Tag Archives: tutorial

How to make a paper tape dress form (part 1)

12 Sep

On Saturday, myself and two friends got together to make ourselves paper tape dress forms. The idea had been months in the making, and we finally managed to find a day we could all make. I was really excited about the idea of finally having a dress form, and one that resembles me! Plus, Marion brought chocolate cake (which she cooked while we were doing it, it smelled AMAZING!)!


As I mentioned in my last post on the topic, we’d decided to go for the gummed paper tape method, as the consensus seems to be that they hold their shape better than their gaffa tape counterparts.

I did a fair bit of research beforehand as to the best approach to take when applying the tape (I did NOT want to have to do this twice!) even sent the others a little reading list so they could familiarise themselves with the process beforehand.

Originally we’d planned on doing it in pairs, with 4 of us, but the fourth couldn’t make it. It actually worked well with 3 of us, as having two people taping at a time meant the whole process went a bit quicker.



I’d got things prepared beforehand, and cut a bunch of strips in the lengths I though we’d need. I cut a mixture of lengths – some up to about 15 inches, some at about 6 inches, and a few in between. For the shorter ones, I also cut some of them in half lengthways. It turned out that we almost exclusively used the shorter ones, and a lot of the half width ones. A few longer ones were handy for going over shoulders, but the shorter ones were much more practical for most areas. The thinner ones were great for fitting around curves – the first layer was done pretty much just in the half width strips, but then we did use the wider ones on later layers. For the 3 dress forms, we used about a roll and a half (200m rolls) of gummer paper tape, so about 100m each. However, I have added some more since to reinforce it a bit.

Clare being clingfilmed up!

Clare being clingfilmed up!

Clare and I opted for sacrificing a long-sleeved t-shirt to which the tape would be stuck, and Marion went for the bin bag option. We all wore leggings on our bottom halves, and then just used clingfilm to wrap our bums, and necks, and any other parts that weren’t covered by t-shirt/bin bag.

Marion in her bin bag!

Marion in her bin bag!

We had planned on using sponges to wet the paper strips, but on one blog, I’d seen the idea of using a spray bottle to wet them instead. I happened to have a couple at home, so thought we’d try them. I tried one strip with the sponge, then switched to the water bottle, and didn’t look back! It made it SO much easier. It meant the people taping could keep the water bottle in their hand constantly, rather than always having to go back to the table with the water and sponges on. Seriously, try it! I think it would have taken us an awful lot longer if we hadn’t been using the bottles!

Before you start, do go to the toilet first! And it’s a good idea to wear flip flops, or other shoes, to cushion your feet a bit – it’s a long time to be standing up. If you have a tendency to get cold feet, socks are also a good idea!

Tie your hair up before you start, and it also works well to put some hairspray on those fluffy bits just above your neck, and smooth them upwards. We didn’t for Clare, and some bits of her hair ended up getting stuck in the tape on her neck!


Quite proud of my crosshatching! Started with the camera facing the window…


…then realised that we needed the light behind the camera, so you get shots of my messy living room instead!

We started taping on the chest, and the back, with a kind of cross hatch pattern, using the smallest, thin strips, We then worked up to the shoulders, and down over the stomach, and round the hips. On all of us, the stomach was the hardest part to get right – I guess it probably moves quite a bit as you breathe, and none of us felt that the taping on the stomach was particularly tight. And I don’t think it was just denial that our stomachs really look like that! Hopefully we will be able to remedy that later.


Ahh, such a look of concentration!



We were aiming to use 3 layers all over, but, once you have the first one done, it is hard to tell where you have put extra layers on and where you haven’t, so it helps to (try and) work methodically. I think we had them all fairly well covered overall, although, having spent a bit of time with her over the weekend, the sides and shoulders/sleeves on mine could probably have done with another layer or two. These bits are hard to get to though, once your arm is fixed in place and you can’t lift it, and we also cut our dress forms off by cutting up both sides, so it may just be that it appears weaker because this was where we cut. I think it’s probably worth adding an extra layer or two on where you are going to cut it, just to try and make sure that these parts hold their shape once it is off.


The aerial on the camera remote control also makes a good scratching aid when you can no longer move your arms!

She's escaping!

She’s escaping!

We had a lot of fun doing it, although it is not for the faint hearted! It really wasn’t a lot of fun being taped up and unable to move for a couple of hours. That was the bit that I really wasn’t looking forward to! I have a few problems with my joints and my feet anyway, which means that I really hate standing up for long periods of time, and find it quite painful. By the end, my knees and my back had completely locked up, from not being able to move. The first thing I did once my form was cut off was roll around on the floor, stretching out my back a bit! My feet were also pretty sore afterwards, but it was just about bearable. I also had a bit of a funny turn part way through – I suddenly started feeling horrendously sick, I’m not sure if it was being restricted, or fumes from the glue or what, but it was awful! And all I could think was that I didn’t want top ruin the form or have to take it off at this stage! After opening the doors, and being fed some water, I felt a bit better. We were almost out of tape strips, so I started cutting some more of those (I could just about manage that in my restricted state), both to take my mind off it, and so that one of the others didn’t have to stop taping to cut more strips, and we’d be done more quickly. Apparently I’d actually turned quite pale, but the others didn’t tell me that until afterwards! The sense of relief when you are cut out is amazing!

We decided Marion looked a bit like a warrior in her paper tape armour...so Marcus gave her a sword!

We decided Marion looked a bit like a warrior in her paper tape armour…so Marcus gave her a sword!


And another sword!

Funny turns aside, we all survived, only one bra strap got accidentally cut (sorry Clare!) and we had 3 beautiful looking dress forms at the end of the day. In total, it took us about 7 hours to do the three of them, including breaks for cake and tea, with two people working on each form for most of the time.

I got a little trigger happy with the camera remote when I was being taped, so I made a little time lapse movie for you all!

Our top tips:
– go to the loo before you start
– tie your hair up, and hairspray the rest out the way
– wear flip flops/shoes
– cut as many strips as you can in advance – lots of short and thin ones (the person being taped can always cut more as you go)
– use a water spray bottle to wet the strips
– work methodically to make sure you get the number of layers you want everywhere
– add an extra layer on the bits you’re going to cut
– make it longer than you want, you can always cut it down afterwards
– do it with close friends – there’s a lot of boob and bum touching!

Um, yes!

Um, yes!

As I mentioned before, I want to try using this form that we created as a cast to create one that is actually my exact size (give or take), using these instructions. To do that, I need to line this form I’ve made with foil (to stop water soaking through), then a layer of felt, and then more layers of tape. I wanted to make sure that the original one was strong enough that when I did this, it didn’t misshape at all, so over the weekend, I added some more tape on its weak points – mainly down the sides, where it was cut, and across the shoulders. As I’m not actually planning on using this one as the form itself, I wasn’t too worried about adding extra thickness. I also found a novel way of making sure it kept its shape once the paper tape was a bit damp again (after I’d got bored of wearing half of it at a time, strapped to me with a wide belt!).


She is currently taped up around the cut edges again, as the edges weren’t meeting up all the way round, and I wanted to make sure she was shaped properly before starting the next stage. Perfectionist, moi?

I’ll do another post on that second part once that is completed, but for now I’ll leave you with some photos of Marion dancing :)





The giraffe dress (aka a very easy, quick, pattern-free, tank top dress)

4 Aug

I have had very little sewing time recently, much to my disappointment. I’d hoped to get some done last weekend – the first free weekend I’d had in about a month – and I had great plans, but ran out of time with all the other things that needed to be done. We did do a huge clean/tidy/sort out of the flat on Sunday though, and I rearranged my sewing area slightly, so I can get to everything a bit more easily, which is great. By sewing area, I mean the end of our living room, with the dining table, that we used to eat dinner at occasionally…ahem…

I did however manage to make my giraffe dress last week! I’d been trying to decide what to do with my lovely giraffe fabric from Walthamstow, and then I saw this post on ShanniLoves about making a tank top dress. I thought that would be perfect, as a whole dress of giraffes might be a bit full on, and I hand’t yet figured out what else to do with it. I didn’t have any spare tank tops unfortunately, but while I was down in Cardiff for a hen do I hit Primark and picked up a couple (I have plans for more than one of these dresses!).

Easy dress supplies

This really is a really easy, really quick dress to make. I would have got it all done in one evening (about 3 hours, I hate commuting!) if it hadn’t been for the fact that a couple of bits went wrong.

I won’t go into the full details of how to do it, as there are already great tutorials on A Small Snippet and Talk2TheTrees, but essentially it’s a case of:

1. Buy a cheap tank top. Mine was £2.50 from Primark.

2. Choose your fabric and cut a piece that wraps around your waist about 1.5 times (more will give you a slightly fuller skirt, less a slightly closer fit), and as long as you want it to be, measuring from about your high waist point (or basically whatever height you want the skirt and top to be joined at) down to wherever you want it to be, plus a bit for seam allowances. I went for a knee length dress, but this also works well as a maxi dress.

Easy dress supplies


3. Cut off your tank top at the point at which you want the top and skirt to join (allowing a bit extra for seam allowance). Remember though (as I didn’t) that whereas the back of the top will go straight down your back, the front has to go around your bust, so if you just mark one point, take the top off and slice straight across (ass I did!), the seam will end up sitting higher at the front. I ended up just marking a couple of points at what I thought were vaguely level, and then joining them up to use as a new seam position.

tank top dress

This was after my first cut, before realising my mistake.

4. Sew up the side of your rectangle of skirt material, so that you have a big tube.

5. Gather the top edge of the skirt using your preferred method. I went with the suggestion from the tutorial on A Small Snippet and used elastic thread in the bobbin. I knew that if I didn’t, then I’d struggle to get the dress over my waist or bust. Also, I’d just been to a John Lewis, so had managed to get some. If I hadn’t, I probably would have tried it without, and regretted it when I couldn’t get it on! I’ve never used elastic thread before, but I was really pleased with how easy it was to use. I went with the guidance of winding the thread with the bobbin winder, as I have a top-loading bobbin on my machine.

gathering with elastic thread

6. Once the skirt is gathered, pin it to the top, easing them round so that the gathers are evenly distributed. Then sew the two together.

7. Try your dress on, decide on the final length of it, and finish the hem. Because of the kind of fabric I was using (not sure what it is, something polyester-y I think), and the fact that I was lazy and wanted it done quickly, I used the rolled hem on my overlocker to finish off the bottom of the skirt, which worked BEAUTIFULLY. Little bit in love with my overlocker right now. This fabric tears straight really easily, so I just marked where I wanted it, tore the excess off all the way round, and ran it through the overlocker.

tank top dress

Now the issues that I ran into…

When I first sewed the gathered skirt piece onto the tank top, I realised that the top obviously hadn’t been lying quite flat on the sewing machine, and I had caught up an extra bit of the top in the stitching. I didn’t really want to have to take it all out and start again, so I tried just removing the stitching from that area, and doing that bit again. This worked fine, except when I tried it on again the next evening, I noticed a couple of things:

1. I’d actually caught the top up in the stitching at a couple of other points as well.

2. The waistline of the dress wasn’t level all the way round – it was sitting quite a bit lower at the back. I’d forgotten about my boobs.

So much for not re-doing the whole thing. Even though I knew I’d probably be wearing a wide belt over the seam (the gathering makes it a little pouffy and not overly flattering on its own), I’d like the option of not having to, so I ripped it all out and essentially started again! You can see in the photo below how much I ended up moving the skirt up on the back compared to the front.

New seam allowance at back

New seam allowance at back

New seam allowance at front

New seam allowance at front

End result – I really like the dress, although it does definitely look better with a belt. The fabric is a little bit clingy/static-y, so I might need to try and put a lining in, or make a slip to wear with it, to stop it clinging to my legs as I walk. It is a lovely summer dress, and I’m definitely going to be making more. The fabric and top combined cost me a grand total of £3.30 as well! And I still have almost 2.5m of giraffes to decide what to do with. Any ideas?

Anyway, enough talking, here are some pretty pictures.

tank top dress

Complete with yawning OzzieDog. And tired Kelly. Sorry, these were taken this morning, after my friend’s wedding last night, and I’m a little worse for wear. And also full of lurgy :(

tank top dress

And a couple without the belt – it looks fine from the back, but don’t like the fact that it makes me look even shorter than I actually am from the front.

tank top dress

tank top dress
I apologise – it has taken me over a week from making it to get round to taking photos , despite the fact that I’ve worn it 4 times! Either Marcus (my cameraman) was busy when I was free, or the sun disappeared and it started chucking down so outside photos were out. As a result, it’s also been a while since I’ve updated the blog, so apologies for that too! I have a few posts in the pipeline, and am hoping (although I’m not sure it’s going to happen!) to try and get a bit more sewing in this week, so hopefully I’ll have some more makes to show you soon.

Homemade wedding garter, with tutorial

23 Jul sewn wedding garter

Last weekend I was on a friend’s hen do. She is the first one of my close friends to get married, and it was my first hen do, so exciting times! I had the idea a little while ago that it would be nice to give her a hand made wedding garter, as a memento. This idea was cemented when the bridesmaids asked us all to bring a small present for her to the weekend.

wedding garter

I had a vague idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like, and looked up a few tutorials online for some construction guidance. I decided to go for one that used the ribbon as the elastic casing, as opposed to making a separate casing out of fabric which I would then need to sew on.

The garter is essentially a ribbon and lace sandwich – 2 lengths of 1 inch wide ribbon with a wider piece of lace sewn between them, and the elastic threaded through one of the channels that is created by this.

making wedding garter

I went to Masons to pick up some lace and ribbon for the job. And there was SO MUCH LACE. I think it actually took me about half an hour to choose some, and even then, I ended up with about 6 different ones which I ended up buying to try. I knew I wanted something thick enough that it would show on both sides of the ribbon (the other option it to just sew the lace onto one edge of the ribbon), and because of that, I wanted one that was shaped on both edges. I wasn’t sure if stretch lace would work well or not, so I was originally looking for non-stretch stuff, but ended up buying some of both. I did end up using some of the stretch stuff in the end, and it worked fine!

handmade wedding garter

I bought ribbon to match the colour theme of the wedding, in a couple of different widths (I wasn’t entirely sure at this point what width I needed…this was all a bit of a guessing game!) and a little ribbon rose in a similar colour to go on the front. I already had elastic to use, and the construction was actually fairly straightforward:

– If you can, measure the thigh circumference of the person you’re making it for – a little way above the knee is apparently about right. If you can’t measure and don’t want to ask them because a) it’s going to be a surprise or b) you don’t want to sound slightly odd, then guesstimate, or measure your own and hope theirs is fairly similar! As it’s elasticated and gathered anyway, there’s a little leeway in terms of fit.

– To work out the length of ribbon and lace you need, a few of the tutorials I looked at suggested multiplying the thigh measurement by 1.5. I did this, which gave me a measurement of 75cm. Given that my two pieces of ribbon were 1m long (When I was buying them, I forgot that I needed enough ribbon for both sides, and asked her to cut 1m before I remembered I needed another). Knowing that I probably wouldn’t have much use for 25cm lengths of ribbon, I sewed it up with the full metre, and then trimmed it afterwards to where I wanted it. So somewhere between 1.5 and 2 times thigh circumference should work, depending on how many gathers you want. And yes I do realise that I use a complete mishmash of metric and imperial measurements in this post – am I the only one who uses both when sewing, depending on which is the most convenient number?

– Pin the two pieces of ribbon (with right sides, if there is one) out, onto either side of the piece of lace. I did this by laying one piece of ribbon on top of the lace and pinning, and then flipping it over, matching up the second piece of ribbon, and then pinning again, through all 3 layers. I then took out the pins from the first side. You could just pin all 3 at once, but I thought it would be easier to make sure both pieces of ribbon were lined up to each other, and centred on the lace, if I did it this way.

wedding garter construction

– Once your ribbon and lace are pinned, sew two straight seams (or straight-ish), one down each edge of the ribbon. For 1 inch lace, use about a 1/4 inch seam allowance (this allows enough space in the middle for the elastic to go through). It doesn’t matter if the ribbon puckers slightly when sewing the seams, as this will be hidden in the gathers.

– Once they’re sewn, you should have a piece of lace, with a length of ribbon sewn to each side. Next you need to cut your elastic. The general guidance seems to be to take 1 inch off the thigh measurement. I started with that, but did actually end up taking more off later. 1/4 inch elastic is ideal for this.

– Using a safety pin attached to the elastic, thread it through one of the channels created between the ribbon and lace. My lace seemed to have a slight right and wrong side, so I fed it through the ribbon on the wrong side. Before the other end of the elastic disappears inside, use another safety pin to pin that end, so that you don’t lose it. Once the elastic is all the way through, pin the end you’ve just pulled through as well.

sewing wedding garter

It doesn’t matter that the ends of my lace and ribbon don’t match up, as I’m going to trim them anyway.

– Spread the gathers out evenly along the length of the elastic. If you’re happy with the length of the elastic, and how the gathers look then you can sew it as is. If not, you can do what I did and spend half an hour playing around with different lengths of elastic and lace, hold it round your leg and ask your boyfriend if it looks right (to which he answered that he didn’t really have any idea what it was or what it was meant to look like), and eventually settle on lengths for both.

– Sew up each end, to hold the elastic in place, and then, turning the garter so that right sides are together, and making sure it’s not twisted anywhere in the middle – easy to miss when it’s all gathered up, sew the two ends together. You can skip sewing the ends individually first if you like, but I found it easier. Once the two ends are sewn together, trim the seam allowance.

homemade wedding garter

Trying it on for size!

– You should now have a basic garter to embellish as you wish. I went for a ribbon bow on the front, followed by the little ribbon flower which I glued on top (slightly wonky because I stopped to put the lid on the super glue before positioning it properly, and the glue set in the meantime!). Turns out it was a good thing I ended up buying more than one width of ribbon, as I used the narrower one to make the bow.

I forgot to take pictures while making the bow, but this page has some great tutorials for different kinds of ribbon bows – I made the hand tied bow at the top.

wedding garter rose

To make it more personal, I embroidered the bride and groom’s initials onto each tail of the ribbon bow. If you do this, make sure you leave enough space for the letter you’re embroidering, so that it’s not almost falling off the edge like mine is. I thought about re-doing it, but… I’ll know for next time!

wedding garter initial

embroidered wedding garter

Once you’ve finished your embellishments, you have a lovely hand made wedding garter. Whether it is a gift, or for yourself, it’s a really nice personal touch. And a really quick and easy sewing project as well! I have a few more friends who have got engaged recently, so I can see myself making a few more of these in the future.

sewn wedding garter

finished wedding garter

Slightly fuzzy picture, oops, but unfortunately it’s the best of the on-leg finished ones I have! Thanks to my friend Clare for modelling it.

And now that holidays and hen-dos, and urgent related sewing projects are out the way (not that that is a good thing), I have some time to get on with making some more dresses, it feels like its been ages! I’m currently working on a tank top plus added skirt creation, with my lovely giraffe print fabric from Walthamstow, so hopefully I’ll have something to show for that soon!

Giraffe print fabric


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