Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Muslin Backlash

Let's try this again, shall we? I completely lost the text to yesterday's post (it must be a sign), so I'm starting from scratch here. From your feedback, it seems like what you all want is a good, rollicking discussion of the pros and cons of muslin-making, so that's what we'll do here!

What prompted me to write about muslins was this post on the BurdaStyle blog, which I thought was a good, balanced look into muslins and why/when to make them. What surprised me was the amount of nay-saying in the comments, since it seemed to me like the home sewing world had really come around to making muslins. In particular, I was interested in one commenter who felt that muslin-making had gotten completely out of hand in the DIY crowd, and in fact went so far as to say that she felt the muslin-making phenomenon was prompting pattern companies to be more lax with their sizing.

I suppose the kernel of what is interesting in all this is the way the use of muslins has evolved for home sewists. My vintage sewing books never talk about muslin-making, and instead use a combination of tissue-fitting and a basted-fitting. Now, home seamstresses have gotten hip to the whole muslin thing and use them as a way to perfect their patterns. But has it gotten out of hand? Are we making too many muslins? Do you feel a pang of guilt when you don't make a muslin?

For what it's worth, some of the backlash seems to be against couture sewing in general. Not every home seamstress wants to sew couture, and that's totally fine! But I will say that the use of muslins doesn't just originate in couture--it's also a time-tested RTW technique. I was grilling my sample-maker friend about this the other day, and he says clothing manufacturers use a lot of muslins to make sure their designs are perfect before they go into production.

Personally, it's gotten so ingrained in me to make a muslin for every project that it's now a guilty pleasure not to! There's something freeing about the process of just picking a pattern, checking the measurements, diving in, and hoping for the best. Obviously,  you wouldn't want to do this with expensive fabric or, ahem, a garment that was going to be in a book. (Yeah, lesson learned on that one.)

At the end of the day, I've never regretted making a muslin. And I try to remember that. Making a muslin doesn't have to be a laborious thing. It can be a quick sewing of just a bodice to check things out. In my Bombshell Dress class, I talk about making a bodice muslin because the fit is so crucial on a bustier dress. Also, there's some tricky sewing in inserting the bra cups, and I think it's good to practice on a cheap fabric like muslin (or toile or calico or whatever you call it! Old bed sheets also work well). But I suppose there's a time and place for muslin-making, and pros and cons against it.

What's your strategy?

{image courtesy of BurdaStyle}


  1. I don't necessarily make a muslin, but use cheaper fabric to make my first draft (something I don't care about if things go awry!). If I end up liking how it turns out, I have something I can wear, and then I'll plunge into my precious vintage stash of fabric! My main problem with making a muslin is I'm impatient and I want immediate gratification!!! I guess since it's my hobby, I feel I do whatever keeps me from getting frustrated.
    I am taking your bombshell class, and fully plan on following your expert instruction!

  2. I missed the original muslin post. I have only made a muslin once in my life. I actually feel guilty making muslins because I think about how many people there are in the world who don't have clothes, so it seems like a waste to make clothing (or an approximation of) that I intend to never wear.

    Of course, I understand why manufacturers make muslins, and it's not so wasteful for them as they will go on to make many replicas to be sold and worn.

    Finally, I remember that Gertie, you once wrote about wearing a muslin to work. For that I applaud you, because your muslin is getting use, and not going to waste! :)

  3. I remember reading your original post, and I don't recall anything backlash-worthy. The comment you highlighted seemed rather rude and narrow-minded. I recall you pointing out an odd sense of hostility toward home seamstresses with a preference for muslins and couture techniques.

    I don't understand why you'd get nasty comments for such a post.

    On the muslin front, however, I wish I made them more often than I do. I'm spoiled, though, because most things fit rather well right out of the envelope (with a slight FBA, that is). So I only make a muslin when the fabric I'll be using is precious to me.

    I think it's very interesting and shows enormous dedication when others make muslins, though. I'm always fascinated by reading through a sewing blogger's progress, from conception to twirling around in front of the camera.


  4. Well, I think I'm spoiled because while we never made muslins growing up (mom did lots of home sewing for garments, and as far I know, always just adjusted measurements on the pattern), I worked as a costumer in college.

    Now that most of my sewing is freelance costume design, it is ingrained in me to make a muslin for nearly everything, both for shows as well as for myself in my home sewing. (And, based on a few personal disasters early on my independent sewing for myself, I'm afraid not to!)

    I think it's totally worth the extra time, but not required for lots of home sewing, especially if you have a good idea of where you do and don't fit commercial patterns--some people only need a little adjustment, others know that their proportions are more unique and need more tweaking.

    And I don't think the trend of home sewers using muslins has impacted the pattern industry in any way. It really is about what works for you, your body shape and sewing needs.

  5. I see the importance of making a muslin particularly when there it's a difficult and form fitting pattern. It's best to measure twice and cut once.

  6. I only muslin important projects, like ballgowns or maybe a suit, that I want to fit impeccably.
    I'd never mnuslin a knit top (come on, it's jersey, it stretches to fit anyways!) or any of my normal everyday clothesy, for that matter, be they skirts, blouses, pants or dresses. For lined jackets, I sew the lining first to check the fit with that, but again, I only make a real muslin when the fashion fabric was very expensive or I simply want it to be perfect.
    But that daoesn't happen often, as I try not to be too perfecitonist about my sewing. It's a conscious choice for me, because I want to enjoy it, not fret and fuss and stress myself out. I have enough stress in my life already without also turning my dearest hobby into stress. So I accept minor flaws and imperfections, because noone but me would notice them anyways. From timke to time, I will feel like tzaking all the time and care to make something as perfectly as I can, and then I will enjoy the process of muslining and tweaking the fit and using a lot of handsewing and so on, but I can only enjoy that when I know I do it because I chose to, not because I feel I have to do it all the time.

  7. I don't see why this is even being discussed. If you want to make a muslin, make a muslin. If you don't, don't. It's one of those things that is a) personal and b) in no way affects anyone else, so why should they care? If they're simply tired of everyone crowing about muslins--which I suspect is the actual problem--then they can quit reading so many blogs, right?

    Commercial patterns have never fit me worth a darn, even 20 years ago before muslin-ing was all over the Internet.

    I'm lazy, so I only do them for higher-stakes projects. I don't do them for housedresses and things that aren't supposed to be that fitted, anyway, unless I've had to do significant resizing or other alterations that might bring the fit of the end product into question, or if it's a weird pattern whose fit might be problematic even if it shouldn't be complex. I didn't do one for Butterick 5744, although I wished I had. It turned out pretty well anyway, though, but there are changes I'd make that I would have foreseen had I not dived into my "good" fabric right away.

  8. I thought you made a good point about muslins proliferating as vintage pattern purchases proliferate. I just bought two vintage patterns--a coat and a dress--and they only came in a 38" bust, when I have a 49" bust. That was my choice--there was only one of each pattern, and I really wanted it! So in this case, I will definitely be making a muslin.

    I believe someone also mentioned the fit of the pattern as a factor. I wouldn't make a muslin for a caftan, for instance, but I will for a relatively fitted sundress.

    I can also see making muslins for a pattern you expect to make a lot.

  9. I'm super lazy, and would prefer to get away muslin-less as much as possible. So I don't really do muslins for skirts. I'm surprisingly lucky with pants too, since the fitting needs of my flat wide bottom are second nature to me now. But for lovely bodice darts I bite the bullet and make a muslin, because otherwise I can't get a fit that pleases me. DD cups make for gaping armholes etc. I begrudgingly make a muslin and am not sorry. The only other recourse is refining a personal bodice sloper that I can use as a template for pattern adjustments, and as time-consuming as that sounds, is more satisfying work to me that sewing something that I can't wear out the door. But then again, we make the muslins to save us from that end as well!

  10. My attempt to avoid muslins, was to draft my own pattern. That did indeed include some muslin making before I actually had the pattern, and I realized that the finished pattern does not necessarily fit perfectly with all kinds of fabrics or with all sorts of adjustments (like moving darts). I have made some bustier muslins on my latest dresses, but most of all I try to avoid it because it "steals" my sewing time. That's a paradox however, because I sometimes have to do fittings after sewing the garment that could've been avoided with a proper muslin.

    The silly thing is that commercial patterns frighten me more now than before I started drafting my own, because I don't know whether they will fit or not, and although I do measurements, there's always something that does not make me completely happy. That's the reason why I shouldz make muslins. The result is that I hardly ever sew from commercial patterns (and less sewing all in all), which I find very stupid...

    So I guess I'm yay to muslins, but too lazy. But I'm also nay to muslins when it comes to the time consume, not having a proper dress stand to fit on (fitting on myself is just not good) and the waste (or what could we do with muslins afterwards?).

  11. I resent the time and effort spent on a muslin, as well as the waste of fabric. I've found that as I generally sew Big 4 patterns, I've got to know the changes I will always make and a quick tissue fitting will generally confirm for me that, yep, as always I have to alter for a narrow chest, full bust, straight shoulders.

    I learned a lot of sewing from my grandma who never muslined, but she did pin fit/baste fit everything - easier when you're making for others, I guess.

    However, I've recently started pattern drafting classes where making a muslin is a fundamental stage in the process, and I'm finding it... not TOO annoying. Still have to keep reminding myself that it's a process and I'll get a lovely wearable finished garment eventually...

  12. Didn't grow up making muslins. Did make muslins in college costume-making classes. Can see their use, but would rather pin-fit patterns, and/or baste tricky bits for fittings. Don't often buy expensive fabric, or make complicated garments. Don't see why there's a controversy: if you want to make a muslin, please do. If you don't want to, don't. The end.

  13. If it's an simpler garment, I'll do a sort of "first draft" like uglybeat. If it's more complicated, I've made lots of alterations, or it's a pattern I know I'm gonna use a lot, I make at least a partial muslin. I've had too many projects that I can't wear because they didn't end up fitting right. I also almost always have to make alterations from the original pattern to fit my body type, so it's important to me to see what needs to be changed and if my alterations are actually gonna work.

    I agree with Little Black Car - It's really up to the individual what they would like to do with their time, patterns, fabric, etc. If you'd like to staple your seams together, that's fine by me! It doesn't mean everybody has to do it the same way. Your sewing space should be your sanctuary where you can feel free to learn and create however works best for you.

  14. Thank you for putting this post up. I didn't really know the importance of making a muslin was until I started taking classes with these wonderful local teachers. I have learned a lot about fitting, especially since I'm short, not necessariy petite but have the in between sizes problem. The garments I would make before I started making muslins would be too big in the bust and hips and now I don't wear those as much anymore. I only have a year of sewing experience and I am trying my hardest to finish one project before starting the next. As of now I plan on making a muslin or mock version before sewing the final garment just because I like to run through all of the techniques used on the pattern.
    I think we should enjoy the process whenever we have the time and not snub our noses at people who don't make muslins.
    Thanks everyone who shared their thoughts. I am learning a lot from everyone.

  15. It's interesting that this seems to be such a hot-button topic! I draft all my own patterns, so I usually make a muslin (with thrift store sheets) each time I draft a brand new piece. For instance, I'm working on a wool dress with a pieced bodice with a sweetheart neckline, which I will definitely mock up before I cut into the fashion fabric. It only needs one muslin, though--if I use the same bodice again for a different dress, I know I can trust the pattern. I often put new garments together by mixing and matching elements from patterns I've already made, so in that case there's no need for a muslin.

    On the flip side, I didn't even think to do a muslin when I was making pants for the first time, since the fabric was a cheap and resilient linen from JoAnn's. I just left a one-inch seam allowance and did a lot of basted fitting. It all depends on whether I'm willing to tack the two bucks the sheet costs and the extra five or ten or however many hours of work onto the final tally for a garment.

  16. Before I started taking design and sewing classes I never made a muslin and the garments would never fit quite right. I'd never wear them and it would be a waste of time, money and fabric. Now that I'm learning more and have to make muslins for class I have fallen in love! The way I see it, the muslin is a more sturdy version of that tissue pattern. So when I am done, I take it apart, stick it in a gallon bag and in the filing cabinet it goes. The original and alteration lines are marked so I can use it to check fit on other people too if I am making it for someone else. And bottom line, I have to agree with you Gertie that I have never regretted making a muslin. But again, to each their own... we all come from different backgrounds, have different bodies and sewing fulfills different needs for each of us. What works for some doesn't for others, and we should embrace these differences rather than criticize them :)

  17. I am new to sewing clothes. I made my first dress recently for a small production and I'm so happy that I made an initial try on muslin. I had a limited supply of the fabric for the dress and there were a number of changes made to the pattern by the client. I was firm on a muslin copy as firstly I had never made a dress before and secondly was terrified of botching the job.

    What a relief to have done the muslin version as I had to make it twice! Later I felt much more comfortable with the actual fabric. I can still think of ways I could have done things differently with the pattern and feel more confident with how to do things in future. One thing that will remain a constant is a muslin first!

  18. As a beginner, I have only made 1 muslin (I've made less than 5 garments so far). It was for a dress and after reading a lot of comments about it, I wanted to make sure that I had the sizing done properly and that the construction techniques were within my abilities. I don't regret doing it because there was a lot of fabric that I ended up taking off. The project is still in process but I think that I will have a much more wearable garment when it's complete.
    As for the comment about wasting fabric when people are going unclothed, I am not too concerned because I am keeping the muslin as pattern pieces in case I want to make the garment a 2nd time.

  19. I wrote about making/using a muslin on my blog ( yesterday... a few sewing mistakes in the fitting department recently had inspired the post... I'm reluctant to blame it on sloppy work of pattern companies or my own sloppiness in measuring before cutting. Sometimes that measure twice cut once rule is not enough.

    Instead, I embrace the fact that my body shape has never remained the same. A knee injury here, and menopause there, knee surgery (etc, etc, basically life) all contribute to an ever changing body shape.

    I would never consider a muslin a "waste" instead I wrote on my blog that I consider it a 3-D notebook on what works at a particular time. And the bonus of giving a glimpse if a style will work, or still works, for my body type.

  20. The only objection I can see to muslins is wastefulness, but here's why my muslins aren't a waste of fabric:

    Four times out of five, I will not get it right first time. If I sew the fashion fabric without making a muslin, I've wasted the fashion fabric. If I sew a muslin which turns out to be a horrible fit, I've wasted the muslin fabric. Same amount of fabric, just less expensive stuff.

    If the muslin does turn out okay, finish it- hems, buttons and all- and you have two of those lovely blouses you liked!

  21. I read the original article, but didn't comment then. I saw it was going into "discussion" mode and was opting for avoidance,but then I saw a comment here that made me pause and think about why this is an important topic and should be discussed (the comment said the opposite.)

    As I was working on readying a pattern a week or so ago, my daughter (19) who is a beginning sewist wondered how a beginner could ever wend their way through the maze of fitting. Why didn't the patterns fit better to begin with? This gave us a nice discussion on how when I first started sewing I was ignorant of all fitting and just sewed it up, adjusting as I went. Maybe we do a disservice to beginners by making the fitting process look so complicated. Even now after 30+ years of sewing I sometimes feel my eyes crossing as I hear discussions of FBA's, sloping shoulders, swaybacks, one hip higher than another, and so on and so on. It can get overwhelming. Sometimes I just want to have a garment fit ok, not perfect to the 1/16th inch mark.

    Bottom lining all my verbiage - I think a muslin has its place, but maybe we need to teach folks it isn't always necessary, and a quick tissue fitting with some generous seam allowances in key areas is just fine too.

  22. what a coincidence, I missed the brou-haha ... but I blogged about this topic today and my approach.
    We all develop out own best practices based on personal needs and personal experience.

    I am not seeing a lot of controversy - just a lot of different perspectives.

    Something else, perhaps entirely unrelated - but worth noting:
    Burda World of Fashion used to cater to advanced seamstresses who could handle cryptic (inadequate) instructions and who, presumably had basic dress-making skills.
    When Burda took down the old website (and all the archived patterns) they replaced it with a new community-based website.
    Those folks who identified themselves as "advanced" felt that Burda turned its' corporate back to them, in favor of encouraging beginners. I doubt of the old /previous population (for lack of a better term) even reads Burda articles anymore. But it's a real feeling among some members of the sewing community that the new site consists of the blind leading the blind.
    I can understand more than one point of view, so please don't shoot the messenger. I am just reporting on things I read in the blogosphere and elsewhere online.

  23. As I sew almost exclusively from vintage patterns, at least nobody will blame me for the rise in poorly fitted modern patterns whether I make a muslin or not!

    Generally though I find I have so little time to sew that I don't bother with 'proper' muslins, instead I go for wearable ones... If it works, I get the benefit of wearing it; if not, it's a relief that it was only cheap fabric. I will always make a muslin before cutting into expensive fabric though, having learned that the hard way and destroyed three yards of gorgeous silk in the process!

    I think the backlash against Couture sewing is a curious one though. If there's a rising tide of people who want to sew well, producing clothes that fit properly, then where is the problem? My priority is always fit first, details later however. I'd rather be wearing something with machine sewn buttonholes that fits, than beautifully bound buttonholes that doesn't!

  24. I've only started sewing for myself after taking a bunch of classes in which we all used the same pattern. Even with exactly the same pattern the use of different fabrics made a big difference.

    So if I'm using a new pattern to sew something for myself do I make a muslin? Hell, yes.

    Otherwise, if it doesn't fit I have no one but myself to blame. I'm thin, but I do not have a mannequin's measurements. Frankly, one can do everything right on the muslin and still have a wadder because one is always working with different combinations of fabric and thread. That's the risk of sewing. That's why if you hate the process you should not make garments.

    But this takes too long for me not to make an effort at the start to end up with something that looks better than I could pick up at a RTW sample sale.

    Plus, it's good practice.

    Of course RTW sample makers make muslins. They don't want to waste expensive fabric while working out problems. A sewing professor told me that at the highest levels they begin to use the fashion fabric as the muslin or for draping because nothing else will perform like the fabric itself. But the people doing that are highly skilled.

  25. I'm so glad you did post about this again, Gertie! :) I get a lot of questions about making a muslin, and am excited to see a discussion about this.

    Personally, I tend to make a lot of muslins. This has a large part to do with using vintage patterns (the silhouettes and fit models changed over the decades; which means I like to double check certain aspects before I cut my fashion fabric!) and designing my own patterns. For the latter, it's just good policy for me on more complicated styles to make sure things match up and go together as I envisioned.

    Do I make a muslin for every project? Heck no! If it's unfitted or made in a stretchy material, most likely I skip a muslin. I do try and make as many adjustments as I can before I cut out my fabric (like an SBA or lengthening for my long waist), which helps with any fitting problems that may arise. If I'm concerned about one area, I'll just baste things together first.

    Really I don't sweat the details on smaller "everyday" garments quite so much. It's the larger, super-fitted or detailed ones that I do. Right now I'm making a fitted 50s style day dress. I had already made the bodice before, but decided to cut a muslin out of the skirt (which I hadn't made in over a year) and this ended up being a wise choice. The skirt is a fitted pencil style and there were a few issues that I could only have addressed seeing it in fabric, rather than tissue fitting.

    I think too, for me, muslin making has to do with being a visual learner. Tissue fitting doesn't always tell me the whole story--paper doesn't drape quite like fabric. As someone who understands things best when I see them as they would be in the final garment, it makes more sense. Since I'm still learning about fitting with every project I make, a muslin is an invaluable tool in some projects--especially since I can write on it (yay!) and save it for future reference.

    I think in a way it's sad that there has been a bit of animosity about muslin making or couture sewing. It's not for everyone--I think there are many styles of sewing and each has it's place. I admire the projects that are whipped up in the blink of an eye on a serger just as much as I do the ones painstakingly sewn using couture methods. For me, knowing how to do things multiple ways and seeing different methods I can reference just enriches my sewing that much more. I have a huge library of techniques to pull from, which means that way I can mix and match them to suit my project best. To me, that is the value of taking the time sometimes to learn from different philosophies of sewing.

    Okay, off my soapbox (again!). I know I've been chewing your ear off about this. haha!

  26. I never made muslins and wasted alot of fabric on garments that didn't fit. Now, each time I take on a new pattern, I make a quick muslin to make sure I made the correct adjustments. I suppose that after I gain more experience in fitting I'll be able to forgo sewing a muslin but for now I'll keep making them.

    The question is, what do folks do with all that used fabric?


  27. For a customer/other person, muslins are a must!

    I'm always wondering how sewists in the books manage to not tear up/ruin their pattern pieces when they do a tissue fitting.
    I've used many methods of pattern making, but making a toile or muslin is my favorite. I usually trace my paper pattern onto scrap fabric, if I can, and then work on it from there. It's especially nice if you plan to use it multiple times!

    I dont think every garment needs a muslin, but I agree that patterns are so unreliable, you need some testing standard before just sewing it up (learned that lesson the hard way as well).

  28. For me, muslins, like most things in life, have their "time and place". Until now, I've only made one real muslin (for the Crêpe sewalong) and it was a good thing I did, since there were quite a few alterations I had to make. I more often go the "wearable muslin" route, using pretty but inexpensive fabric for a first version that doesn't fit perfectly or has a couple darts too many - issues I can resolve for a next version. I haven't made anything with real expensive fabric yet, but before I did, I'd definitely make a muslin! For everyday, quilting cotton skirts and sundresses - not so much... :)

  29. i quite enjoy muslining - it feels like taking a pattern into the changing room!

    I'm relatively new to sewing - i have been sewing for about a year. I like to muslin
    - because I'm still getting used to the ease on patterns, and how i want them to fit (i.e. which size to choose)
    - because i can make sure i do like the style... on me...
    - to avoid bad patterns/wadders (i recently cut a vintage 60s pattern chanel-style jacket into a suiting i love... no muslin... vintage 60s pattern for a moving box was more like it), but most of all...
    - because I can get all of my annoying screw-ups out of the way!

    It may slow down my sewing, but has resulted in less cursing and crying, I'm sure!

  30. I only make muslins if I am making a big ticket item. For something ordinary I just go for it. I learned to sew by making alterations so if I get to the end of a garment and it needs a tweak or two, I can handle it

  31. muslins are a great tool to use when sewing at home. I don't make them for every garment, but mostly when the final garment is going to be made of expensive or rare fabric or when a pattern or technique in the garment is super unfamiliar to me. As for yesterday's post when it was mentioned that muslin making is responsible for ill fitting patterns, I don't know how true this is. I think there must some reason for this issue but it's not muslins. It is an issue worth addressing though.

  32. I only make a muslin if the fabric is expensive or there are a lot of new techniques (like this year's trench coat) - otherwise I go with the "wearable" approach and this has served well so far.
    I think it's a great technique to use, but not necessary all the time!

  33. As with so many things in home sewing, I think it all comes down to personal preference, the time available, tolerance for failure and waste (of time and fabric), and specific fitting needs. Some folks are lucky in that they need very few adjustments to patterns out of the envelope. Great. Congrats. Others require more adjustments that aren't always easy to identify in just a tissue fitting. There are some adjustments I know I will always need to make to a pattern based on its design (where the waist falls, length of shoulder straps), but others I won't know are issues until I get fabric on my body. Some patterns don't require any other adjustments than those just mentioned, but sometimes other issues crop up unexpectedly.
    I don't tend to make full muslins, just bodice muslins since that's the most difficult area to fit on me. With skirts I can usually get away with a simple basted fitting and tweaks using the actual garment pieces. I just don't see the point in cutting into my garment fabric until I've perfected the fit. It always ends up being a disaster on some level when I skip the muslining process, even if I've made the two first adjustments that I always have to make. I don't like to waste my time or fabric, and while a muslin may seem like a waste of time to some, to me it's a necessary part of the process that guarantees that the resulting garment will be one that fits well and that I'll enjoy wearing for years.
    Bottom line: to each their own. I don't see where the big controversy lies in home sewers making muslins. It's just good sense. And no, I don't think that the growing tendency for home sewers making muslins is encouraging pattern companies to be lax in their sizing and fit. Since when have they ever needed an excuse for that?

  34. The wastefulness of the fabric and the time spent on it bug me, I admit. I am rather a novice sewist and have used muslins in the past to work out kinks that I didn't understand-- how to do a collar, for example. I did make several muslins for the Swing Dress and am glad I did, the pattern was so far off from fitting me that I would have probably tossed the final dress if I sewed it up with the original pattern pieces.

    That being said, in the last couple of months I've grown increasingly frustrated with my sewing and I finally realized muslins were bogging me down. I just finished a sundress and didn't do one and it was completely freeing and the whole experience was more enjoyable for me all around. It gave me confidence to think I don't HAVE to do a muslin each time, which for some reason (by no one's direction or fault, but probably the impression I'd gotten through the blogging community) I was starting to think I had to. Now I certainly won't be doing a muslin for every project from now on! I will certainly do one if it's a fit I'm really suspicious about or a new technique that I have to hash out ahead of time, or I'm planning to use some really expensive fabric on a pattern I've never tried (think Liberty... egads).

    So I feel I now have the knowledge to understand that I don't HAVE to do a muslin, but I CAN do one if I need/want to. And I am gleefully sewing my next project without a muslin. :)

  35. I thought the original post was interesting, but not upsetting. I learned to sew in an era (late 60s)when no home seamstress made muslins. I never heard of a muslin until I started reading sewing blogs a few months ago. I don't have a lot of fitting issues, so I don't think I will start making muslins for most things, but I can definately see the advantage if you are making a form-fitting garment or have expensive fabric. I wish I had known about muslins when I made my wedding dress 16 years ago.

  36. I'm lucky that I can make a sample for my fabric shop and count that as a muslin. If it fits, great, maybe I'll take it off the wall and wear it some time. If not, I can see what wants fixin. For patterns that we don't sell,muslins are a rarity for me.

  37. Robin:

    I agree. I didn't find the comment on burdastyle offensive as some people did. S/he was simply voicing an opinion. I understand the POV.


    I don't think there's a "backlash" against couture sewing there. Related to what I just said to Robin, there may be some irritation towards fairly inexperienced sewers who some of the members find pretentious. I once joked with someone else on the web that a lot of people think if they have a sewing machine, it's "couture."

    I do muslins of new patterns because I'm concerned about the fit and with every garment you're only allowed a couple of mistakes, after which things start to fall apart. If you can catch the mistakes on the muslin, it is preferable.

    I got the end of a roll of Liberty of London at Paron for a great price. had an introductory price on Liberty. Guess what, I'm not cutting into fabric that can retail for as much as $38 a yard (for cotton) without doing a muslin first. I can't afford to ruin it.

    If you want to look for a "villain," it's those quilters. :-) Quilting, relatively speaking, produces more instant gratification (I'm not denying it requires a lot of very precise work, but it's not the range of skills required for making clothes.) There are no fitting issues. Design is somewhat less complicated in that the piece is abstract, not required to work on a real person.

    Bottom line: Sewers should do whatever they need to do to sew at the level to which they aspire. For me, that will almost always involve doing a muslin.

  38. I'm happy to spend the time to make a muslin and I love the opportunity to work on the fitting of my garments, but I just can't get over the issue of what to do with the muslin afterwards. Like Becky above said, it seems so wasteful! I usually transfer changes to the flat pattern, so I don't have much use for the muslin after even if I am going to make the pattern again. Any ideas for something to do with muslin fabric? I've tried giving them to my SO to use as shop rags, but apparent muslin doesn't work so well for that.

  39. Hi all, and big hello to Gertie - my 1st time posting in the comments!

    I work in pattern making and went to school for fashion design, so making a muslin is completly a part of my garment design process, it's fully entrentched. It is the only way I can be 100% be satified with fit, as well work out any construction issues. I do resent the time and materials it takes to make a muslin but if I am creating my own patterns, it's the only way to be sure of a proper fit.

    The only way I would skip the muslin and do a tissue fit would be if I was working off a big 4 pattern and making a less fitted garment.

    A big 4 fitted garment still requires a muslin since I need a FBA to make any pattern other then my own slopers fit me. If I am going to alter a pattern i need to make a muslin as well, they go hand in hand.

    RTW doesn't fit me, why waste the time with home sewing to get the same results without sewing a muslin.... meaning if i was sewing a big 4 without alterations, I would skip muslin.

    no wonder I have been doing more home dec stuff lately! :D

  40. I toile most of the time. I have to, or else it will bother me later on. The best ones I have are the basic slopers I drafted and fit on myself, so I can use them as my base patterns when I draft my own designs. I don't have a source for envelope patterns where I live so I have to either draft/drape my own or print it out via Burdastyle or Printsew. Sometimes I get too lazy taping all the pages together, that I just draft my own!

  41. Honestly, I don't think I ever even heard of making a muslin until I started reading sewing blogs a couple years ago. My sewing time is limited, as is my budget, so the thought of making a whole extra garment sounds very wasteful for me. Of course there have been a few times when I think my garments would have turned out better if I'd made a test version first, but overall it is worth the risk to me to just dive in to the actual project.

  42. p.s. I make rugs out of the muslin I don't use anymore. I cut them into strips and crochet them together with a large hook. They make pretty bathroom rugs.

  43. What I enjoy most about this blog are all the interesting discussions. I missed the first muslin post, I'm sure there was nothing offensive about it. I do make muslins for most garments, especially coats, jackets and pants. I will tissue fit some patterns. I have decided not to make a few patterns after making up a muslin. Even though I know what works for my body type and I have studied the line drawing rather than the pattern pic, some patterns just aren't what they should be. I think of a muslin as a revised pattern. I have made my changes and it becomes my new pattern to work with and is not a waste. I remind myself all the time that sewing is a hobby, so I should slow down and enjoy the process! I really like learning couture techniques but I don't feel every garment I make has to be an epic project, I just do what I think is appropriate for each one. Happy sewing everyone!

  44. When I started sewing I muslined everything - I never knew what size to make, and I wanted to practice techniques. Now I pretty much only make muslins for complicated things. I know my alterations (I need a smaller size in the shoulders and upper chest) and automatically cut them. I always sew in an order that allows me to baste the side seams for fitting near the end, as I found that most of my alterations took place there.

    I do think that muslin making can go too far, if you find that it is taking away your enjoyment of sewing. Right now I don't have enough sewing time to make them. Tissue fitting though? Useless. I have the books, but I cannot learn to read tissue.

  45. I know this was meant tongue-in-cheek, but don't kid yourself about quilting. Instant gratification, my fanny. Choosing the right fabrics (ten times over, for the same project), wasting piles of fabric if your geometry was a little off, and don't get me started on hand appliqué. I can make a dress much faster than I can finish a quilt.

  46. I have enough fitting problems that the muslin has become an essential step for me. And I hate it, for all the reasons others have mentioned, which all boil down to wasting resources, both fabric and time. But the truth is I cannot simply sew up a pattern for the same reason I cannot wear RTW -- my body is just atypical in too many ways. My hope is that I get enough fitting experience under my belt that eventually I can skip muslins for some of the easier projects someday. Surely this is an achievable goal!

  47. I had no idea muslins were even controversial. I almost always make a muslin, because I definitely don't fit any standard pattern size, and alterations almost always need to be made. I know some people tissue-fit, but I've never found that easy -- I'd much rather work with cloth rather than paper! But my view is that if I've put all that effort into a garment, I want it to be perfect, and I know, given my proportions, that it will never be perfect without a lot of alteration. I'd rather do that alteration in a muslin than in my expensive fabric!

    But I sew because I enjoy the process. I find making muslins fun. If I found them a drag, I probably wouldn't make as many. And if I sewed with cheaper fabrics, I also probably wouldn't make as many -- it's just hard for me to cut into $18/yd fabric without knowing that the end result is going to be perfect!

    I get around the "what do you do with your muslins" question by tearing them up and using them as bedding for my hedgehog -- she likes to line her burrow with fabric scraps. I realize most people don't have that option, though. ;)

  48. This is interesting! I live in Denmark and the tissue fitting never got to the home sewing industry in continental Europe - if it did, is went away many decade ago. Today, you are still taught by pattern companies to go by full bust measurement and then make a muslin and change it up. Or learn pattern drafting from scratch. There is nothing in between in this part of the world.

    Imagine my initial response when I discovered sewing blogs for the first time some years ago: "WTF? Why are they wearing their pattern? That looks silly!" - but then I found that many did that and I figured out that they something I didn't. :-)

  49. Sheesh! Do what works.

    No one mentions Swedish tracing paper, which is a handy sort of middle road. I typically have to make very dramatic changes in bodice patterns, so it's worth it to me to retrace the whole thing after I alter the tissue. Then I can do a baste fit with the Swedish paper. Yes, it is stiff--it's mainly useful to make sure overall proportions are going to be okay.

    I've made muslins, yes. And, I've also made formal gowns without muslins, and they've worked out beautifully. It's about the particular pattern and your particular fit needs. I find muslins most useful when I know I'm going to be making the same garment more than once, and I don't want to have to do the fine-tuning over and over again.

  50. I am a relatively unusual size and shape (6'0" tall, FBA and swayback needed, B:W:H measurements 36":30":42") and so the chances of a pattern fitting me straight out of the envelope are pretty much zilch.

    Thus fit is one of my primary motivations for sewing, so I consider it worth the time and effort to get it right. I'm with Lauren on this - I can buy ill-fitting clothes in the shops to my heart's desire if I want to, so I don't see the point in sewing them too!

    Having read the previous post (albeit not the comments) in Google Reader, though, I do think that the quoted commenter had a point about there being a real issue with the reliability of sizing from the main pattern companies. I don't think it's entirely fair to place all of the blame upon the blogosphere but for a multitude of reasons, home-sewists do make muslins (and apparently worry about fit) more prolifically than a previous generation seemed to, and there has got to be a good chance that it has had an effect upon the drafters' conscientiousness.

    Then again, internet communication works both ways. Maybe there were always suspectly-drafted/ sized patterns - but because the likes of PR didn't exist, sewists weren't so aware of them.

    (I was hoping for more discussion on this issue, actually, than on the to-muslin-or-not-to-muslin. I shall keep checking back!)

  51. I confess that as one of the hopefully-ecological sewers, I can't get my head around making two garments from new fabric every time with the express purpose of throwing one away - I am way too aware of the ecological toll of cotton farming to feel comfortable with it. But I also hope to develop my skills to the point where I'm sewing a wardrobe from basic blocks that have been muslin-fitted, and I do think that my basic purposes (producing a comfortable business-casual wardrobe) are very different from the people who home-sew for the pleasure of producing novel, complex couture garments every time. I see no reason not to reuse the same block ten times, but someone who is making something very different and sophisticated each time using, say, 4-ply silk has different needs than I do. It's as if my goal is to perfect a scone recipe and someone else is learning molecular gastronomy - of course they need different equipment!

    I do want to note that there are plenty of ugly sheets for $1 at my local thrift shops, and as long as I launder them long and hard in hot water they make excellent muslins that I feel no guilt about at all. And learning does involve waste in any new hobby, and I am lucky to be a fairly standard size with a few straightforward adjustments - people who have to radically redraft every single thing they make certainly have good reasons to use muslin like kleenexes.

  52. I'm trying to make muslins more often as I increase my pattern fitting skills. I have a pretty tight sewing budget, so sometimes I have a hard time justifying the purchase of all that muslin that won't ever leave my sewing room. But I only buy it when it's on sale, and occasionally I'll use parts of my muslin as a lining (if it suits the project). That being said, I've found the use of muslins priceless! Even in a very simple dress I need various length & width alterations, so no pattern fits me straight from the envelope, even if the measurements match (which they never do- my body requires three sizes most of the time). Even though sometimes I moan at the thought of making a muslin, I just remind myself that I never wore any of the clothes I sewed in my earlier days because I was so unhappy with the fit. But if other sewers fit well into pattern sizing, I see no reason why they would have to make muslins as often as I do- just as a double check before cutting into expensive fabric seems like enough :)

  53. I've had enough sewing disasters in my recent sewing history (I've been sewing since I was 10) so lets just say that after I turned 20, got married, and started having kids my body changed so much that no longer know how to just pick a pattern and make it fit. At 17 I was just about the perfect Big 4 Pattern size 8 with a little bit of hip adjustment. Now... I have no idea. So anytime fabric I like is involved I"ll make a muslin... at least until I figure out how to fit this body again, which could be years if this 3rd baby isn't my last! haha!

  54. Hi Gertie, Leah here, the gal that sold Sewbox a few months back! I still read your blog all the time and think this is such an interesting topic. I am always surprised that the ethical and environmental implications of making muslins are not considered more often. If you think about it, you are doubling the amount of material used, which can have big environmental implications. Not to mention cost, and I suspect that's why muslins were not made so often in the '70s and prior. It is just more thrifty to tissue fit and baste the fashion fabric. Ok, so nowadays one can use dirt cheap fabric to make the muslin, but that suggests the muslin fabric is highly unlikely to have been produced ethically! Don't get me wrong, I'm not against muslins at all, and I would not cut into expensive fabric without first making a muslin myself, mostly because the thought of tissue fitting scares the living bejeezus out of me and I wouldn't have a clue where to start!! I just thought this is an interesting angle to the debate that hasn't really been raised much yet. Anyway keep up the fab writing (and sewing) and I wish you all the best for your new freelance lifestyle! Leah xx

  55. My sewing time is pretty limited. Although it's counter-intuitive, making a muslin often saves me time. It's much quicker for me to make a muslin or partial muslin to check the fit and make alterations then it is to invest time in a final garment that won't fit or I won't be happy with. Also, muslin-ing helps me work out new-to-me techniques and tricky instructions so that the actual garment sewing moves along quickly and precisely.

    I don't muslin everything, but more fitted or complicated garments get muslins, especially when I'm using a more expensive fabric or one I can't replace.

  56. I'm really a novice sewist. I've never made anything for myself to wear, and mostly I've been making loose-fitting pajamas for my autistic daughter to wear around the house. Recently I decided to try creating a new pattern for her, using two commercial patterns I had as a starting point. I'm currently on my third (and hopefully last!) muslin for that, since there have been a lot of kinks to work out. I'm happy I did it, because I'd never have been happy with the finished garment otherwise.

    I'm really keen on starting to sew for myself, and I expect I will use a lot of muslins there too, at least at first. I'm a plus-size lady with very large, drooping, oddly positioned breasts, and a regrettable sagging tummy. Whatever I make will definitely need fitting adjustments! I wouldn't be surprised if at some point I found I knew my adjustment needs well enough to dispense with a muslin; I also wouldn't be surprised if I could never get away with not making one.

  57. Totally agree, Gertie. Thanks for bringing up this topic and reposting this post.
    I don't agree that it was easier before because pattern companies were more consistent in their sizing. I may not be a super experienced seamstress but I have done a fair share of vintage patterns and if anything, I think that modern patterns suit the modern woman better than vintage patterns, mainly because we don't use corsets underneath clothing etc.
    EVERY body is different and every style of dress, skirt, jacket, shirt etc. will fit you differently because the STYLES are different. It can be as simple as the difference between bust darts and princess seams for an otherwise quite similar dress pattern, and there you go: you don't know how it fits you.
    I make muslins because I have wider hips and a smaller waist than most patterns account for. Granted, I don't do it for every pattern, but for some I do and I have never regretted making one. Also, it let's you practice tricky construction parts. What's wrong with that?
    I am a huge advocate for letting people do as they please. In the end, it's their work that will suffer. I think every single one of us commenting (and following this blog) sew because we want to and take pleasure in creating. We don't need to sew. In the same way, we make muslins because we want to, not because we must.
    It is completely volountary and you can only decide for yourself where you want to take your sewing.

    Keep up the good work, Gertie!

  58. I usually make a muslin, but I do it for a couple of reasons. Fit is one, of course, but another is because I hate cutting out my patterns from the original pattern paper, especially if I'm not sure I'm cutting the right size to start out with! So when I make my muslin out of muslin or sheets, I baste it together to check for fit, and then remove all stitching and use that cloth as my pattern piece. It's way easier to manipulate than paper patterns, and sturdier, too. Also, if I know what length I'm going to hem it to, I can avoid adding an additional 4" around the bottom from the get-go. And when I tire of a pattern, I just reuse the muslin fabric to make something else! It's my system, and it really works for me.

  59. Over the years I've really struggled to pick up sewing. This year I started pattern drafting classes and for about four months there I was almost exclusively making muslins. I was absolutely shocked at how much I progressed in those four months. I credit a thirty yard bolt of Roc-Lon muslin ($1 a yard) for giving me confidence in sewing because I wasn't afraid to make mistakes and experiment.
    So yes, I love making muslins and would recommend making a muslin for both practice and fit. However, if someone else doesn't like making muslins that's their choice. Do I make a muslin for everything? No. For a lot of my home sewing, I don't think it's necessary. Either I don't care if it's PERFECT or the fabric isn't precious.

  60. To each seamstress, her own. I don't have much fitting trouble (luckily, or I might give up the hobby!) so I generally cut a 10 and hope for the best. I only make a muslin if I'm trying a new pattern company or have super expensive fabric.

  61. If I want a garment to fit me, I make a muslin. Period.

    I can tell by looking at the photos of my early creations that I didn't make muslins. The fit is off -- I'm shortwaisted & petite tho' curvy, & off-the-rack patterns can't account for these things.

    My early sewing work looks sloppy compared to things I made after more experienced friends introduced me to the concept of "mocking up" a garment in muslin before cutting into the fashion fabric. Thank goodness they told me about this secret! My work isn't perfect, but it's a million times better now.

    And these days, I do a lot more custom pattern-drafting of my own or scaling up historical patterns, so making a muslin is mandatory bec. there's no such thing as standard sizing. But even if I'm using a Simplicity pattern, I'll make a muslin of a fitted dress bodice, just to be sure.

    I don't really see it as a waste of time -- if anything, it saves time in the long run. I won't have wasted time & money sewing a garment that I'll hate wearing or never wear bec. the fit is crappy!

  62. Oh & as for what to do w/the muslin itself, as the Burda article said, I save the final muslin (w/the paper pattern, if one existed) to use as a future pattern, with notes. I will often use this to base future garments off of, since I've worked out the kinks already.

    And the muslins that didn't work, I can recycle those into stuffing for pillows & things. Cut the muslin into strips & it makes soft batting. No great waste. If you have a compost pile, put it in there too :-)

  63. I have never regretted making a muslin. OTOH, I have regretted not making a muslin. I don't think it's gotten 'out of hand' and I don't think it has caused the pattern companies to slack off on sizing. They did that all on their own :).

    I fall squarely in the camp of when in doubt, muslin it.

  64. I never make muslins. I lack patience and just simply can not bear to make a project twice. I do keep little bits of scrap fabric on hand to try out a new technique or to work out a confusing set of instructions. That's as close as I ever get. Then again, I sew almost exclusively with cheap fabric (I love quilting cottons!) and I view each new project as a learning experience so one could argue that everything I make is a muslin of sorts. Maybe if my skills ever get to the point where I'm comfortable using "nice" fabric, muslins will be more appealing.

  65. When I was buying only Vogue and making the pattern longer was my only adjustment, no muslin was fine. Not now when I'm a much larger size and Vogue (and everyone else) thinks I should have grown 6" and developed football player's shoulders. It also depends on what I'm making. If it's a simple nightgown or kimono, there's no muslin; if it's a 50s or 60s pattern that needs a lot of adjusting, then definitely a muslin.

    BTW, I knit and occasionally see arguments over how to knit, block, finish, what fiber to buy, etc. Nasty and unnecessary. This is supposed to be FUN! I can't imagine anyone getting into a snit and leaving you a mean comment just because you want to show couture techniques.

  66. what to do with the old muslins?

    I typically cut them up and use the pieces for... other muslins! or for practicing buttonholes or embroidery or other techniques if they are too small. I also hand-embroidered a little clothing label for a shirt i made my fella out of... used muslin!

    and reading the comments people have included, I think, yes, my grandma, a dressmaker, also tissue fitted and pin fitted us.

    and the memories of those cold fingers and getting pinned! So awful!

    I'd much rather muslin.

  67. P.S. Buy old sheets from the thrift store and run them through a hot wash with a little bleach instead of buying new fabric. Here in Toronto where thrift stores aren't always cheap, sheets are about $2 each, so work for a tight budget and are a good reuse of old fabric. Old curtains sometimes work, too, as long as they're not fiberglass.

  68. I'm definitely not an every-time muslin maker. But I have a rather difficult to fit body -- 5'1", short-waisted, narrow back, 28J bra size. With the wonkiness of sizing in commercial patterns, and the ridiculous amount of ease they add into them, I know I can't trust anything that comes printed on tissue paper. EVER.

    So for me, doing a muslin from a commerical pattern based on my measurements is a ridiculous waste of time. I'll end up with something so huge in the waist, huge in the back, huge in the shoulder, massively long, that I won't be able to even take it in to fit. Sometimes going down 3 or 4 sizes from what the pattern recommends can help, but then I have to adjust the bust blind, without knowing how big the entire thing is going to end up being. And trust me, with a 26.5" ribcage and a 39" bust, no "large bust adjustment" has ever, ever worked for me. I'm completely on my own.

    So as I've slowly gotten better at drafting for my very strange body, what I have done is made a collection of muslins of classic styles that I *know* fit. My princess seam dress muslin probably gets used more than any other, but I have a collection I can draw on for most things I want to sew for myself. And any new muslin I make has to fit into the criteria of classic and can be used again for later projects. There's no way I'm going to go through all that fitting only to throw it out and start from BS tissue paper again the next time I want to sew something similar.

  69. I think the underlying tone of the comment you mentioned in the original post was negative, like there is something "wrong" about making a muslin or making one "too often." My hope is that the expectation that there is always only one right or wrong way of doing things would disappear from our community. Sewists should be able to use whatever of the myriads of tools they have at their disposal to make well-fitting, long-lasting garments without any sense of guilt or shame because they didn't do it "right." Period. Perfectionism be damned. There are many means to an end, just as there are no two women shaped the same way.

    I'm another one of your readers with a figure that doesn't fit the Big 4's fit models. I have to adjust every. single. darn. pattern I use. Sometimes I tissue fit half a bodice or trouser, sometimes I make a muslin, but not the whole pattern, just the tricky parts. This has increased my knowledge of pattern-making and I am quickly branching out into drafting my own patterns off of my muslins and tried-and-true altered patterns. So muslins have become a pathway to a library of "slopers" custom made for me. The time I have spent in the past fitting (even knit t-shirts with muslin) has paid off greatly. Now I can cut and sew with little or no adjustment.

    I don't think it is wasteful in the least...the extra fabric and scraps have turned into projects by and for my kids and my husband (yes, he sews), fodder for the scrap bin, crocheted rugs, quilt tops, etc. What is extremely wasteful is when I make a garment without fitting first and then end up with an ill-fitting garment that I want to wad up and throw away.

  70. Making a muslin is far from my favorite part of sewing. But I do make them! I make them for my garments that I want to fit like a glove. The Chanel knock-off I wanted to make started with a muslin. The jeans I made started with a muslin. For everyday t-shirts and tops I do not make muslins though. Because if it turns out to be a wadder I am okay with that. I really just make the muslins for the special pieces I make. I did make muslins for my husbands dress shirts because he is tall and skinny and tends to have a hard time finding RTW shirts that fit. So before I made one I wanted to make all the necessary changes so everything fit him perfectly the first time around.

  71. Before the crepe sew along I thought that a muslin was simply made out of muslin but sewn just like the dress. Imagine how excited I was when I found out you just basted those bad boys together. Now that I have better technique though I make them for quite a few things. I like to be able to play with the fit of a garment and I'm just better at doing that on a muslin then I am with the dress itself usually.

    I also find that making a muslin allows me to make a lot of pattern that simply would not have worked for me before. I have trouble bc technically my bust is a smaller size then my waist but I'm also a D cup (go figure hunh) so I tend to need a good bit of bust adjustment.

    My mom used to sew all her clothes to save money and only made a muslin for pants but I sew for personal enjoyment so I figure whatever makes me enjoy the process more is what I should do.

  72. I make a muslin mock-up if I'm making something that is fitted or if I've made a great deal of pattern alterations. I also don't want to cut into expensive fabric until I've mocked up my pattern first.

  73. I am largely self-taught, and to the extent that I had any guidence, I relied on sewing manuals from my local library - which at the time were old tomes from the 60's and earlier. So I learned to fit mostly by measuring the pattern and altering my garment as I made it. This is still typically what I do.

    I have assumed that one of the reasons why many bloggers (for example) use muslins is because they have more formal sewing lessons. If I was teaching a sewing course, I would probably have students do muslins to be sure they had a successful garment by the end of the process.

    Learning to fit a pattern by tinkering with it before you make it up into takes some intuition and experience. I had some not-so-great projects until I learned to do it right. Making a muslin takes longer per project, but the learning curve isn't so frustrating.

  74. I save every decent-sized scrap of muslin. When I take evening classes, I even pick up other people's scraps. A student from India once commented on the waste at the school in the huge pieces of muslin she saw thrown on the floor or left on the tables.

    Not me. This interest is too expensive.

    I use the pieces for other muslins and scraps for things like testing the stitch on a machine or for sewing exercises. If I were going to do something challenging, like make a welt pocket, I would definitely do it in muslin first before moving on to make a sample in the real fabric.

    Muslin pieces are good to use as rags for wiping off one's iron, or as a pressing cloth, although I usually will rinse out the sizing before using it.

    I've toyed with the idea of making sachets by sewing little pillows and filling them with potpourri. They would be good for screen printing,too. The other day I saw drawstring bags made from muslin that were stamped with an interesting design. I couldn't believe the price.

    One other thing: I'm always looking for muslin deals, but cheap muslin, the kind that you keep ironing yet can never make smooth, is not worth the trouble.

  75. for i, the first mockup is usually done in a muslin. the second and so on is done is a fashion fabric similar to the final fabric of your choice so you can have a better idea of the garment. i do this because i draft the patterns from scratch and need to know if it works or not. muslin can be expensive and if you can find a subsitute of it in a discount fabric store, it'll save you some money. this method can be time consuming but it works for me. however, if you use home sewing pattern and certain brand works for you - muslin may not be necessary.

    honestly, this is a silly topic to be having a backlash on especially when it is up to the sewer who determines if making a muslin will help with their garment(s). there is no right or wrong way; only your personal preference matters.

  76. I am a size 16 with an hourglass figure. Fit is very important to me. If my clothes don't fit right, I look dumpy and sloppy. I will make as many muslins as it takes to get the look I want. (I've also started designing my own patterns, and it is just a natural part of that process.) On the odd occasion I don't make one, I've almost always had issues. (The muslin is also good for me to figure out if the style is even going to suit me at all.)

  77. I think that one of the reasons muslins are more popular now than, say the 60's, is that people sew for different reasons now. In the past people pretty much sewed or didn't have lots of clothes. Now, we sew either to express individuality, or creativity or for good fit. And those of us who sew enjoy the process. (not always true in the past). So, if we enjoy the process, another step, the muslin, is still something to be enjoyed. I'm a huge believer in muslins and seldom sew without one.

  78. I'm glad you put this up. I read the Burda post and the comment and I thought the poster had a point to be considered, and I like your approach as well. If you take joy in it, why the heck not? There is a bit of a generation gap in terms of approach and habits--I kind of find myself in the middle, a Gen-X sewer who started in the early 80s as a teen, but has some things in common with the younger sewing/craft revival. If sewing was merely a way of saving money, as it was for me in college, then muslins would've been way out of the question.

    And sewing has changed a lot in the last 10 years--so much more information than ever before--and half the guesswork is taken out just by the sheer number of pattern reviews on any given pattern. (For example, I'm attempting the Sencha blouse and after seeing it on about 20 different bodies I have a pretty good idea of what kinds of alterations I might have to make--but will still make a test garment.)

    While I don't make a muslin for everything, I do prep and clean up almost every single pattern before I cut fabric. I trim down most seam allowances to 3/8", walk the pieces to make sure they match, the notches match--basically everything I need to do so that when I get to cutting I don't have to do any guesswork. I don't like having to do guesswork on muslins--just see if the pattern fits. And then muslins don't always prove the end result--two different knits can fit radically different in the same size... argh, ask how I know after making a knit muslin, only to have the final result flop. But it's good to learn these things about "fabric fit" by testing garments once in a while; I wouldn't have understood textiles any other way.

  79. I have nothing against muslin making, but it just doesn't work for me. I prefer flat pattern measuring. The only way muslin-making is success for ME is when I make a "test garment". And it has to be made in the exact same fabric as the final garment. And I've ONLY done this on special occasions. And I'm pretty sure that's the way LOTS of design houses do it as well.

  80. I'm surprised and a bit envious that so many people can get away without making a muslin! Personally, my body has some wacky, wonderful geometry going on and I'm not yet skilled enough to know, "Ah, yes, I'll need to do this much of an FBA and move this dart and shimmy the waist up and turn this shoulder piece in a bit, etc." Also, I don't have a dressmaker's dummy, so it's hard to fit things on myself.

    Back when I was first sewing, I didn't even know what a muslin was and literally every single project I tried to make was a wadder. Muslining has pretty much saved my sewing. Perhaps once I get more projects under my belt and get a grasp on what my standard adjustments are, I'll be able to trust myself and make fewer muslins. :)

  81. @Sew Show Me: You can also use a double layer of muslin to squeeze excess whey out of Greek yogurt to make tangy, delicious cheese! Awwww yeah. OMG, yogurt cheese with dill or chives...

  82. I really just enjoy sewing so making a muslin isn't really a chore for me. If I'm going to take the time to sew I want something amazing! And taking the time for one outfit of perfection is better than a closet full of 'meh' (I've been there) Of course my muslins in the past have not been so good. Like I said in the post yesterday, your course has made a lot of difference.

    On the bombshell dress muslin it was so exciting to see it FITTING! Now I can make something beautiful without stress. And yes the way you showed in your video takes a lot of time. And since I can really only sew at night (and at baby naptimes) that could be off putting for some. But I think it's worth it.

    I'm not a standard size and tissue fitting frustrates me to no end. It's just a big disaster. I don't really see a waste of fabric. Only if you don't keep the muslin I guess. Though if you didn't make one and your project turned out awful then you're wasting fabric anyway. Plus you can always buy thrift store sheets to use as muslins which may make it less wasteful I suppose.

    So muslins, I'm for it. :D

  83. I use a combination of flat pattern measurements, tissue fitting (sometimes in swedish tracing paper which serves more like a muslin than paper), and actual muslin muslins. Sometimes I only do one, sometimes I do all three - it depends on the body-fittedness (?) of the pattern I'm making, how familiar I am with the pattern line and its fit on my body, and how fancy the resulting project is supposed to be.

    I do sometimes make mockups with scrap fabric, but I like the ease of being able to make marks and notations on white muslin - I buy it by the bolt with a coupon from Joann's, and once it's used I recycle it for pockets, facings, or for foundation-pieced quilt blocks, so very little gets actually thrown away.

    On a side note re BurdaStyle, as other commenters have mentioned: I gave up on that site after they treated their traditional customer base so poorly, and the few times I've dipped my toe back in I've not missed it: it seems to have turned into a very young, crafty place that's uninterested in 'traditional' methods and sometimes actively resents them.

  84. I am a beginner and haven't made a muslin before making the final project. For me I haven't needed to yet but plan to make a muslin when I get to more advanced sewing.

    QUESTION ~ What do you do with all the muslin's you make?

    I quilt so I actually use muslin as the backing for my quilts.

  85. When I learnt to sew I just followed the exact pattern that I bought. sometimes I ended up with stuff that didn't fit and I'd just discard it. I've recently come back to sewing and have misplaced my stash of patterns. So i've begun to have a go at drafting and adapting ideas.
    I recently made the coffee date dress from Burda, in a relatively cheap but nice fabric, the sizing guide was exactly my measurements, but the dress didn't fit! and I hadn't left enough seam allowance to adjust it. I've discovered I'm long waist-ed and the pattern was quite short. Had I made a toile I'd have solved the problem before using my nice fabric. So for my latest project - using TR design making a muslin was essential. I've just finished version 2 (take a look on my blog I can see how it's really useful, but I don't want to get tied to using one all the time. I'll just allow a bit more seam allowance and baste fit if not using a muslin.

  86. I used to never make muslins, but in the past few months I have started making them at least for the bodice. I have trouble with gaping at the back neck and I find that it helps me eliminate that. Also, I have started to use "better" fabric and I don't want to mess it up and it become one of those "unplanned" muslins. Now, I really don't make muslins for knit dresses with alot of stretch in the knit because I have pretty much figured out my sizing on them.

  87. I think another aspect of this whole issue is the "teaching tone" of self-styled, and often very inexperienced sewists and writers in places like Burdastyle and blogland overall. They have just discovered muslins and they think everyone should do them! But Blogland is in reality largely peer-to-peer. There are few real experts blogging. The experts are too busy elsewhere. Blogland is also a place where people self-market as they develop and try to build new careers. So it's not surprising if self-styled experts sometimes get slapped down by people who have sewn more and have quicker and better ways of doing things (I'm not only talking muslins here), but who don't want or need to compete on the career building front. And yes, personally I do think that the idea of needing to make a muslin for a simple sheath dress could be very off-putting for a great many people. Like when I started sewing, I wanted to walk away from the machine with something wearable (not perfectly fitted) in a few hours, not after weeks of "sew-along." So the people who chimed in with quicker (and therefore to my impatient mind) better ways were simply giving begiiner sewistas a greater range of choices and a wider perspective. Shouldn't online "teachers" know the KISS principle and apply it?

  88. I was one of the sewing bloggers featured in the BurdaStyle article, and I stand by how important making muslins has been for my sewing. I'm relatively new to sewing, and though I haven't made a muslin for everything I've done, those projects I have made a muslin for have greatly benefitted from it. I've learned a lot from the process. As I continue learning to sew well, I imagine that many of my projects will begin with muslins (while many will likely also not!).

  89. I have 2-3 size differences between my bust, waist, and hip. Pants never fit me properly - I even tried to draft pants and got lost in the alteration process (sway back, protruding seat, full thighs, etc). I wish I could just *know* that it was going to fit - whether with the help of a muslin, tissue fitting, measuring, or making a sacrifice to the sewing gods. So far I haven't found a way I can always trust. Maybe for some it's easier because they have an "easier to fit body" or they're more experienced or know how to handle problems. I even tried making a loose fitting garment just to avoid fitting - but it ended up looking like a hospital robe. Sometimes I wonder what would be easier: finding a good fitting method, or losing weight to become a one-sized person (waist-hips-bust)...! If I found that making a muslin was a way to avoid disappointment from an ill fitting garment after so much work, then yes I would make muslins.

  90. I sometimes make muslins and sometimes not. It depends on the syle of garment. I always make a muslin for shirts, jackets, dresses etc. I am lucky to be very well endowed and I have to make such extreme full bust adjustments compared to my shoulder measurement I would be crazy to just cut and go. I don't feel guilty if I don't make a muslin. And often not making a muslin has meant so much more work with continued trying on and adjusting. I will rarely make a muslin for trousers or skirts unless using a vintage pattern as I don't have any major fitting issues from the waist down. I just say realx and do what feels right for each garment.

  91. I think that there are more and more home sewers who are finding that they need to make muslins in order to accommodate fitting issues that plague many of us, with the FBA being a very common one these days. I know that I used to be able to open up a pattern, cut it out and whip up a garment with little to no altering, but that was before I had kids. Now it's rare that I don't have to do some pattern alteration - the exception being the Colette Chantilly dress that I made back in May, as it was perfectly sized in the bust for me. Not sure how that happened but I was thrilled with it. Anyway, I know that my main goal when sewing garments for myself is to create something that fits me well from the first wearing, since most RTW clothing doesn't fit me well at all (I'm short with a large bust, small waist and wide hips) and I hate doing alterations to off-the-rack stuff.

    A muslin can be really helpful for many things, including finding out that a certain pattern isn't going to look good on you, no matter what you do to alter it or what fabric you use. I find that really important when I'm contemplating an expensive fabric purchase. And as others have pointed out, it helps solve fitting issues before you cut out. The first muslin I ever made was for a gown to wear to an army holiday ball. I was making it from red/black iridescent silk and I needed to make sure the back was high enough to cover my bra. I ended up making the alteration to the muslin and even taking in some seams. I ended up with a final dress that fit perfectly and tons of compliments.

    Tissue fitting can be a good thing, though, too. I trace all my patterns onto STP now and that allows me to get a pretty good idea of fit, without the danger of ripped tissue. Most of the time I don't need to do a muslin for knit garments if I like the fit with the STP but I will do one for things that have an asymmetrical line or if I've never used a pattern from that company.

    Becky makes an interesting point about making something that you won't wear. Personally, I recycle as much of my muslins as possible after I have the altered pattern completed. This is really easy if you have larger skirt pieces, etc. Frequently my muslins look like a patchwork of different fabrics but that's because I make an effort to use the fabric more than once. But this leads me to an issue I see with some people and their muslins.

    The problem I see sometimes is that people look for the cheapest fabric possible, knowing that they aren't going to wear the muslin. This is a problem because you won't really know how the final dress will fit if the fabric you choose for the muslin is radically different from the final dress fabric. Then they wonder why the end result is different from the muslin and assume they did something wrong when it was a matter of fabric choice.

  92. I only use a muslin when the fabric am going to use is a very expensive one besides muslin is becoming kind of expensive fabric it self.

    am all for a muslin if you have the time and patience, but if you are like me i need to see something I can at least try on, then muslin is a no no.

    Till next time.....have fabric dreams and sewing pattern wishes!!

  93. I learned the hard way years ago that making a muslin is a really good idea, and not making one is a really bad idea, especially for bodices and waistlines.

    I have a sort-of strange body configuration (one of the big reasons why I sew to begin with), and I really need to make a practice garment if I want a perfect fit.

  94. First of all, I want to thank you Gertie for a great blog! So here it goes, Thank you!

    Now to the muslin discussion. I don't really see why people get so upset about using muslin. I'm studying fashion in Tokyo and I absolutely think it's necessary to make a muslin especieally since I draw the patterns myself. Now, the patterns I draw is to fit the manequin we're using at school (wich just happens to be my size) BUT even though I'm practically making the patterns from my own measures you never know how it's going to fit, how the cutting will flatter your body.
    If you're a home sewer I think it's almost more important to make a muslin and try on the size and shape before you cut the actual fabric. The patterns that are sold today is made to fit the "average" women who doesn't exist and because very women look different in body shape, lenght and so on, it probably won't come out as the picture on the package. I'm not saying that you Have to make a muslin, but if you want to make a garment that will fit your body properly I'd say that's the only way. Whats worse? Spending a little extra time fitting the muslin or ending up not wearing the dress you made in that expensive fabric because of the bad fit?

  95. I've started to make muslins out of nice donated fabric I find at the thrift store for $3/3 yards. I used to make my fashion garments without muslins and found myself making a lot of ill fitting mistakes, thereby, ending up with so-so, wonky looking/fitting garments. I still plan on only making muslins if there are fitting issues, or if I am planning on making more garments from the same pattern. I am really happy that to muslin/not to muslin is a personal option and not a mandate of sewing. My end goal is to create something lovely I can wear with pride. Making muslins and couture sewing techniques are two things avoided by most of the students in all but one of my sewing classes. Most people in the classes just cannot be bothered with making muslins or using couture techniques, as they are about seging and getting garments done as quickly as possible. As far as I am concerned, sewing is a personal passion for me and I am open to learning various sewing techniques, alternative ways of resolving sewing challenges, and learning how to tailor and/or refashion thrift store garments. While "The Muslin Backlash" post is seen as a controversial sewing issue by some, it also highlights a lot of excellent topics, such as our love of sewing, what techniques we prefer, sustainability and the environment, how sewists are not carbon copies of one another, and so many more issues enumerated by Gerti's numerous followers. Thank you, Gertie, for creating this wonderful blog.

  96. Thank you, Gertie, for revisiting this issue in such a thoughtful way that the discussion has moved from a knee-jerk "yea or nay" and into a discussion about what we can learn from both muslins and from people who muslin to improve our own sewing and make the whole process both more fun and productive!

    You've stirred so many thoughts, this might take awhile!

    Personally, in more than 30 years of sewing, I've never made a "proper" muslin -- but I've done something very similar many times in considering every new garment from every new pattern to be a test garment, and making mock-ups in cheaper-but-similar fabrics every time I was making something for a special occasion where the end result had to be perfect, and/or I was using expensive fabric.

    I think the reason my knee-jerk response to using muslin to make a muslin is based on my love of drapey fabrics and the knowledge that stiff muslin will never approximate their characteristics. I like to say that my sewing machine has sewn a million miles, and I still haven't fully mastered the feng shui of how similar-but-different fabrics will behave when they meet the exact same pattern, but I don't ever want to quit learning!

    One of the things I've learned over the years that have been sparked by this discussion is that there's a tremendous difference between garment style and garment fit.

    I suspect that this dichotomy has a lot to do with the push to make muslins -- as well as the complaints about "sloppy pattern sizing." Today, style lines are very different than they were in the '50s and '60s, but our interest in vintage styles is converging with a much wider variety of body types, and it can be bewildering to try to discern what aspects of a pattern pertain to style lines and what pertains to "vanity sizing" changes. Throw in individual fit issues, and no wonder so many sewists have moved en masse to the "wasteful" process of making muslins.

  97. Whew! A few more rambling thoughts:

    - Some people are just plain learning to sew. They want to use cheap fabric to acquire new skills. When I was in this boat, no-one used muslin (we just made lots of garments of increasing difficulty -- now, mostly called wadders -- out of plain fabrics). I can't tell you how many times I screwed up, but I knew mistakes were part of the learning process. Now people make muslins, and consider them to be part of the learning process. Either way, fabric is "wasted", and either way, learning happens. However you do it, learning is never wasted.

    - Some people are trying to learn to fit. No matter how angular you are, even stick figures are made in 3-D. Some of us seem to have more dimensions to our 3-D bodies than commercial patters allow, and it sometimes seems like there's a conspiracy against us, but pattern drafting always has to take curves and angles into account. Whether you're drafting a new pattern or redrafting an existing pattern to make an FBA, for example, there will always have to be experimentation to make a flat, 2-D construction fit a 3-D body, and that takes both trial and error and some fabric waste. Whether you waste muslin or cut wide seam allowances, scraps will fall by the wayside. It's just part of the process.

    - All of us have been exposed to how the garment industry works, and that exposure influences our own sewing (mostly in a very positive way!), but that exposure can be intimidating. The truth is that everyone in the industry, be they couturiers or mass-market manufacturers like Walmart, "wastes" a lot of time and fabric making both muslins and test garments. The stakes are too high for them not to. Whether they're using fabulous fabrics to define new fashion trends or simply trying a new fabric from a familiar manufacturer, both the design and the fabric's functionality in that design have to be tested -- and that requires both a muslin and a "wadder", aka "design sample". Most of us don't face these stakes on a daily basis, so it can be intimidating to feel like everything has to be perfect, but I think the key is in determining when perfection matters -- and when sewing and playing with fashion should just be fun.

    Gertie, you're often in a different boat than most of us are here at home. You're writing a book about vintage fashion (so style lines matter just as much as fit) and you're writing a blog that deals beautifully with both. You're much closer to facing the critical stakes that fashion designers face than most of us face on a daily basis. Of course you do so many muslins!

    If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't do anything else. As I said, I've done something quite similar whenever the stakes in my own sewing were high. I just think it's okay to cut, sew, and hope for the best occasionally, or even to develop a favorite pattern by making a few wadders, finding what works, and using that same pattern over and over (with minor adjustments). I think the "muslin backlash" mostly comes from those of us who mostly sew from the perspective that we're willing to break a few eggs of fashion fabric to make minor style tweaks in basically low-stakes life-styles.

  98. Yesterday I wrote up a post for the muslin debate, but once I posted the debate was gone. So today I will try to recap...

    Yesterday there were a lot of people saying that their moms and grandmoms had never heard of muslining a pattern before. Based on what I have read elsewhere, I don't find this surprising because back when they were young and learning to sew (during WWII era) wasting anything, including fabric, was not considered very patriotic. In addition, since this followed the depression, the mentality was still one of minimizing waste as much as possible. When the grandmothers taught there daughters to sew, that mentality and thrifty methods were passed along.

    However, I think that there may be more self-taught seamstresses today than in previous years (I am one of them!). I feel like there was sort of a "lost generation" of home seamstresses (my grandmother sewed, my mom didn't), so since we haven't been altering patterns or making clothes nearly as long, we don't necessarily know what to expect from a given pattern company. In addition, I think many people seem uncomfortable with self-drafting or draping, so that isn't always an option either.

    As a matter of personal preference, I do try to muslin for fitted garments - coats, jackets, fitted dresses (the bodice), and pants. Also, I know many people will use the muslin as pattern pieces, but generally I try to transfer adjustments to the paper pattern. I will try to re-use fabric from muslins for other muslins - for example pants will be cut down to become sleeves, etc. until I am left with scraps. For my not-so-fitted projects, I tend to make a test garment, which hopefully ends up wearable, but not always. I am more likely to do this when I am feeling adventurous with a style too. For some things (like knit tops) I make my "usual" adjustments and hope the knit will reduce other fitting problems. I always try to do some sort of test garment or muslin before I cut into a favorite fabric or something really expensive. I don't want to be wasteful, but I would feel more wasteful ruining good fabric (especially wool and silk) when a test run could have prevented a disaster.

  99. I've attempted a few muslins, tweak things to the best I can, then wonder how to apply that to my pattern??? So I end up not doing a muslin and tweaking the garment I'm making...not always to my satisfaction. I try reading blogs about doing muslins but easily get confused. I hope one day it will all click!

  100. The original Burda article was really interesting - I had actually never thought of a muslin as a pattern that you would keep, but rather as a practice garment. I might try that out, marking up the pattern pieces and keeping them. Now that I've started dressmaking, I am going to start making more and more muslins. Growing up, my mother made a lot of clothes for me, and she always pinned pattern pieces on me, marked them up, made adjustments, and all of that. Sewing for myself it is too difficult to pin pattern pieces on myself, and even when I was a kid, I wondered how on earth pattern pieces could approximate fabric! I can't even remember how many times I stood in our kitchen with paper pattern pieces pinned all over me, but I just can't imagine doing that now on myself!

  101. I do not make a muslin for each thing I sew. But, my best work has originated with a muslin. I have a tailored jacket which is fitted and zips up the front-4 muslins there. I made a gorgeous cami and tap pants ensemble for bed=2 muslins there. Usually though, I tissue fit and baste. One thing I never do is sew straight out of the envelope.

  102. Yay thanks Gertie for revisiting :
    ) I reckon that a good "sloper" does as a standin for garments that don't need a toile dedicated to them. I use toiles for every garment I make for others unless I am in a crazy hurry. It is knocked together, and I cut all external seam allowances off so totally unwearable. For me, most of my patterns are calico (what you call muslin) as they started off life as a toile. :) But then I am way past the sizing for bought patterns and way over bought patterns anyway, preferring to draft my own.

  103. Definitely make a muslin! Fitting makes the garment so I never risk skipping the muslin step! Especially since I have to lengthen everything!!!

  104. It really depends on your purpose. I never used to sew a muslin...I was taught to tissue fit and then baste fit as you went. I have started to sew muslins where the fit is important or the fabric is really expensive and would be difficult to tweak.

    In sewing now I am trying to learn more about techniques and get a really good fit so muslins are worthwhile. When I sewed all my clothes in high school my purpose was to mimic the clothes other girls were wearing but I couldn't afford. So I used to 'whip things up' as it were. But really, my satisfaction with the actually sewing of the garments wasn't high.

    Hopefully there isn't a snobbery about whether you make a muslin or not. It really is personal preference but it is good for beginner sewers to know about it and it's purpose and to include it as a step as they learn, I think.

    I'm also with the people who have said time is a factor in whether they muslin or not. If I made a muslin for everything I really wouldn't get much sewn at all.

  105. Wow...I'd no idea muslins were so controversial! I'm hard to fit: I have a 50s-esque figure, FBA is a must, I usually take in the waist (even on my vintage patterns), have to shorten the pattern substantially no matter what it is and I must adjust for my scoliosis (one side is different than the other side). So I whip up a muslin out of old sheets I pick up at garage sales or very cheap fabric. Casey is right—fabric reads differently than paper! Working with the muslin is much easier for me. And I am never, never sorry I make one; it saves my pretty fashion fabric! I think I went through about six or seven bodice muslins for the Crepe. It was driving me MAD (a true nightmare, that one was), but at least my actual dress is lovely and gets tons of compliments—plus I traced off the muslin pieces onto freezer paper, so I'll always have 'my' version.

    I do occasionally skip a muslin, and it is fun. I don't do this with fabrics I love, though. Sometimes I think we just need that "quick goodie" sewing fix. ;)

  106. I find making a muslin very useful and almost always make one, unless I am copying a garment--then I feel pretty confident to make a first try in fashion fabric. I have a feeling, though, that the better I get at fitting, I'll probably be driven to make a second muslin.

    Mind you, what I noted about the the burdastyle post, and various Threads articles on the topics, is careful pre- and post-marking of muslins, and I don't do that, or save them. Those practices are beyond me at this point.

    And I usually use old bedsheets to save $$!

  107. Yay for muslins! I have only done one or two at this point, but without muslins, I would never have come back to garment sewing. I am plus-sized, and purchasing a pattern I would want to wear that comes in my size is almost impossible. Everything needs to be adjusted and the size increased. I have made my share of wadders, and mostly stopped sewing anything that needed to fit me because of the frustrations I experienced. Now, I feel like muslins have freed me to sew for myself again. I enlarge all my patterns anyway, so I usually trace out the largest size on to the STP and adjust from there. I can do a basic fit with this, as it drapes fairly well. If I need more fitting information, then I make a muslin. The pattern gets altered and I use it multiple times. The tissue pattern stays in its original condition, so I could, conceivably, make a different size for someone else easily. I do love the STP, and it doesn't feel as wasteful as muslin for every garment. But wow, has the concept of muslin fitting made me love sewing so much more!

  108. I was looking at a cached version of Vintage Sewing Info, which presented a home sewing course from 1926. It discusses making a block, which it calls a "Model Pattern," from muslin. There's also an assumption that a woman will have a dress form padded out to approximate her measurements. That process is discussed in great detail.

    With a block and a customized dress form, a toile may have been less necessary. But I may simply have missed a discussion of muslins on this site.

    Making the Model Pattern

    "As an expert clothes-maker, making all your own pretty things to wear at home, you will need a model pattern. It will enable you to save a great deal of time, and will make the altering of patterns to your size much easier. The making of the model pattern itself is very simple—but first a commercial pattern must be correctly altered as it is used as a foundation from which the model pattern is constructed.

    "Make your model pattern of cambric or heavy unbleached muslin. Grey is the best color to use, although white is just as appropriate. Do all your sewing with heavy thread, and remember that all the measurements must be exact to a fraction of an inch, for this model pattern will later be used as a base or foundation for the clothes you make at home. First let us see how the commercial pattern is altered."

    1926—The New-Way Course in Fashionable Clothes-Making (emphasis added)

  109. I recently started following your blog because I loved the vintage looks you create. I have a very basic skill set of sewing but really enjoy it. I bounce around between types of sewing so I'm not great at any one type. My first really big sewing project was making new covers for couch cushins. I would stay awake at night trying to imagine how I would get the seams just right. Finally, I got some old sheets and just tried it! I had no idea I was making a "muslin" at the time but it certainly saved me a lot of time. I made one muslin and then copied it with the fancy fabric 6 times to make the covers. It turned out great! I think the moral of the story is that if you aren't certain how to make it or you have limited/expensive fabric just make a muslin for the parts you need practice with!

  110. I am like a few of the previous commenters. I sometimes make a trial run out of a cheaper fabric which I guess is a kind of a muslin. It usually gets worn too if it's not too shabby, we live on a farm so not much goes to waste around here.

  111. I'm 52 and my mother taught me to sew when I was about 10. She never used muslins nor did she teach me to. We pin fitted as we went with every new garment. I hadn't even heard of a muslin till about 10 years ago and I still have not made one, however, as I often have fitting problems which always leaves me frustrated I have felt recently that this is something I should try. I am taking your bombshell class and will definitely be trusting in your expertise and following your instructions in making a muslin.

  112. I make Muslim when I am doing a very detail design,
    But years a go I draw from screech a number of basic, pant, skirt, dress, and fit them to almost perfection.
    This help a lot because only when I am cutting outside of the range or doing a difficult style I do Muslim.
    Also not all style can be cut from muslim because of how the fabric may hang or stretch you may need to cut the style in the right fabric for fit and hang.

  113. Being a "born again sewer", the thought of doing a muslin is pretty overwhelming I do understand that it is a valuable technique for a more accomplished sewer who may want to add to their "black belt sewing",Lol. It's a good thing to do to expand your expertise I think. I just can't believe how many comments and varieties of feelings there are about this , this is sure a Hot Topic !

  114. I made a muslin once and it ended up not really helping all that much...but I wills say it's mostly because I am too lazy and impatient and don't want to sew an entire garment before the actual garment. I will say when I use a botique pattern I don't have the fit issues I do with the mainstream patterns so maybe there is something to them being lazy sizers or what ever.

  115. Brian:

    By "boutique pattern," I assume you mean a smaller pattern company. That company may be designing for a particular customer in a particular size range, hence, the patterns may be more consistent.

    It's not unlike buying a certain line of clothing because you like the way the clothes fit. Their basic patterns are cut a certain way.

  116. It depends.

    If the pattern is complex and new I'll use a wearable, yet inexpensive fabric so that I can either abandon the project when it's gone too far downhill or have something wearable after my efforts.

    I use Swedish tracing paper if the pattern is fitted, if I expect a lot of alterations, or if a pattern piece is missing.

    Other than that? I dive right in with the good stuff.

  117. I particularly like a close fitting garment so I always tissue fit, alter, muslin (toile) adjust again and then go to my good fabric. I do this when working with a new pattern that way I can make it again without any worry. BUT if I'm making something that is losely fitted then I just tissue fit and go for it.
    Making a muslin is part of the sewing process for me and I enjoy using expensive fabrics so want to ensure a good fit first - plus I'm super fussy about these things!

  118. Perhaps I should add that once I have the fit I am happy with the muslin goes into the clothing recycling bin at the supermarket - don't you have that facility? Anything clothing that is suitable goes to third world countries and everything else gets "mashed up" and recycled into other materials

  119. Most of the formals I make require lining and so do my suits. If a pattern does not require a lining, I duplicate the original. Just my preference to line.

    I always presew the lining and fit at that point. Any adjustments I made are easily transferred to the shell of the garment.

    So, I do not make a muslin but use the lining as a muslin.

  120. Forgot to mention that I turn my linings inside out and pin where my new seams should meet the body.

    Do you turn muslins inside out to get a good fit? The pictures I have seen of muslins usually are right side out. I think it would be easier for a newby to do as I do and wear it inside out.

  121. I too posted a comment and mentioned the using of the tissue fitting method, especially for beginner fashion sewers.

    Using a toile also has its place, when fashion sewers (no matter their level)and beginners are ready, or during a project whereby they identify specific problems.

    I have always (and always will)perform both of these methods and I strongly advise my readers to better acquaint themselves with these practices.

  122. I make muslins for the same reasons I read movie reviews from trusted critics before I see a movie in a theater these days: It's just too damn expensive to go to a movie that's not good. Same thing with fabric and sewing. Fabric is not cheap and plentiful like it was when our grandmothers sewed. And being a working mom who commutes two hours everyday, my time is expensive too. So yeah, put me in the pro-muslin camp.

    I saw that same comment you referenced and wondered where she was getting her intel that pattern companies are now lax with their sizing. I did some freelance work recently for one of the big four and neither saw nor heard evidence of this when I met with their people and visited their offices several times.

  123. My shoulder/neckline fit is so often awful in both RTW and home-sewing patterns, that I often make a muslin of just the neckline area if nothing else, as experience has taught me the the hard way to fit that area with care.

    I love making muslins. I don't finish the seam edges. Design details like pockets, etc, I just cut out rough and baste in place to check for flattering placement. Sometimes I find out that a particular style looks terrible on me and I need to abandon the project immediately. So much easier when it is just an old sheet rather than some high-end gorgeous garment fabric.

    If there is a technique I am unfamiliar with I go ahead and do it by the book on super-cheap fabric where I won't regret the errors.

    My favorite part of muslins is that I often use a marker and write directly onto the muslin for greater accuracy when transferring to the pattern. Or if the alterations are extensive, and it is a must-have or complex piece, I will use my muslin as the pattern itself.

    Since I have never found a pattern company whose patterns are geared to my shoulder/neckline issues, making a muslin works for me. But I know other sewers who have a very good fit with a certain patternmaker and they don't bother to muslin.

    I did read the original post and quote and though it was probably unintentional, the writer appeared to judge other sewists for making muslins. Sewing is such a difficult craft and takes a certain amount of spunk to take it up and continue with it. I don't have it in my heart to judge another sewist on her technique. The results justify the means in sewing because in the end you just want to turn out a well-made garment. Whatever works for you in that pursuit.

  124. I too missed the original post--and sadly the controversy.

    I think that's a good thought--that you've never regretted making a muslin. I agree. The time that I've spent on muslins was worth my time--if not for fit, than for construction or to try out design details.

    I often reuse the fabric from given muslins for more muslins--if I use actual fabric, then I'll save it for projects for my kids, or if I'm using quite a bit of fabric, than I'll reuse it for projects with lots of smaller pieces. I also love the idea of using leftover fabric that's just sitting around anyhow. Muslins don't have to waste fabric.

    I saw Sandra Betzina in a class last week, and she was saying that the lack of consistency in pattern companies' sizing is due to their straying away from using blocks and instead measuring RTW garments and reproducing them into patterns. This explains a lot for me.

  125. I recently bought a Vogue Fitting Shell (1004). One of the many pages of instructions states:

    "Fit and Fashion

    "Fit is not simply making a garment large enough to cover your body. As you well know, the fit of your clothing drastically affects your overall appearance, how comfortable you feel and ultimately, your impression on others.

    "Poorly-fitted garments accentuate your figure flaws, make you appear unkempt and can add years to your appearance.

    "Well-fitting garments make you feel good about yourself and make you appear well groomed.

    "Fitting is a skill separate from sewing. Garments that are perfectly sewn will still appear home-made unless they fit properly. Fit is a function of 3 factors:

    --Correctly interpreting the clues on the pattern envelope.

    --Selecting the proper style and fabric for your body shape.

    --Technical fitting skills."

    That's a lot to achieve without a muslin.

  126. I was reading the burdastyle post and noticed the author suggested reusing the muslin as a pattern. I was told that a muslin should be transferred to paper or oaktag after a couple of uses because the fabric stretches.

  127. As someone that usually is a combination of not just 2 but three different pattern sizes AND a fairly inexperienced sewer, I definitely support making muslins, at least for very fitted things. Just in the same way I've learned that clothing off the rack isn't alway cut to my taste, neither are all pattern sizes and I'd rather be able to make adjustments on a muslin than risk ruining good fabric. That, and I find it is good practice for me.

    I was also told by a friend and mentor that sews wedding gowns, costumes and the like that running a line of stitching at your seam allowance around all the edges of each muslin piece helps prevent stretch so it stands up as a pattern better (not to mention marks the seam allowance which is handy for fitting!)

  128. I've only made muslins for the bodices of dresses, never have I tried doing one of a skirt or whatnot.

    I don't find muslin making a problem (I am willing to go the extra mile when I sew), but figuring out how to apply my muslin changes to the tissue pattern always gives me a headache. Can Gertie or one of the commenters help me in finding a book or website on this subject?


  129. Rebekah:

    The easiest thing to do is to trace your pattern, either one size, or blended sizes depending on your measurements onto Swedish Tracing Paper, a translucent medium that can be pinned and apparently sewn. That will be your working draft pattern. If the fit issues are simple, you may be able to use it as a muslin. So far, I've always needed a muslin.

    Get a book like "The Perfect Fit," or "Fit for Real People," which seems to have the same basic information, but I prefer the presentation of the first book.

    More important, get help. It's very difficult to fit oneself, especially without a customized dress form or sloper,and even then you won't know how the garment fits when you're in motion. Get assistance from someone who has experience in fitting; it's a different skill from sewing, and even if one has taken pattern making that will only provide a foundation. Besides, pattern making students learn to draft patterns for an idealized form, not real people. Contemporary retailers like clothing that looks good folded on shelves. The patterns for those things look different from anything you'd turn out.

    Fit books explain how to "pin out" fabric on a muslin and to mark new lines using the pins as a guide. The new lines have to be "trued." Once you have the new lines, you would take the Swedish Tracing Paper pattern and lay it on top of the muslin and copy the new lines onto the draft pattern. Then you'd probably make another muslin, which you do by taking a piece of dressmaker's tracing paper face up, and laying first the muslin then the draft pattern. You would use a tracing wheel with round edges (not a "stiletto") to transfer the changes to the fabric. You should also transfer the sewing lines. When that's done you would cut out the muslin and baste it.

    Transferring the changes can be a "headache" because it's not mechanical. You have to use judgment and experience helps.

    This answer may be too detailed, but I wasn't entirely sure what you were asking. Hope it helped some.

  130. Rebekah:

    Because of the headache-inducing (for some), not to mention time-consuming and expensive aspects of making muslins, I am trying to look for flattering shapes that I can play with once I've created the basic blocks. I love using different fabrics and embellishments. I've invested too much in R & D to make just one. :-)

    I believe I'll think it was worth it.

    One other thing: I've noticed some sewing blogs have started offering features on how to knock off a look, from say, Anthropologie or Modcloth. In principle, it looks great. A pattern with the same shape will be proposed, along with some fabric suggestions.

    But I've learned that a technical drawing on a pattern envelope can be misleading. Maybe the pattern, made up, will create a similar effect, but maybe not, and you have no idea how much tinkering will be required.

  131. when I was in college we had no choice we had to make a muslin or toile as we called. I was so glad I did especially when you design the pattern yourself and realise there are some Major faults, waist lines too low, crotch to high etc.. this is something I still stick by for my own patterns.

    if I'm making a commercial pattern though I usually double check the measurements and the finished garment measurement and decided if i want to make a muslin or not. other factors include how complicated the pattern is, how expensive the fabric is and where I intend to wear the garment as I don't want to turn up to a wedding with a poorly constructed/fitting outfit. plus it provides a trial run of how to make it I can then decided if I want to change things or use a different method

    I do sometimes feel guilty about making a muslin. I think about wasting fabric that isn't going to be used but recently I've started donating my muslin's and fabric scraps to textile/charity recycling banks as apparently they can be used for rag making - so maybe I shouldn't feel so guilty after all.

  132. Funny, only one post mentioned using a lining or underlining as a muslin--a great way to avoid waste. Making a garment that fits well and will last for several, if not many, years is ecologically sound. I wonder why there is such a brou-ha-ha about this--make muslins if you need to, be mindful and above all--enjoy sewing!

  133. I effectively make a muslin for all my tops at the moment because I'm relatively new to garment sewing, and I'm a slightly odd shape! I found that if I make things to fit my G cup bust they can be very loose above, and I don't want to waste the good fabric on something that doesn't fit! Ikea does cotton by the metre for £1.50, which works great for this, and once I have a bag full of used muslins that I know I won't reuse, I'll take them to the fabric recycling bin down the road.

  134. I can't imagine what there is to argue about! Make a muslin of a new pattern if you need to before cutting into expensive fabric. By taking the time (and expense) to do that, you'll be sure to havea good fit and not waste your better fashion fabric. If you don't need it, don't do it. The end. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for others. Isn't that why we sew? Because we are individuals?

  135. i think making a muslin is important, especially for a beginner like me. but it's easy to get complacent. damn, i don't even baste my pieces! :P

    that said, i made a muslin for the bodice of a dress that i was recently making because i was suspicious of the measurements. it was a dress that required a lining, so i simply used the fabric that i was using for the lining. it ended up fitting well, so, no wastage of fabric there! :P

  136. Thanks to the person (aka anonymous) who got back to me on my question concerning the transfer of muslin changes to the tissue pattern. Your last paragraph on how to "pin out" the fabric using pins is what I was searching for.

    I tried using this method once before when I was a member of Gertie's Crepe sew-along, but I didn't have great results. I believe I followed her instructions correctly, too. In my opinion, the real problem lies in my inexperience. That is why I am looking for an in-depth source on the subject; be it a book, video, online course, or a website.

    I do own "The Perfect Fit" but it does not go into the method of pinning and marking the muslin and transferring the changes to the actual sewing pattern. Do you or anyone else know of a source that goes deeper into this alteration technique?


  137. The timing of this post kind of amuses me - I've just been having a personal rebellion against making mockups.

    I was taught to make mockups when my mother was teaching me to sew, and she learned to make them in the 60s. Not sure it's *really* a modern development! That said, they were definitely reserved for particular circumstances - special occasion, expensive fabric, unusual cut, or, to begin with, just being a learner.

    All that said, I just started sewing a new coat out of gorgeous (and not cheap) purple wool, without having done a mockup first. I had to psych myself up to cut into the wool, but I'm kind of enjoying the freedom of having told myself it's not the end of the world if it doesn't work!

  138. Rebekah:

    You might want to look at the following book, which shows people how to make "rub-off" patterns. It's gotten good reviews and I'm considering buying it myself.

    The value of copying something that already fits is that whatever "engineering" the original pattern contains will be incorporated in the rub-off, assuming you are able to do it correctly. With an unknown commercial pattern, you don't know how it's going to fit. I no longer trust the photo on the envelope. You might want to pick something very simple to copy at first, say, a vest that does not have darts.

    I was looking at the Cabrera Tailoring book for women's wear, and it discusses many fitting changes for a commercial pattern.

    For example, it explains (as do other books) why it's so important to maintain the grain line.

    There's an illustration that shows a tuck taken in the back of a muslin jacket (they say that anyone other than a very experienced tailor should make a practice garment) to account for the client's swayback. The tuck is then duplicated in the commercial pattern by folding it. Then the grain line in the original pattern has to be redrawn to keep it vertical so the altered back will hang straight. (I don't know if any of this means anything.)

    Having taken a smattering of pattern making, I do know how to transfer markings. It is important to be extremely precise at each stage.

    Still, it's a matter of trial and error. Kathleen Fasanella, a pattern maker, small business consultant and blogger wrote somewhere that there are so many interconnected factors in making a pattern that it's not usually possible to take everything into account on the first try.

    It's hard for people to do this on their own. It's difficult to measure one's body without distorting the measurement by turning. You can't get a full view, even if you have a great mirror set-up.

    Most difficult, if you have asymmetries, as most people do, it's hard to know to what degree to correct them. In some cases you simply pick the "better" side. In others, a different approach is required. An experienced person who has some objectivity can really help, especially if you have little or no background.

  139. Muslins (and Swedish tracing paper) have completely changed my sewing life. I first read about doing a muslin in Threads a few years ago. I thought "Hmm, that seems like a lot of work, but I'll give it a try next time around." So I did. The pattern was coming together perfectly. Then I tried it on. I looked in the mirror, completely horrified. The garment was way too big and way too short to be flattering. I remember thinking, "And this is the point when I would normally cry." But it was just a muslin, so instead, I started making adjustments. The fact that I make a full bust adjustment and have to lower to bust point by a couple of inches means my changes are often too complex to make confidently without a muslin. I also want to know if the length of all the elements is flattering, the width is correct, the neckline falling in the right spot, etc. So many things could be wrong with a pattern. I'm too scared to fly without a muslin now. I enjoy my sewing so much more if I take my time to do it right. I work full time and have two kids. I don't want to waste my time on throw-away garments. I want something I can wear proudly.

  140. I agree. I sewed for 30 years without a single muslim and my fitting technique improved as I worked with extra-large seam allowances between Vogue sizes 12-14. Now I find that Burda's size differentials allow for much more precise cutting between 38-42 and that they always fit well without a muslin. I'd make an allowance as you do for the bodice fitting, particularly in something with a tricky neckline, given I have a shallow chest.

    Meanwhile, check out my blog. Are you ready for the Poodle Pants challenge?

  141. I don't really understand the resistance to muslin making. It is inexpensive fabric or just ugly fabric and used to perfect the fit of a garment pattern. Once the changes are made, you can then make dozens of it. They literally save time from altering every single garment pattern you have. For example, a pair of pants needs a muslin(s) until the fit is correct. Then you can use that pattern for any pants you ever need to make, making style changes as you go along for each specific garment (instead of making up 5 different pant patterns with different variations to distinguish them). Same thing for blouses, t-shirts, a shift dress etc. Once you then have your "master" then make whatever changes for design and you can always muslin them if you care to (adding a drop waist or a pleat).

    I think the BS website has a younger cohort who may just look at things differently --have a more immediate sense of time and payoff and there seem to be more beginners there. If you look at the gallery, one can clearly see the need for muslins and thus there is the complicated bit when it comes to sewing websites-- we want to encourage people, not shoot them down so tend to be less critical as a teacher. We see many "what went wrong" posts in forums. On the other hand, there are also some very talented individuals who are in or have completed fashion and design school who are very inspirational as well as the more experienced home sewists.

    My grandmothers were seamstresses--one worked in theater and sewed all her own clothing and put separate patterns together like jigsaw puzzles--she cut my mother's winter coat from a wool blanket, the other had a father who was a tailor and she was also skilled with embroidery, crochet and knitting and was just plain thrifty. Both had significant times in their lives living through economic depressions and did not waste anything. Both made mockups.

  142. I love this article, thanks for posting it. I am a beginner to sewing and my friend (who is more advanced) suggested I always make a muslin. I have sewn a few garments now and am I ever glad I did make muslins - not because I had to adjust the fit (I'm not even really sure how to do that, yet!), but because sewing the muslin gave me practice on the skills I am just starting to develop - like good topstitching (I can experiment with stitch length, needle type, etc. on the muslin), hemming, rolled hems, sewing on bias tape and installing zippers. Any mistakes I am going to make, I will get out on the rough draft. By the time I've finished my muslin, I am way more confident going into the real thing. I use old sheets as muslin for my kids' clothes and then they use the muslins for p.j.'s or dress-up clothes, so it feels less wasteful to me. I probably make a way more detailed muslin than most people because I am not just making it to check the fit - but perhaps that will change with experience.


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

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