m quite happy with it, although I think the fact that I am more interested in draping than a few years ago, when I made my first duct tape dressform, really pushes me to make a good use of it. Have you tried your hands at making a dressform? Do you use it for making up patterns or for adjusting them to your size? Also, if you know a simple technique to copy the markings from the fabric on the form to paper, I’m all ears!

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From scratch, Stash diet/ Scrap revival

Experiments in draping #1: The asymetric dress

    So I’m on a stash diet. You know, that’s what you do when you have more fabric than space to hold it. The plan is to use up what I already have first, before I buy any new fabric, as I promised myself in January.

    I had this fabric lying around, left over from a self drafted disaster pair of trousers, and I just felt too lazy to find a pattern, copy the pattern, cut the fabric out neatly, then sew it all together (you know the drill)… So I decided to just copy the neckline and armholes of one of my favorite low-back (knit) tops, and use that as a guide to draft a pattern. It was supposed to be the base of a subtraction cut top (will blog about this later), but I decided to make a draped dress instead. I used the wrong (matte) side of the fabric for the top, and the right (shiny) side of it for the skirt bit. I normally don’t wear dresses without a cinched in waist, so when I was experimenting with the draping, I tried to give some definition to my waist while keeping it minimal/modern at the same time.

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The pocket (“hidden” in the seams on the waist) was something I wanted to try for a long time, and I quite like how it turned out! I’m pretty sure the draping is not done as it’s supposed to be done, as it is pulling that side quite a bit, but it works anyway!

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The good

The fabric was very slippery, but pressing it was a joy! I’m pretty happy with how the tiny hem and my first ever facing turned out.

The bad

There are slits on the sides of the dress to allow more movement, but it’s still absolutely useless when it comes to cycling. I ended up having to pull the whole skirt bit up to my waist (yes, basically riding in my tights), covering myself with my cardigan. This is obviously not a solution, so I will add godets and insert invisible zippers to hide them for non-riding times, essentially turning a pencil dress into an A-line one. Or make it into a t-shirt. 🙂

Lessons learned
  • The tissue paper cutting technique really works like magic with silk-like fabrics,
  • Pressing with a wet cloth/steam makes for perfect seam, but once they are set, they are there forever…
  • This tiny hem sewing technique.
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All you need is a long piece of fabric. No threads, no sweatshops, no deliveries…But then you’ll need one for when the other one is in the wash. And one warm and one light one of course. Then one for your wedding.  And one for your sister’s wedding. Oh and a sturdy one for painting the walls/gardening/whatever messy thing you do. Aaaaand we are pretty much back to where we are now, aren’t we?