Too much information: choosing a mannequin
Back in March, possibly inspired by a shaft of sunlight that may have fleetingly appeared, I made a summer skirt. I drafted it using my beloved Design-It-Yourself Clothes Cal Patch book and based the design on a skirt that I already have. Using the 'slash-and-spread' method (where you draw out your pattern and make cuts up toward the top and then spread these pieces to give a fuller, wider sweep, which can be traced around to make a new pattern piece...in this case creating more of a circle skirt) the pattern came together easily and I was really pleased with the shape.
It is a perfect fit...so everything should be wonderful? But no. It made me realise how completely inappropriate quilting weight fabric is for dressmaking. I loathe the way that it lacks subtlety, lies in great unfloaty clumps, and suddenly looks to have such a coarse weave. Yes, that may seem a rather passionate attack on an unsuspecting piece of beautifully patterned material, but really, I had so many plans in my mind for different prints and they came crashing down so horribly when I realised that every single one of them would be unsuitable if my garments were to have the kind of drape that I hoped for. This shouldn't be so devastating, but how many of the big name designers produce a range of dress-weight fabrics, aside from the lovely Anna Maria Horner, with her dreamy voiles (which still haven't arrived here in the colourways that I want them in. Cheeringly though, some of the other Westminster designers will be printing on Anna's voile-weight fabric later in the year - hurrah!)? My local shops, whose quilting range has now reached quite magnificent heights (last week I walked in to see much of Tilda's latest range, as well even more Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner and other lovelies)...however, they don't seem to buy in quite such wonderful dress fabrics that are reasonably priced. Which is why last week I bought a couple of metres from their scrumptious selection of Liberty lawn (luckily I had gift vouchers, so my wallet only suffered a little). I'll let you know how that went in my next post.
But anyway...let's talk mannequins...to explain all the ins and outs of choosing a good one it may be necessary to give more information than you'd want (or than I'd choose to give) about my own figure...which is is where the 'Too much information' title of this post comes from. But I feel that with one wrongly-sized mannequin in the garage and another that has been extensively fine-tuned to get it to resemble myself, I've now learnt a few things about how to pick a good one or how to adjust it to better resemble oneself.
Anyway, can you see a difference between the first photo and the third? Hopefully not too much, as in the first photo the skirt is being modelled by me and in the second it is being worn by my new (well, it was a birthday present in early March) mannequin. I'm really happy with her...she isn't the vintage mannequin that I had dreamt of but was chosen with the realisation that one fitting my strange dimensions may not actually exist in such a form and so this is the next best thing (there is over 10" difference between my waist and hip measurement...so despite the fact that neither measurement is large...it does give an imbalanced figure...and again, I have very small ribcage, but then a fairly normal size bust...which gives an odd measurement that no bra manufacturer caters for and certainly no vintage dressform maker seemed to think existed). The mannequin that I chose in the end is a Petite Adjustoform and its range of sizes covers my measurements perfectly...but not without a bit of trial and error.
I altered this dress when I bought it a couple of years ago and it fits perfectly on me, although is in danger of being on the small side after a few more chocolates than necessary and so to find that it fitted my mannequin in the same way, was all the confirmation I needed to launch into dressmaking proper (or not). So, despite the fact that this mannequin doesn't have the extra lumpy, bumpy, squashy bits that pad out my figure, for dressmaking purposes it works.I think I've blogged about this before, but while I'm running through all things mannequin that I've learnt, it's worth saying that the problem with my old mannequin was her bust...I think her size ranged from 32" upwards, but despite the fact that I'm not by any means flat-chested, my smaller ribcage meant that this extra couple of inches made a huge difference when it came to dressmaking...in that I couldn't get most of my existing clothes on her without risking damaging the seams (because how big the bust is also seems to affect how big the shoulders and arm caps are on a mannequin too). So, if you're in-between sizes, I'd always go for the smaller mannequin and then recreate the bust area by using a padded bra.
I'd initially spent a lot of time researching making my own mannequin from parcel tape...however, for several reasons (as well as it being ugly) after talking it through with the wise owl that is my mother, I thought better of it. A parcel tape body double is non-adjustable and so any weight gain or loss renders that mannequin useless...additionally it can only be used to make clothes for myself. The mannequin that I've chosen covers a wide range of sizes and so can be used for both me and my sister and in a year or two for Zebra-girl as well. Finally, I knew that the extra inch or so create by the layers of tape would bother me...so my option was to make a papertape dressform, fill it and use the inner form that this created....the thought of the Plaster of Paris and everything possibly going wrong put me off this idea.
So when she's not wearing mid-construction summer tops (as she has been this week), she finds herself wearing my kimono, which used to hang from the picture rail above (because oddly, I don't wear it very much, I just like looking at).
Please do tell me all about how your own dressmaking adventures are progressing - last time I posted about making clothes (which seems a while ago now) so many of you chipped in with your own comments and recommendations and links to what you were up to in this area, and I'd love to hear more. If, like me, you have an insatiable desire for all things dressmakery these are the blogs that I'm loving:
Aux Petits Oiseaux
The Philosophy of Lists
Enjoy...and please do leave your own links to more dressmaking loveliness.