After browsing the blogosphere for all sorts of DIY dress form tutorials, I finally had my duct-tape workshop this week-end.
As I previsouly mentionned, I didn't want to start before I had the perfect stand. I finally found it last Monday and then it was only a matter of getting the few necessary supplies: Duct tape, a cardboard tube, a padded hanger. While at the Home Depot I also grabbed a couple lamp accessories (a metal plate fixture and a rod extension) to attach my dress for to the stand.
I had kept an XL shirt on the side for a while for that project. To avoid any bulging, I fitted the shirt on myself and sewed new side seams to make it tight (but not so much that it would squish my bust). I also used the resulting cut-out fabric to lenghten the shirt a bit.
Now on with the duct-taping. It took about 1 hour for B. to wrap me up from head to toe, I mean thigh to neck. I had seen different techniques on Threads here and here (they also have tutorials for packing tape and papier maché dress forms). Prudent Baby, who seems to often be posting the exact tutorials I need just when I need them, also posted about her DIY dress form here. I like her stuffing technique for the bust. But we mostly tried to follow Mimi's instructions for the taping process here and here (from her teaser video actually, I didn't purchase the actual tutorial).
Being the detail-oriented perfectionnist that I am, I had made it real clear to B. that the tape needed to be as clean and smooth as possible, to avoid any folds and a sloppy looking result...I think he got it :). Also we only did one layer, though every tutorial I saw instructed to do 3 (I don't know what Mimi does, in her video it looks like she only does one layer as well), but I didn't want to make it too thick and risk it not being accurate enough. Plus it would be potentially 2 more hours of tape wraping and I wasn't too excited about that. The additional layers would probably make the form stiffer and prevent the shape from changing when you stuff it, but I think we managed ok with one layer...
For the neck part, B. stuck paper towel sheets in the shirt's neckline then taped around my neck (he seemed a bit worried about this part but I said as long as I don't turn blue we should be fine...). Then we marked my waist line and cut the whole thing across the middle of the back.
The "deflated" version
Then came the time to fill the form. I read somewhere that using newspaper and expendable foam worked well, so I decided to try. Well, forget it, it was a complete fail. In principle the foam would be great, cause it makes for a firm filling once its dry. But the problem (in my case anyway) is that you can't really control where the foam expends to, and I ended up with curves in places where there weren't supposed to be.... Plus it's pretty messy and even after one night, it still had quite a stong smell to it. I only filled the shoulder and bust part and stoped when I figured it wasn't going to work...AT ALL.
So I cut the form open again and removed the foam. Fortunately it was easy enough to pull off the shirt, it came right off in most areas with a bit of a careful but firm pull, and the left over drops and smudges wouldn't make a difference in the end. And most of all it didn't make any damage or alter the shape as I happily realized after putting the form back on just to make sure. So after my "I'm so smart I'm going to do this different than everybody else" failure, I figured polly fill was a tried and true method (duh !) and went back to dressew to get a 5pound bag of polyester filling. This time it was much easier as I put the filling bits by bits in the right places and it was pretty cool to see the form taking shape...
As for the stand, I taped together the padded hanger, lamp fixture plate and cardboard tube and inserted the whole thing inside the form (before I closed and stuffed it). This allows me to slide the form on the stand and the hole in the metal plate fits right onto the little bit of rod at the top of the stand. I can then screw a bolt on the rod to hold everything together. From outisde the tube is invisible and only the hook from the hanger is showing at the top. This way I can easily remove my form from her stand and hang it up with the hanger, which might be handy for fitting any garment that I might not be able to slip on from the top, as I decided to give her little arms.
I still have some finishing to do, I will need some extra polly fill for the very bottom and the arms and I need to reinforce the neck part with cardbaord. Then I'd like to wrap her up in a tight jersey dress or something, to hide the tape and allow for pinning. I was thinking of squeezing a thin layer of quilt batting between the tape and the jersey, for easier pinning, but I'm not sure if that would be necessary or even useful, we'll see....
I'm so excited to have her and I can't wait to make a new garment on her, and see if she's really accurate.