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A review of the Tailor’s Friend dress form from Figure Forms.

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I am incredibly lucky to receive some wonderful work opportunities through writing this sewing blog, and a few months ago I was contacted by Figure Forms of Cape Town who told me all about their dressmaking mannequin business and in particular the Tailor’s Friend.

A hugely important piece of equipment for any dressmaker, whether you are a professional seamstress or someone who is sewing purely for pleasure, is a dress form. I am looking forward to sharing with you today some details and features of the beautiful model that was sent to me, and have enjoyed giving it a thorough testing over the past few weeks.

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So firstly let me tell you a little about Figure Forms. They are a family owned business, established back in 1989, based in South Africa. They specialise in industrial/professional forms used by clothing retailers and manufacturers using industry standard measurements, and it is interesting to see that the more advanced models have been developed from anthropometric size surveys and even using casts from live fit models to ensure more realistic body shapes, proportions and anatomical details. So interesting and very impressive! All the models are hand produced by a small team of employees and the focus is very much on quality rather than quantity.

They have over 200 models that they can produce ranging from infants, children, teen, male and female forms right through to plus size adults.

O.k, so back to the Tailor’s Friend. At the time of writing any orders that are sent out to the U.K are dispatched directly from the factory in South Africa, and mine arrived in a little over 2 weeks. It was incredibly well packaged with cardboard and bubble wrap ensuring that the contents were well protected in transit and arrived in perfect condition.

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Assembling the mannequin was very quick and easy. It has a strong steel tripod base which the dummy itself slots into and the height is easily adjustable. So I would mention that it is fairly heavy but this is to be expected with steel fittings and you cannot argue with the strength and stability that this gives! I can see how years of providing to the retail market has meant that Figure Forms have developed sturdy equipment that is often used in a busy retail or manufacturing environment.

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How pretty is the beige fabric colour that I chose? Other colours are available and you  have the choice to select from black, red, pink or grey. The Tailor’s friend is currently available in 4 sizes – 8/32, 10/34, 12/36 and 14/38.

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The fabric finish (nylon elastane) provides a ‘frictionless’ surface, limiting the amount of drag on a fitted garment and replicates how the fabric would feel against the human skin. The body is made from rigid polyurethane, it is fully pinnable and I have found this particularly useful recently for button placements and also on the occasions that I pin my paper pattern pieces to the form. It is worth mentioning that although I have only been using this dress form for a short while, the pins when removed have not damaged the fabric surface of the mannequin.

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Over the last few weeks I have been able to test it using a number of different fabrics including crepe, gabardine, viscose and scuba. The crepe and viscose slide over the dress form easily, as does the scuba (which surprised me), and the gabardine has a little friction resistance, but nothing too drastic.

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Amongst some of the fabrics tested are from top left: crepe, scuba, gabardine and viscose.

The size of the mannequins are not adjustable. As someone who is prone to regular weight gains and losses I did have concerns as to whether a non-adjustable dress form would work for me, as an ‘at home’ seamstress. A pattern maker or designer will  create their basic block patterns with a core size and grade up and down to achieve different sizes, incorporating ease into the fit and allowing for the fabric types and style of the garment etc. So whilst I can see that this set size is perfect for the retail and design market, I have now had the chance to consider how it fits into the ‘at home’ sewing situation. Whilst our measurements can fluctuate all the time I can see that the dress form can be useful as an approximate guide to your size, and is great when being used to design, pin and drape the garment. I know that before I hem an item I will always let it hang for at least 24 hrs and the difference between doing this on a 3-D dress form and a regular narrow clothes hanger is incredible.

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With orders currently being shipped individually from South Africa, the cost of delivery must be taken into consideration and you will find an excellent customer service team  on hand at Figure Forms if you would like to discuss what these costs are likely to be, whether you are an individual customer or if you are considering larger order numbers.  I believe that retail outlets in the U.K are currently being sourced so that hopefully in the future they will become available to purchase in the U.K without the overseas postal costs.

I have been very impressed by the quality of this dress form, and have thoroughly enjoyed spending the last few weeks with this beautiful lady by my side in my sewing room. I have definitely got over my initial concerns about the fact that she was not adjustable and have found that on a day to day basis I am using her for everything that I need. I also think that she looks rather lovely at the same time!

As mentioned at the start, this dress form was kindly sent to me by Figure Forms for review. The thoughts and opinions shared in this blog post are solely my own.

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Take care, and I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x

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A ‘first impressions’ review of my new Adjustoform dress form.

As a dressmaker, a crucial part of my sewing equipment is my dress form. Up until now I have been using a very old and battered dress form which came to me in fairly bad condition, second hand, several years ago. She has served me well over the years but recently decided that enough was enough and refused to stand up any more despite several repairs to the legs.

As somebody that spends time sewing in one form or another most days, I missed her tremendously. I hadn’t quite realised how much I relied on her until she was finally unusable. You can imagine my relief when Adjustoform came to the rescue and very generously provided me with a beautiful new model  to use and review. The following is my entirely honest thoughts on her construction, set up and features.

The model I have is the Action Form in a glorious purple colour. It arrived very well packed in a large box. For those interested the box dimensions were

  • Height 79cm
  • Width 38cm
  • Depth 27cm

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Inside the box were all the parts required to quickly and easily assemble it along with a simple instruction sheet and a booklet describing how to get the best out of your dressmaking model.

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To assemble the stand it was just a case of simply slotting in the four feet to the bottom of the stand. Nice and simple. The stand feels strong and sturdy.

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Then you can just pop the body onto the post and secure by tightening the adjustable screws. (By hand – no tools required).

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Isn’t she beautiful! Front and back.

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She is an adjustable 8 part dummy, so after this basic set up you can adjust her to replicate your measurements. To do this you alter the 3 dials and 9 adjusting thumb wheels to give you an exact fit. In addition to this she has an easily adjustable back/waist length as well as the opportunity to adjust the neck. All incredibly simple to do.

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better side shot

Finally adjust the height to match your height and hey presto! you are good to go!

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She is covered with a nylon, foam backed fabric to allow for easy pinning and has a handy little pin cushion at the top!

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By far my favourite feature of this beauty though is the hem marker with basting attachment. This feature had always been broken on my last old model and boy! is this a useful gadget to have.

Simply decide what hem length you need and open and attach the fixation clip on the hem at that point, slide the pin through the pin guide and when you remove the fixation clip your pin is magically in place on the garment exactly where you want it! Repeat at regular intervals and there you have a perfectly level hem marked out! Genius! I now have level hems on my handmade garments for the first time ever!!

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My new sewing assistant is already a firm favourite of mine. Although I have not had her for very long, I have used her to help me make 5 tops and 3 dresses so far. One of the dresses I recently made has a lined bodice and the dress form was so useful in pinning the lining in place (whilst the garment was inside out), without it pulling at any point. I also think with any dress it is good to let it hang on a dress form for 24 hours before hemming it. This is especially important of course with skirts/dresses cut on the bias or when using knit fabrics, simply hanging on a hanger will not give you the same result.

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Almost finished – just hem and sleeves to go!

The dress form enables me to check on my dart placements now without having to repeatedly try the garment on. Pockets and buttonholes can be checked on the dress form now in the same way without me having to try it on several times.

I am also looking forward to making up new patterns that I have not sewn before as it will be easy to fit and adjust a paper pattern on the dress form to try to work out some of the potential fitting issues before I cut into the fabric.

Although I have only used it for a few weeks and therefore can only review this on the short time I have owned it, I am thrilled to bits with it. It is, in my opinion, one of the most useful items in my dressmaking kit, and I do not want to be without one again! This model does everything I need it to – and more, and is simple to set up and use straight away. You will be seeing a great deal of her in my future makes, and I will continue to share with you any info on the model as and when I think you could find it useful.

This particular dress form is just right for me, it would be perfect for a beginner seamstress right through to the more experienced sewist, and it could just be the perfect Christmas gift don’t you think?

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This gives you a idea of what the dress form looks like when used for sewing a top

Adjustoform have a small range that you can purchase on their website – alternatively you can also search their website for local suppliers here. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure I’ve seen several types of Adjustoform models in the John Lewis haberdashery departments too.

A huge thank you once again to Adjustoform for sending me my new best sewing buddy. I’m in love ..

Do you have an Adjustoform that you couldn’t be without? Which type do you use? Is an Adjustoform on your wish list this Christmas? Do let me know your thoughts, I love to hear from you.

Take care, I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x

Thought you might like to see the sorry state of my old girl! ….

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A Lovely Day out at the Leicester Dressmakers Meet-Up

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I was so chuffed when I heard that Sarah and Freya from Crafty Sew and So in Leicester were going to arrange a meet-up, I have been counting the sleeps! Leicester is my home turf so naturally I was all over it.

The day started with an informal gathering at Kai Kitchen Cafe in St Martins Square. This is very conveniently situated just over the way from the Crafty Sew and So shop. I’ll be honest, this was the most difficult and nerve wracking part of the day for me as I’m pretty shy, and walking through the door to meet a group of strangers was a little difficult for me to say the least.

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However I was very warmly greeted by Freya, and a large gathering of very friendly sewists, many of whom were also there on their own, and before long the room was buzzing with laughter and excited conversations. It was the perfect opportunity to break the ice and get to know some very lovely people. Delicious food and drinks were consumed, and after an hour or so we were ready to hit the fabric shops.

The weather was a little cold unfortunately, but never mind at least the rain held off. We headed off and were first shown The City Rooms where the upcoming Dressmakers Ball will be held in May. From there it is just a short walk to the market where our shopping began.

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Stuart’s Fabrics in Leicester market
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Ash Fabrics in Leicester market

Time to move on, and next we were taken through to Odeon Arcade which is the home to  Material Magic. Lots more purchases were made before wandering over to a lovely little haberdashery shop called Button Boutique, in Malcolm Arcade. This really is a great place to stock up on all your sewing notions and it has the best choice of loose buttons of anywhere I know.dressmakers-meetup-5

Finally it was time to move on and walk back round to St Martins Square and the warmth of the Crafty Sew and So shop. We were welcomed with tea and very delicious looking home made cakes (what a shame I’m on a diet), and given the chance to take advantage of a generous discount off all items in store.

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Such a welcoming window display

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This place really is a little Aladdin’s Cave of all things sewing. An extensive range of sewing supplies, fabulous range of independent sewing patterns, fabrics, machines, fabrics and a sewing workshop to boot. The team there were friendly and helpful and it really was a pleasant way to spend some time with your friends.

A little while later and it was time to gather to enjoy a talk by Charlotte from https://englishgirlathome.com/ What a delight! This was an informative and funny talk through the world of blogging and vlogging from Charlotte’s perspective and I really enjoyed it.

I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. Many thanks to Sarah, Freya and all the team involved with arranging this get together. I was so happy to meet up with so many like-minded sewists and have the opportunity to chat about sewing to our hearts content all afternoon!

I may have made a few cheeky purchases, none of them needed of course, but, well you know…dressmakers-meetup-8

Thanks to all for a very lovely Saturday.

Take care, and I’ll be back soon.

Kathy x

 

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