Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sew a long post 3 Putting together your "muslin"

My muslin, out for some sun, enjoying the breeze! 
Yes the word muslin has two meanings. It is a type of fabric AND it is a "practice garment".

No you do not have to use muslin for your "muslin", but it is a good thing to use. I used quilting cotton, but it was cheaper than muslin and I thought it would photograph better. Sorry if the term caused confusion. I am also going to do one straight up muslin to show you some things next week for the fitting post.

I often do use actual muslin. It is easy to work with and not expensive. One important aspect is that muslin is easy to make marks on that are easy to see. You do not want to use a fabric that is hard to see marks on because you are going to want to make marks to make changes.

For the purposes of encouraging you to sew your own clothes I made a muslin and while making my muslin I learned several interesting things.

First, you really should just make it out of muslin. You do not want to fall in love with the garment in the process of making it and be sad that it does not fit.

Making it out of muslin ensures that this will not happen. I tell my students this all the time. I broke my own guideline. I wanted my muslin to magically work and be a finished garment, fight that feeling! It is a first pancake, an experiment, a first draft. Make yourself treat it as such. I know it's hard.

I will tell you more lessons I learned as we put this "muslin" together.  Let's get out your directions and go through them.

See it says right on the directions, step 3. "make a muslin". She suggests just the front bodice piece. I suggest the whole thing and that that is what I am going to do. I know it's a lot of fabric, but I already warned you I don't do things the cheap way. But I am cool if you want to just do the bodice. However I suggest you do enough of the back piece to include the shirring. You can practice your shirring and you can see how it will really fit.

Then she talks about bust adjustments. We will talk more abut those next week after we see how your muslin fits.

Lets take a look at the bodice first.

Here is your bodice piece. All cut out and marked. Fold your fabric, right sides together and sew the dart.

If you do this method the lines you drew on will be your seam allowance.

Read the "Dart Hints" in the pattern directions. She is right this is how you should sew it.

I personally prefer to leave the fabric in the dart. I also made a muslin of the tunic version. This one is made of muslin.

To add back in the fabric on this dart, I pinned the pattern piece to the fabric, then I folded the pattern and the fabric so I could draw a line

When you unfold it you will have something like this.

At this point make sure you mark your dart points through the hole at the apex of the dart.

See those little black marks near my pencil point? Those are your seam line for the dart. Go ahead and mark those as well.

Then you will connect your dart apex and the seam line marks that you made. So you will have a triangle marked on your fabric.

Doing it this way actually moves your dart apex up 1/4 of an inch. So check it against yourself to make sure that still works for you. It works better for me, but you know I a rather busty person.

Then you will fold your dart. Lining up the seam line marks.

That is my somewhat silly ironing board cover you are seeing there.

You then sew your dart. Again follow the instructions in the Washi directions for this. Here is a picture of how I press my dart over an ironing ham.

Don't have a ham? Well they are not all that expensive, they are about $10 at Joanne's. If you are going to be doing lots of garment making they are a great investment.

Once you have your darts sewn on both sides, you are done with the bodice for now.

Next you will want to go ahead and do the shirring on the back.

It will give you a chance to practice without risking messing up your for real fabric.

You should have your marks all ready to go on your muslin. Your fabric should look something like the picture to the left.

If not go back to the last post and read about marking your fabric.

Rae, the designer of this pattern, has already written a lovely tutorial on shirring, that I suggest you take a look at.

She came to the same conclusion that I eventually did, you do not need to adjust the tension on your bobbin case. So those of you who were worried about messing up your bobbin tension, there you go problem solved!

But this is why it is good you test it. You and your machine may not come to the same conclusion. You may need to buy an extra bobbin case, which is cheap for most machines.

Here are some more tips about shirring from Craftsy.

To get started you need to wind your bobbin with the elastic thread. You wind by hand, don't pull it and stretch it, just wind it. Then you use it just like any old bobbin.

I tried this in both my drop in bobbin and front loading bobbin machines. Both turned out about the same.
Here is why you need your marks on the right side of your fabric. 

You want to be able to sew along your lines.

My tip is I do back tack at the beginning and ending of each row.

Your elastic just sits at the back of the fabric, and does not pull through like thread. So if you don't back tack you risk pulling your elastic out. And that would suck. But you would learn.
 Here it is two rows in. Starts to look like it might actually turn out to be something!

But it also starts to get weird, but just smooth it out and keep going.
It sort of sucks when you run out of bobbin elastic mid way through. Sigh.........

I just re-loaded and kept going. You may be more of a perfectionist and may want to pick out that row and do it again. Your call.

I used blue thread so you could see it. You may want to use something that better matches your fabric. But on the muslin go wild.

This is the shirring I did on the drop in bobbin machine, looks remarkably similar. It really is easy. Don't psych yourself out. Just try it.

If you are just doing a bodice you would now sew your shoulder and side seams and try it on an check it out.

If you are making an entire test garment you next you make your pleats in the front skirt.

You pin them and them press them in place. Page 7 of your instructions has very clear and easy illustrations of this step and the next one. You simply sew the bodice front to the skirt front.

Easy peasy.

Then you sew the shoulder seams and the side seams. You sew around the pockets.

After that you get into finishing details. Which I did on my muslin dress to test them out. So it is up to you if you want to test how your finishing will look. I was skeptical of the U in the front neckline. I think it is very cute on smaller people. On myself however, not so much.

But I am happy I tried it.

As the directions indicated I interfaced my facing, then sewed it is and under stitched it before I cut out the notch. This is a wise way to do this and works great, so follow the directions if you are finishing your dress in this manor and want to test it before you cut into your real deal fabric.

Then if you are adding a sleeve that is your last step. Again the pattern directions are great! So use them for this step. I am here to guide and encourage, not re-invent the wheel.

I am not a huge fan of facings typically. They tend to flip out and bunch and do other annoying things. But this one looks nice if you sew it down. I tried it so I could see if I like it. And I do. I think it looks pretty as well as being functional.

Since this was an experiment I used teal thread and tried a bunch of fun stitches for top stitching. I had just told my pal Ella that I really wanted to get into more embellishment and boho type embroidery on cloths and this managed to be the perfect place for trying it.

Sadly my fun teal thread ran in the wash. You can't see it so much in this picture but it looks like there is a fuzzy marker line where ever the thread is.

This is what I get for buying thread with no label from someone who does not really speak English. But it is such a beautiful color! However I have learned my lesson and will buy thread with labels. So I know what it is made of. But really who has ever heard of thread color running before?!?!??

 Here you can see the running and the embellishment a little more.

I have learned a lot and done some fun experimenting. Which I would not have done if it were not for you! This is the aspect of sewing I love. The social, community aspect.

I would love to see pictures of your progress. If you feel comfortable with the other sewers seeing them please post in slack. That way everyone working on it can see your issues and see if anyone else has suggestions on how to fix it.

Next post will be all about fit. What changes should you make, if any, and how to make them.

Or are you the rare magical unicorn who can wear things straight from the pattern?

Just because I can!! 


  1. I love that your sew along is including so many fitting tips. I think that is definitely the most difficult part of sewing clothes! Also, Smith and Forge is my fave ;)

    1. So glad that you are liking it! I hope that you are able to make yourself something fun! And yeah Smith & Forge is pretty yummy!

  2. awesome tips. And i did exactly what you said NOT TO DO with the muslin. I used fabric I liked and hoped it would magically fit. :(

    1. Ohh sweet Marcia....... I guess that means it did not fit? Where you able to alter it at all? Or make another one? I'm sorry! Sewing is a challenging hobby at times as you know.