Sunday, February 12, 2006

Xena, Warrior Dress Form

Yesterday Scott and I made a paper-tape dress form.
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I got the directions from this Threads article about a year ago. I had read about duct-tape dress forms, but decided on the paper-tape one because it sounded like it would hold its shape better. We went to two or three office supply stores before we found the paper-tape, the kind you wet to activate the glue. The only kind we could get was reinforced, but we didn't think it would make a difference so we bought it. And it bounced between the office and the sewing room for a year, waiting until we were ready (ha!).

We started with one of Scott's old t-shirts, which I cut down and sewed up the sides to get a snug fit on myself. With a sinkful of water, a sponge, an old sheet on the kitchen floor, the roll of tape and a pair of scissors, we got to work. We had no idea if the tape would adhere to the shirt, to itself, or even be sticky at all. In fact, it was very sticky and clung to the shirt better than it did to itself. The first hour or so was fun experimentation, cracking jokes while figuring out what would work to get around my curves. The second hour I stopped micromanaging, since I couldn't really see what was going on, anyway. Going into the third hour, as you can see from the photo below, I was not a happy camper.
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I was tired of standing on bare feet on the kitchen floor (probably should have worn shoes) and my upper back ached from being held in a single posture by the stiffening tape (after it was over we both soaked in a nice, hot bath!). Instead of giving in to crankiness and snapping at Scott, I grew very, very quiet. In another one of his occasional moments of husbandly sainthood, he responded with concern, asking if I was okay and encouraging me while working as quickly as possible. When I stopped giving directions, he took over and proved more than competent for the task. He came up with two ingenious ways to go over the bust area, the latter of which I thought was rather pretty and, along with the armor-like feel of the tape at this point, inspired me to dub the form "Xena".
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When he thought there were enough tape layers to make the form reasonably stiff, Scott hit me with the blow-dryer, which was wonderfully warm after all that clammy wet tape. Then he added some masking tape to loose ends and places that he thought might crack apart when we cut the form off my body. After he eased me out of the shell, we hung it on a hanger wrapped with batting (to support the shoulders) and taped over the cut. We're thinking about filling the hollow form with batting or foam to support the shell, and I'll either decoupage or cover it with another old t-shirt.
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A day and a half later, Xena has dried nicely and is sufficiently stiff/sturdy enough to wear my clothing. I tried the Imperial officer jacket on her and also one of the tops I made a few months ago (next to a picture of me for comparison):
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Her measurements are slightly larger than mine, partially due to all the layers of tape, and probably because we didn't wrap very tightly. Dressed, she looks big (life-sized?). But the proportions, body shape and posture look so much like me that it's freaky. I think we goofed a little on the right hip; the tape there wasn't as snug, the shape of the hip is more rounded and garments that fit my real body twist a little on Xena's back right side, going over the hip. We weren't precise with the neck and armholes, so I'm marking shoulder seams/necklines where they fall when the garment is hanging properly from the shoulders.

But for our first try, I'm pretty pleased. She'll be useful for pin-fitting and preliminary adjustments, so I can get some garments cut and partially constructed before I need a buddy to check the fit on my real body.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Colorful and pretty

[Cross-posted to my LiveJournal]
Yesterday I worked on my Imperial Officer uniform. It's coming along nicely, but when I pulled it out of the bag in class I realized: I am SO READY to sew something colorful and pretty! My last three big costume projects have been white/off-white, black, and olive-grey. Time for some COLOR!

I brought back lots of beautiful stuff from Mike's Fabric in L.A. (thanks for the recommendation, Colleen!), but hadn't started planning the garments I want to make. Hancock Fabrics had Vogue patterns on sale for 75% off last week, so I took my swatch sheet and list of pattern numbers gleaned from their website and picked out a few possibilities. Scott, in one of his acts of husbandly-sainthood, came along and helped me narrow it down.

[Click thumbnails for larger photos.]

Here are some of the lovely coordinating fabrics from Mike's. Some of the things I really enjoyed about this shop is how neat and orderly it was compared to the other stores; that prices were clearly marked (with a little wiggle room for making a good deal); and that Erica, Mike's very knowledgeable wife, took the time to arrange coordinating fabric displays on the tables and walls. Four out of the five pieces below were displayed together, which caught my eye and decided me on buying all four.
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Here's another piece I never would have bought if I hadn't seen it draped on the wall:
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The print reminds me of a story and I plan to make a long a-line skirt, with the scene running across the bottom of the panels.

Below left, gorgeous soft pre-washed silk dupioni, another Erica recommendation. I knew it would coordinate perfectly with the colored flecks in the butter-yellow wool at right, which has been sitting at home in my stash for a year-and-a-half, waiting for just this kind of inspiration.
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I'm thinking of this blouse for the teal dupioni, either the 3/4 sleeve or the view with the bell sleeves, possibly with some embroidery around the cuffs; and one of these skirt patterns for the wool.

Now on to possible matches with the Vogue patterns I picked up last week.
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I love the waistband on the pants in the second photo, with the button off to one side. The top in the third photo, the girls think I should make using the embroidered and beaded silk in some of the panels, with either the caramel-colored rayon or olive-green suedecloth as the main body. I'm not sold on it yet--I was going to use the two solid fabrics for pants--but I'll try draping it and see how I feel.

And two more patterns I picked up just for fun:
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