I don’t know about you, but I just love making test garments. Whether you call it a muslin, a toile or a calico, it all means the same thing: a garment made for fitting and testing out sewing and tailoring techniques before cutting into your fashion fabric.
The idea of a wearable muslin is a bit of an oddity to me because if I can’t mark on the fabric, cut it apart to use as a precisely-fitted pattern, and make as many mistakes as needed to get it right, there’s not much point in it, si there? Anyway, I love making them and am often sad when it comes time to cut the ugly little thing apart. So, now it’s time to get on with the muslin for my tailored blazer.
Of course, there are times when I don’t make a muslin. That would be when I make a loosely-fitted T-shirt or something. But, if there is even the slightest possibility that it won’t fit almost out of the commercial package, I make a test garment. And, of course, whenever I draft the pattern myself, I create a muslin the first time around. It’s the only way to test the fit and the techniques.
In the past, I’ve even had to do a second muslin from time to time. The last time I used a Claire Schaeffer pattern was the last time I did this.
But if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well – and precisely.
I always begin with a bit of tissue fitting. I think you can see a lot of issues with tissue-fitting, but in the end, it has serious limitations. No one is making a tailored jacket out of any kind of fabric that resembles pattern paper (at least not in my atelier!) so it’s very difficult to work out solutions for fit issues even after you see them. That’s why I begin by washing, drying, and ironing my muslin to make it drape a bit better, then I cut it out very carefully. Just because it’s plain, old cotton doesn’t mean that I can treat it with anything less than the highest respect. After all, it will tell me a lot about my pattern, the fit and my personal sewing skills for this project.
Before I cut out a muslin, however, I always decide how much of the inner construction I’m going to actually do. Will I put on facings? Will I use the welts? Will I install pockets? Most of these pieces are not necessary for s simple fit garment, but they are crucial if I am using the muslin to perfect techniques. In this case, I haven’t done a welt pocket in so many years, I feel I need a refresher, so I cut out the welts and flaps. If the first one is perfect (ha-ha!), I won’t need to do a second. I think I’ll plan to do two practice welt pockets. (As I mentioned in my last post, I will omit the breast flap pocket because I think it’s unflattering.)
As for the large front facing, this is a puzzle at first. Claire Schaeffer’s instructions suggest that she has provided a front facing “guide,” which looks to me like a front facing, and a very large rectangular piece to be cut of fabric to shape into a front facing. Well, perhaps I’ll do that when I get there, but for the purposes of the muslin, I will be cutting the “front facing guide” out and use it as my test facing. You might want to consider this, too, if you’re doing this pattern. I will also put together test lapels so I’ll be needing the undercollar and upper collar pieces.
After the pieces are cut out, I come to the part I really love the most about this process – the marking. Seriously! First, I get out my large pieces of waxed tracing paper I bought from Susan Khalje’s website a few years ago and use a tracing wheel to mark the underside of each piece first. Then I remove the pattern piece, turn the piece over and mark the second piece using the bottom marks as a guide.
Once these markings are complete, I do need to do some machine thread-tracing so that I have some marks on the outside of the muslin jacket as well. I’ll need the waistline, the centre front marking, the grain marking and the markings for button placement.
It’s finally time to sew it together. I usually use red thread for the first go at it. If I need to make changes, I’ll use blue thread. Some people suggest that you don’t iron darts, seams etc. as you go, but I feel that I can’t really see how it will look if I do it. It does, however, mean that if I have to alter anything, not only do I have to pull out the original stitches, but then I have to iron it again. But I don’t mind.
As you can see from the first fitting, I had some alterations to make.
The sleeves were too big (this was expected – these Vogue patterns seem to think everyone is built like a Sumo wrestler) and they were too long (we’re not all built like orangutans!). You can see that I cut the upper sleeve at the marking for shortening (which I had transferred onto the muslin itself) and sewed it again. I also shortened the placket slightly. The pattern suggests four buttons at the sleeve vent. I think four buttons is too much. I bought four for each sleeve, but I’ll use only three each.
I also have to shorten the shoulder length. So, I had to take the sleeve partially out and then replace it after measuring the pattern to be sure I wouldn’t have to take any ease out. I didn’t, which was a good thing because I didn’t have to re-draw the entire sleeve head pattern.
I also did both flap welt pockets for practice. I followed the instructions Claire Schaeffer created for the Vogue pattern for the first one, but then I found a few tricks Pam Howard provided in her Craftsy class that really helped me get the second one right. I think I’m going to have to be flexible about using only the pattern instructions. I’ll be referring to my tailoring book and to he video classes I own.
I’m now happy with the fit, so the next step is to cut apart the lovely little ugly jacket and transfer all the alterations to the pattern. Then…cutting out the fabric, canvas interfacing, organza interfacing and silk lining!
[No endorsements or kick-backs, just information in case you’d like to learn more about the things I use in my atelier.]
I use Japanese cotton basting thread I bought from Susan Khalje’s shop: https://susankhalje.com/collections/store/products/japanese-cotton-basting-thread
And here’s where you can find that waxed tracing paper: https://susankhalje.com/collections/store/products/waxed-tracing-paper
I had no problems with having these delivered from her shop in the US to my home in Canada.
11 thoughts on “My Tailored Blazer Project: Fitting the Muslin”
I never regret the time spent making toiles. Looks great. I’m glad you are narrowing the shoulder and sleeve, I agree that most patterns draft the sleeve way too wide.
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The narrowed sleeve now looks good on the muslin. Let’s just hope I get it right in the translation!
This post is so helpful, thank you GG, not the least because I stalled in making my own muslin ( for this same jacket). One question: I found the bust apex to be way too high and it looks like it was the same for you. How does one adjust for that? Did you adjust the darts, too? It looks great and I appreciate your sentiments with regards to the importance of taking one’s time with a muslin.
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Agreed. The apex is too high. I have a long chest area and always have to deal with this. In this pattern, though, simply lengthening the neckline dart very slightly and shortening the waist dart just slightly gave me the fit I needed. Fortunately, the waist was in the right place. The darts are not so precise in this pattern so I didn’t find the apex issue to be as problematic as usual.
I never regret the time spent making toiles, either, but I resent making them… always… for myself. I much prefer making them when sewing for others, probably because it’s so much simpler to fit others than oneself.
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Oh, I never resent making them for me since I’m almost the only one I sew for – outside of son and husband once in a while! But I’m not so sure I find it easier to fit them. I know what you mean about fitting yourself, but when I get a fit that really works on me, I love it!
your blog is amazing!
Why thank-you… and welcome!
When I was in my twenties I didn’t want to ‘throw away’ my test garments so I made from a decent fabric so I could wear them too (I loved my $1 jeans!). Nowadays I do make muslins from cheap cotton and then the real thing from more expensive fabric. I wanted to say I love this blog, especially the while series about the LFJ.
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It’s interesting how we evolve from our early sewing years. When I started sewing (so many years ago, I cannot even say!), there was no mention of test garments. But, like you, I moved on to more expensive fabrics and it just makes sense to test out the fit as well as some of the style details. Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m really more of a storyteller than a sewist (I’m no expert), but I love to tell stories that involve sewing! ~