Monday, August 25, 2008

Making A Dress Form: Part 1: Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

This is Part 1 of a Four-Part Series.

It's important to mention that I made mistakes which required a lot of work later on, probably doubling or tripling the time required to make this. My methods aren't recommended, but are posted here in case you should decide to attempt this yourself, only to find yourself covered in wallpaper paste and soggy newspaper seriously considering taking a hammer to the whole project. Hang On, Little Tomato!

Also I must mention the fabulous resource from Threads Magazine, which is what inspired me to attempt this in the first place.

Step One: Mistake One: Acquiring Plaster Bandages

If you're anything like me, you're trying to do this on the cheap. This is one place you SHOULD NOT SKIMP.

I started with about ten yards of 4" wide bandages and five yards of 8" wide bandage, which I acquired at a local craft store. It was nowhere near enough. Skip the craft store entirely and order an obscene amount of plaster bandages from an online medical supply company.

Fixer: I'd purchase this. That's 60 yards of bandages for about $50. You probably won't use ALL of that, but you'll be glad you had it. Trust me.

Step Two: Mistake Two: Preparing the Model

I thought I'd be clever and avoid ruining a shirt by wrapping Jessica in a garbage bag. I was also concerned about the compression that a tight-fitting shirt would give me. This was a bad idea on so many levels. First off, the garbage bag is slippery, and moved around her body when I was applying the bandages, making it really difficult to get a good impression. Secondly, the heat trapped by the plastic made her even more uncomfortable.

Fixer: Buy a cotton/spandex shirt from a thrift store or something and fit it to your model, making a mock-turtleneck at the top and adding some extra at the bottom to accommodate for the length you want the form to be. You could even buy some fabric and make a simple, form-fitting shift dress. You'll want to be sure it has sleeves, and enough length to cover the body nearly to the knees.

Your model will also want to wear something UNDER this shift, because you'll be cutting it off her. Also have her wear whatever foundation undergarments she's accustomed to wearing. (I was making this dress form so that I could drape her wedding dress, and wish I had made her purchase the breast-enhancing bra BEFORE I made the dress form!)

Jessica is about the most fidgety person I know, and had a heckuva time standing still while I did this. Make your model practice standing in one place. She should figure out what the most comfortable position is and make any adjustments BEFORE you start covering her in plaster bandages. You may also want to come up with a simple arm support system so that she can hold her arms slightly away from her body.

About two hours before the plastering, feed and hydrate your model. Right before starting, put the dress or tee on your model and send her to the bathroom. You'll want at least one assistant and a LARGE area in which to work. You don't want your model to be moving at all during this process. Put a big tarp on the floor, preferably NOT plastic to avoid slipping. You'll want a table nearby to hold your bandages and a big tub for water.

Step Three: Mistake Three: Marking the Form

Before plastering, figure out a good way to mark important points on your models body. Once you have all that plaster on her, it's going to be harder to figure out what her true waist is. You know all those measurements you need when you are flat-patterning? You're going to want to be able to mark those on your body form. The easiest way to do this is going to be to do it BEFORE you plaster.

Since I didn't do this, I'm not sure what the best way to accomplish this would be. I would probably start with pieces of 1/4" elastic on the major measurement points: ribcage, waist, hips, armscye. Of course then you have to worry about slippage as you plaster, so maybe you'd want to marker those places in. (You could also sew them in to place when you are making or fitting the shift dress for her) While you're at it, marker the front nape and back nape. Again, since I didn't do this, I'm not sure what the best way to do it will be.

You'll also want to mark the center front and center back as well as the sides. Use a plumb-bob for accuracy. (You can make one with a piece of string tied to a pattern weight or any heavy, symmetrical object)

Another important place to mark: From the floor to wherever you want the bottom of the form to be. This is going to be REALLY REALLY important later on when you want to mount the form on a stand and all of a sudden you have no idea what the bottom of the form should be, since you were inconsistent with your plastering. (well, you probably weren't, but I was!)

Q: Hey! What's up? You didn't get to the part where you actually put the plaster bandages on her body!

A: I know, I know. It's just so darn long already! So I thought I'd throw this over the wall, since I haven't posted in over a week. Don't worry, there is more to come, and some serious editing to do as well!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


My friend Jules has been wanting me to make a quiver for her tripod for a long long time. This weekend, we're going whitewater rafting, and then spending a day and a half in Yosemite, so what was formerly just a good intention now needed to be actualized.

It started with a simple tube (this is me pressing it on my Very Cool seam roll)

I left two openings in the tube seam: one large one (about 6") for the tripod handle, and a very small one (1/2") for the drawstring. Then I opened the seam up, folded each seam allowance under itself, and stitched along the fold. I believe this is known as a clean finish.

Then I attached the plastic triangles that hold the strap at the bottom:

and at the top, which is longer because I am folding it over as part of the drawstring casing:

After that, I sewed the circle to the bottom, folded the top over to simultaneously finish it and make the casing, and then made the strap, which turned out to be the hardest part. I wanted it to be adjustable and removable, and I just had to play with it for a while to figure it out. And you know those little plastic bits that slide along the webbing to adjust it? They make perfect sense until you are actually trying to figure out how and when and where to put it on, and where to sew it, and which part moves and which part doesn't. I know you're thinking it doesn't seem that hard, and so did I before I had to redo it three times.

Don't you think it's simply fetching with the black dress? Jules likes it -- she said, "It looks like it came from Eddie Bauer." (The quiver, not the dress. The dress came from Loft. The dress FORM is a topic for a much later, much longer post.)

We'll take it for a trial run this weekend and then I'll make any adjustments that need to be done. I'd like to add padding to the strap, and I've lots of fabric leftover so maybe she needs a matching... hat or something.

Funny, now I want to make a bag for my yoga mat... tune in next week to see if I do!

(p.s. we are leaving at THREE A.M. because Jules wants to get through LA before traffic. She's crazy that way. Lucky me, I get to sleep while she drives!)

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Office, Season 2

Just a quick post to say how excited I am about my clean, organized studio/office space!

I finally dug some shelving out of my storage unit and rearranged things a little. I can't begin to tell you how happy this makes me. Of course there are the usual annoyances, like forgetting all the little shelving supports for the shelves on this thing (thank you IKEA for the freebies!)

I also need another galvanized door on the other side, but the hardware for that is back in my storage unit with the shelf supports, so, for now...

This is it:

And this is what I am working on right now.
I've taken my old Thomas Guide and I'm cutting out all the places of interest and decoupaging them onto bamboo tile beads. Then I'm slicing out the map coordinates and addresses of said places and adding them to the sides of the tile beads, which I will then use to make jewelry. I'm not sure if I'm smoking crack or if it's just damn cool. I think it's funny and kitschy. Hopefully other people will too.

And this is what I just listed on etsy:

And now I need to get back to work!