A Torso, Gaffa Tape and a Cover up… I’m Innocent Honestly!!

Just one item on the list of any sewers ‘I want’ list is an adjustable dummy or mannequin. They go under a long list of names or descriptions and, quite frankly they are damned expensive! The majority are ok but personally I don’t think any of them really reflect the natural body shape of todays women. The more expensive the model the more options you have to alter the sizes in respect to the bust, waist and hip measurements and in some the torso length as well however, they don’t account for actual bust size in regard to fullness or indeed flatness. There is no real substitute for having the intended wearer of a garment to fit too at every stage of construction.  Well actual you can make a totally personalised mannequin of your own body, which is fantastic if you sew alone, but that’s a totally different project that I will get round to later in the summer I hope. 😀

I can’t remember how or where I got my first mannequin but the second one I was lucky enough to find in a junk shop with no stand that I got for a measly £5. At some stage I stopped sewing due to lack of time and a decent machine so both were shoved under the bed. 

One of these was the smallest size range and there other the larger one. One day I decided to have a clear out, dragged a torso from under the bed and gave her a bit of a seeing too… I made a stand from a broom handle and some wood and then sold her on a well-known auction site for rather a lot more than I paid.  And then I realised I’d made a massive mistake!  I sold the larger size!  I’m not little and I definitely have curves… What on earth was I thinking! That will teach me to check what I’m doing in future. Mind you I did turn the situation to my advantage as I persuaded my eldest son to pay for a second hand larger size dummy for my Christmas present later that same year.  It cost him a whole heap more than it did me. 😀

So that left me with Miss Twiggy who was in a very sorry state indeed. Cracked and broken and falling apart (bit like her owner lol) the years had not been kind at all. Shame on me for not taking more care of her but I’m shall attempt to remedy my neglect now.

First of all I need to loosen up all the joints and adjusters. On this particular model the size is altered by flipping up a little white plastic clip, rotating it to loosen, sliding in or out to the required measurement and then rotating to tighten and fix the size. Some of these adjusters are bent and rusted or just stiff. One wouldn’t turn at all which wasn’t helped at all by the fact that the other end had broken away from its anchor point completely.  To fix this I worked my way around each adjuster spraying with a non-greasy lubricant like WD40 or similar. The metal guide runners were easy to bend back into shape.

Once the adjusters were all mobile again I turned my attention to repairing the cracks and broken sections of Twiggy’s body. I started by unscrewing the inner support bracket and removing it completely. This gave me more room internally to get my hands in.  I stood Twiggy up traced around her base sections onto some hardboard.  It took a while and a lot of trimming up but I eventually to 4 good sections to fit onto what was left of the base sections.  These were glued and clamped in place.  I used a good strong reinforced gaffa tape or duck(duct) tape to tape up the cracks and to tape over missing sections of plastic until I was happy that the base was strong enough to support the inner bracket again. 

As you can see from the photos one of the adjusters that allows you to lengthen the torso had snapped away completely. These are rivets and can’t really be replaced. I didn’t really want to use more hardboard as it would make the whole thing too heavy for the stand so this time I used some thick card, tracing, trimming and gluing it in place as before.

Now what to do with all that saggy skin… Last time I did this I used a hot glue gun and pretty much burnt my fingerprints off so I wasn’t going down that route again. I needed something that holds and sticks really quickly as you need to stretch the fabric out so this time I opted for spray glue. The results weren’t fantastic!  I discovered that the spray was temperamental at best. I either got hardly any in the right place or way too much in the wrong place. When there was too much is seeped through the fabric and attracted every bit of dust in the stratosphere to it instantly. :/  It gets everywhere and makes your hand super sticky too which makes even more of a mess.  When it did work it worked very well indeed it has to be said. 

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Ok what’s next? How to fix the broken adjuster? The thick card won’t be strong enough alone so I decided the best way would be to use a small nut and bolt in place of the rivet with two large washers on either side.  Due to the metal slider I had to cut off part of the top washer. Fortunately I have a friend with a grinder who took a few seconds to cut the washer down and ensure there were no sharp edges too.  Bolt and washers in place tightened with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.  Next I drilled holes through the bases and used self-tapping screws to secure the inner support bracket back in place. The sharp points of the screws are inside and are highly unlikely to snag anything buy I put a lump of blue-tack on each just to make sure. Miss Twiggy is all upright and straight again YEY.  Shame she looks as if she’s been rolling in the mud and needs a damn good bath. L  There were still a few loose flaps of ‘skin’ so I secured these with bits of gaffa tape on the inside.

Being as I have started to make more ‘commission’ garments I decided I wanted to make a nicer cover for Miss Twiggy so she would look more presentable in company. A quick trip to my local fabric stall on the market got me a meter of super stretchy black lycra for £7, plenty for cover and some left over for me to play at making a swimsuit or similar with.

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Instead of trying to figure out a pattern I decided to drape the fabric, first over the back pinning darts in place and then pinning around the center groove created by the different body sections. Took the fabric off folding down the center line, I then cut around my line of pins. Marked he darts on the inside with a white tailors chalk pencil. I repeated the process with the front but with two extra darts each side to take up excess fabric and cling to Miss Twiggy’s svelte figure.  Once the darts were sewn I used my overlocker to join front and back. I slipped the cover on inside out and re-pinned around the edges once more to fine tune the fit but not too snug so as to allow room for the mannequin to be adjusted out to its fullest measurement if required and voila! One reasonably nice looking dress makers dummy all ready to use… sadly not for any garment that would fit me! Lol 

I guess I should really have taken a bit more care over the darts to make her look model perfect but she is still far, far better looking and useable now then when I dragged her out from under the bed  ;D

So next time you see a tatty old torso going cheap don’t dismiss the poor old girl ~ take her home and get the gaffa tape out 😀

Happy Sewing…

Lainey x

About acraftteacuppa

Vintage kinda gal loves all things 40s 50s and art deco. Loves all kinds of crafts especially sewing. addicted to fabric, antiques and shoes. Have two sons and two Akitas that I adore. Passionate about our armed forces, WW1 family history. Living on WW2 Rations for Charity for a whole year. Would one day like to have a tea shop/haberdashery/sewing rooms to relax chat and teach/share all sorts of craft skills in <3
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