The Sewing Circle: Duct Tape Doubles!

Well, it’s been a lazy summer for me blog-wise. I’ve always reminded myself, “The blog is not work, not work, not work!” And whenever it felt like work, I just skipped it. Partly because, this summer at least, I’ve had a couple of weeks of travelling — o lucky me! — but also, because I’ve been interacting with people a more old-fashioned way … face-to-face.

My Meetup group, The Portland Sewing Circle, started in June. We’ve been growing steadily, but we just got pushed over the edge from “smallish” to “biggish” (by my standards, anyway) by an article in last week’s Oregonian. Who says print is dead?!? We got a wonderful response, with twenty-odd new members in just a few days. Hurray! And our last Saturday meeting, which was already poised to be a big one, was really lively, with twenty-odd participants tearing and taping and making their own Duct Tape Doubles.

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Making one of these babies is a LOT of work, and we teamed up in groups of 3. We were lucky to have quite a few helpers, who weren’t there to get taped but to watch, tape and learn. With their help, we got almost everyone done in time.

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It was fun being surrounded by so many Tin Woods(wo)men! I had handouts and posters, which I hope helped.

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BUT — in my experience, anyway — this first stage in some ways is easier than the next. Yes, friend, now we have to finish
these duct-tape shells into actual working dress forms.

You may be lucky enough to have a definite idea about how to do this. At least 2 Sewing-Circle-ers have old, smaller forms, which they will hand their new ones onto. I think their challenge will be how to stuff the duct tape shell correctly – it’s got to be stuffed firmly to hold its shape – but they’ll have strong, stable bases for their forms. Others might live with experienced handy-man types or be handy enough to figure it all out on their own, following Internet resources or the handout I provided. If you’re stuck, PLEASE COME TO TUESDAY’S MEETING. We can brainstorm specific solutions right there. And if you can’t make it — well, here are some ideas.

Finish 1: Hanging

The easiest thing to do is to give the form a solid base and put a clothes-hanger in the shoulders. This way, the form can be hung up from a hook. It will be easy to put skirts and pants on it, and it’s easily stored in a closet. You can also place the form on a base, like a speaker stand:


$5 – $15 on Craig’s List. You can glue Velcro to the form and the speaker stand for more stability. I like this solution, because it’s fairly easy, and gives you the flexibility to have your form suspended OR on a stand, for fitting pants, skirts AND shirts.

To finish your form this way: start by taping a strong hanger (like a wooden coat hanger) to the shoulders of the form. Reinforce first by duct-taping cardboard pieces or shoulderpads to the hanger and to the form’s shoulders from the inside. You don’t want the shoulders to buckle. Put the hanger in place and tape it solidly to the shoulders from the inside. Then, tape all around the hanger’s hook, building up the neck as much as needed. You might also fill the neck hole with a circle of cardboard, poking the hanger through the middle. Tape it shut, getting a nice circular shape to the neck.

After the neck is done, overlap the back seam and tape it shut. (Compare YOUR measurements and the FORM’s measurements right about now!) Cut the base out of sturdy cardboard or plywood. It’s hard to get this right. Your form will tend to flatten out, and it’s hard to know how deep the base should be. The base should be an oval or lozenge shape– whatever your own cross-section is. You may need very strong scissors, or a utility knife, to get the base flat so the form stands straight up and down.

When the neck is done and the back is taped – stuff, stuff, stuff! (Polyfill, old pillows, plastic bags, or any combination will do. I have no idea about how well expandable foam would work, so I can’t recommend that.) Compare your measurements as you go, if possible, and tighten or loosen at the back seam. Finish off the armholes as you did the neck, with cardboard circles or just duct tape. Stuff from the big hole at the bottom. It will take even more stuffing than you thought possible, but keep going! As it gets fuller, test by pressing all over to see if any part caves in (not too hard, but the form needs to stand up to clothes-fitting). When you have a good balance, put the base in place and tape it in.

Finish the entire form off with a non-stretchy final coat, like clear packing tape, a fitting shell, or with strips of cloth glued in place. You’re done!

Finish 2: Standing

The other way to finish is with a stand. This is a very polished look, but has the drawback that it may be hard to fit pants with such a form. For me, personally, it’s tricky to stuff, as well.

First – find a stand. Microphone stands work well; they cost $15-$20 on Craig’s List; an old floor lamp (as seen on the handout) would work, too. Then, find a piece for a cross-brace. Any scrap of wood should do, as long as it fits across the shoulders neatly from the inside – in other words, if the cross-brace is *just* narrower than you are at the shoulders. Duct-tape the crossbrace sturdily to the stand. Don’t skimp on this step! Make the cross-brace as strong as possible. (Otherwise, in my experience, the form swings around crazily and works its way dowwwwnnn the stand towards the ground eventually.)

Before putting the form on the stand, trace the base and cut it out of heavy cardboard or plywood. It’s hard to get the right shape, but don’t skimp; it’s important! Some people cut a hole in the base and thread it over the stand before the next step. I am less organized, and just cut a notch out and set it aside.

Reinforce the shoulders from the inside with cardboard and more duct tape. Place the form over the cross-brace , onto the stand, putting stuffing in the shoulders and neck as needed, and finishing the neck and armholes as above (with a cardboard circle and duct tape or just more duct tape). Don’t be in a hurry to finish the neck-hole and armholes, though. You might find that you need to add stuffing though these holes before you’re done, so wait as long as possible. Tape the back seam as above – overlap as much as needed to match your measurements and the form’s. To stuff, you’ll be working against gravity. Fill the shoulders and arms as well as possible, then stuff madly to get it filled. As above, it takes a LOT of filling, and be sure to press all around for equal firmness before you tape up the bottom.

When stuffing is done, put the base in place. Either slide it up the pole (if you’ve cut a hole) or fit it into place (if you’ve cut a notch). Duct-tape it firmly in place.

Finish the entire form off with a non-stretchy final coat, like clear packing tape, a fitting shell, or with strips of cloth glued in place. You’re done!

Hope that helps. Come back soon if you need more help! Remember we’re meeting Tuesday, Saturday the 12th, and Thursday the 17th or 24th – and more to come.



Some Old Business …

I know I’m way behind on everything, and I swear I’m about to get together a Bay Area Roadtrip post, but there’s something weighing on my conscience …


Sotomayor isn’t especially news any more – thank god! She’s CONFIRMED! – but I just wanted to take a moment to remember what kind of garbage came out of the Right’s unconscious when they were faced  with her for the first time.

Mike Huckabee launched an early attack on her, you’ll remember.  But he couldn’t quite get her name right.  His website tore into a certain … “Maria” Sotomayor.  Well, sheesh, he had a 50% chance of being right about that, didn’t he?  Maria, Juanita, whatevs!  Marisol on a long-shot, maybe?  Anyway, what business did she have of NOT being a Maria?

And, speaking of assumptions: the website Politico also was quick off the blocks to call her a “Latina single mother.”  Those hot tamales, you know.  Can’t keep their legs shut.  Another great guess.  Except for that pesky not-having-any-kids bit.

Then there was the name-calling.  She wasn’t very smart, y’know.  Jeffrey Rosenberg started that ball rolling – I hesitate to give this link, because Jeffrey Rosen gets far too much attention, but there you have it.  He started it and it became the chorus from the Right.   Yeah, not too bright!  Nothin’ like Dubya!  ‘Cause only dummies get full scholarships to Princeton straight out of high school, and only real dullards graduate summa cum laude and go on to Yale Law School on full scholarships.  And, of course, she was a bully.  She was uppity.  Interrupted.  Wouldn’t shut up and let the men finish.  I mean, she would ask questions in her own court!  Who the hell did she think she was?  Did she think she was the freakin’ judge or something?  Except for that pesky actually-she-IS-the-judge bit, another great line of attack.

Once the confirmation was underway, it got better.  Let’s see:

  • Limbaugh promised to send her a vacuum cleaner.  After all, isn’t that the only way God wants to see Latinas in the Supreme Court – cleaning it, after hours?
  • Creepy Repub senator Tom Coburn assumed the Ricky Ricardo accent to admonish her, “You got a lot of ‘splainin to do!”  Not after three beers in a bar mind you – On camera.  In session.  During the confirmation hearings.  Uhh …
  • And then there was uber-creep Jeff Sessions, who expressed amazement that Sotomayor had disagreed with another judge: after all, he pointed out, they were BOTH Puerto Ricans!  Of the Puerto Rican race, you know, which compels them to think identically in all matters judicial! And again – this was ON the record, IN session, ON camera. The mind boggles.

(BTW, here’s a 2002 article about Session’s history – some highlights: the Klan is OK, except that some of them smoke pot; a black U.S. Attorney was “boy” and told “You better watch how you speak to white folks;” he didn’t’ bother to investigate burnings of black churches in Alabama when he was Alabama’s Attorney General. And he has a job today.  Does the GOP make ANY sense?)

So, quick recap.

Sotomayor is really named Maria and has bastard children, as do all Latinas, and “cleaning lady” is her most appropriate job.  Like all chicas from the barrio she’s *slow* but God she’s got a mouth on her, for which she must be mocked in a parodical Spanish accent, and before we’re done, she’d better explain how she could have possibly disagreed with another Puerto Rican.  Ever.

Yeah, she got the job.  And I AM rejoicing over that.  (And I DO think that a Latina, if indeed wise, WILL make better decisions in some situations than white men – that’s simple bloody common sense, and jheesus, YOU KNOW IT TOO.) But I am disturbed over the crap this confimation process revealed.

Like Sotomayor, when I was in college, I had a senior professor make an object lesson out of me as an affirmative action recipient in a public setting.  My bastard was Clem Heusch.  Yes, Mr. Heusch, you’ve had a great career in particle physics, and your spine had its own urban legend (“If you put a Geiger counter by Clem’s back it goes off! Old lab accident!”).  But to me, you’ll simply forever be The Racist Bastard who pointed me out during a mandatory, departement-wide “Career Planning” meeting: “You don’t have much hope of a lab job unless – (points to me) – you know, you’re Native American or something, or (points to me) you’re a woman.”  I think that was the day I decided: Screw physics, once and for all.  OK, I’m one of three women in this room of sixty, I’m one of three who aren’t white.  And yes, if not for affirmative action, I’d never have gotten in.  But affirmative action only ever gave me a single chance at what economics and the realities of school districting had decided, before my birth, to deny me.  To me, the greater injustice is blindingly clear: the system which allocates resources so that certain children are methodically shunted away from any chance at education.  Because I wanted an education, I made the most of it, I sucked the marrow from its bones and it transformed my life.  Fundamentally and permanently.  And that education was a right that would, if not for affirmative action, have been denied me, plain and simple.

The difference was, Sotomayor, by the time of Yale Law School, was no longer an affirmative action baby.  If I may quote Wikipedia: “In her third year, she filed a formal complaint against the established Washington, D.C., law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge for suggesting during a recruiting dinner that she was only at Yale via affirmative action. Sotomayor refused to be interviewed by the firm further and filed her complaint with a faculty–student tribunal, which ruled in her favor. Her action triggered a campus-wide debate, and news of the firm’s subsequent December 1978 apology made the Washington Post.

I like that. I tip my hat to that.  I just wish that “News of the Republican Party’s apology for its racist displays during Sotomayor’s confiration process made the New York Times” would be a future Wikipedia entry.

I have my doubts.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday


Sunday morning.  I have some plans: I’m going to finish up these softies (ie, embroider on faces, buttons etc.) and maintain my liquid diet.  Strange little transparent shards have been insinuating themselves into my nouth for a few days: bits of bone? root debris? Extremely wierd) and I’m still not up to chewing, but I’m feeling OK.  Pictured is one of my main calorie sources this week: the Poor Man’s Orange Julius.

Poor Man’s Orange Julius
Serves one

1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk or soymilk


Surprisingly tasty, actually.   But then … went by New Day School and did a double-take at the size, number and beauty of plums:

plum tree

Who could resist?  This year was a perfect cherry year, as you may have heard, and we really saw it in our neighborhood.  Amazing, the number of beautiful red cherries literally hanging heavy on the brances of the New Day cherry trees.  The lowest branches were stripped pretty well, but up above – oh ye gods, the cherreies in their thousands!  I cannot express the frustration as I watched them wither on the trees, unpicked. I was still teaching full-time and couldn’t get it together to come pick myself, and nobody else seemed to make it happen either, alas.  (So now the ground under those trees is mulched with beautiful cherry raisins, with stone in.  Strangely, the birds left the fruit mostly alone.)

So here’s how I spent my Monday and Tuesday:

plum transportsinkfulsome jam

Oh, man.  Not pictured: 18 pints delivered to New Day School — nice to think the kids will be eating jam I made all year!

Tuesday I made blackberry jam (berries from our backyard) as well as plum, and also branched out a little into pickles.  I planted a cucumber plant for the first time ever just for this:


So behold the beauty —


Dude.  I am so proud, it’s ridiculous.  The thing is, though, these jams are insanely DELICIOUS,  though I say it myself.  The plum jams are made with vanilla bean and I mean, damn, just … DAMN.  Unfortunately, the pickles won’t be done curing for three months.  Three months! How can I wait?!?!?

Other big news: Joel is here!  Sorry, Joel, for making it seem like jam is more important than your presence, for sincerely, it’s not.  But this is a words-n-pictures blog, and though you are quite photogenic, I don’t have a picture of you.  Or, wait … do I?

Joel the Grape King

oh my gawd, the jam, it … it’s overtaken him!  He is turning into a giant grape!  WAAAGH …

— Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the HelloKittyCam.  Post-Japanese-noodles KittyCam.  Yes, I think this one will have to be posted to the KittyCam Flickr group.

More later!