Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making Your Lady Grey Muslin

It's time! Are you ready for some muslin action, Sew-Alongers? Let's do this.

Disclaimer of the day: the method I'm showing you is Susan Khalje's method, which I learned from her book Bridal Couture as well as her recent article "Muslin Refined," which is in the current issue of Threads magazine. This method is time and labor-intense, and you certainly don't have to follow it. You can very well just cut out and mark your muslin as you would any pattern and have at it. But, if you're looking to elevate your game, consider this method.

First, locate the pieces that you'll need for your muslin. I've circled them in green here (double-click to enlarge):

I'm showing you all the following steps on one pattern piece, for the sake of clarity. (And for the sake of my sanity, since I didn't have time to do more than one last night!)

First, make any preliminary pattern changes. Personally, I knew I would need to grade from a size 10 in the waist up to a 12 in the hips. So I simply took my handy gridded ruler and angled it from the 10 down to the 12. I drew a new line in orange.

Next, you need to locate your seam lines. On this pattern, they are 5/8" in from the line that marks the size you're using. So I took a different color Sharpie and marked them all around the pattern piece. (In blue below.)

Note: where you've made pattern changes, be sure to mark from your new lines, as I've done with my orange line here:
Now your pattern piece is ready. Being mindful of your grainline, place it on your doubled-up muslin and pin it in place.

Now you want to trace your seam lines and markings using your tracing paper and tracing wheel. Place one piece of tracing paper face-up under your muslin.

And one face-down underneath your pattern tissue. You've got a muslin sandwich! Yum.

Start tracing the seam lines, notches, grainline, and any other important marks with your tracing wheel. Move the tracing paper around as necessary. This will give you one red line on the bottom of the doubled-up muslin and one red line on the top of the muslin.

Go all the way around the pattern piece. Remove the pattern tissue, but then replace some of the pins in the muslin to keep the two layers from shifting. Mark the pattern name and piece.

Now, add one-inch seam allowances in a different color, using your gridded ruler.

Now, cut out your piece along the new line. Leave extra room at the hem, if you think you might want your coat to be a bit longer.

Snip your notches and un-pin the two layers.

Next, you're going to thread-trace your seam lines by machine. This is helpful to do because it lets you see your markings from both sides of the fabric.

Take your pieces to your machine and thread it with dark or bright color that will show up on your muslin. Begin stitching along the seam line. You need to break the thread at the end of each seam; don't pivot around the corners. You want your thread tracings to extend into the seam allowances.

Now rinse and repeat for all the pattern pieces circled in the pattern inventory at the top of this post.

Okay, I'm beat for now. If you want to continue on your own, here are the next steps:
  1. Machine baste your pieces together (right sides together, as per usual), using a different color thread from your thread tracing.
  2. Press up the lower hem and sleeve hem
  3. Press in the seam allowance on your collar and lapel, like so:
Image from Tailoring: the Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket
Okay! How are we feeling? Overwhelmed? Rarin' to go? I need a couple days to complete this step myself, so I'll be back this weekend with a muslin assembling post. I'm still planning for us to begin sewing on the 27th, but I reserve the right to change that if it seems like we need more time next week.

Everybody now: WOO HOO! MUSLINS!


  1. Oh yay! I do love her method in Bridal Couture, and this is a perfect excuse to use it (having only used it on a couple projects before). I'm planning on starting to cut out/mark my muslin today, and spend the weekend sewing it up. I'm really curious to see how this jacket fits; I usually have to do an sba on Colette Patterns designs, and I also cut out a size bigger through the hips (since I've got extra junk in my trunk ;).

    Thanks for the thorough, visual how-to, Gertie. Can't wait to get started!!!

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  2. OK, lotta work. Here's an alternative method that I've used successfully in the past which is much quicker (and may therefore be termed the Lazy Method). You need a rotary cutter with a guide arm though. Set the guide arm for 3/8 and cut around the marked lines on the pattern. That will give you 1" seam allowances. Take the piece to the machine and use the markings on the throat plate to stitch 1" in from all the edges. No tracing and no redrawing. Take that, you muslin!

  3. Thank you for the muslin info Gertie. I can't wait!

    Before I start I had a question about grading. I am a 4 in the waist and hips and between a 0 and a 2 in the bust. Is it better to grade from a 2 to 4 or make the muslin in a 4 and then do an SBA. (If I can figure out how to do one n the princess seams that is!)

    This is an issue that plagues me with all patterns so it would be awesome to get it resolved!!

  4. I would add a horizontal balance line (HBL) to the bodice. It helps diagnose fitting problems.

    It can go anywhere on the bodice- at the bottom of the armscye, at bust level- wherever you think it will help diagnose your particular fitting issues. I use a pencil, but you can trace it while you have the supplies right there. Just make a horizontal line that is perfectly perpendicular to vertical center front and center back lines.

    When you post pictures of the muslin (front, side and back)- one of the first steps is to observe whether the HBL is indeed horizontal.

    One way to look at fitting is making sure the grainlines are plumb and HBL is level.

    Having sewn many muslins to address multiple fit challenges, I like Susan Khalje's method the best, but if your fitting issues are less drastic, may not be necessary to go to all that trouble.

    I hope it's not a choice made out of laziness (*smile*) but a choice made to get the best results for *you*.

  5. My Threads magazine with this method arrived the same day as my Lady Grey pattern, so I think it must be a sign that I need to try this method!

    I also wanted some length advice. I was trying to work out the length from neckline to waist because I usually have to add a couple of inches to make garments long enough. I also noticed that there is no lengthen/shorten line, so where would I add the extra length to? Can't wait to get started on my muslin this weekend!

  6. I will have to play some catch up.

  7. I'm dying to start but as I live in France the shipping is super-long and I still haven't received the pattern ! I'll try to catch up with you all !^^

  8. Uh, shouldn't the second piece of tracing paper go face-down under the pattern tissue? That's how it's shown in the photo, and face-up would give you lines on the back of the tissue, not on the muslin. Gertie, we both need more sleep! ;-)

    I am such a slacker, I haven't even posted my fabrics to the Flickr pool yet, and I just got around to ironing my pattern tissue last night. The next few days are chock-a-block with kid stuff, but I hope to be sewing Sunday afternoon!

  9. Wow, I got worn out just watching the pics go by! One side of me was saying, "Thread trace your seamlines, Aargh!" The other side was sighing, "That probably is the best thing to do." Watching the muslin-makig process for a fully tailored garment will be so informative.

  10. Gertie, can you email me the place where you got your carbon tracing paper and what kind it is? Mine is from JA's, and the sheets aren't nearly that big and the lines don't end up nearly as bold as the stuff you have. Thanks!

  11. Ok, where to begin . . .

    -Thanks, ejvc, I've tried the double tracing wheels and they get warped so easily! I just don't find them to be accurate, but you're right, it is much faster.

    -Redrockcity, what's your high bust measurement? And what bust measurement does it correspond to on the pattern?

    -a little sewing, love the HBL tip! I'll include that on my next post.

    -justsewtall, I would find the waist point and mark it on all your pattern pieces. It's easy to see the waist on this pattern because it nips in. You would want to add length at a point somewhere between the bust and the waist. Just make sure you add it at the same spot on all your pieces. Measure up the same distance from the waistline on each piece and then slash.

    -Jan, that's fixed! I'm going to go fire the copyeditor . . . :)

    -CGCouture, I got my tracing paper at the FIT bookstore, but you can get it at anyplace that caters to fashion students and professionals, like Stenlauf and Stoller or Greenberg and Hammer. It's very waxy, and it smudges, so it's not meant to be used on actual garments, just muslin.

  12. Oh, ejvc, I see now that you were talking about a rotary cutter. Isn't that hard to get an accurate cut around corners and stuff? What size blade do you use?

  13. I just started cutting my pattern out yesterday for the muslin. I haven't sewn it up yet, but do you know if the bust size on the coat refers to the full bust size or the upper bust size?


  14. I am a 33.5 upper bust and full bust, which both correspond to a 2 on the pattern. My waist is 27 and my hips 37 which correspond to a 4 on the pattern.

    I already traced off a 4, but reading today's post made me think grading from a 2 at the top to a 4 at the bottom might be the better option!

    Any advice appreciated!!!

  15. My muslin just arrived. So a quick wash tonight and I'll be raring to go over the weekend. I'm just finishing up making a dress form so my long suffering partner doesn't have to help me fit this.

    Very excited now!!!

  16. Hi Gertie, I agree about the double tracing wheels. I'm talking about a rotary cutter guide arm, which is actually accurate. See my blog here (skip the first para):

    OK, just saw that you knew that! I don't find it difficult to go around curves at all. I think it's quite accurate, and it's wonderful for patterns with no seam allowances (or for trimming them off patterns if you don't want them). The blade I use is medium-sized, 45mm. The standard one, not mini and not quilting huge.


  17. I forgot to mention - you can also get "scoring blades" for rotary cutters which are designed not to cut paper but just to leave an edge, like a smooth tracing wheel. I think you could use that to mark seamlines on patterns with allowances much more quickly than with a ruler if you used a guide arm. I'm sure you could even use tracing paper underneath. I haven't done it though.

  18. On fitting - does anyone know what the standard cup size is for Colette patterns?

    My measurements are around 45" across the bust, between 38 and 40" for both my high bust and underbust. This makes me a DD cup size.

    For the big 4 (drafted for a B cup), I cut a size 18 (corresponding to my high bust), then do a FBA to add around 5" (depending on ease) to the bust area.

    For Hot Patterns, the patterns are drafted for a larger cup size - I've read a C cup. Their pattern envelopes show the underbust measurement, so their size 20 is perfect for me - 45" bust, 38" underbust (I think, don't have an envelope!)

    The Colette envelope only lists hips/waist/bust, so I'm not sure the standard! If I went with my big-4 method of cutting for my high bust, I'd be cutting a size 12 - WAY small! Help! I'm afraid the size 18 - which matches my regular bust measurement - will swallow me whole!!

    I hope that makes sense! Anyone out there around my size who has worked with Colette patterns in the past??

  19. I, Like Alice, am still waiting for my pattern as I am in the UK. I am so excited about this sew-a-lomg. It is the first one that I have done for ages. Maybe I should actually go buy and prep my fabric so I am not too far behind. Thanks for the advice re: Muslin. :) xx

  20. This will be my first muslin, probably cuz I'm a bit impatient. I'm excited to do this and learn from you Gertie! Now if the baby would fall asleep, then I could start cutting out the pattern.
    Woo Hoo Muslins!

  21. Traced off the pattern. I am a 4 in the hips and 2 in the waist and bust.
    Spritzed my wool with water and put it in a plastic bag, so that the entire lenght becomes damp, and tonight I will press the wool while watching some sort of medical drama series.
    Tomorrow I'll cut out the muslin. Bought a bolt of 20 m a couple of years ago, and plenty left.

  22. Not sure how others feel, but I like the pace you have planned for the sew along. I will definitely need until the 27th to get myself sorted.

    Thanks for all the helpful info!

  23. I am confused.... thread trace which seamlines. The 5/8 seamlines? The line that is one inch in that would normally be the cutting line, but we added another inch?

  24. Uh, oh, more notion lust coming on. I didn't know one could get such huge tracing paper!

    I already started cutting last night and didn't think about adding extra seam allowance... hopefully all I'll need is incremental changes. As for timing, feeling a combination of overwhelmed and rarin!

    Redrockcity, I am about the same measurements as you. I traced a 2 and hope that's not gonna be too small. I don't think the hips matter too much for those who are larger in the hips. There is so much room there that I don't think we're going to be squeezing anything. Then again, it depends on what one is going to wear under this. I'm not planning sweaters or anything bulky.

  25. Amy,

    Maybe we should trade muslins if I find the 4 too big and you find the 2 too small? It would save on time and material! (-;

    I agree about the hips-it was the waist that worried me. Since will be mostly a "car coat" so I'm not too concerned about fitting bulky sweaters under it. That is what the puffy down jacket is for!

  26. Gertie this is an excellent tutorial on a new way to do a muslin. I hate to be the one to ask... But why is it better to make a muslin your way (Susan Khalje's method) vs. the normal way of cutting out and sewing the muslin. (IE cutting muslin from pattern (no tracing), doing dart marking etc., and then sewing like normal?

    Everyone seems to be talking about HB measurements. Can you explain a bit of this or direct me to a good reference? I myself am quite petite on top (xs) and flare out to a colette pattern size 6 at the waist and 8 at the hip, along with making a (1 to 1.5")short waist decrease. I'm wondering if I've been doing things wrong or could be doing things better, based on this additional (magical) measurement.

  27. I am confused.... thread trace which seamlines.  The 5/8 seamlines?  The
    line that is one inch in that would normally be the cutting line, but we
    added another inch?

  28. Caryn, what we've done is make a 1-inch seam allowance. So you thread trace one-inch in, on the red lines that represent the stitching lines.

    Liz, like I said, you can use either method, But I like this one for more involved projects because: 1) the one-inch seam allowances give more fitting leeway, 2) since you thread trace the stitching lines, you can see them on both sides of the fabric, 3) it's easier to keep track of changes made to the original seamlines, and 4)when you make the muslin into your pattern, the thread tracings are very helpful in marking your fabric.

    patty, Colette Patterns are drafted for a C cup.

    Redrockcity, if you've already cut the 4, you'll probably be fine with just taking in the bodice a bit along the seamlines.

  29. This post has me thinking because with the exception of the thread-tracing (which I have to try now), I have always done my initial pattern muslins by this method, it makes sense to me when the muslin is a fitting garment to know where all your lines are as well as the extra seam allowance. For a second muslin, if I haven't made too many alterations I usually just make it straight up as I'm expecting it to more-or-less fit (but I keep the inch SA).

    I really like the HBL tip, will try that too, could prove very helpful. I usually mark the bust apex as per the pattern to check in fitting because I often do a FBA and am also low busted so I end up doing a lot of tweaking to get darts, apex etc in the right place.

    Liz - High Bust measurement gives an indication of your frame and theoretically a better fit if you choose your pattern where bust equals your HB rather than the measurement across the full bust and adjust it for a bigger or smaller bust than drafted. Its particularly useful for big-chested ladies.

    Picture two women with an HB of 34", one woman has a full bust measurement of 35" B cup, the other has a measurement of 37" and is a D cup. The women have the same shoulder width, and waist measurements yet if they choose their patterns by the full bust the second woman will end up taking a bigger bodice size but it is too wide for her at shoulder and waist. By using HB, the second woman would end up with a pattern that fits at shoulder and waist and she just needs to add a couple of inches at the bust to allow space for her bosum (although some patterns have so much ease an Full[er] Bust Adjustment is not needed). I hope that make sense, I made the figures up btw the illustrate my example, please don't think they are actual dimensions.

  30. Thanks Gertie & Molly! I think I'm going to try out this new way of making a muslin as well as the HB measurement. We'll see how it goes. :)

  31. Molly, great explanation! Thanks so much for jumping in!

  32. I'm so excited about this! I've never made a muslin before (out of sheer laziness) so this will be a whole new learning experience for me! Thanks for the tips, Gertie!

  33. Thank you Gertie and Molly!

    After reading these comments and speaking to a lovely lady at one of our local independent fabric stores, I think I will trace off a 2 for the muslin because 1) I don't trust myself to blend from a 2 to a 4 accurately and 2) as the fabric store lady pointed out, its much easier to adjust size at the waist and hips than it is to fuss with the shoulder and bust seams. A 1 inch seam allowance on the muslin should give me more than enough to play with if I need to increase the size!

  34. I'm pretty sure I need a FBA, since all of my RTW button downs either gap at my bust or don't fit at the shoulders.

    That being said, I thought I had bookmarked once a really good and easily explained link on high bust measurements and how to do the FBA, but somehow I seemed to have misplaced the link.

    Also, my measurements are literally ALL OVER the place - 42B, 37W, 41H... Am I correct in thinking that I should do a high bust measurement, cut that size and do an FBA, then grade out the waist as needed? (I've got no hips, so I don't need to worry about THAT measurement!

    Getting my pattern paper tomorrow, tracing and cutting and all that hope fully between batches of cookies....

  35. Binkydoll here's a link for a good explanation with visuals..

  36. I am excited to try this method of muslin making. It is new to me. Also, I know that I want to take some of the flare out at the bottom of the coat and lengthen my sleeves. Is this something I should attempt for the first round of the muslin? Any tips? I think I can figure out adding the length, but should I ease out the flare in the sewing or the drafting step?

  37. Wow, Gertie! That was awesome. What an education. I'm not able to participate in the coat sew along, but I am learning so much that I know will help me in future projects.


    P.S. By the way, in my Friday morning post, I mention you; so hope you'll come by.

  38. Fantastic discussion here! I'm so excited to get this going. I keep dragging my feet getting started because I am nervous about deciding on a size to start from. My body is so awesome that it takes bunches of alterations from standard sizing, and I've never used a Collete pattern before. I need to stop second-guessing myself and just jump in.

  39. Hi Gertie! Thanks for posting the image of the pattern pieces, as I didn't order the pattern I'm trying to trace it my self........perhpas it's too much for me BUT I'm gonna try it, this weekend I have to finish it, I have my muslim but I don't have my fabric.
    I was going to sew another pattern but as I really like this one I decided to try do it my self, just I needed to see the pattern pieces.

  40. Lizzy, I didn't post that so that people could copy the pattern without paying for it. It was only meant as an aid to those who did.

  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. Gertie – I have a couple of questions but I may be getting ahead of things here so if I am please let me know and I’ll just keep reading. I have almost completed my muslin, sleeves & collar are all that are left to be added. I hope to post a picture tomorrow. I was so excited this morning once I had put the front & back together and I just HAD to try it on. I drew my pattern from a size 10 due to my shoulders are on the small side but I really think my body/bust/waist should have been closer to a size 12. It’s pretty cold here in Upstate NY and there is no way I’m going to get a sweater on under that coat if I don't let it out a little!! My question, is there any reason why I can’t go ahead and make the body adjustments now before I put the sleeves & collar on?
    I’m also wondering about our next step in the process, once the muslin is completely fitted and we are ready to use the muslin for our pattern. I read the article by Susan Khalje and have followed her instruction when tracing & cutting the muslin as well as constructing but once my muslin is fitted and I have my new sewing lines what will our next step be? I realize we are going to need to take the muslin apart and use that as the pattern but how do we go about getting our exact sewing lines onto our fashion fabric?
    Thank you!!!

  43. Thanks so much for all the muslin advice, Gertie!!! I can't wait to get started, but my muslin fabric hasn't arrived yet, so I will have to wait until Monday at least.:(

  44. I'll add that for true accuracy it's better to remove the seam allowances entirely instead of just adding 3/8 of an inch to the existing pattern block. The reason being is that adding them back calibrates the muslin SA's to your machines' stitch plate SA markings and the muslin fit will be more precise. Also, I use the smallest stitch possible for thread traced SA's and use the longest stitch possible in a contrasting color for muslin construction. The reason being that I don't want to accidentally pick apart those all-important thread traced seams when it's time to take the muslin apart after its fitted.

  45. I am so excited to start this project. I've been sewing since I was a kid but this is my first big, meticulous project with a lot of investment (otherwise I'm more of a fast-n-loose "good enough" sewer and make adjustments on the fly).


    I'm a pear shape. According to the pattern I'm a 4 on top, 6/8 through the waist and a 10 at the bottom. I remember in the "big 4" instructions they sometimes caution not to try to bridge more than 2 sizes. Typically, I dress for my shape (flowing and loose through the hips) and so this dictates fitting the bust/waist and not worrying about the hips. Would that apply with this pattern? I'm thinking I will make a 4 top connecting to an 8 in the hip since it is fuller? Also I'm tall (5'1"), are there any tall girls making adjustments for that?

    Any help appreciated!!!

  46. I meant 5' 11"! Ha!

    Really though I could use help pleeeeeeeeease :)

  47. Wow, I can't believe how frustrating this pattern is for me already and I'm just cutting out the muslin. It says in the pattern instructions "seam allowances are included in the pattern" so I did my best to cut along the lines for my various sizes, but when I came in to read up on sewing the muslin, it seems that you added 5/8" outside the size lines. Whaah?

    And I really hope some of the notches aren't too critical because it was impossible to tell which notches went with which size in a couple of areas, so I just had to stick some notches in the general area.

    I'm pretty much expecting a hot mess already, but here I go anyway! I'm excited to see everyone else's pretty coats.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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