Good morning! I am here today with a tutorial for creating your own baby or toddler sized mannequin. A few years ago I wanted to photograph Bugaboo’s baptism gown and his Yoda Halloween costume I made for him, but I didn’t have a mannequin to use. I am lucky because usually when I need to photograph a garment I have made, I can borrow a mannequin from a costume shop. In this case I needed a tiny baby mannequin and I felt it would be nice to own one. Mannequins are not cheap, not even little ones, so I decided to would create my own. As always, I tried using supplies I already owned which kept the cost of this project to a minimum!
The process was a bit trial and error since I had never tried building my own mannequin before. I decided to use a 12-month onesie, knowing I could put slightly smaller/larger items of clothing on it. I originally tried making the mannequin so the pole could be moved from the center of the mannequin body to one side of it so that I could put clothing items with legs on it, but my plan for this fell through – so as of right now this mannequin cannot accommodate items with legs very well, but maybe someday I’ll figure out an easy way to change that!
Below is the tutorial with pictures – it is a long one so if you are embarking on this project, bring patience and know you will need quite a few supplies (more than my usual tutorials!). I’m very happy with how it turned out and it met my needs perfectly. If I was to do this again following these steps, I know mine would turn out even nicer since I wouldn’t be trying to figure it out as I went!
Here are some pictures of my little mannequin in action!
Supplies Needed for DIY Baby/Toddler Mannequin
- Muslin fabric
- Neutral colored fabric (I used linen)
- Quilt batting
- Child’s onesie the size you want to make your mannequin
- Wooden dowel
- White foam core
- Cream ribbon
- Wooden ball (flat on one side)
- Two wooden ovals for base
- Matching thread
- Metal clamp (purely decorative)
- Super glue or wood glue
- X-Acto knife or box cutter
- Sewing Tools Needed: Pounce wheel, pushpins or pattern weights, scissors, needle, clear ruler, pencil, pins and a sewing machine
- Building Tools Needed: Drill, paddle or spade bit
STEP 1a: Create your pattern. To create the pattern for the body of the mannequin I used one of Bugaboo’s onesie. I chose a 12-month onesie, assuming I could put slightly smaller and slightly larger clothing items on it.
I laid out a roll of paper on our craft table and used pushpins to secure the onesie. I started with the front of the oneise face up and placed the pins along the seam lines. We have a wooden table I don’t mind pushing pins into. If you don’t want to leave permanent holes in your table, you can use a cutting mat underneath or use pattern weights. Using a pounce wheel, trace along the outer edges and seam lines of your onesie. You only need to do one half – just make sure to mark the center front somehow.
STEP 1b: Adjust your pattern. Trace the pounce lines lightly with pencil. Your center front and center back lines should be straight. You can use a curved ruler to smooth out the armseye (arm opening) and neckline. Extend the leg opening out creating almost a 90-degree angle. Connect the shoulder seam to the side seam with a curved line. Extend the neck up from the center front mark about 5″.
STEP 1c: True your pattern. To true a pattern means making sure the pieces will all fit together when sewing. Make sure the top of the body on the front and back pattern pieces match as well as the side seams. When my patterns were finished. the front was the exact same as the back. You can add your 5/8″ seam allowance to your pattern now or wait to add it as you are cutting out the fabric. Just make sure you remember to add the 5/8″ seam allowance at some point!
STEP 2a: Cut and sew the mannequin body. Once your patterns are created go ahead and cut out your fabric pieces. You will need to cut a front and back piece (both on the fold) from muslin, batting, and a nice outer fabric – in my case beige linen.
STEP 2b: Flat line or sew all three layers of your front body pieces together. I layered mine with the linen on top, then the muslin, then the batting. I did it in this order since my linen was thin and I wanted the mannequin to be smooth from the outside after I stuffed it. Sew 1/4 in from the edge so this stitch line will end up in the seam allowance. Do the same for the back pieces. If you have a serger, I would serge the top and bottom.
Next, sew the front body to the back body, right sides together at 5/8″, leaving the top and bottom open.
STEP 3: Create the base! I bought two wooden ovals from Joann Fabrics with the intention of stacking them together to create the base. I asked my husband to help me with this next part. We measured my dowel, which was 1″, and then drilled a 1″ hole through the center of the top oval. For the second oval, he drilled the hole almost all the way through but not quite. This way the dowel could rest in the hole without coming through. We used wood glue and inserted our dowel into the holes and let this dry overnight.
STEP 4: Create the bottom and top of the mannequin body. OK, this is where things got a bit tricky for me. I really wanted my mannequin body to be able to move from being centered on the stand to off to one side so that I could accommodate clothing with legs. My plan was to make two holes in the bottom of the mannequin body with two muslin tubes so the pole could move back and forth. Well, let’s just say that was not possible. Once I filled the body with stuffing, there was no way to move the pole back and forth. So for the next few steps just ignore the hole off to one side on the bottom piece and just create your mannequin with one centered hole.
The first part in creating a top and bottom for your mannequin body is to measure the circumference of the openings at the top and bottom and then create an oval and circle that fit that circumference from foam core. I pretty much just winged this part and it did take a bit of trimming to get them to fit snuggly. For the bottom piece, once you have your oval, create a 1″ hole in the center using an X-acto knife. I originally wanted to use wood, but I found foam core was lighter and easier to work with.
Using hot glue or tacky glue, glue the foam core to the bottom and top of your mannequin body. I put the glue on the edges of the foam and then smoothed the fabric around it. This is where you will hopefully find your circumference measurements were perfect and the oval fits like a glove!
STEP 5a: Create a dowel tube for your mannequin. Measure how much of the dowel should live inside the mannequin body – the dowel should go up into the neck of the mannequin. Then create a 1″ tube in that length (plus a bit extra at the bottom to use to attach it to the base). Cut the extra on the end into strips.
STEP 5b: Stick the muslin tube through the center hole in the foam and into the empty mannequin body. Place glue around the hole and then fan out the cut end pieces of your tube. You could probably figure out a nice way to cover this up with fabric to make this look prettier, but I knew I’d never be photographing the underside of my mannequin so I let it be! Insert the dowel base into the muslin tube.
STEP 6: Stuff the mannequin body form. I stuffed my mannequin from the center of the right side seam. In retrospect I’d have been better off going lower on the side seam so as to not affect the shaping of my mannequin body. Start by stuffing the neck and stuff until the fabric is taught and the body feels firm. You will have to stuff around the dowel. I’ve found the best way to stuff things is to tear the stuffing into tiny chunks and tear those up a bit before stuffing them in – this helps minimize lumps.
STEP 7: Finish the top of the mannequin. To finish off the top of the mannequin, I glued a large wooden ball to the top of the foam circle. I also glued a decorative beige ribbon around the top to hide the rough edge of my fabric around the foam circle. You could do the same to the bottom edge of the mannequin, I chose not to since I figured it would be covered by clothing so I left mine pretty rough.
I took a small tuck at the bottom of the neck to tilt the neck piece forward. This defines the front of the mannequin. I slip stitched the tuck with matching thread.
My mannequin has a metal clamp on it, really for no reason! I thought I would need it to hold the body of the mannequin up, but because the dowel does not go through the top of my mannequin body that isn’t an issue.
SO there you have it….not the quickest or most polished DIY project, but I was happy with the outcome! And since I couldn’t find a similar tutorial online, I figured I would share! It definitely is not perfect – but I like how it looks when dressed and it serves my purposes perfectly. I only needed to purchase the wooden parts, so the cost for my mannequin was way less than had I purchased one online.
I hope this tutorial helps, if anything as a starting point, if you find yourself in need of creating your own baby or toddler mannequin!