Thursday, October 22, 2009

Duct tape Dressmaker's Dummy

Pink Duck Tape Rose
I must confess, I love working with duct tape. I believe you can fix almost everything with a bit of this sticky miracle. It's a wonderful product, water resistant, very sticky, easy to tear but also very strong. I recently watched the Mythbuster team use duct tape to build a potato launcher, a canon, a sail boat and even suspend a car in midair. If you have 5 minutes, type up Duct tape Costumes in Google or click here to see amazing works of duct tape art. I posted a picture of a beautiful duct tape rose to give you an idea. Goes to show, I'm not the only person crazy about duct tape. Imagine my excitement when I discovered my next project. 

In addition to playing with duck tape, I also enjoy making my own clothes.  However, this process required many trips to and from the mirror or asking my relatively uninterested but supportive husband to place pins dangerously close to my body. I concluded that to make the necessary tweaks and tucks to my creations easier and painless, I needed a dressmaker's dummy or dress form. So I dragged my dear hubby to the four corners of the city on a crazy goose hunt, all in vain. I could never find one that fit my budget and my shape. Discouraged, I was taken to a book store - they always cheer me up. As I browsed away my sorrow, I stumbled across the Stitch Lounge Girls' Subversive Seamster. A wonderful book that teaches you to" transform thrift store threads into street couture" and to make your own duct tape dress form. BINGO! My joie de vivre completly restored, we raced off in search of the materials. At this point, I was still unaware of the wide assortment of colours available, so my happiness grew 10 fold when I found I could purchase my favorite colour.

Here's the list of material you need to make your own perfectly shaped dress form:
  • 1 Close fitting T-shirt
  • 4 Rolls of duct tape
  • Plastic wrap or extra material (plastic shopping bags will do)
  • Scissors
  • 1 Willing and patient friend
  • 2.5-3 hrs to spare
  • A good movie or back to back to back episodes of your favorite show
  • Stuffing material
  • Stand (standing lamp base, microphone stand, artificial tree pot and broom stick)
The book offers descriptive steps and helpful illustrations.  I made some modifications to the technique so here is how I broke it down.

Step 1 : Preparation
Go to the bathroom, you're in this for at least 2hrs. Make sure the room you are in is at a comfortable temperature, tie your hair up and out of the way, then strip down to your underwear and put on the selected T-shirt. (Note: you will never see this t-shirt again.) The sleeves of the t-shirt should cover a little more than half your bicep and the bottom should reach mid-thigh. Supplement any missing length with either plastic rap or extra material. From this point forward, try and stay as still as you can as your friend wraps you. I suggest keeping your feet two fists apart which will help you with your balance.

Step 2 :  Begin wrapping
Place strips horizontally starting from the bottom and working your way up to the bra-line. Be careful to overlap each strip and I suggest using strips no longer than your forearm.

Step 3 : Bust
In order to accurately represent your bust size, use short strips and arrange them in a flower-like pattern on each breast - each strip being one petal. Make sure each strip is long enough to extend from the nipple to the contour of the breast. Once this is done, crisscross two strips of duct tape, one from each shoulder ending at the waist and crossing in the middle of your chest. Then make vertical shoulder straps from where you ended the flower covering the region between the neckline to the sleeve seam. Don't forget to cover the back entirely, you can use smaller vertical strips to connect the shoulders to the horizontal wrapping.

Step 4 : Arms and neck

Hold your arms at a 45-degree angle to make sure that, in due time, you can fit garments underneath. Begging where your bra strap would be and extend the strip vertically down your arm until about one inch above the mid-bicep line. Continue all around to make the sleeves. Add a second layer of duck tape horizontally this time. Once both arms are done, create a duct tape turtleneck by taping horizontal strips until you are a couple inches high making sure to avoid stray hairs. 

Step 5 : Finishing touches
Don't despair you're almost done. Using long vertical strips, add a second coat from the bra-line to the bottom, making them as smooth as possible. Ask your friend to step back from their work of art and give it a once-over and cover any remaining t-shirt spots. At this time, mark the location of your belly button and any other liked or disliked markings on dress form. This will help you when you're creating your new fashion collection.

Step 6 : Extraction
With a pair of scissors, not your best sewing scissors though, have your friend carefully cut up the center of your back, along the spine, expertly avoiding skin and underwear. Remove yourself slowly from your double, put your clothes back on and sit down. I felt like I had lost some bones in the process and had to curl up into child pose to recover. Wimp, maybe, but a wimp with her own perfectly adjusted dress form.

Step 7 : Stuffing
Close up the seam with duct tape and stuff your dummy. The authors of the Subversive Seamster suggest using batting but I went with a mix of torn up newspapers and packing peanuts I had around the house and it worked just fine. Close up neck and arm holes with more duct tape flowers. Before closing up the bottom, insert your stand, measure the height from your belly button to the floor and use that measure to secure the dummy at the right height using the marked belly button as a reference point. Thank your friend profusely and if it is their desire, help them make their own.

The book then goes on to show you cool ways of transforming thrift store finds into trendy clothes. My favorite is the bat wing top made from a sheet and an elastic belt. If you are interested in modifying clothes, I strongly suggest that you purchase the Subversive Seamster. I strongly suggest Amazon since you can find it for 4$ less than in bookstores.  Let me know how it works out and feel free to send me pictures of your creations (emilieDwolf{at}gmail{dot}com).

Take care!

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