It started with a blog post from Marianna about her Mummification, in which my friend got her new husband to wrap her torso in plastic food wrap. Nice.
I was intrigued! I had heard of people making “duct tape dummies” or mannequins from glued paper strips. As I have a perfectly nice traditional dress stand from K&L I never tried these things myself. But suddenly, on reading Marianna’s post, I realised there was a quick and easy way to create a “body double” with a roll of Saran Wrap.
So I contacted Marianna and proposed a Cling Film Party. I invited a few of my blog friends to come round for Pizza (after the wrapping) on a Friday night. As well as Marianna herself, Dr Elizabeth was in town (from Sweden). I am glad she came – she is such fun. And she brought chocolate.
My Secret Santa friend Megan is reliable when it comes to attending London events. And I was so pleased that Pia of Overflowing Stash was able to make it. She is constructing a very elaborate and wonderful wedding dress at the moment so I was glad she was able to tear herself away from her hand embroidery. Pia is a very skilled designer and pattern cutter and I was so pleased she was able to bring her expertise to our task.
From left to right we have Elizabeth, Marianna, Megan and Pia. Do we look like a Dove advert? I suppose this is the point – that real women have their own personal shape, with their own features, and if you make clothes it makes sense to get them to fit you rather than an idealised size 12, or whatever.
I would recommend this as a good technique to get a block made fairly quickly (around one hour). If you have a competent sewing friend it is certainly worth a try. You need some elastic to mark the waist and any other cross body lines, some narrow cling film (Marianna brought this stuff which is used for wrapping pallets), some sellotape for securing and strengthening, a flexible tape measure to check the dimensions as you go, scissors for cutting strips of wrap, a felt tip pen and maybe some medical scissors for cutting the wrapping off at the end. We also had some black and white fine marking tape that is used for putting style lines on a mannequin, but this is not essential. It is a bit hot when you are being wrapped but with an open window, plus pace, we coped fine.
Elizabeth was wrapped to dress length; Megan and I went for a bodice.
The key with wrapping is to wrap sufficiently to get to the neckline and shoulder line. It needs about three layers. Don’t try to do it in one pass by walking round and round the model. Use strips to mould around the curves. The second important this is not to flatten the bust. Elizabeth had on a sports bra which does this anyway, so I would suggest wearing the most “formed” bra you have to ensure there is a nice bust line. Use adhesive tape/sellotape to secure the wrap vertically, and at the armhole and neck edge.
Once the model is wrapped you need to mark – with a felt tip pen or with the type of black and white tape we used. The waist is marked along the line of the elastic you have around your waist. The rest of style lines are applied like you are taping a dress stand prior to draping. As well as waist, bust and hips you need to mark the side seams, and we also marked the princess lines. You can use the seams on your vest/pants to guide you. Use your tape measure to ensure everything is symmetrical (allowing for lack of symmetry in the actual body). Pia’s experience helped ensure we all got some attention in terms of marking up. This is why a competent seamstress is better than your partner. But some can be taught, no doubt!
We had fun doing this. But it was also revealing, looking at each other’s figures closely and talking about adjustments we invariably made to commercial patterns to deal with our shoulders, hips, etc. I found out that one of my shoulder blades is more prominent than the other – unsurprising actually as I have a shoulder injury. I rarely consider my back, but Pia was able to identify the need to accommodate this.
Once marked the cling film is removed, usually by cutting the CB seam. It is amazing how shaped and realistic the model is. The final job is to cut the pattern open to ensure it lies flat, using appropriate dart lines. Pia shows me how to do this on the floor (with her legs in a yoga pose!) Make sure you label each piece correctly, being especially careful with distinguishing the left and right pieces of the body, CF, CB etc. I will turn this into a paper block pattern and then try it out in calico. The suggestion is to grade it up one size to ensure it has sufficient ease. I will have a go at this and report back.
Spending a Friday night with four other dressmaking bloggers, doing a fun project together, sharing skills and expertise, with wine, pizza and chocolate is my idea of heaven.
I will make up my torso pattern and let you know how it goes.