Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why I Make a Muslin for Most New Patterns

I used to hate making a trial garment (or a muslin). I mean I wanted to sew the garment not a draft. But then I found, if I made the muslin, I became more sure of the end result for the real garment. And I also had cloth pattern pieces (because I take my muslin apart and save the pieces). And this extends the life of the pattern and I can reuse the fabric pieces for a future muslin should I feel my body has changed.

What held me back from making a muslin?
  • I wanted to make the garment right now
  • I felt I could measure and make changes on the garment fabric without too much trouble
  • making a muslin seemed long and tedius

I find these days, I always make a muslin. (What a change from even a year ago!)

According to Wikipedia

 Muslin (/ˈmʌslɨn/ or /ˈmjuːslɨn/) is a loosely-woven cotton fabric which originated in then India (and now Bangladesh), which was introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the 17th century. It became very popular at the end of the 18th century in France. Muslin is most typically an unbleached or white cloth, produced from carded cotton yarn. It is often used to make sewing patterns, such as for clothing, curtains, or upholstery. Because air moves easily through muslin, muslin clothing is suitable for hot, dry climates.

While I keep mine for future use of the same pattern, Tasia at Sewaholic doesn't. She suggests reusing the muslin either by re-cutting it for other muslin pattern pieces or by using it for sew-in interfacing. (What a great idea!). And one blog I visited touts the merits of using muslin as a face cloth (albeit, she is pushing a brand.) I bet you could cut off some of your bolt of cotton muslin to use as a face cloth or even a rag (depending on how tight the weave is).


A muslin is made out of a cloth of similar weight and drape as you plan to use on your finished garment

A proper muslin does not include all the pockets and other features – only the main pieces to check for fit

I find a quick muslin of main pieces works for fit and sometimes I use the muslin to practise buttonholes or other new-to-me techniques

Again, the muslin can be unpicked and kept as a properly fitted version of the pattern for next time. I have done this with three patterns so far and it has been really useful. 

It's an extra step but it can be a time-saver.


But Is a Muslin Always Necessary?:

My belief is no. I took sewing classes in high school where not a step was overlooked. We never made muslins. So I am sure that this is a newer tradition (at least for every garment). 

Proper measurement, familiarity with the the pattern-maker's cuts and generous cutting (leaving an inch to play with) or tissue fitting all work too.

But be sensible: if you need to make a lot of alterations, a muslin is the way to go

Step-by-Step Instructions on the Web

Sewaholic has a great turtorial here 

Oliver + S has great step-by-step instructions too.

Shona Stitches is another blogger with a post on muslins (and really, I agree with her on almost everything although I haven't started tracing my patterns yet. I know, I know. I'll regret it)


  1. I find that once you're past 25, you have to make a muslin. At 25 everything fits! After that, not so much!

  2. I can't cut into the good stuff without a muslin first...I've lost too much beautiful fabric that way. I find it makes the sewing of the "real" garment more fun, because you already know that the pattern fits and all you've got to check is for the difference in fabric behaviour. Much less stressful!

  3. I'd never thought of unpicking a muslin for durable "cloth pattern pieces". I like the idea, though. A few years from now if you want to make the pattern you can just pull out the muslin, baste it, and quickly check the fit without any trouble!

    I also have a question (for the teacher! -- haha, sorry, I couldn't resist). One of the things that really holds me back from muslins is that I sew very slowly (unlike you) so I'm afraid that if I make a muslin first it'll be months before I finish the "real" garment. Question: Do you find that the final garment comes together faster when you have a muslin?

  4. Hi there, I've nominated you for a blogging award. You can see the details on my last post. Keep up the great work and happy stitching!

  5. I have worked with muslins and without...sometimes I'm happier that I made one, sometimes I'm happier when I don't...still trying to work out which will be the case ahead of time....

  6. Just wondering if your Elvis is available? Love his swagger!

    1. Elvis is always available for people to pat and make a fuss over but he's part of my family for life!



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