Friday, September 2, 2011

Fleur Deconstructed Part 3

Welcome back to mannequin making! This is the home stretch and you might want to catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 before reading on. 
We've now finished the most tedious parts of the construction, which were making and refining an accurate body-double fabric and cardboard form. From here on, we'll introduce hardware and some simple tools and put everything together.

Stage 7 -Measuring The Mounting Height
No photos for this stage. Essentially, we determined the height of the mannequin. It had no head, so it wasn't as straightforward as matching my actual height to the height of the stand. 
I taped paper to a wall, and had the husband mark on it, from the floor, the heights of my shoulder, base of neck, waist and hip. We used a spirit level for accuracy. Then we measured off these marks using a regular measuring tape and made corresponding markings on the stand. These allowed me to position the torso at the right point on the stand so that the final mannequin would be the same height as I was. Boring, and easy.

And then we were ready to put it all together!
Notice that the cardboard oval base has been ripped off the cardboard skeleton - it had to be done to mount the torso internally on the stand. It gets hot-glued back on later.

Stage 8 - Preparing the Stand
I had to wait a long time to find the right stand. At first I thought I'd make one from scratch (so daft), with the fancy cabriole legs nailed?glued? to a banister post. Asked around for ideas, and everyone thought I was bonkers. The husband-  always the champion of the practical- said, "how about one of those big ice cream pails filled with cement with a stick in it?" Verrrrrrrrrrry funny, I don't think. Eventually decided to adapt something ready-made that looked similar, and began looking covetously at other people's hat stands. 

Several months later, I finally found a solid oak lampstand at a garage sale for $2, and pulled out all the electrical wiring from its hollow shaft. I had a stand and it was beautiful! We were back in business!

The lamp post was too short to reach all the way up to the height of my neck, so I filed down a dowel and stuck it into the shaft. I had a very feeble initial plan (which I didn't trust) for securing the torso to the stand so I emailed Katie for ideas. Katie is a whiz with wood and crafts in general and the nicest person in the world, so she shot back several diagrams to help. Thank you, Katie! Let's fast forward over the experimenting and burning my finger on the hot glue etc  - here is the schematic diagram for what eventually worked:

This lamp stand came with a mid-height table dividing the post of the lamp stand into two halves. I threw out the table and filed a short dowel to fit the two halves together. This allowed the mannequin to rotate, which was useful but not especially sturdy. I eventually glued it permanently stuck. 

Stage 9 - The Neck Finial
This is my neck finial. It can probably be made from scratch, but I was lazy so I bought mine for about $7 here.

I drilled a hole in it to fit over the dowel sticking out of the neck. Also added a side screw to secure it.

The neck opening was stuffed to size with foam.

And the mannequin was ready for her outer layer.

Stage 10- The Fancy Fabric Layer
The fabric for this layer was home-dec weight which, because of its loose-ish weave, had a very nice drape and stretch. At the same time, its thickness allowed it to smooth over the remaining creases in the canvas layer. This outer layer was open at the side seam and the lower half of one armscye. Once it was in place on the canvas form, these openings were ladder-stitched shut.

The bottom fabric oval was then ladder-stitched to the bottom edge of the "garment", everything first having been stretched taut over the canvas form.

And then it was done.

Here are some shots of (what I felt were) important features of the completed mannequin:

armscye ovals

princess seams

top view of bust area with natural indentation

neck area - this was made as close to my actual neck height as possible - useful for fitting turtlenecks and other high-necked garments later.

Because I was in uncharted territory with this method, it took me about a year from conception to finish. Looking back, the fun was in the brainstorming for workable techniques for each stage. I imagine that it shouldn't take you quite as long - once you have a workable basic block/sloper (or a very well-fitting commercial pattern with a jewel neckline), you should be all set to go! 

Now for some links to other ways to make mannequins and dress forms.

This is a tutorial using a fascinating material called Fosshape 600. 

If you are still considering the taped-form method, here is an article from Threads Magazine on the popular no-sew methods to make taped forms, one of which is featured in Burdastyle Germany here, and excerpted and translated into English here

And here is another shop where you can buy finials, bases and entire non-custom-fit mannequins.

If you make a mannequin, upload it to the flickr sharing group (also accessible from my sidebar) so we can all see!


  1. This is such an amazing project!! I can't see me doing it (um, too much work, I never stay the same size for more than 4 hours, aaand too much work), but I really love the tutorial, and it is so inspiring.
    While reading this last post, though, one thing jumped out at me like no other: "This lamp stand came with a mid-height table dividing the post of the lamp stand into two halves. I threw out the table..."
    You *threw out* the table? really? Come on, you can tell's going to be resurrected in some future post as a corner-cabinet lazy susan, a tree house chandelier, rope swing seat, hovercraft, right??? * :-) *
    I SO love your blog!

  2. This is absolutely amazing!!!!!! Thank you SO much for taking the time to document and explain it. Very inspiring and instructional :)

  3. You are the Einstein of the sewing blog world. Inspirational to say the least!

  4. I've just found your great blog.Thanks for your post, very useful. And so cute your mannequin! I'm making my own mannequin, but unfortunately do not supply to Spain :-(. Wooden Bases and necks are great. Do you know any store that sell outside USA? it would be great

  5. Thank you! so glad to have found tutorial #3!! I love this, I hope it doesn't take me a year, or even 9 months, eek! thank you thank you thank you!

  6. Don't know about performing an at-home magnum opus like your Fleur... I'd be better off creating the sloper in really thin pleather, and casting/molding it while inside...

  7. You, my dear, are a genius. I have been following a process similar to your part I (for much the same reasons) and was just Googling to find approaches for mounting the finished product on a stand. Boom, magic!

  8. Thank you thank you for sharing! So very generous of you. Your posts are absolutely resourceful.

  9. Beautiful job. I just found this right after I found Bootstrap Fashions, they just got a new pattern up and running, for sewing a custom made dress form. It looks loads easier than your venture but I'm not convinced they didn't get the idea from reading your blog. I believe I'll buy their pattern ($24) but make calipers like you did to help me in checking the fit as I stuff it. Thanks so much for your posts.

  10. Fleur looks wonderful. I hope I can make one like that. It has got me wondering though if it's possible to make fake legs, or whatever it's called, for fitting pants. I have a close fitting skinny slacks pattern that might be able to turned into a pants sloper. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Oh wow! It looks amazing! I wish I could make one like that!


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