Mannequin Makeover

Last winter I had big plans to take an old dress form and upcycle it with evergreen boughs, tinsel, lights, beads and more and then put it on my front porch as my Christmas decoration for the season.  But first I had bought a large 15″ paper mache mannequin from Hobby Lobby thinking I would use it as a sort of test run for the larger full-sized dress form.

And then I slipped on some ice and broke my left shoulder.  Slight change in plans.

I recently made a custom order (in my online Etsy shop Old Raven) for a woman who wanted a Tim Holtz Eclectic Elements bag (see my previous post “the Perfect Purse”).  In fact, I actually made two of those purses, one for the special order and one for new shop stock.   As anyone who sews knows, you always wind up with a fair amount of fabric scraps from any project and though we usually save them, how many times do we actually find a use for them?  With Tim’s fabric, however, I frequently use those scraps because this fabric is a “Vintage, Distressed, Mixed Media” artists dream supplies.  So when I gathered up a fair mound of Eclectic Elements scraps I knew just what I was going to do with them.  I wanted to make a dress form using lots of Tim Holtz goodies.


First, I was going to need something that could be the “legs” or the base for my dress form and it needed to be fairly hefty as it would be the steadying weight for the practically weightless and unstable dress form. Being a dedicated (okay, compulsive) Thrift Store shopper I had a large carved wooden candle holder that I had upcycled as a plant stand.  So the plant finds a new home and now I have the stand for my paper mache dress form.  I also had a ball finial that I got from who knows where but it’s going to make the perfect “head” for this piece.

Since that base, dress form and ball finial together now went up over two feet tall I decided to attach the dress form to the wood base with a large Velcro patch.  This way when I go to ship my final creation I can separate it into two sections which should make shipping this considerably easier and hopefully less expensive, too.


Whew!  Right at 32″ – this is going to be an impressively large piece!


I have drawers full of old lace, so I just started cutting pieces and tacking them on with masking tape.  It didn’t take long to realize that the lace was just going to hang limply – ugh.  Oh yeah, forget the chicken wire on there, it was an idea about a bustle/panniers that didn’t work on this piece – but you don’t know until you try – right?


So I found a roll of perforated metal hanger strap (yes, anything and everything is craft material to me), and attached four lengths of 1/4″ black ribbon and tied the other ends to a strip of lacing and I now have a hoop skirt support.



This gave me just the right amount of flare in the skirt I was looking for.


Out comes the glue gun.  I alternated cutting the ends of the lace in points and inverted “v”s as I wanted the skirt to look a bit ragged.


I chose to use one fabric pattern per layer.  I didn’t like the look when I just cut the strips but when I tore them I got a nice shaggy edge with some body – yes!


I also varied the length from one fabric layer to the next, shortening the length as I came to the top layer.  I wanted the lace petticoat to show through so I decided to stop adding Eclectic Elements layers here, but I could easily see a thick frothy skirt continuing on, also. Personal preference will tell you when to stop.


On the edge of Tim’s (and pretty much everyone else) fabric is the name and item number information as well as the color/dye dots.  I always find these edge pieces interesting and artful in themselves but this is the first time I actually worked them into a project.  Just like coloring some of Tim’s ribbon, I used the same technique to stain this edge strip.  Note the pattern name on this edge strip: Wallflower.  What a perfect name for this piece of art.


Now for the bodice.  I watered down some  Matte ModPodge (about 4 to 1 glue to water ratio) and brushed on glue to the back of the fabric then pressing the bottom edge of the fabric strip next to the waist I just stroked it on up with the glue brush and when I got to the top/shoulder edge, I simply cut it off to match the line of the shoulder.  This is one of those moments that Tim’s always talking about – don’t over think it, just do it.  If you want a more random layering look then don’t layer in just one direction.



My apologies, as usual I got into my project and forgot about taking the pictures, so let’s get caught up.




I cut a wedge of lace that had a pretty pattern wove into it and once I was sure it would fit in the bodice opening I took a few bottles of Distress Stain and simply colored in the areas to my liking.  This is when I also added the fabric edging to make a waste band out of it.  Another piece of lace helped to cover up the area where the bottom of the waste band and the tops of the skirt strips still looked a bit ragged.  This lace had a number of positives going for it: it had nice swoops that cover a lot of the messy area I just mentioned but it also had little eyelets in it that worked perfectly for me to add extra Ideaology goodies.  But first, this was just plain white lace but Distress Stains gave it the right colors to fit in.  Note:  if your stain comes out a bit too rich blot the item you’re coloring with a paper towel or if you want to take a lot of color back off then use a damp (not dripping) cloth rag and blot till you get what you want.  Remember, things will always dry out a bit lighter than they were when they were wet.


A little closer look at all the things I hung off the lace with the eye holes.  It came out sort of like a “Chatelaine:  a set of short chains attached to a woman’s belt, used for carrying keys or other items.”   I really used up a pile of my Tim Holtz stash but I love how it came out. The Swivel Clasps come in two different sizes and three colors, so I just alternated them all around the waist, picked what I wanted hanging off them by colors, shape and size so that nothing lines up too evenly.  This is one decked out lady.  There’s even some of the new Tim Holtz Assemblage jewelry pieces in there.


Next, I made up a couple of sets of gears from Tim’s Sizzix Bigz Die Gadget Gears and painted them with Distress Paints.


A few layers later…


I also added some of his Ideaology gears and a few from some other companies (sorry, Tim, I know you’ll understand).


Of course I couldn’t do any of this without proper supervision.  My kitty, Smokey, sees to that chore, although I don’t know why she didn’t remind me to take pictures of each and every step.  Sleeping on the job I suspect.


Back to work for some of us…




I’m very pleased with how the gears came out – the arm areas looked way to naked without something there.


So did you notice the pile of Tim’s Heirloom Roses above, next to the gears?  I love these little roses and have used them in many projects.  This is the first time I tried alcohol inks to color them, though.


I just put a drop of ink straight into the center and let it spread…


then used a stencil brush to poke it into the folds evenly and don’t forget to do the underneath/outsides of the petals.


Then I put a little squirt of pink on a pad and tapped the edges – pretty, huh?


I made enough, in graduating sizes, to do the whole neckline.  I attached them with my hot glue gun.  By the way, see that long coil of glue stick – these are so handy because you don’t have to stop what your doing and plug in another stick all the time.  I LOVE these glue coils and I know Hobby Lobby carries them, maybe Michael’s, too.


Starting with the smallest roses, I just started moving evenly up the neckline and around to the back and covering up the “raw” edges of her dress as I went.



But that bare wood ball for the head was starting to bug me.


I just watered down a bit of Walnut Stain Paint and gave the ball a quick brushing of thinned paint.  Later I’ll spritz it with three different colors of Distress Spray Stain.


The roses seemed to stick out too far for them to just be the edging of a dress so I decided to turn them into part of a necklace.  Some ball chains and a Word Band will do the trick.


Now it’s all starting to come together.  But the bodice has acquired a more Vintage patina thanks to rubbing the entire area with a sponge covered in ink from a Walnut Stain Ink Pad.  But how do I bring all those strips of fabric in the skirt to the same hue?


Distress Spray Stains, of course.  I used three colors: Pumice Stone, Walnut Stain and Antique Linen.  I just wrapped cling plastic around the bodice from the waist band up and then sprayed the entire skirt area with water until it was fairly damp.  Then I lightly spritzed the three stains on until I felt the top and bottom of this piece were approximately the same tone of Vintage.  And that’s pretty much it, folks.

I had so much fun playing with this project and I’m really pleased with how she came out.  My “Wallflower” might be a bit tattered and her dress is stained and torn, but she’s still beautiful to me.





So with a coupon, you could get your own paper mache dress form for about $9, or maybe you’ve already got one just collecting dust in your craft room?

Come on – go for it.  Let’s see what your Wallflower will come out like.

Now – craft on!



4 thoughts on “Mannequin Makeover

  1. Thanks T, the cat is a fairly new addition to our family. We adopted her at 10 months, worrying a bit about how she and our 6 year old 1/2 German shepherd 1/2 Australian shepherd (very spoiled) dog (Bella) would get along. No worries, they bonded instantly, the house is their own private racetrack and I’ve no idea how I managed to create without Smokey’s supervision. Life is good.


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