Saturday, December 27, 2008

Draping the Form - Part 3

Finishing Touches, Head and Shoulders

Years ago, in a far away place in North Texas, I used to do some theater work, creating costumes and props for plays. Among other jobs during college, I worked at a craft center in a small town in Texas. I put those two things together in kind of an odd way, to create this little shaped and draped neckline form.

This bottle is Aleene's Fabric Stiffener. Some folks who make crocheted stars for ornaments use it to stiffen them permanently, so they'll hold their little six-pointed shapes when they're hung.

It's also good for putting cloth into, to create angels and Santa figures, so the cloth will drape when they stand up.

I'm using it here to give my lightweight bust form a stiff shape, so it will stand up on its own. I think it's just very thick white glue. You could probably use glue if you have that instead. I diluted this as the instructions suggested, but if you use white glue you might not want a 1:1 dilution.

I didn't pre-wash the unbleached muslin cloth before I used it. You could use an old sheet if you have that handy.

I tore the square off instead of cutting it, that way I got a nice straight of grain cut across the cloth. A pillowcase might be large enough, but I wanted to have a large open square of fabric so I could make nice drapes on the form.

If you've ever made a holiday angel for the top of the tree, it's most likely a very similar process.

It's a good idea to check one more time at this point in the process, that the film-wrapped plastic form is very steady and stable on its base.

Then wrap the fabric around the form. I started at the neck, then wrapped the corners around each side and tucked everything in nice and tight.

However large you want the finished form, bring the cloth down on the plastic shape. The stiffener will make the cloth able to stand on its own. But don't close up the bottom, or wrap the cloth across the bottom, if you want to remove the shaping form later as I did. Otherwise you'll have to cut the form open to get the shaping form out.

Mix the diluted stiffener and water together into a plastic container, and dip the cloth right into it, to get it saturated with the stiffening agent.

Then re-drape over the form sitting on top of plastic to catch the drips.

Use your hands to smooth and shape the draped cloth the way you want it.

I added more stiffener onto the cloth after I draped it, to be sure it was good and saturated. It will drip for a while, so be sure you have something underneath to catch the extras drippings, as it will harden and be difficult to clean up if you don't put the plastic or newspaper (or both!) underneath.

Leave it on its own for 12-24 hours to dry completely before you take it off the form.

Resist the temptation to move it, mess with it or change it. Just let it sit and completely dry in place. If it's dripping, wipe up the excess stiffener but don't play around with the fabric now.

It will start to dry from the top down, as the excess liquid moves down the form. Let it dry completely until the lowest level of draping feels totally dry to the touch.

If you put enough stiffener in it, it'll easily slide off the plastic shaping form, but hold the shape all on its own. Be a little careful, it's possible to crush it if you press too hard, it's not like concrete or anything.

You can re-use the form now to make another one, maybe in a different color cloth, if you want. I think one in a deep black cloth would be cool! If you're done, you can unwrap everything and put into the recycling bin and just enjoy your new draping form!

You could do something similar with papier mache instead of fabric. Tearing newspaper into strips, dipping in the glue and wrapping around the plastic-wrapped form. You might have to cut it off the shape afterward, but that might be another neat look for a draping form. I may try that method later, just to see how it turns out. I need to make an earring form, too!

I hope this little tutorial on how I made my draping form is useful to you, if you make one I'd love to hear about it, or see photos, if you'll share them!


Cindy said...

Nice! Your step by step intructions are excellent, very clear and thorough! I wouldn't have thought that the stiffened fabric would be strong enough on its own. I'll let you know if I come up with anything myself.

Cindy Gimbrone said...

Hi Lynn,

what a great tutorial! I love the paper mache idea - ever since I lived in Tucson, AZ and made pinatas with the kids at a charter school, I've wanted to do more with paper mache. Anything I can get my hands into is for me!

I've got a a 1902 full dressmaker's form (should have seen me carrying it across the field at the flea market) I bought probably 20 years ago - hubby wants to get rid of it but over my dead body! I've always wanted to have a half form to display jewelry - this technique is a great way to create one! (I won't use the antique dressmaker's form to do it though - I think this is too drippy to risk it)

Thanks for the great tutorial!


LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

I wasn't sure how stiff the form would be, but it stands alone easily and supports the weight of jewelry. I've also slipped some crocheted lace around the neck to dress it up and it looks really nice and nostalgic that way. But if you used bright white fabric and more modern looking dressing, it would also work with contemporary looks.

I will try the papier mache with newspapers in the spring when it's warmer, but I do think that would be interesting to try. No, don't use your dress form (lucky! that's a fabulous find!) but using the plastic milk bottles was insurance that drippy messes wouldn't matter to this too much. I hope you do try it, and please send me an update?

EmandaJ said...

Years ago I made a dress form using an oversized t-shirt and yards and yards of duct tape applied over the body (this was done with the help of a friend). Once I was encased and the duct tape was at least two layers thick, my friend cut me out of it and we stuffed the form with a roll of cheap batting. The cut at the back was re-taped with duct tape. The form "WAS" my perfect size. I bet a similar form could be made for dispay purposes using a turtle-neck shirt instead of a t-shirt. What do you think?

LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

Yes, I've seen the duct tape dress form idea online, the problem I have with that is that I wanted a neck and shoulders bust and I don't know if I could stand having my neck wrapped in duct tape! Plus, once you're done it's that bright silvery color, I think I'd still have to put a layer of papier mache on it afterward.