You all know that I comment very infrequently on other people’s sites. But I do lurk, lots. On many sites, and quite often, posters will claim that they
- Never make muslins
- Hate making muslins
- Think muslins are a waste of time
- Don’t see the point of muslins.
I, on the other hand, love muslins. And I’m not talking about “Wearable Muslins” (On another note – was that really 6 years ago? Man, I didn’t realize my bulletproof undies were that old. But I digress…)
Seriously, muslins, the way I use them, are tools for achieving better fit. Because of that, in Ann-land they have a very specific purpose: they become the pattern. Today, for instance, I cut out a pair of StyleArc’s Willow pants. These are woven pants, and they are pretty closely fitted. My goal is to make them in a black wool satin from my stash, to take me through the holidays and go with a stunning jacket I bought from my friend Tess last year. I cut them from The Best Muslin Anywhere (of course I have to plug it!) and ran them up this afternoon.
I use waxed tracing paper (that you can buy online or at Sil Thread) and a tracing wheel to mark darts, grain lines, fit lines and other landmarks on the pattern. I notate the markings, when needed, with a sharpie.
I use long machine basting stitches (6mm) on all the seams. For zippers and darts I use regular length (2.5mm) stitches. I figure if seams pop, that’s okay – that’s what the muslin is supposed to show. But I want the darts and zips to stay where they are.
I also don’t bother with an invisible zip in the muslin. I just use the ugliest zipper from my stash. “Close enough for government work,” as my daddy used to say. The goal is to get the fit right. I know how the zipper will go. But – if you are unsure about how to insert an invisible zipper, this is the time to practice, so go for it!
For this pair of pants, the muslin (minus the waistband) took less than 1.5 hours to cut out and sew up. 90 minutes of my time? That’s totally worth it to see if this will even begin to fit and work for me.
Once I sewed the muslin, I tried it on and started making adjustments. This is easier if you have a fitting buddy. If you don’t have a fitting buddy, take lots of pictures. Don’t worry – you don’t have to share them. Use them for yourself and look for wrinkles, drag lines and problem areas. No one is judging you, and this way you’ll see things through the camera’s unwavering and unemotional eye. Sorry – I don’t have pictures of myself in these pants. One benefit of having been sewing since the Pleistocene Era is that I’ve done this enough times that I can literally feel my way around the muslin and figure out where I need to pinch. It’s more precise if my best fitting buddy Phyllis is here, but I can do a pretty passable job on my own.
I don’t have pictures on me, but I do have pictures of the results. I need a slight adjustment on one side of the front.
And I need the “Fish Eye Dart” (I want to say I learned about that from Debbie Cook?)
If you are relatively new to sewing, you may be wondering, “Okay, now what?” It’s an excellent question. Next I will take these pants apart, true up the grain lines with the pinches and changes, and then use them as the pattern pieces for my wool satin.
All in all, this process (including writing this blog post with pictures and all) took less than a day on a long weekend. The payoff will be that I will have a pair of pants that fits well, falls well, and won’t end up in my wadder pile or at Goodwill. And it will take me less than a couple of hours to make them, start to finish, because I have already sewn them once. So if I can give you one piece of advice, it is…
When in doubt, make a muslin, dammit!