Just last week, sweet Bohemiannow from Burda Style asked me about testing sewing patterns with muslin. She asked some very good questions and I thought it worthy of a post so that I could share my ideas on muslins and get some of yours as well. Here’s a few tidbits from Bohemiannow’s email where she brings up some really good questions:
“You say you tested the pattern with muslin and I’ve read that in other projects too. I usually don’t test my patterns…so could you please tell me how you do that? You use a plain fabric (cheap too I guess) to make a sample? And you sew it as if it would be your final garment? Isn’t that boring? I mean it’s double the work…”
Here is my latest muslin, or what is also commonly referred to in the sewing community as a toile. In answer to one of the questions above, yes I admit, this is “boring” and I really don’t love toiles. I guess you could say its double the work too, but it is for good reason. When I test a sewing pattern, I’m to the point now where I’m typically looking for something specific. I don’t have to mock up the entire garment usually, but I test certain things that I’ve had problems with in the past. As you can see in this blouse, I did not finish it, give it buttonholes or the facings or finish the sleeves and such. That’s because, the only thing I’m looking for here is the fit in the shoulder area, more specifically the fit when I bring my arms out in front of me. This is the area I have the most trouble with because my shoulder is wider than a typical sewing pattern.
As you can also see, I’ve sewn up this toile in a very becoming cheap pink and white combo with striking turquoise thread. Whenever I make a toile, I use whatever “junk” fabric I have and thread that I’m trying to get rid of. I try to stay within the realm I plan to make the finished garment out of, say for instance I’m sewing a knit, I try to find a junky knit to do my toile in. Peter also mentions using sheets from thrift stores (or dumpsters), which is an excellent idea, and usually they are much cheaper than muslin even. The idea here is that you don’t want to ruin the beautiful fabric for the finished garment with wrong fit. Imagine the most gorgeous fabric you have and you are ready to cut into and sew up only to find out that you can’t move your arms after you are finished because the fit is just a little off. It’s a real bummer, let me say, because I’ve done it, many times. Heartbreaking too. You’ll waste a whole bunch of special fabric you had been saving just for the occasion to use it on this specific type of garment and then you can’t even wear it.
The other thing with sewing patterns is that they differ so much, and so you never know what you are going to get sometimes. When you mock something up, and typically you have to adjust the shoulder area, but you see that’s OK but the bust is drowning you or possibly pulling too tight what do you do? That’s my thing, sometimes what I think will be off isn’t but something else is. And the funny thing with all of this sewing business is that, when you make something as opposed to actually buying it, you notice that it doesn’t fit more. At least I do. And you it’s not like you can just try on another size.
Here’s some other things I do when “toiling:”
- I only cut out the basics, for this blouse just the bodice and the sleeves will do
- I use a bigger stitch (like a basting stitch) on my machine to save on thread
- I even write on the toile itself, reminding myself of certain things I want to do
So what do you think about toiles? Do you mock up a garment before sewing it? Do you have additional methods that you’ve found useful? What fabric do you typically use? Do you sew the entire garment or do you leave some parts out like me? Do you find doing toiles useful or do you use a different method?
I would really love some input on this just to find out what others do and how they differ from what I do. And if you are in the middle of toiling, I wish you the best fit possible!