I have a brand new dressform! This one is practically a body-double and today I’m sharing my experience of making a custom dressform by Bootstrap Fashion, with a few extra tips that might help you out if you fancy trying one for yourself.
Before I get going properly though, I just wanted to say what a strange and sometimes stressful few weeks it’s been since I last wrote a blog post. Apart from dealing with the general ‘off’ feeling that we’re all experiencing during this lockdown plus a disappearing Sewjo we had a difficult time with my beloved kitty Bilbo (you may have seen him pop up in an occasional blog post photo or on my IG Stories). He was diagnosed last October with a tumour on his liver and actually surprised us all by responding well to the steroids that he was given…however 3 weeks ago he deteriorated and became very poorly. Several vet visits culminated in facing the fact that it was time for us to say goodbye and so on April 25th as I held him in my arms in our sunny back garden, he slipped into a forever sleep and went across the rainbow bridge. The house feels so different now without my constant buddy being around. He really was one of the family and I miss him tons.
So after that little update, I guess I had better get on with the task in hand and that is to chat about my dressform. As I said it’s by Bootstrap Fashion and I first heard about these custom forms when I saw that a couple of sewers that I follow on Instagram had tried them out and I was impressed at how good they looked.
The idea is that you have to take a whole lot of measurements including adding modifications for tummy protrusion, bottom shape, shoulder line, stance etc. Then when you’re ready you purchase a pdf pattern file which is customised to your figure.
You need other supplies too. These include a length of plumbers pipe for inner support, some thick cardboard, a big bag of polyester fibre stuffing, woven interfacing, a piece of sponge for the neck and a hat stand to mount your finished form on. When you get the PDF including instructions all of the extras that you need are listed. There’s even a video showing the making process on Youtube which I found really helpful.
UPDATE: There is now an updated interface on the Bootstrap Fashion website and the whole measuring and ordering process involves helpful videos, plus you get full instructions with photos to accompany each step once you’ve purchased your pattern.
Now before I go any further, I must tell you that this is in fact my second go at making this dressform…it turns out that my first one was doomed from the start…
It all started with me choosing a fabric that wasn’t such great quality. Then I decided to follow the advice for preshrinking the interfacing (which does work successfully on some interfacings) and ended up losing a lot of the adhesive so it didn’t stick to my fabric as thoroughly as it should have. I got very close to finishing the dressform and realised that as I was putting the final touches to it I must have pricked a finger because there were marks of blood here and there all over it. I tried cold water amongst other things and when I finally decided to try a bit of bleach it was a huge mistake because the marks changed to big blue stains…ugh!!! Added to the fact that there was a wrinkle all down the lower centre seam and the bust wasn’t quite the right shape (maybe because I didn’t stuff properly) I decide to try again but this time with better fabric. I already had all of the other supplies after all. So this is dressform mark II which I’m thrilled with!
So here are the tips that I want to pass on to you, having made this project twice and learned from my mistakes:
- Measure yourself accurately over your bra and panties. Wear the style bra you wear the most under your clothes and you might also like to do what I did and measure your main areas (bust, waist, hips) at 3 different times over 3 days and take the average.
- I ordered the option without seam allowances. This allowed me to draw around each pattern piece so that I had accurate stitching lines to follow. This is very important for getting an accurately sized finished project.
- I did block fuse the interfacing onto the fabric (as advised) as it means you can just mark out all of your shapes on the wrong side which again means a better result.
- Make sure to use a substantial thickness of cardboard for the armhole covers and base insert. I used a sharp Stanley knife for cutting mine.
- I decided to add a very narrow seam tape around the underbust curved seams, it helps to keep a good bust shape when you stuff the finished form and prevents over-stretching of the seam.
- Clip all curved seams thoroughly. It really does help.
- I found the shoulders the hardest part to stuff because you’re up to your armpits trying to get the stuffing in, but take your time as it’s worth getting a good shoulder line.
- Stuff the bust area fairly firmly.
- There is some negative ease built into the pattern so don’t try it on and think it’s way too small. The stuffing process stretches it slightly.
- Make sure to sew with a short stitch length as suggested by the instructions.
- When you insert the cardboard at the end stages you are asked to glue the narrow fabric strips from the pipe tube to the cardboard base. I decided that using velcro sewn onto the strips and also glued to the cardboard, makes life easier should you need to remove the cardboard base.
The shape of the dressform side view is determined mostly by a very strange-looking inner structure which is made from a firm fabric (I used heavyweight calico). This inner piece goes right through the middle of the dressform from front to back and is attached to the centre front and back seams. It also incorporates the fabric tube that you insert the plastic pipe. It’s worth checking how this ‘side view’ shape looks before you attach it because that is in effect your body side view….so think to yourself “does this look like my silhouette from the side?” I looked at mine and decided that the tummy was a little high and the bottom just needed flattening and lowering a smidge.
Anyway, I decided to tweak the shape of the support piece and here is the original shape onto which I’ve drawn lines showing the slight modifications that I made.
I trimmed off along the lines and this meant that the finished shape of my form around those areas, once stuffed with the polyester filling, was more elliptical and truer to my shape.
Now that it’s complete, I’m really, really pleased with dressform #2 and I think it’s pretty damn close to my shape. And though I do say so myself I think it looks rather professional too. I much prefer this fabric as well and I think Frida (yes, I named her 🙂 ) and I will spend many a happy hour creating garments together….plus when you factor in the cost of everything you need to make it, including $24 for the PDF, I think it still works out cheaper than a standard ready made dressform.
PS… here are the items I bought to complete my project (some may be affiliate links):
Oh and finally, I nearly forgot to say that you can access the stuffing filling through hand holes in the cardboard base, which you can also remove if you need to, so you can always add or take out some filling in case your weight fluctuates a little. Useful eh?
Thanks for stopping by and having a read. I hope you’re keeping well and trying to stay positive. Let me know in the comments if you feel tempted to try a custom form for yourself.
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