Monday, 2 February 2009

miss adventure

One of the excellent gifts I got for Christmas was Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. I totally love this book and was deeply impressed that D had managed to pick it off the shelf by supposed fluke when I had been wanting it all along. He knows me so well!

I love it because it exploits my most favourite knitting technique - top down in the round. But I also really love it because the whole attitude of the book is to encourage you to see patterns as starting points, not gospel. There's lots of tips and comment about customising designs and following your inspiration. Wendy's aim is to have you surpass the book and her patterns by gaining the skills to design your own stuff from scratch. A woman after my own heart.

Of course the key to all this is really understanding your own body, it's size and what kind of fit suits you best (on this last I also really learned a lot listening to Kelly's knit picks podcast on ease - really really helpful). And this is a lot harder than most people think. Once you start looking at your measurements and shape it is really easy to understand why so many garments don't work when you simply follow a standard pattern (this goes doubly for sewing).

So I've been thinking a lot about this, and over summer I was casting blocks for sewing patterns and reading Wendy's book and I got all inspired to make a dress form. The idea of being able to fit and create garments directly on me but to also be looking at me was mighty tempting. So I followed Wendy's directions for making a duct tape dress form (there are a lot of internet resources for doing this including some you tube videos of varying helpfulness, but a good all round written tute is here).

This was a really mixed experience for me, probably mostly due to less than ideal technique. Let me catalogue all the bad stuff:
  • It is an inherently uncomfortable thing to do. It is tight and restrictive and you have to stand pretty still for quite a while.
  • It was hot and because I was trying to get it done during Wil's nap time I was in a bit of a hurry.
  • The duct tape stinks of chemicals and combined with the heat I was wishing I had an oxygen mask!
  • The T-shirt I taped over wasn't long enough so my butt isn't really defined.
  • I used a lot more duct tape than they say, which given I am a lot bigger than any other example I have seen of this technique is not surprising, but still, we ran out.
  • I used a lot more stuffing than they said (see above) so I ran out twice and though I finally stuffed it all, it is now really much heavier and thus not really supported by the coat hanger insert.
  • I'm not at all sure the finished form is really like me - not in that oh my god surely I look better than that way, more in the this is what I might look like if I wore a corset way. And, uh, I don't. This is not just a size issue, it is also a shape issue - a large boob or sagging tummy can be pushed into a variety of locations and I'm not really sure how you can apply the duct tape to prevent bits being in places they usually aren't. Maybe we wrapped too tight, maybe we didn't use enough layers of tape, maybe we didn't apply the tape in the right configurations. But in the final product my bust looks enormously wide and my waist looks unnaturally slim.
And basically all this has taken a lot of the shine off the finished product. Although I can't quite face the prospect I think I need to do the exercise all over again, paying greater attention to the application of tape, to making it not so tight and thus figure distorting, using more layers, making it longer and using a stronger hanger, or maybe even getting a stand for it...


Helen Morgan said...

Sounds like a job for the craft weekend and a few glasses (well, no more than four, as they say) of wine!

travellersyarn said...

Do you clothes fit similarly on the form to you? Does it have the same measurements? Maybe you are really va-va-voom?

Ali said...

Holy cow, you look hot! Maybe the answer is just to wear duct tape. Cut out the sewing middle man.

Thimbleanna said...

Wow! Well, accurate or not, that's an awesome dummy! And I agree with Ali -- Hot, Hot, HOT!!!

sueeeus said...

You know those belly casts people make of their pregnant selves? I wonder if that would work for starters. You need more than one person to do it, because I tried solo and it was a miserable flop, but I think the casting might make a more true form. Maybe you could do a cast for the basic shape, then stuff it and strengthen it with the duct tape, to hold the form? Just an idea.

angharad said...

I did this same experiment years ago and the results were so off and disappointing I've never had the heart to do it again. You have my deepest sympathies.

Catherine said...

Argh - I did the same, and after having the hideous object sitting in the corner of the room for 3 days I just had to throw it away.