2-in-1 Sewalong: Muslin Making

I’ve actually gotten in the habit of not making a muslin every time I go to sew something up these days. It’s gotten to the point where I know when and where my problems will be and what I need to do about them, plus I use a basic fitted pattern to see where the pattern I’m about to delve into has gone awry. So I decided to give you tips on making a muslin if you haven’t had too much experience to know where your problem spots are going to occur.

I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with mocking up a muslin/toile. And that decision is completely up to you, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Also, if you are totally against muslins, don’t bother with one, because I get where you are coming from too. Either way, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

A previous muslin I’ve made – post is here

If you are going to make a muslin, consider only making up the bodice because let’s be honest, the skirt section on Simplicity 1880 is most likely, 9 times out of 10, going to fit you. I say that because the skirt is a flared 1/2 to 3/4 looking circle skirt and those fit nearly everyone bearing in mind that you’ve picked the right size for your waist and hip and double checked that with the finished waist measurement that is found on the pattern piece itself, which is pattern piece #15 btw.

Before you go cutting out a muslin straight from the pattern, also consider doing lengthen and shorten adjustments. If you know you’re long waisted, make that adjustment. Hold up the skirt section to yourself and have a gander in the mirror and check to see if its falling to a comfortable length for you. Do all this with some elastic tied around your waist so that you know where your waist is hitting and you can double check that against the pattern which has the waist clearly marked on piece #15.

If you’ve made up several Simplicity patterns and you have an idea of where something is not going to fit – for me that’s always in the sleeve and armscye – do the alteration you usually do before you make up your muslin. It’s more than likely, in fact 99.5% more likely that you’ll have to make the same alteration again that you’ve made on countless other patterns, so just go for it and do the alteration before the muslin. This will help with future makes in that you might find that you’re able to wean yourself away from muslins and just make the alterations you know you’re going to need.

If you’ve made a muslin and you’ve found that you need to make all your usual adjustments and alterations plus you’re not quite sure about this or that add more seam allowance to the this or that area and from there you can adjust the final garment using the seam allowance rather than making up one more muslin.

So how’s that for some tips? What are some of your thoughts on making a muslin? If you’ve made a muslin and need some fitting help and/or advice, take some photos (please wear your muslin in the photos) and put it in the flickr group and we can all help. I’ll be back tomorrow with more on alterations and where to find some great tips and tricks on what to do for a particular fitting problem.

Happy Muslin Making!


21 thoughts on “2-in-1 Sewalong: Muslin Making

  1. Hi Sunni, I cut out my pattern yesterday and noticed there are no double lines on bodice or skirt for lengthening. I am very tall (6 ft) and need a longer bodice. Should I add to the bottom edge or somewhere in the midsection? Also, is the skirt meant to meet the bodice slightly above the waist?

    1. Yes, the skirt sits just above the waist where it connects to the bodice. Also, for the lengthen/shorten lines, find a spot below the bust point, but above the bottom edge of the bodice pattern and draw a line that is perpendicular to the grainline. Slash the line and add your paper there. Don’t add inches to the bottom edge of the bodice though because that will inevitably throw off the seamlines for that part of the dress, in that it won’t fit into your skirt there. Make sense?

  2. Ooo I still need to trace my pattern but will do that and making the muslin body. I normally take a shortcut and do not make a muslin first but I think like you said that it is a great way of exploring where you need to make alterations and get to know your personal fitting woes! Cant wait to post in the flickr group and share!

  3. Hi! I’m super excited about this sewalong! This will be probably my first garment where I haven’t cut corners “just to finish it”. After reading your posts about fit, I’m learning that I too need to adjust the sleeve and armscye. I have, in the past, cut corners by removing the sleeve all together to make a sleeveless top/dress. I typically do this because I have no idea how to adjust the armscye. Are there any tips/sites/tutorials that I can read that would help me out?

  4. I make a muslin almost everytime – and I never regret it. But I would love to be able to identify the few alterations that I require everytime. I’m also very curious to learn about how you compare your pattern to a basic bodice. I’d love to see a tutorial where you show what the comparison tells you and how you alter based on that…

  5. I agree with you on muslins, Sunni. Before I started in on the internet world of sewing, I never knew people made mock up versions of all of their pieces. I can understand it on a really fancy couture gown, but I’m just using inexpensive fabrics anyway when I sew most of the time. My mom taught me to pin the pattern together as it would be sewn and then just get a general idea in case you need to add fabric anywhere (I always have to add length to the bodice), then I do the other alterations in the fabric as I sew it. It saves so much time and as long as I’m sure I have added where I need to when I cut, I can always take away after the fact 🙂 I’m glad to see someone prominent in the internet sewing world who jumps right in too – it makes me feel less weird 🙂

  6. Personally, I like making a muslin. I know it takes more time but I’m willing to take the extra time for two reasons. One obvious reason is to correct the pattern. The other is to practice the construction techniques for each design. If I make a practice garment, I’m less likely to rip out a seam to correct something on the final garment.

    Thanks for all the tips!

  7. Good point about having similar fit issues in all patterns by a particular company. I never thought about that before…now I need to go through my pattern collection and see if patterns I’ve had trouble with all come from the same company. Thanks for the tip!

  8. I know you don’t really need the skirt on a muslin, but it’s worth doing once or twice. I’ve had okay-but-not-great results with dresses (one is so bad it will need to be turned into a skirt) by doing the bodice only, but the one time I did the entire thing it came out great. The weight of the skirt will pull the waist down to where it’s supposed to go and will give you a better idea of the fit. And you can move around to see how the dress behaves. I did this on the Sewaholic Cambie and discovered, for the first time, that I needed to shorten the bodice by 1.5cm. Fit=achieved. I’m going to try it again next time I make a muslin, because now I’m wondering if I’m just a little short-waisted.

  9. Yikes! I’m behind already! I’m still waffling between which pattern size. I will definitely be making a bodice muslin (great advice btw) since I haven’t sewn many non knit things for myself (other than skirts ha). 🙂

    1. No, well at least you don’t have to. Just mock up the bare bones – the bodice, sleeve, collar (for the shirtdress), yokes. Leave any facings out.

  10. So I started with the muslin making yesterday for the shirt dress bodice.

    I am not sure if I am missing something but apart from the pleats, there are no darts, right?

    I am also wondering if people put interfacing on their muslins. Thanks 🙂

    1. No there are no darts and I personally skip the interfacing. It’s just the bare bones of the pattern you’re mocking up and not things like facings.

      1. Thank you Sunni! I will continue with my bodice muslin later then without the interfacing. 🙂

  11. i’ve made a few muslins recently as i am trying to work out my fitting issues (still a newbie at this sewing game!) and i find it really useful. to get the length right i do the first set of adjustments on the tissue as per Fit for Real People – i’m tall so i normally need a fair bit added to the length and the darts lowering slightly. even with this it still takes me 2 actual muslins to get to the right fit!

  12. I found that the skirt on this dress lacked the usual generous ease of Simplicty patterns. I threw the skirt muslin together just to be sure the bodice – which required a lot of work – was hanging right. Sometimes, I think you need the weight of the skirt to be sure about the bodice. I’m glad I did. Partly because I found the skirt quite small and knew to grade out a size at the waist and also because although I could see there was no separate back skirt pattern, I didn’t stop to think about the effect that would have on my bum. After all, my backside is thankfully much bigger than my front side. I then graded the skirt out from the wasit over the hips in the back only so it won’t be tight. All this could be achieved by very carefully measuring the pattern pieces, doing some math and measuring yourself carefully. But I don’t think it would take any less time. I guess it just depends on how you like to do things.

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