Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Patience Grasshopper...

"Patience grasshopper", is that iconic television quote that entered western popular culture in the nineteen seventies. As a kid I watched Kung Fu, the television source of the quote.

There are so many lessons that one can transfer from that show to the sewing room, patience on top of the list.

I have never been one with an over abundance of patience. I'm trying, making time for mindful meditation helps and trying to remember what I love about sewing. It is not the end result, rather the process. I really do find sewing a relaxing activity.

But I tend to rush through projects when time is a luxury and I'm busy with everyday life. When that happens I cut corners which only leads to sewing mistakes. Then I'm forced into the "practice" of patience with a seam ripper in my hand.

Most of which could be avoided if I would just make a muslin. Remember this Kung Fu episode?

Yes, many of my sewing mistakes could have been avoided if I just would take the time to make a muslin. In Kung Fu terms the muslin is the space, the object, that gives value to the final garment.

Boy, am I ever cheesy with linking Kung Fu philosophy with sewing metaphors! But it works for me.

And yes, this post is getting to muslins.

And here we are...

Muslin, the fabric:

If you walk into a fabric store and ask them to direct you to the muslin, they will likely point you to the back of the store somewhere deep in the home decor fabrics.

Muslin is not a sexy fabric deemed worthy of a salient position of the fabric showroom space. It is not seen as the kind of fabric that inspires the imagination for most people. It is a plain weave fabric typical of the fabric used in non-stretch sheets.

Now lets address the cost.  Do you know that a 100% cotton muslin can cost as much or more as your fabric choice! Currently, at my local Fabricland light to medium weight muslin is going for $10 to $12/metre (Cdn), compared to the $8/metre that I paid for the beautiful 100% cotton sateen stretch fabric I picked up for Vogue 2885. But it is worth the additional cost.

And you don't have to use the 100% cotton muslin fabric hidden in the back of the fabric store. As long as the fabric you are using is consistent in weight to the fabric you have chosen for your final garment it should work. I have used broadcloth (a cotton/polyester blend) in place of the 100% cotton muslin. It still transfers the information that I need to create a successful garment. When I made the Vogue 2885 skirt I used 100% linen fabric as my "muslin" and even sheets could make a great muslin fabric.

And remember when picking a fabric that is consistent in weight to the fabric you'll be working with... your "muslin" might very well be a stretch fabric if that is the pattern that you're testing.

Muslin, your three-dimensional notebook:

Making a muslin, and I've learned this the hard way, can save you some heartache. Treat your muslin as a three-dimensional notebook. Label it and keep it as a reference in case you want to use the pattern again. I like to date it also, since I've failed to remain a consistent weight for my entire life.  

Transfer all the markings (grain line, apex, dart markings) and sew it with the same care you would put into your garment because the attention you put into your muslin will give you a true reflection of the fit.  And when you take the time to mark the apex on a bodice front and if there is a need to add another dart it will help with correctly positioning and drawing into the pattern piece.

Be generous with seam allowance! It is your test run on the pattern, mark you seam lines according to the pattern that your testing but if you cut your allowances with extra room it will be easier to record and transfer this adjustment onto the pattern.

Another suggestion when making a muslin, use a package of multi-colour markers or pens. This way you can choose one colour to mark the original markings and another to mark any changes.

How do you feel about muslins? Do you make one every time you make a garment?  Or do you wing it?  Do you have any suggestions/tips that you like to share?


  1. Hi I came over from Male Pattern Boldness to see you blog. It's great. Muslins are a pain sometimes but I do make them if the stakes are high - such as an expensive fabric and new pattern combination are in the mix. Sometimes I have used left over oddball fabrics besides muslin but I find it helpful to have a blank canvas to make marks. Another thing that can help is sew-able pattern paper, which is like interfacing. I get some called Swedish Tracing Paper.

  2. Thank you for visiting!

    I haven't used sew-able pattern paper (Swedish Tracing paper) but I found it on amazon, I'll check in my local sewing venue carries it too. Thanks for the tip.


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