Tag Archives: Dressmakers Dummy

Dressmaking plans are afoot

I’ve been busy planning great things for Mari.  I enrolled on a 10 week Dressmaking course at the Venn School of Sewing ages ago, and, finally, it starts next week.  I have attended a couple of Angela’s courses previously, a 10 week Skills and Techniques course which I absolutely loved, I learnt loads of new skills and techniques (as the course name suggests) but also saw what I had been doing wrong which was wonderful, and a 1 day course on adjusting commercial patterns to fit which, to be honest, made my brain melt a bit.  I think I have the information and tools to have a go now, but I won’t really know until I get down to it and make something using my new pattern-adjusting skills.

I love to sew, so I sew as time allows, mainly clothes for the girls, soft toys or household-y sewing stuff that fit isn’t too crucial for.  The times I’ve tried to sew for myself have, with the exception of an elasticated waisted skirt (which I only wore once before discovering it went see-through in the sun) resulted in appalling fit – too tight around the belly, bust, shoulders, back … just too small, but also too long, because I am a shortie.  But stout.  Robustly built.

I now know that the dress sizes given by pattern manufacturers do not match with off-the-peg dress sizes.  Sewing pattern sizes are tiny.  And they have very set proportions, so if you’re an apple shape, like I am, you’re doomed.  Or if you have a generous bust.  Or curvy hips.  Basically, any humanly proportioned person is unlikely to fit an unaltered dress pattern.

I know this now. And I’ve been shown how to make it right, at least in theory.  Now I’m going to put that theory into practice by making a pair of trousers that fit and a top that is flattering.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Sewing patterns May 2014

These are the patterns I intend to use for my top and trousers, Simplicity Pattern 1696 for the trousers and this pattern for a doesn’t cling-to-anything top from Burdastyle magazine (issue 4/2014).

Meet Mari, my wonderful new dressmaking form

I have made a dress form.  She is lovely and is called Mari.  We are going to have many dressmaking adventures, she and I, I can already tell.

Meet Mari.

I have fancied a dressmakers dummy for ages but haven’t been able to justify the price tag.  There are many tutorials for making your own dress form online, I won’t repeat them here, but a quick Google will show you how to make your own.

In this case I used the duct tape method which seemed the easiest and cheapest.  I actually made the form ages ago (in October 2012) but I wasn’t sure how to finish her after stuffing, so I put her to one side while I thought about it, and then of course other projects came along and she was left to get dusty in the garage loft.

Months later, inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee (what a wonderful programme!), I have pulled her out of the garage, dusted her off and reassessed her.  She wasn’t quite right, the tape had pulled me in too much in some of my squashier areas (she had a wonky boob, which I insist is due to uneven taping pressure), so if my dummy was going to be an useful tool I was going to need to bulk her out a bit.

Again, there are some useful guides and tutorials on the internet to help with this, too.  Armed with a set of accurate measurements, I wrapped her in a layer of lightweight batting so she would feel softer (that probably wasn’t necessary, but I felt she needed to be a bit less rigid) and then padded her out where necessary until her measurements matched mine.  I put on one of my (well fitting) bras and stuffed it until it measured as it should.  Finally I pulled on a bleach-ruined T-shirt and pinned on some narrow black ribbon  to mark the centre seams, natural waist etc, and job done.

Except I didn’t have a stand. The Internet had told me how many sewers had inserted adjustable music stands or built their own stands using wood, hammer and nails, but I’d already stuffed and sealed her and anyway I wasn’t confident that I could put in a stand without it ending up on a wonk.  Besides, I’d already put a coat hanger in her and I liked the idea of having her hang so I could use her to fit trousers as well.

the very next morning an ‘I-can’t-sleep-why-won’t-my-brain-switch-off’ Ebaying session presented me with the perfect solution – an adjustable birdcage stand.  Now she’s hanging straight, is my height and easily moved around as needed.  It came with castors but I haven’t needed to put those in yet, I’ll see how it goes.

I haven’t seen the suggestion of using a birdcage stand anywhere else – so I’m claiming this as my own Genius Idea!  (Even if somebody else has had the same idea, it’s still a genius idea that I had all on my own so that will never, to my mind, make my idea any less wonderful.)

I can’t wait to start sewing and dress her, but I’m going to have to as there are a few other bits on my Must-Do list before I can get back to my Want-To-Do list.


The hanging stand isn’t quite perfect – the coat hanger has a tendency to twist round in the hook which is already annoying me a bit.  I’m going to try and limit the twist by wrapping elastic bands to the hook either side of the coat hanger.  Hopefully that will keep her more still.