Whenever possible I make craft tools from used paper and cardboard to reduce the cost of making things. And they can be recycled when I finish with them. Otherwise I would have an attic full of rarely used equipment from all my different projects. The only expenses for the dressmakers dummy were some cheap polishing cloth and glue.
To make a dressmakers dummy, I laser cut cardboard and covered it with a thin layer of papier-mache. Clothes made using it fit perfectly because the shape comes from a scan of my body. If you don't have access to a scanner, a digital camera/smart phone works just as well, or I've also made an Instructable showing how to build a Raspberry Pi scanner.
A friend who saw my dressmaker's dummy said,
“I’d love to have one the same shape as me. With my current mannequin I can adjust the bust, waist and hips, but her shoulders are too broad and things don’t quite fit.”
So here are the steps I took, for anyone else who wants a tailor's dummy that doesn't need to be adjusted. It's surprisingly robust and just as easy to stick pins into as a bought one.
And if you don't have access to a laser cutter, it might be worth joining a makerspace that has them. I went to my local Eagle Lab in Brighton. Like many FabLabs around the world, they offer free use of their machines on Fridays for non-commercial projects.
- 4mm thick Single Wall Corrugated Cardboard to fit laser cutter bed (I used 15 pieces of cardboard cut to 74cm x 40cm to fit a laser cutter. As they were from old TV and furniture boxes they weren't all 4mm thick, but that was the average)
- Strips of Paper (I cut up A4 typing paper)
- Paper Glue
- Tubular polishing cloth, sometimes called mutton cloth (optional) available in the UK from Halfords
- Thread (if covering with polishing cloth)
- Stand (optional)
- 3D Scanner (or digital camera/smart phone and software to stitch multiple images together)
- Computer with the following software:
Step 1: 3D Scanning
Stand in a well lit area, with your arms hanging slightly away from your body. Ask someone to take a 3D scan of you, following the instructions of the scanner you choose. Unless you want a full body model, you do not need to scan your legs.
If you are using a digital camera, take multiple pictures all around the body, making sure there is sufficient overlap (usually at least 30%) between pictures for the software to recognise where to stitch them together.
Tip: Wear close fitting clothes. But avoid anything that creates an unnatural body shape, such as sports bras (which is what I was wearing in the image above). Tie up long hair so it doesn't cover your back. Depending on the scanning software you use, the footage may be processed online, so wear something that you are comfortable uploading.
Step 2: Edit the 3D Model
- Open Autodesk Meshmixer and import your 3D model.
- To remove the head, arms and legs of the model, click 'Select' on the toolbar and then draw a shape around an area of the model you want to remove. This brings up an expanded toolbar, click 'Edit ~ Discard'.
- To close all the gaps in the model click 'Edit ~ Make Solid' from the main toolbar.
- To smooth over any rough surfaces, go to 'Sculpt ~ Brushes ~ Refine' and drag the brush over the relevant areas.
- If you intend to create a stand for the dummy, create a perpendicular hole in the middle of the base of the model, at least 200mm deep with a diameter 2mm larger than the diameter of your pole
- Save as an OBJ file.
For instructions to use Meshmixer go to www.mmmanual.com
Step 3: Create Layers
- Open Slicer for Fusion 360 and Import the OBJ file
- Click the pencil under 'Manufacturing Settings' and add new material size by clicking '+'. Change height, length and thickness to the size of the cardboard (making sure the cardboard will fit in the laser cutter). After creating the new material size, make sure it is selected in the drop down menu.
- Under 'Object Size', tick 'Original Size'
- Under 'Construction Technique' I went for 'Interlocked Slices' because it uses less cardboard than Stacked Slices. By playing around with different values for the Slice Distribution you can see how many sheets of card it will use. More slices creates more density, which makes it better to pin fabric to. I chose 65 horizontal slices and 4 vertical, which worked well.
- Under 'Get Plans' select the 'File Type' as 'PDF', click 'Export to My Computer' and choose where to save it.
Step 4: Laser Cutting
- Open the first page of the PDF in the laser cutter software, and choose the appropriate settings based on the laser cutter's guide.
- Test the settings with a scrap piece of cardboard to check it cuts all the way through and then remove from the machine.
- Place a sheet of cardboard in the laser cutter. (If the cardboard is too big, cut to size using a craft knife or band saw)
- Start laser cutting
- Once the laser has stopped, remove the card from the machine
- Open the next page of the PDF
- Repeat Steps 3 to 6 until all sections of the dressmakers dummy are cut out
- Cut an extra piece of cardboard to match the top layer and another to match the base layer
Warning: Make sure the laser cutter is suitable for cutting cardboard and that you follow the guidelines, such as not leaving the machine unattended. Do not use double wall corrugated cardboard as it is more likely to catch fire during laser cutting. Faster settings for laser cutting reduces the risk of fire.
Step 5: Assembly
- Using the guide shown in the Slicer software, under 'Assembly Steps', slot the horizontal slices into the vertical ones. The software automatically numbers each slice to make it easy to assemble.
- If using recycled cardboard packaging, some card may be thicker than 4mm, so gently hammer it along the cut line until it slots in. Variable thickness works for Interlocked Slices, but if using Stacked Slices it needs to all be a consistent thickness, otherwise it will affect the height of the dress makers dummy.
- Glue the cardboard in place, except for the extra top and bottom pieces.
Step 6: Create a Covering
I covered the cardboard in papier-mache to fill in the gaps between the layers of cardboard, and I was tempted to use it like that because it could be recycled without any disassembly. But I wanted a more professional looking finish, so I experimented with different coverings. Needle felting worked but it didn't look great and added a few extra millimeters all over.
So I removed the felt and replaced it with Polishing Cloth. Polishing cloth is ideal because it is very thin and stretchy, made from cotton and knitted in the round so there are no seams. Just cut it at least 300mm longer than the model, stretch it wide open and pull over the model, leaving surplus at each end. Glue down to pull the fabric in around the contours of the model.
When dry, gather the ends of the fabric together at the top of the model. Cut off any excess and stitch them together. Cover the stitched area with the extra top piece of cardboard and glue in position to create a neat flat top part. Repeat this process for the base of the model, leaving a gap in the stitching to accommodate a pole if you're using one.
If using a stand, push a pole into the hole at the base of the model
Notes: If you can't find the right kind of polishing cloth, there are instructions for an alternative cover at www.dominicancooking.com/9331-making-a-cover-for-...
For a stand, I used a cardboard tube and a weighted base that I found at my local makerspace. If you don't have something suitable, you could try www.instructables.com/id/Parasol-fort-stand/