Sunday, March 17, 2019

To arms!

A difference between Dot and my old duct tape double is the shoulders.

At right is a random photo of a project modeled by the DTD. As you can see, she had shoulder ... ah ... knobs, kind of like Venus de Milo. These resulted from the wrapping process, as we included the part of my shoulder beyond that knobby bone you measure to when measuring your shoulder length.

However Dot is neatly sliced at the point where the torso portion of the shoulder ends (if she had bones, it would be at that knobby bone). So she is a lot narrower there than I am. I figure that the relative narrowness of Dot's shoulders wouldn't support the shoulders of my projects as realistically as the DTD's shoulders did.

Bootstrap, conveniently, offers a pattern so you can make add-on arms for your dress form. In photos I had seen of this made up, it seemed to have nice round shoulders. So I bought Dot a pattern for some arms and, seizing the day, made them up (sort of).
Photo from Bootstrap page

Dot, armed

If you are paying attention, you'll notice that Dot's arms are rather short. This is for three reasons.

First, since I really only wanted the arms to help pad out her shoulder area, the forearms included in the pattern were excess to requirements. In fact, I reasoned, stuffing the wrist-length arm into in-progress sleeves might be a bit of a pain. (Not to mention that my arms are shorter than average, and Bootstrap didn't ask me about that, so the arms would have been too long.)

The second reason I cut Dot off at the elbows is that the pattern pieces seemed off to me and I couldn't rouse anyone at Bootstrap (Facebook page) to answer my query about them.

Here is a photo of the pattern pieces for the arm, laid out in the right orientation of upper and lower according to the markings on the pattern pieces, and to the match points. The thing that threw me off was the fact that the fairly pronounced curve in the lower arm pieces would fall at the front of the arm (single notches). I don't know about your arms, but I don't think mine are shaped like that.

The third reason I didn't sew the forearms was because I goofed in the cutting out process. I matched the upper arms brilliantly (click on a photo of the arms to enlarge it, and marvel at my prowess) but botched in matching the lower arm pieces, maybe because the shapes didn't make much sense to me but really because I wasn't paying close enough attention. There was already a lot going on with these arms, pattern-wise, and I didn't want either to have non-matching arms or to fuse even more fabric to cut out all four of the needed pieces again (none of them were right).

Showing the armhole plate
 and attachment yoke
So Dot has elbow-length arms. This meant I had to guess somewhat at the size of the oval piece for the end of the arms, but it turned out to be almost exactly my wrist piece plus an extra 1cm seam allowance around it.

As between the dress form pattern and the arm pattern, I'd say the making of the former is a little better explained and illustrated in the instructions. Some of the sewing steps in making the arm are a little confusing at first glance (especially sewing the armhole "plate" to the shoulder yoke attachment piece and then to the shoulder of the upper arm). Further, the final finishing where you must attach the under arm to the plate with hand stitching after the arm is stuffed and the cardboard inserted to stiffen the plate is finicky. By comparison, the dress form itself is completely done by machine and the finishing is extremely neat.

However, I am glad I made these. Next I will make an actual garment so you can look forward to in-progress photos of things worn by Dot, the armed dress form.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

My new alter ego

A while ago I mentioned that I was immersed in fitting experiments. The bit about being "immersed" was an overstatement - it took quite a while before I was able to fully realize on those experiments, as life intervened.

However, I persevered and wish to introduce you to my new alter ego, made with the Bootstrap custom-fit dress form pattern. I should call her Dot.

The idea of making this dress form to replace my aging duct tape double has been percolating in my mind for quite a while. I had seen many photos of the finished dress form on PR and on the Bootstrap Facebook page and they all looked very ... ah ... realistic, in relation to the real bodies of the people who made them. Moreover, I had a look at the pattern pieces, and a completed dress form "in the flesh" at PR weekend. These convinced me to give it a go. Then I was lucky enough to win a copy of the pattern in one of the many give-aways that weekend. All I needed was the time to get my measurements figured out, and then to make the thing.

Before ordering this pattern you do require a comprehensive set of personal measurements and you have to make some decisions about your body type. I already wrote about how I decided on the measurements but not about the body type questions.

You assess your belly protruberance on a scale of A through E. I chose B.

Then there is your buttocks shape, from "very flat" to "very curvy" (5 options). I am pretty sure I picked flat, but the website seems not to have remembered my selection, so maybe I got a pattern for an average butt - more on that below.

You need to specify your posture - I chose straight back, which seems most average to me.

And finally there is a series of choices for shoulder slope. I think I am pretty unremarkable in that department so I chose "normal".

Inside-out "skin"
So the pattern is very shapely, as you might expect. At right is an in-progress inside-out shot of the semi-finished form, clearly showing the seams.

The bust is shaped through through horizontal and vertical seams. The construction is a lot like a bra pattern. After I had sewn and pressed the seams as drafted I had a look and decided that they had drafted me as a C cup which I am definitely not. I trimmed the upper cup shape to reduce fullness, and also took a smidge out of the horizontal bust seam. This was totally non-scientific, based on my gut feelings about the amount of curvature in the seams in places where my figure is not so curved. I'm confident this was the right choice, although I notice that I could have stuffed the left boob a little firmer to fill it out somewhat more.

The belly is shaped with the "princess" seams as well as the inner structure pieces. Having specified a smallish belly, the pattern had little bumps on the princess seams, which after some consideration, I removed. Again, they just didn't look right to me.

I also noticed that the side seams were quite rounded, placing quite a lot of hip fullness just below the waist. Quite a few of the finished forms depicted in reviews and elsewhere on the internet have quite a pronounced round hip at the sides as a result of this shaping. My figure isn't like that - my fullest hip measurement is quite a lot lower. So I shaved some of the roundness off, to make the hip shape flatter and lower and to conform more to my figure.

Inner structure pieces
The non-measurement figure variables are translated into the pattern mostly through the ingenious inner structure of the dress form pattern. These pieces are shown at left.

These pieces are what convinced me that this is a genius pattern. When I made my duct tape double, I realized that while the duct tape outer shape had my dimensions, I could never stuff it to be me without distortion. This is because without inner structure, the stuffed form will always have a more or less circular cross section. However, my body is not circular in cross section. It is oval, wider from side to side than it is thick from front to back. The inner structure pieces in the Bootstrap pattern allow the finished form to avoid this problem. They basically tie the CF to the CB in a fixed shape, and this can force the dress form to be narrower front to back than it is side to side, if that is your shape. (These pieces are sewn in the centre to a casing for a pipe or tube that sits on top of the stand you have chosen.)

So in my case, as you can see, the back piece has a moderate hip and upper back curve, and the front has a slightly protruding belly. I think the pattern reverted to a "normal" rather than flat buttocks shape, and when I saw the pattern pieces I decided that they would make my dress form too deep front to back. So I shaved some off the butt area, and also off the belly.

These on-the-fly adjustments did not change the outer dimensions of the dress form - these are dictated by the dimensions of the pattern pieces which I didn't change except to distribute the fullness  differently. However, they did allow me to make my dress form more me-shaped.

I eviscerated my late lamented duct tape double to recover its stuffing. I remembered stuffing it with fibrefill from old pillows, but not with the interesting selection of 80's pantyhose (including off-white and textured ones) I found inside it. All have been repurposed - not surprisingly, the amount of stuffing was pretty well exactly right.

You have to take the stuffing process slowly to avoid creating bumpy asymmetries in your form.

I've also repurposed the stand from my old form - it consisted of a strong cardboard tube and a light stand with a heavy base. It was already the right height.

The construction of this interesting pattern was somewhat finicky but easily accomplished as the instructions, which are copiously illustrated, are really good. If you want more information on how to put the thing together, there are other resources on the internet, including a video on the Bootstrap website. I also found a pretty comprehensive four part tutorial on Kelly Hogaboom's blog.

I'm looking forward to sewing with Dot for years to come.

Monday, March 4, 2019

New pattern company (to me) - Itch to Stitch

Every year, Pattern Review publishes its annual "Best Patterns" of the previous year and in the 2018 edition, they included the Brasov Wrap Top pattern from a new to me independent pattern company, Itch to Stitch. The bit from the review that intrigued me was this: "This lovely wrap-style top can be worn tucked or untucked, and achieves the amazing feat of being both modest and sexy."

Plus, I do like a top that would look good under a jacket.

I have some really nice dark navy wool jersey (purchased at The Fabric Store in Sydney, Australia) and I think this top would be nice in a smooth wool jersey. But I tested the pattern first, in some rayon/lycra jersey from deep stash. This is the world's most disappointing type of fabric since it just doesn't wear well or for very long, but it's fun while it lasts.

Now, the pattern calls for a firmer knit than the rayon and warns that in rayon it will be bigger with more drape. When I basted the side seams the front did seem just too big overall so I took in the side seams. Now that I've reminded myself about this warning, I think I'll re-print the parts of the pattern that I then adjusted...

I do, however, think I will take some of the length away. It just seems way too long to be easily wearable.

I'll probably have to lose the lowest of the 5 waist tucks.