form before function.

I can already see that this is going to be a harder task than I originally envisioned. The blogging, that is. Not the crafts. All the free time in the world at the moment and I look at cat videos and knit.

Anyway. So I have this sister-in-law who is pretty brilliant at balancing work, raising three kids and finding amazing deals at junk shops. Oh, and she farms and cans all her own fruits and vegetables. She gets down with some Suzie Homemaker shit like no one I’ve ever met. So last year, at a garage/church/estate sale of some type, she happened to stumble upon this strange beauty:

Before. Totally before. After, however, the kitten learned to climb it.

It’s a vintage dress form, exactly what I had been looking for. And I’m pretty sure she got it for a buck.

Trent and I happen to like to punish ourselves by collecting things in many states of disrepair and decay that we ultimately find will take more time and money to fix than just buying new in the first place. That made this dress form even more perfect. It’s from the 1940’s-50’s, Fairloom brand produced by Sears, somewhat common to find on eBay and shopgoodwill.

Despite the fact that it kind of looks like hell in this photo, it was structurally pretty sound. These old dress forms are fully adjustable using wing nuts inside the form itself. I’ve discovered that it’s impossible to set it correctly, but it was still in pretty much perfect condition inside. The cardboard wasn’t even too torn up. The outside, however, was another story entirely, which you can see in these photos:


(Admittedly, the big wound on her hip came after I received it. This past Christmas, I made Peggy [I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men. I had to name her something] into our Christmas tree. Garland, dangly balls, twinkly lights, the whole festive nine yards. One night during a round of my kitten’s favorite party game, “Maximum Insane Time,” Peggy was climbed like a tree, resulting in the big tear. )

So just a couple of weeks ago I finally decided to shop for some fabric and get around to recovering her. It was the first step in my master plan for doing more real sewing and designing in the coming year.

I only remembered to take photos toward the end of the project, unfortunately, so I don’t have much of the actual de- and reconstruction. I took the whole thing apart in segments, labeling each piece as I took it off. It was pretty simple to take it all apart, it was way more time-consuming to take all the fabric off the pieces. The glue is hard and ancient and makes your fingertips hurt, but I didn’t want to use any tools and cut up the cardboard too badly.

Anyway, once all the original fabric was removed, it became a matter of just hot gluing the new fabric onto the underside. As any self-respecting crafter who’s had a couple of beers while working with a glue gun, I burned myself. Once I had all the pieces recovered, I put the thing back together in hemispheres:

I had a bit of an internal struggle when deciding what kind of fabric to use. The original fabric was a very thin cotton jersey and I wanted to stick to jersey for it’s stretchy-ness, but I thought I should go with something a smidge heavier to help it face off against the cat (who’s bigger now but still a maniac). In JoAnn’s, I happened to find this really perfect 50’s-inspired polka dot print and a contrasting yellow and had a handful of coupons so I got it for a steal. All told, between fabric, replacing some inner hardware and the form itself, this project has cost less than $20.

A shot couple of inside shots and hardware:

Damn, Peggy, have some couth.

You can see a bit in the shot above that I left the the original paint untouched. Once I had finished it, I really liked the look of the distressed blue base against the bright and shiny top. I also took the original “Fairloom” label off the front and reattached it.

Alright, so finally, here are the finished pics. More are totally available, leave a message if you want to see what my hot glue gun blister looked like.

Hello, Sassy Peggy.

"I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana"

Phew. Well that’s all for now.

Next week (after I register my motorcycle, make it run like a dream [no pun intended] and start back to work)  I’ll be back on here to start my big year-long project: I am going to make from scratch one sewing project per week, with tutorials and references where possible. Here’s hoping.



Filed under refinished & reloved

13 responses to “form before function.

  1. Janine

    Lil Sis…I love it!!! You did an awesome job. Still got that blister?

  2. Good luck! It will be tough, but I bet you can do it. I’m told weekly–sometimes daily–that I should begin a blog. That you’re doing it makes you a motivated go-getter. Please keep up the puns and rockin’ those captions.

  3. Peggy looks great! The one craft project a week is a great idea. Have you heard about the girl who got old clothing, mostly dresses, from Goodwill and reinvented and redesigned a totally new outfit each and every day for a year? She has a blog too but I can’t think of her name. I’ll let you know if I find it.

  4. I agree with you about the time thing–I’m good with the actual cooking. It’s the blogging part that I always take a while to get to.

  5. p.s. lol@yinzerella… awesome name

  6. Thank you, cows! Team Yinzerella—fantasy football since 2006. Blog since 2011.

  7. Awesome stuff, Laura! Love the name too! You’ll have to teach me how to follow through on actually completing crafts…I am so bad about collecting bits and pieces and never actually seeing it through to the end. Anyway, I’m left yearning for more Craft Knack and Cheese. lol 🙂

  8. diane good

    Where you ever able to adjust it to the right size as I am buying one like and would like to know if it stays where you adjust it to? thanks Di

    • It totally stays where I adjust it, but I did have to buy some new hardware (it was missing a handful of the wing-nuts/bolts) for the inside. The original adjustment is VERY tricky, though, so I’m fortunate that my proportions are pretty close the that of the form.

      Hope it turns out great! If you send some photos along, I’ll share them on the blog!

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