dress form


Well Friends,  I’ve had a few frustrations in crafty-land.    After weeks of constant work on my dress form (and more money in supplies than I want to add up), it is clear that it is not accurate enough to use.  Darn! 

The problem was that the form was just too thin to hold it’s shape during the paper mache process.  I put the two halves together and they just didn’t match up.   I built up more paper mache around the uneven edges and suprisingly the finished form is too small.  Could that be shrinkage from drying?  The shoulder blades completely collapsed in and the shoulders were uneven.  I had not noticed that I hold my right shoulder much higher than my left and although that may  be an accurate capture of my current posture, It looks wonky and now that I’m aware I’d rather fix the posture than customize my garments to it.img_0590

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Honestly, It is pretty close but I want exact.  That’s the whole point.  I’m lucky enough to have a very consistent shape and I want to use my form confidently.  I am thinking that I will do the plaster cast again (Cliffy will not be happy about that) But this time purchase them from a medical supply store for cheaper and pick up a pair of bandage cutting shears.  Then I am going to get my hands on some of that expanding polyurethane foam.  Fingers crossed.

Frustration number two is my Oona sweater.  It seems that my tension increased dramatically while working the charted portion making the side shaping excessive.  I knew, intellectually that this would have very little stretch since I’ve done a few fair isle sweaters but I was not prepared for how NOT springy fingering weight is.  Even though it’s wool, it is more string-like than yarn-like.img_0599

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Look how tight those carries are!  I actually got stuck after this.  You can picture it.  Upper arms pinned to my ears, elbows locked, hands flailing uselessly at the wrist.  I was all alone in the house.  Upside- no one to laugh at me.  Downside- no one to help.  Eventually I was able to unhinge my shoulder blades just enough to very slowly inchworm my way out .

Crap!  I spent a month and a half on this thing.  I am not frogging.  Instead I cut a bunch of the carries to allow a bit more ease.

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Now I can get it on and off but it’s still uncomfortably tight.  I am now envisioning an open front cardigan.  That’s a reverse for me,  turning a pullover into a cardigan.  Steeked, and edged with a waist tie would fix the fit problem and still leave me with a nice garment. 

My poor hands just have not gotten used to this gauge of work.  They are so cramped and achy that I am going to set this project down for awhile.   I’m not sure what I will begin on next.  Something with high chance of success to re-boot my crafting mojo.  Something in at least a DK weight.

Failure is the only opportunity to begin again more intelligently– Henry Ford.

Yesterday, I filled my dress form molds with paper mache.  In the Threads article  , it it suggests using paper insulation and wallpaper paste as the mache.  When I was at the Michaels Crafts getting MORE plaster casting, I noticed a product called Cellu-clay.  It’s powdered, recycled paper with a powdered glue already blended in. 

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I strongly recommend wearing some kind of face mask while mixing this stuff up.  I didn’t because I’m hardcore but I’d hate for anyone else to have glue-fiber coated lungs.  My first batch came out way to wet, which I didn’t notice until I had completely filled one half of my mold.  I knew it would never dry so I scooped it all out and added more cellu-clay.

At this point, I noticed that my mold was not as thick and rigid as it should have been.  All that heavy,wet glop, and aggressive mache spreading had collapsed my perky derriere.  It was like a beached whale, crushing itself uder its own weight.

I admit I started to panic a little bit. 

Luckily, the hips and underbutt (I’m sure that’s a real term) was sturdy enough for me to prop up everything high enough to pop the dent out.  I had to do the same for the waist.

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Then I noticed that the whole thing was opening way to wide so I duct taped the waist back to the right measuremnt.

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So you can see that I am using a hair dryer to firm it up.  It’s ridiculously inadequate.  Plus the noise is so annoying.  These halves are too large to fit IN my oven but I know that quite a lot of heat emanates from the back of my cooktop while the oven is on. 

The front half of the mold was plenty rigid to be moved so now it is on top of my oven while set to 300 degrees.  Only one side gets good and heated up at a time but the occasional rotation is so much easier than the blow dryer.  It’s pretty cold and damp weather here for the next week or so, so this is my best hope for these things to ever dry.  I’m open to any suggestions.

I just finished reinforcing my body casts.  They are drying in the sun.

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Imagine some appendages and they are a pretty darn good match for me.  Even the skin tone. 

Hopefully, I will find time to make the actual paper mache next weekend.  I thought doing a non-knitting project would mean that it would get done sooner, but no. 

My current WIP is coming along nicely.  I have finally started my chart!

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(note the plaster of paris on my finger nails.) 

The armenian technique is working out pretty well.  When I first started reversing the color carrying, my tension was way too tight.  I had to manually release some slack after each blue section.  I’m almost even now.  If it is a little tight, it will just add to the waist shaping.  I love how the blue sections totally bring out the flecks of blue in the rest of the sweater.  They weren’t as obvious before.

I have named the sweater Oona.  The blue sections are circles so it has double O’s.  Terribly clever, I think.

So I haven’t given up making a custom dress form.  Cliff had today off so he was able to help me with my second attempt.  This time, I used plaster strips (as for making casts) to make  a rigid and more precise mold. 

First,  I put on an old bra that could get ruined.  Saran wrapped around that and the “panty” area.  Then we olive oiled everything else.  Sounds sexy, I know but actually it was very awkward and cold.  We laid out an old sheet and started wrapping that plaster all around.  I wish I had not plastic wrapped because it clearly pushed the plaster strips away from my skin but we were able to get a pretty tight fit anyway.  It became clear that I had not purchased enough strips to make the cast as sturdy as it would eventually need to be.  This was in fact, a blessing we began to appreciate as soon as we tried to cut me out of it. 

Now, I’ve never had a broken bone but my understanding is that a miniature power saw is used to remove the cast.  Not dull kitchen shears.  Getting the blades between my precious skin and the hard shell was difficult.  Then trying to close the blades required a great deal of force which resulted in them suddenly snapping shut.  There was a little blood.  Very little and just once but enough to make the task very stressful.

Finally I was out!  Here’s my two halves.

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The inside is a little lumpy from the plastic wrap but I am going to reinforce the outside with more strips when drier and spackle the inside smooth.  I feel like it’s going to come out really well.

I should mention, if anyone tries this at home—Turn up the heat!  My friend, Christina, makes belly casts of  each of her pregnancies and told me to “light a fire in fireplace before you even get started”.  I remembered this excellent advice too late.  Something about being naked except for a thin layer of damp fabric for a half hour really saps the heat out. 

I finished Bird’s Easter bunny in time!  Assembled the night before.  I did make a dress for her but it’s already had a few outfit changes and the dress I made is lost in the doll wardrobe.img_0545img_0544

The eyes and nose are needle felted.  I really love needle felting.  The pattern is free from lion brand and there are lots of examples on ravelry.  The only tricky thing about it was that all the appendages look pretty similar unattached and unassembled.  I found myself over-analyzing what went where so I had my husband group them in pairs. I think he got it right.  I’m not positive the legs and ears don’t go vice-versa but if it’s that close a call, it doesn’t really matter.

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