Monday, October 7, 2013

The Benefits of Making a Muslin

Although they may not be the most glamorous things in the world, there are quite a few reasons for making a muslin mock-up of your pattern.

I should preface this post by saying that I do not do this for every project.  Sometimes I just can’t be bothered because I want to start sewing with pretty fabric.  Also, if I made a muslin of every single garment, the price would get out of hand.  There are standard alterations that I always make, and by and large, those are generally the only ones necessary.  But sometimes I want to be extra careful.

Some silhouettes work better on particular body types than others.  Most people have a good idea of what works for them.  However, if you want to step outside your comfort zone, mocking up a quick version of a new style can give you the confidence to try something new.

If your fabric is expensive or irreplaceable, and you are terrified to cut into it, making a muslin can take some of the scary factor away.

And obviously, getting a proper fit is the most common reason for testing a pattern with boring old muslin.

Try as I may, visualizing how pieces of a pattern are put together is sometimes next to impossible, but get those shapes in my hands and things suddenly become crystal clear (most of the time, anyway!).  Sometimes I have an idea of how something is going to go together, but a test run changes all of that.  Not to mention the mistakes that can be found in instruction sheets or pattern pieces that I can catch before it is too late.

I made the mistake of reading the directions for my gala gown pattern for the first time when I was extremely tired.  Because it is a reproduction, the instructions are copied onto 8.5x11 paper.  Some of the diagrams refer to text that is on a previous page.  I kept re-reading the words, looking at the diagrams, and thought I was going crazy.  A good night's sleep fixed all that!

If there are techniques that are unfamiliar or you want to practice, a muslin is the perfect opportunity.

A muslin can actually save fabric (which seems counterintuitive, I know).  But if a skirt or arm length is too long, you can cut away the excess on your muslin and save expensive fabric yardage.

The arm length on this suit is ridiculous as drafted.  Yes, I often shorten long sleeves by ½” or so, but the three-quarter length was past my wrist on this one!  Knowing this, I will be able to cut the back bodice as one piece instead of two – one less seam to match!

Because I cut 3” off the skirt length, I took that same amount out of the drape piece (which is cut on the bias so even more yardage was saved).

Sometimes I cannot be bothered to baste a zipper into a muslin, but they really can make all the difference when testing fit.  And it helps to avoid being stabbed by pins holding opening edges in place.

If you are in a rush, consider that edges do not need to be finished, facings are usually unnecessary, and in the long run, a practice garment can save a whole bunch of time, and even tears.  Avoiding the aggravation of seam ripping to achieve a good fit on an untested garment, alone, is worth the extra effort!

Do you test run your patterns, or do you absolutely abhor the idea of making a muslin?  How about a wearable muslin?

[Britex has generously provided the fabric and sewing supplies for a dress I will be wearing to a formal event in October.  I will be sharing some of the steps and construction techniques with you as I work on this project over the next couple of months.]


  1. I try to make muslins on anything fitted, but I am so impatient and usually just want to get on with the real deal :) Everytime I force myself to make a mock up, I learn more and end up thanking myself for doing it. They really are very helpful indeed :)

  2. I make muslins occasionally... definitely more these days than I used to! I used to just make my "standard" tweaks, but I'm seeing more value in them as I try new pattern lines and designers and learn more about fit :). Having said that I don't really feel like I know what I'm doing when I make a muslin - do you have any tips on good practice in muslining?

    1. Sorry, that was to big a question! Withdrawn! I need to do more internet surfing I mean research.

  3. I like making muslins for new patterns. In my book wearable muslins are a form of cheating yourself: if you use fabric that you don't mind being wasted, what does it say about your finished garment? For me it would limit wearability to digging in the garden or painting the house! Now on to my next muslin for a French jacket. Happy sewing on your gala project!

  4. I plan to make a muslin everytime, but then I get impatient and just forego it. Mostly it's been working out, but sometimes I've regretted it very much!

  5. I make muslins sometimes. Generally I save them for expensive fabrics, new silhouettes, new pattern companies or something that needs to fit very well.

  6. I hardly ever do but as I get into more detailed things....I guess that I shall! Thanks for the tips!

  7. I made a muslin for my last project, and I was thrilled that I'd nailed it on the first cut - a perfect fit! Then I cut out and sewed my dress, lining, zipper, and all ... and it's too big. I guess it's a difference in fabric weight. Oh well.

  8. I always make muslins for anything fitted, sometimes several. I hate sewing muslins, but not nearly as much as I hate ill fitting garments.

  9. I almost always make a muslin, as tedious as it is at times. One of the best things about muslins (other than helping to perfect the fit) is having it all done in case I decide to make the pattern again.

  10. The project I'm currently working on is my first one where I am making a muslin mock-up. Mainly because I am using a pattern that I know needs to be altered, and I am using fabric that came from another dress, so it's a one time chance. I wish I had before though on a few projects, as I have a lower than average waist. :/


  11. I dont make them very often unless I'm making something for someone else! I have a lot of cheap fabric from op shops from which I dont mind making wearable muslins. Most fitting issues I can fix during the construction phase.
    Though I understand this isn't a sure-fire technique - I tend to only buy patterns from the 40's before ease started to get crazy on patterns. I know that a 40s size 12 will fit me and a 14 will need a bit of adjustment in the bust. Some patterns need a longer waist but an early 40s size 12 Mccall is *bang on*, so I'm lucky that way! And buying things from a very specific point in time knocks out a lot of variables.
    I would only ever make a muslin of a bodice too - I know I always have to shorten things so I always take a lot out of a pattern - and a quick holding up to my waist shows how long the paper reaches down to and how much to take out.

    Also -regarding 'secret' to muslins - I go to op shops and buy second hand bed sheets! Theyre usually 100% cotton and for a few bucks you can get METRES of excellent muslin making material. I also use this for interfacing, facings and occasionally underlining depending on the weight of the sheet.

  12. Making my muslin tonight! (And slightly relieved to hear that you don't muslin every garment!)

  13. I pretty much always make a muslin, unless I'm making a pattern for the second time. My back must be an odd shape because I've never had a pattern fit me before without back alterations! And I haven't really noticed a pattern in any of the back alterations I've done - they've all been a bit different. I find that when I skip making a muslin, I waste so much time later on trying to figure out the fitting as I go, and usually end up frustrated and discouraged.

  14. i have been making wearable muslins as a way to clear out some old fabric from my stash.

  15. I was wondering what you thoughts the benefits of using a grid board would be? I actually have one and was thinking of getting it out. I had it from my old quilting days.

    1. I use a grid board all the time. I started with my first cardboard one before I had an actual sewing table – it was the cheapest way I could come up with to cut fabric, even if it was on the floor!

      Once I purchased a table for sewing, I kept a cardboard mat on top to protect the wood surface, and because I was so used to relying on the markings.

      Some days it is just used to measure yardage, and others I use it to cut entire pieces.

      I inherited a large quilting mat with a grid a couple of years ago, but I still have not used it – some people like to cut patterns out using a rotary cutter, although I have never tried that myself.

      If you have one, I would absolutely recommend using it – once you have it, you will be hard pressed to remember what you did without one!