How to make your own mannequin

I have been knitting for my shop and I realised that I needed a model who would stay still for long periods of time, work in any space and weather conditions and didn’t need paying. Someone suggested a taylor’s mannequin, but I don’t know anybody who has one I could readily access. Buying one was an option, but internet shopping has that pesky wait for delivery.

So I made my own. I used an old t-shirt, an old bikini bra top, a coat hanger and some leftover wool batting I had hidden away.

First, I sewed the armholes of the t-shirt shut, then put the coat hanger in the neck opening and sewed the neck shut around the hanger. I had a t-shirt that had a low cut split neckline, which when sewed created a line down what my mannequin would call her cleavage. When stuffed, this line helped define a bust. This line could be achieved in a high neckline by sewing a pleat where you’d like the cleavage line to be.

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Despite this line, she needed more support – the fabric was very elastic – so I used an old bra from a bikini to define her shape more sharply. I then stuffed until she had the bust and waist measurements I wanted.

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Then, I tied the bottom shut with a ribbon. If I ever want to model bigger, smaller or differently proportioned clothes, I can just undo this ribbon and alter the stuffing accordingly. This feels like an advantage over a store bought mannequin, it can be personalised to the exact proportions you want very easily.

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Finally, I put a nice shirt on her – a turtle neck hides the neckline stitching perfectly – and pinned it into a good fit. Et voila, a model who will never mind being dangled precariously from a branch for a photoshoot in deepest winter, and is easily stored in the wardrobe.

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To make men’s or children’s versions of this mannequin, you just leave out the bust defining stitching and use the appropriate size and style of shirt. For the stuffing you could use anything: plastic bags, tissue paper, the innards of an old pillow, or even a towel. The more your stuffing material is like commercial toy stuffing, though, the easier it will be to get a smooth, less lumpy surface.

And here she is, modelling like a pro:

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