‘Tis the season for sharing after all

I wish video internet was as viral when I made Big Bertha as it is today. Today I got a spamail from Threads magazine advertising their latest Dress Form Making tutorial. Boy, was I glad I didn’t junk it straight away. It turned out to be a great video tutorial on making a Duct Tape dress form. Quite a few good tips it has. And clear video demonstration obviously doesn’t hurt either. Enjoy!

Make Your Own Dress Form: Part 1

Big Bertha: The Sloper Origin

So how did I ended up with that lopsided sloper? Well, Big Bertha is to blame. She’s my Saviour and Tormentor.

World, meet Big Bertha. Big Bertha, meet the World.

Big Bertha in her everyday muslin shift. This was based on a left-right average of the lopsided sloper I showed in the previous post. And that was based on muslin draped to follow her every curves (and also half-heartedly the instruction in Draping for Fashion Design).

I had previously tried a thin jersey cover. But that was no good as it stretches everywhere. And the whole reason why a sturdy stable cover is indispensable – apart from aesthetic reasons – is because Big Bertha’s thick duct tape skin gums up all my pins. Worse still, instead of stabbing her, the pins were pushing back into my much softer cushier finger pads. So I was getting absolutely no use out of her. I needed the fabric cover to pin onto.

As for the cover above, it looks reasonable enough. But I’ve since discovered that left-right average isn’t always the best way to solve lopsidedness problem. Especially when it comes to shoulders.

Big Bertha getting raunchy…

Big Bertha naked is white duct tape wrapped onto of some old fitted T-shirt, and stuffed with toy stuffing. Silver duct tape was just too industrial on the eyes. Looks like a mummy doesn’t she.

I got my BF to wrap me up. The whole process did take a few hours as you know men can’t follow instructions! So if you make one be sure you go to the loo first. Because you’ll be stuck: can’t sit, can’t walk, and of course can’t go to the toilet.

Mine’s obviously wrapped up only to the shoulder points and down below my bum. But I’ve seen somewhere pictures of others who made a whole body from head to toes!

OK, maybe not the head. Though Leah Crain, who I bought the Duct Tape Double  instructional booklet from, did have a picture of hers with a mad hatter’s display head stuck on. It was a bit creepy though. I worried I’ll frighten myself when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo. So headless Big Bertha shall remain. Though I do have a book on hatmaking (From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking) and have been very tempted to get hatter’s blocks.

Big Bertha in pieces

I told her strip tease always ends in tears. But would she listen? Of course not!

So here’s Big Bertha dissected, showing the stand that is her spine.

It was the bottom part of a Rubber wood coat stand I got on E-Bay. But you can also buy it off Amazon.

I ditched the top parts and used the base which reminds me of old fashion dressmaker dummy stands.

Unfortunately it wasn’t sturdy enough. Big Bertha is denser than you can see! The joints cracked under her weight and I had to patch the joints with wood fillers. Hence the unsightly discolouration in places.

Keeping Big Bertha standing…

She has a cardboard tube running inside her for the pole to go into. But it was bigger than the coat stand pole.

So I had to wrap several layers of cardboards along the pole, kept in place with – you guessed it, more duct tape.

The screw eyes just below the torso are to control the height. Twist the eyes flat and Big Bertha’s down to my level in normal walking heels. Twist the eyes vertical, and I’d have to get out my highest stilettos to see her eyes to eyes. Except she’s got no eyes. Deliberate of course!

What the birds see…

On the top, the solid steel handle of the wooden hanger I used as her shoulder frame pokes out of her neck. It wasn’t intentional, but it actually looks rather fetching. And if you have a hang-man stand, you could hang Big Bertha  from the neck. I wouldn’t do that to her of course.

If you want to make yourself one, I do recommend checking out Leah’s Duct Tape Double website and her detailed instructional booklet. But do keep in mind the gumming up problem.

Next time I make one – and it’s only a matter of when not if,  given the imminent middle age spread – I think I’ll try Connie Crawford’s paper packing tape version detailed in her Patternmaking Made Easy textbook and see if that gums up less.

Big Bertha wants her vintage wannabe
dress dummy cover & she wants it now.

Although the muslin cover has worked better, it still shifts and stretches a bit. A sewer at a London Meet Up suggested using ticking fabric, more commonly used for  mattresses and corsets.

I got the fabric. I even stained it with tea to give it that antiqued look.

But I just haven’t found the courage to make a simple new cover for Big Bertha. Because perfectionism stands in the way. But I’m changing that. S…l…o…w….l………y!

So dream on Big Bertha!