Last August, I wrote a post on the concept of the "wearable muslin," saying I thought in some instances it could be a productive thing. Well, I don't know if I'm getting wiser or just older, but I feel I've matured a bit in my thinking on this subject.
As you may have noticed, I've been making lots of muslins lately, and not those of the "wearable" variety. And it's made me appreciate how fitting really is an art. I'm a confirmed over-fitter. That is, I lack a certain subtley when it comes to fitting. If I'm going to take out a tuck, I'm going to take out a TUCK, you know?
So right now I'm focusing on taking the time to do a muslin correctly. I use actual muslin (it costs $2 a yard at AK Fabrics in the Garment District) and mark everything up perfectly, grainlines included. I baste in the zipper so I can get a sense of how it will feel when I'm wearing it. I make my changes, rip out my changes, make new (better) ones. And when I'm done, I take the muslin apart and use it as my pattern.
But this doesn't mean that I still feel completely at ease with the idea of muslin-making for each and every project. One thing I've thought a lot about is wondering when exactly muslin-making became de rigeur for home seamstresses. Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing only mentions doing tissue fittings, followed by basted fittings. I've wondered if WWII era seamstresses would have been shocked at the luxury and wastefulness of having special fabric just to test your garment, when they were cobbling old men's shirts together into dresses. But doing a little more research, I found that even my favorite 1940s sewing book recommends making a muslin shell. But this shell was meant only to be a fitting shell that you would use to make alterations to your other patterns with - rather than making a new test muslin for each pattern you sewed. Has anyone tried this strategy? Having one perfectly fitted shell pattern (like the vintage one shown above, available in a 32" bust here) and using it to alter your patterns with?
The other downfall with test muslins is, of course, the extra expense. As you've probably noticed by now, I'm an expensive fabric junkie, so $2 a yard seems downright cheap to me - but I've discovered that my local quilt shop charges double that for muslin. How much does muslin cost where you live, and do you find the cost prohibitive? (One commenter yesterday was looking for cheap muslin alternatives, and commenter Cynthia suggested using garage sale finds like old sheets and such for muslin.)
Anyway, I think it's fair to say that my relationship with muslins and fitting is an evolving one, as I suppose it should be as someone who's constantly looking to improve her sewing. And you, readers? Where are you with this issue? What's your muslin strategy?