A Rare Muslin (aka Toile): What I Include and Ignore

If you’re unaware, I sew one muslin a year as a pattern tester for Threads magazine, I follow their general guidelines on the details, style lines and size to include in the muslin —they have standards.

Other than that, I am not a muslin maker for myself. I mean, I don’t buy muslin fabric to test out a pattern FOR MYSELF. For a rare personal muslin make, I do what works for me. I used an old sheet once to make a newly acquired pattern; another time I used a cheap printed cotton from my fabric stash to test for fit, loved how it looked and wear that “muslin” as is.

However, I made a muslin-muslin today! The out of print pattern by Simplicity has been a stash resident and was used just once for the fur vest version. View A is new to me and has trench-style details that needed a test run. So here’s how it went….

What can one include and totally ignore in a trial muslin? It depends.

Obvious elimination: lining. I have never seen the need to line a muslin, ever. My jacket pattern is unlined anyway. Anyone lined a muslin, that you know of?

Optional Details eliminated: For this particular piece, I ignored the purely aesthetic details and kept what was essential to getting a good feel of the garment, including the fit and the general vibe — should we call it “chicness quotient”? I ignored the shoulder tabs (epaulettes), sleeve wrist tabs, facings for the front chest flaps, buttons and buttonholes. If this jacket closed with a zipper, I would add it to the muslin, though. (It depends on where the zipper is located in the pattern; a front zipper closure can be marked and pinned at the center front marked line to gauge the fit, but how would you pin a side zipper? ). Also ripe for elimination from a muslin is the interfacing.

Looks good but something is off…..
The collar!!! Whew, looks much better with the collar on.
Back view

Inclusions : I kept the actual front facing since it is integrated with the hem, and a finished edge of the front is essential to gauge a feel of the garment. I also included the collar and collar facing, since it’s also essential to the look, although I almost forgot the collar until I started writing this post. Heh. The sleeve hem and jacket hem is just folded up and pinned without sewing them down to allow for length adjustments. I would not eliminate a hem completely. The back pleat is a definite inclusion, not just to measure the vibes, but the actual fit ( as in, do they fan out too much?)

Markings: I like to go to town with pen or pencil markings on a muslin. Most important is the center front line, plus the buttonhole and button placement marks on both sides of the front. If this was a close fitting garment, a bust point mark (if provided in the paper pattern) is essential; this marking would indicate where your actual bust point lies in relation to the paper pattern. Additionally, one can write notes directly on the muslin if one so wishes!

The sewing process: can be made quick and easy by: 1) using a long but not basting stitch, 2) forget about seam finishes (obviously), 3) using old thread spools and thread colors you’ll never use. 4) do plan to trim and clip the seams where required; e.g. I had to trim and clip the collar and neckline seam to make that area sit smoothly on the muslin neck.

Feel free to leave raw edges unfinished. I had no reason to finish the inside edge of the facings and hems.

So what fit and aesthetic anomalies did I notice in this muslin? My only fit and silhouette adjustment was to redraw the seam in a small portion of the shoulder area of the raglan sleeve. That area looked too pokey and outward jutting, which I tamed by resewing a shallower curve. See photo below.

Tame that raglan slope!

Muslin making has two distinct camps — For and Against; and they’re pretty firm in their convictions. What camp are you in? Chime in.

Samina

5 thoughts on “A Rare Muslin (aka Toile): What I Include and Ignore

  1. HI Samina! I’m a kinda-muslin type. If it’s completely unlike anything I’ve made before, and I’m uncertain of any construction details, I’ll make a fairly complete muslin in muslin fabric, for the fashion fabric portion anyway. As you mention, linings and underlinings/ interfacings are generally mirror images of the fashion fabric and don’t usually need to be replicated. But no, I wouldn’t necessarily muslin epaulets or sleeve tabs either, unless in measuring them I found they were very far off from my own measurements. For instance, sleeve cuffs are always horribly large for me, I usually end up taking off several inches so I make a muslin to check fit. I do however include things like shoulder pads, sleeve heads, elastic for waistbands and sleeve cuffs – anything that will affect the drape and fit.

    Since I need so many pattern adjustments anyway – FBA, length, waist angle, swayback, etc. – it’s easier for me to trace off onto sturdier paper like Swedish tracing paper, and cut that up to create adjustments and check them on my dress form. The tracing paper is firm enough to pin and sew, and of course I can also draw any corrections as well. I will then usually trace off a finished copy of the adjusted pattern in tracing paper, and keep that as a permanent pattern/ muslin, with the original pattern in tact for future use if needed.

    I don’t generally muslin a knit pattern, I just check the final measurements against my own and add or subtract as needed on the tracing paper. And then like you, I’ll use a less precious but similar weight and stretch knit to make my first one. If it turns out, great; if not, no big deal.

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  2. Great little jacket in the making! Really stylish.Somehow, your raglan seam is higher than the sample garment and I like your less pronounced raglan better.
    Re. muslins: I was a long-time believer in muslins, but after working with Palmer-Pletsch in Portland, OR and Helen Bartley, a P-P fit instructor on their tissue fitting method recently, I hope to MOSTLY tissue fit and rarely make a muslin. Muslins can always be useful and are a necessity if you have an expensive fabric and are working with a new pattern or design and have not made it up before!

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  3. I am a staunch muslin maker when using patterns!!!! However, I don’t make the lining or aesthetic details. I always have to do a FBA so a muslin is a must. It saves so much time when sewing with my fashion fabric.

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  4. I’ve never made a muslin but I want to when I make my next pair of trousers since I am petite. I’m confused. If I make adjustments on the muslin how does that transfer to the pattern or is the muslin the new pattern?

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    1. Hi Victoria! Thanks for your question. The answer would be a whole class by itself 🙂 . Actually, I used to struggle with the same query — how do you translate muslin adjustments to the pattern? Vertical adjustments should be easy for petite sizes, remembering to reduce the crotch length too. Width adjustments and translation to the paper are a different animal. One way is to identify the issue on your muslin, and then make the actual adjustment on the pattern. For example, if you determine that the crotch seems too tight, and needs more fabric, you know that the crotch point (at the inseam) on both front and back need to be extended. You can add a patch to the muslin to see how much to add. Or, make a new muslin with the adjusted pattern. Like I said, pant fitting is a whole course! See why I have stayed away from muslins? A tip I remember from an expert: start by fitting the crotch seam first, and the rest is easy. Not sure if I helped.

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