Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pineapple Log Cabin Block 21 of 36 & Fabulous Fit Dress Form Review, Part 2, & SOMETHING NEW...

King Sized Pineapple Log Cabin Progress: Block 21 of 36
So, back to the paper-pieced pineapple log cabin quilt that I was working on before I was sidetracked by the Christmas caroling costume!  I finished block 21, which means I only have 15 more blocks to go until I have enough for a California King sized bed quilt.  And I'm grateful to have a pretty quilt block to top off this post today, because otherwise I'd have to lead with this one:

Say Hello to Headless Helena!
Ta da!  Let's all extend a warm Southern welcome to my new dress form, Headless Helena.  As you may have read in my last post, I originally ordered a size 10 Studio Dress Form and customizable padding system from Fabulous Fit, but I discovered that although the size 10 dress form's measurements were slightly smaller than mine overall, I was not able to add all of the lumps and bumps that make up my own body shape to the size 10 dress form without making her much too big.  After consulting with Alice at Fabulous Fit, I exchanged the size 10 dress form for a size 6.

I suppose I should have taken a picture of what the size 6 dress form looked like when she arrived, before any padding was added, but I didn't think of it.  Just imagine a headless, limbless, but perky 16-year-old cheerleader, and that's pretty much what a size 6 dress form looks like right out of the box.  (Now is probably a good time to warn readers that this blog post will be talking a lot about Mom Boobs, so if that sort of thing offends you or does not interest you, feel free to stop reading).

Although I ordered my dress form from Fabulous Fit, I should mention that the Fabulous Fit system works with ANY dress form you may already own, provided that your dress form is small enough to match your skeletal frame.  That bears repeating -- with padding, you alter your dress form by adding lumps of flesh like boobs, belly, and badonk-a-donk buttocks...  You can increase her dimensions at any point with padding, but you cannot do anything to make the dress form SMALLER if even one part of her is too big.  My initial mistake in ordering a too-big dress form in the first place happened because I looked only at my full bust, waist, and hip measurements and ordered a dress form one size smaller than the smallest of those measurements.  However, the part of my body that is the smallest is the upper chest area between my bust and shoulders and the size 10 dress form was 2" BIGGER than me in the upper chest.  I also realized that the dress form needed to be MUCH smaller than I am at the bottom in order for me to create the necessary "curves" of my belly and behind and still end up at the correct overall dimensions.

Once I had a size 6 dress form instead of a 10, here's what I did to get a fairly accurate representation of my own size and shape.  I knew I was going to have to add significantly to the bust on my dress form, so I went out to Jo-Ann's and bought several different packages of shoulder pads and bust enhancer pads that I could use in conjunction with the contoured pads that came in the Fabulous Fit kit.  I also purchased about a yard of the thickest polyester quilt batting they had.  As per the Fabulous Fit directions, I started at the top of my dress form, pulling down the tight knit fabric cover over one section of the form at a time, slipping the appropriate contoured pads into position beneath the cover to correct the dimensions and shape where needed. 

Who Knew?!  I Have Trapezius Muscles!!
We did use the Fabulous Fit shoulder pads on the shoulders (to correct the shoulder width and slope), but discovered that we also needed to put some small, thin Dritz shoulder pads at the back of the neck, along with a layer of the poly quilt batting at the base of the neck, to create the shape of what appears to be trapezius muscles at the back of my shoulders.  (I know, right?  How did I get muscles THERE?!  Must be from hours hunched over my sewing machine, free-motion quilting...). 

Wacoal 851205
My upper chest measures 33 1/2" and the size 6 dress form measured 33 5/8" in the upper chest, so no additional padding was needed there.  But Helena's bust was 4" too small at 34" instead of 38", and she obviously has not breastfed any children and/or she is somehow exempt from the laws of gravity because her boobs were also up too high.  In order to afflict her with Mom Boobs like mine, the dress form's boobs had to be kind of hanging off just BELOW the original bust point on the dress form.  We were having a VERY hard time getting the correct assortment of pads into the right shape and into position, and then they would slide out of place and look like alien boobs as soon as we pulled the cover down over the pads.  Finally, I decided to sacrifice a brand-new bra (Wacoal Halo Lace, Style 851205) that fits me perfectly, and that made everything so much easier.  Duh, right?  I mean, my own boobs require the magic of underwires and lots of heavy-duty elastic to stay up there where they belong, and unlike Helena's padding, my boobs are actually attached to my body! Once we put the bra on the dress form, and with the straps and back hooks adjusted exactly to fit my body, it was so much easier to create the correct bust shape on the dress form -- and the bra held everything in place on the dress form, just like it does on my body.  I'm going to wear a bra just like this one under any clothing I make for myself, so the $48 bra was a worthwhile sacrifice to get a good fit through the bust and upper shoulders.

The Fabulous Fit kit comes with one set of breast pads, which are shaped like this:
Fabulous Fit Contoured Breast Pads
Alice at Fabulous Fit had sent me an extra pair of breast pads when I went down to the size 6 dress form, but I ended up only using one set of their breast pads because they didn't stack well and they created a weird double ridge at the side when I tried to use two of them.  I really liked the way the breast pads create a smooth, even curve on the outside of the dress form, but I needed to use an assortment of different pads under the Fabulous Fit breast pads in order to fill in the space below the dress form's higher bust line.  Each of Helena's boobs is "built" from one Fabulous Fit contoured breast pad, one Fabulous Fit additional contour pad (shaped like an eye), one Dritz Tear Drop Shape Enhancer pad, and one Dritz Push Up Bust Enhancer pad.  (The Dritz Covered Set-In Shoulder pads in the photo below were used to give Helena her trapezius muscles at the back of her neck).

Additional Pads Used
So, a combination of four different pads to create each boob on the dress form -- no way would they stay in place when I pulled down the cover if they weren't trapped in position by the brassiere!  An added benefit of putting one of my own favorite bras on Helena is that now, even if I'm sewing in my pajamas, I can tell on Helena whether a neckline needs to be raised or a boatneck needs to be adjusted to prevent my bra from peeking out when I wear the finished garment.  Although you can't see it well in the photos, it is very easy to feel the edges of the bra through the cloth cover on the dress form.

Helena With Matching Mom Boobs
My upper chest is the ONLY part of my body that is even remotely a size 6, so everywhere else on the dress form needed padding.  I used a layer of the thick poly quilt batting that extended from just below the bra band in the front all the way to the bottom of the dress form.  The batting extends around to the back of the dress form on the sides, but although we needed to have a layer of padding on Helena's back, we had to cut the batting away from the small of her back and her derriere.  The waistband of my store-bought jeans and pants always gaps at the back of my waist, and I wanted to recreate that hollow on the dress form so that my ME-made clothes will hopefully fit better in that area.  Finally, I had to use not one but TWO of these Fabulous Fit Stomach Pads to create the correct amount of abdominal childbirth wreckage on Helena:

Fabulous Fit Stomach Pad
Helena's Two-Pad Tummy
Technically, you only get one stomach pad in the fitting kit, but they are identical to the Side Back pads (used to erase or reposition the waistline) and my dress form didn't need padding there.  I should note that these contoured stomach pads were placed BELOW the layer of quilt padding on my dress form, too.  They don't stack well and I had to offset them slightly, which would have created a double bump effect if the pads weren't placed beneath the batting.  Another reason I was glad that my dress form started out so much smaller than me!

Fabulous Fit "Back Hip" Pads
Last but not least, Miss Headless Helena needed butt pads.  Dress forms are so ridiculous, really, with their pancake flat tummies and behinds.  Who looks like that who isn't wearing Spanx, anyway?  The Fabulous Fit butt pads are euphemistically named Back Hip pads, as in Baby's Got Back Hip, and I'm All About That Back Hip...  They do a pretty good job of creating a more realistic tush on a flat dress form.  I didn't go nuts with trying to recreate the exact size and shape of my behind on the dress form, we just positioned the butt cheeks in approximately the right position, did a final check on the measurements, and then pulled the cover down the rest of the way.  I ended up using straight pins (the kinds with the large, round heads) sparingly to secure the stomach and butt pads in place so they wouldn't move when the cover was pulled down.  Definitely recommend the pins!

Headless Helena, Rear View
Now the Fabulous Fit system comes with TWO tightly fitting knit fabric covers.  The first cover has side seams, and that's the one you are gradually pulling down over the dress form, slipping the pads underneath as you go.  The second cover has a tight-fitting turtleneck and princess seams, and that cover goes on top at the end to smooth everything out.  I definitely needed to use the second cover since I had polyester quilt batting puffing up at the back of my dress form's neck, but I discovered that since the princess seamed cover wasn't custom made to match my curves, it was pulling straight from shoulder to full bust and from full bust to waist, enlarging the upper chest and below bust areas.  Okay for loose fitting garments, I suppose, but the whole point of this adventure was to match the dress form as closely as possible to my shape so I could use it to sew some fitted dresses and blouses.  My final tweak was to use more of my round-headed straight pins to pull the cover in close to the dress form above and below the bust line, as well as in the small of her back.  Those were the places where the second cover wasn't fitting close to the dress form.  Now, could I have altered that cover to make it fit, or made a new, custom cover that fit the adjusted shape of Helena better?  Yes, but then it would have been difficult to get the cover on the dress form unless I put in a zipper...  and how much time do I really want to spend on this?  The pins do what I need them to do.  I'm also aware of the fact that, if I have any weight changes or changes in the distribution of my lumps and bumps over time, I'm going to have to take that cover off and make the necessary adjustments to my dress form all over again.

Headless Helena, Ready to Sew
And so, my final word on the Fabulous Fit dress form and fitting system: It's a keeper.  I suggest allowing PLENTY of time to customize your dress form and enlisting the assistance of kind, honest friends.  My husband was helping me initially, but when he lost patience with the process my mom stepped in to help me finish the job.  Yes, you start by taking a comprehensive set of body measurements, but a lot of this is subjective eyeballing, especially when you are trying to figure out whether padding needs to be added all in front, all in back, or all the way around the dress form.  I did not personally put most of the pads on Helena, instead, I stood next to Helena in my underwear while my helper positioned the pads on the dress form to match the lumps and bumps on me.  In addition to the Fabulous Fit pads, the Dritz shoulder and bust pads, and the straight pins, I recommend a bottle of good wine and a box of Kleenex as essential tools for completing this process successfully.  The wine helps you keep your sense of humor, and helps you to stay warm while you're standing there shivering in your underwear for hours.  And the Kleenex is because once a dress form is customized to show EVERY BUMP AND LUMP ON YOUR BODY, it can be a little bit depressing -- especially since the dress form starts out with a perfect figure right out of the box.  I can't bring myself to post the pictures I took of my dress form that were from unflattering angles...  ;-)

NEW fabric, Prewashed and Ready to Iron

And now, as a reward to myself for all of this self-inflicted suffering and angst, I bought a bunch of cheerful fabric for my 1930's Farmer's Wife quilt blocks (YES, I am starting a new project and NO, I haven't finished any of my other quilts yet, thank you very much).

I'm still loving my paper-pieced pineapple log cabin quilt, but those blocks get monotonous to piece one after another, 97 fabric strips per block, and I need to sprinkle in some variety.  With the Farmer's Wife sampler quilt, I plan to explore more paper piecing as well as using templates rather than rotary cutting.

Choosing Fabrics for First Farmer's Wife Quilt Blocks!
The first block in the book is Addie, and I'm going to use templates for that one and will probably select coordinating fabrics to go with either the pink or the green version of the Tula Pink damask pattern (not both).  The second block is on the right, Aimee, and I'm going to paper piece that one with the Allison Harris Cluck Cluck Sew floral print, the striated blue fabric, and the solid black. 

That's what I was up to on Superbowl Sunday! 

I'm linking up with Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times, Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, and Design Board Monday at Bits 'n Bobs. 


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

you must really want to make custom dresses to go through all this hassle - but then I do not dress up so I'm easy - I get jeans and t's etc., a skirt here and there when I need them or a pair of dress pants. Good luck in your endeavor! Love the pineapple block

SJSM said...

Nice synopsis on making your dress form match you. You will value Headless Helena as you develope your me made clothes. She will cut the time in your muslin stages of garments down as you will see your body variations from patterns quickly. Once you figure out your body variations and how to alter for your body, you will breeze through making t-shirts and simple garments. You will find once the basics are understood you will make customized and couture inspired changes that will be better made and unique to anything you could afford in a store.

I'm loving your pineapple blocks. That will be a Cal King quilt to enjoy for many years.

Happy sewing!!

(From the Silicon Valley where the Super Bowl noise was quite impressive.)

Jenny K. Lyon said...

I'm impressed with your time and patience! I too have a fabulous fit dress form and I have never taken the time to pad her up. I'm now inspired to give it a try - thank you!

Marti said...

I've never heard of that dress form company, but then I seldom sew clothing because I'm so bad at it. But I think it could help even me. Thank you for such a good look at it and what you did to make it work. I'd probably order a size too big also if I hadn't read this.

Your pineapple block is fantastic! Are they 1/2 inch completed strips?

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

I no longer make my own clothes, but wow I'm impressed! I feel like I'm watching Project Runway. I'm a quilter so I came here from Design Board Monday because of the pineapple block, which is awesome. But I'm leaving with a whole new appreciation for custom clothing. Good luck with the Farmer's Wife blocks...your fabrics so far are fab!

Cathy said...

I love the pineapple block. Congrats on getting the dress form right. I can imagine what kind of emotional toll that takes. *hugs*

Cath said...

I love the pineapple colourful! I have never been much good at making clothes....but maybe because I never had a dress form! You have so much patience to get it right...I hope it pays off. Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Marti. When I measure the finished strip sizes on my pineapple log cabin block, they measure just UNDER 3/4" FW -- sort of in between 5/8" and 3/4". I'm using a foundation pattern that is a free Fons & Porter download that you can get here:

This particular pineapple log cabin pattern was designed to replicate an antique quilt in the International Quilt Study museum, so that's probably the reason behind the odd size for the finished patches. Perhaps the original quilt started out with 3/4" finished strips that shrank a bit over time?

Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts said...

*Love* the pineapple log cabin block! This is a block I can see myself trying, just maybe not enough for a king size quilt. :) Thanks for the info on the dress form. It was interesting to me to read about how to make the form fit your individual body shape. I had never thought of it being that much work. Sounds like it requires a lot of patience - congrats on getting it done! Thanks for linking to MCM!

Chris said...

And that is exactly why I gave up dress making and turned to quilting. Although some days it is a challenge to sew a straight line.