Each month I hope to add a new Mini project article , hopefully offering a new challenge or just the thing you were looking to make! I try to mention specialist items as I go along, and contact details for suppliers can be found on the recommended suppliers page.
If you are not keen on sewing but would like to make a sewing scene – then this project is for you! I have created three pieces with neither a needle nor thread needed!
The pieces form the base for a great room scene, but as individual items they can be used in many different ways. The runner rail will work equally well in a shop, dressed with a bridal display. The seamstress would complete a workroom over a dress shop, the dressmakers model could be used as a window display in a fabric shop, as well as in the workroom scenario – the possibilities are endless!
DRESSMAKER AND SEWING MACHINE
I decided to dress up a bought doll as its an inexpensive starting point and its great to fiddle on with something not too costly so you can have a play and not worry about spoiling an expensive doll. (move on to spoiling an expensive doll when you’ve had the practice!)
Choose the doll carefully; start with a basic simply dressed doll. If she has some trimmings on carefully remove them back to just a basic dress. (I find a dressmakers stitch ripper is ideal for this) Add vertical strips of lace down the front then top with a large lace collar round her neck, by gluing small strips of scalloped-edge lace over the neck and around her wrists to make cuffs.
Tuck a couple of pencils in her hair, made from a slither of cocktail stick colored at the tip and down the length with a felt tipped pen. Add a pair of half moon spectacles tucked in her hair at ear height, for her to peer over.
Make a wrist pincushion by crumpling up a piece of paper tissue to a pea-sized lump, and covering it with a piece of fabric, gather it all in on the back and tie off with thread. Cut small pieces from a wire brush bristles (often sold as a suede brush – handy thing to have – lasts for ages if you are a miniaturist!) to make pins and push them into the tissue ball. Glue a narrow strip of braid around one wrist and glue the cushion and pins on to the top of the wrist to conceal the join below. You can make a tape measure from a strip of paper – if you are computer savvy, try printing out a line of letter L (bold) with the letter I between – something like this: liiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiii. (alternatively download and print one – look on the downloads page – I have made a sheet of sewing accessories especially to go with this project)
Glue the doll to her chair or stool. Take a quarter circle of fabric (I have used a matching piece to that used on the tailors dummy), turn under the two straight edges with glue – use a practice piece first to see if the glue will bleed through – if it does try ironing on some dressmaking interfacing first then glue.
Have a practice run for positioning, and then spray the back of the fabric with glue. Drape the fabric over the sewing machine, one of the two edges should slip under the foot of the sewing machine to make it look like it is being sewn, and the other edge should be parallel to the front edge of the sewing table, with just enough overhang to be held in the seamstresses hand.
The fabric hanging over the back of the table can be pinched into natural looking folds and will stay in position due to the spray glue. (If you don’t have or want to use spray glue, pinch and glue each fold individually).
Fix the lady to the sewing machine with one hand flat on the table top near the foot of the sewing machine, with the other holding the overhang in front of her as if she is feeding the dress through.
If you are doing a particularly well with this, try adding a thread on the sewing machine along the top and down to the needle position – it just adds the finishing touch!
Take a quarter circle of fabric, turn under one edge and spray glue the back. Fix the fabric to the shoulder then smooth down the remaining fabric to create natural looking drapes and folds, fix the fabric to the model base to stop the folds flapping around and getting mis-shaped. Take a rectangle of fabric; with the long side of the rectangle long enough to go up the front and down the back of the body form hugging the contours plus a hem allowance. Turn under (with glue) one of the long sides and both short sides. Spray glue the back of the fabric and apply to the body form, start at the bottom, centre front and move up and over the form, pushing the fabric into the shape of the form. Tuck in the open sides to wrap around the body form. If you are careful, with the spray glue on the back you can create pinch pleats to give the illusion of tailoring. Turn under a little at the shoulder to disguise the raw edge, and create some shape. Make a sleeve by taking a small rectangle of fabric and roll it around a pencil to make a tube. Glue the tube onto the model under the shaping created by turning under at the shoulder. Also glue the sleeve to the body at the wrist. Finish the model with a tape measure around the neck (see top picture)
RUNNER RAIL AND DRESSES
Making the the rail is quite tricky – that’s half the fun – and think of your sense of achievement when you’ve made it! I recommend using a gel superglue for a quick bond – because you don’t want to be holding the parts together forever while they set- but be careful with the superglue – or you could really be holding them forever!
1. Remove the mirror section of a brass framed cheval mirror, if it has ball finials like the one above remove them to enable extending the height of the uprights.
2 .Using a cocktail stick, fine dowel or plastic tube (model makers ‘Plastruct’) painted gold, join two pressed metal corner shaped filigrees. (Try ‘Eggers Delight’ for filigrees – see the recommended suppliers section for details)
3. Using fine dowel or Plastruct extend the height of the frame and conceal the join with a soft metal filigree wrapped around it. Then glue on the inverted upper section.
4. When everything is set and secure (and you have unstuck your fingers) add a stained and varnished piece of strip wood for the top shelf (if required).
5 To make a dress for the rail, take a rectangle of fabric and glue on any hemline trimmings, turn over one of the short edges then make a tube with the folded edge covering the other rough short edge.
6. Pinch in and glue some pleats into the top edge of the tube,
7. Glue on some ribbon around the waist, cinching it in slightly, with tails running down the back (The side with the join down its length)
8. take a rectangle of fabric, trim with lace one of the short edges to make cuffs. Turn under one long edge. Make a tube by wrapping the fabric around a pencil and gluing the turned under edge over the rough one.
9. Stick the tubes onto the top of the dress at an angle, but leave a little of the tube open to glue in a coat hanger (Cast metal from Phoenix – See suppliers) add a strip of lace as a matching shawl over the shoulders.
By experimenting with this basic technique you can create several variations on the dress styles – create sleeveless styles with braid glued over the hanger and tucked inside the dress top. And remember to make them look more realistic, glue the arms to the sides of the dress – like real clothes on hangers, and add accessories to the hanging outfit – just like they do in stores today!
I finished the rail with a hat box and pair of fancy shoes – you can make the hatbox from the cutouts sheet available on the downloads page.
Pictured below are two scenes from the Theatre Royal costume department where I used exactly the techniques shown in this mini project to complete the room.
Note the huge runner rail in the background packed with costumes and hats on the top shelf. Plus the additional accesories on the sewing machine, simply wrap coloured thread around cocktail sticks and cut into sections to create bobbins of thread, roll up a tape measure (from the downloads page) and place a pair of scissors next to them.
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