Saturday, May 1, 2010

Q & A Session: Muslins & Fittings

Hey Guys,
A couple of you have asked me a couple of questions about the Vogue Kay Unger dress  I made several weeks ago for Easter and I wanted to take the time to answer them and to do so publicly in case anyone else might be interested in the answers. By no means am I an EXPERT Seamstress (not yet of course.... I've only logged 3000+ of my 10,000 hours--LOL!)  but I love to provide my personal experiences and what I know when I'm asked. And if I don't know I love to look it up and learn.

Paige said.....
Beautiful Easter dress!! Do you mind my asking, about how often do you make a muslin? Every new pattern? What do you use for your muslin? Thanks!

Well Paige, I actually do not make a muslin every time I start a new project. I used to.  When I began sewing some 6 or so years ago I didn't know what a muslin was and made it to the stage in my sewing where I began to notice not every sewing project fit right out of the envelope. For a new sewer this is so frustrating, because you begin to doubt your sewing skills.  But in truth, creating a garment is dependent upon 2 things--- how well you sew and how well you fit. If you do both fairly well, then you can create a great garment. I use a muslin (which is a trial garment) to help me perfect the fit of a pattern and make the necessary adjustments to the pattern so my sewn finished garment can fit properly. My muslin are usually the traditional bleached cotton or any other fabric that is similar in weight to the fabric I plan to sew. So if I'm sewing a knit and need to make a muslin, my muslin fabric would be a knit.

Ok, back to my story, well when I realized I had to adjust my patterns to fit,  I began seriously studing pattern fitting and tailoring.  I think I amassed a rather large collection of books on pattern fitting because of this and in a very short period of time.  I read everything I could get my hands on. I was determined to learn how to fit my clothes and even stopped sewing for a while to focus on my studying. Once I felt comfortable about resuming sewing, I began heavily relying on muslins for everything---I was young and a more nervous sewer. As I progressed in my understanding of fit and my experience with various pattern companies, I began to notice my fit issues and how to resolve them. For instance, my  fit issues are my narrow shoulders and back, my high derriere and short back. Once I became comfortable with fitting my patterns,  I began to realize that I didn't need to make a muslin for everything---I could either compare my body measurements with that of the pattern and make adjustments and/or do a tissue fitting . These were techniques I learned from reading several books such as Palmer and Pletsch's "Fit for Real People" and Nancy Zieman's "Pattern Fitting with Confidence". I've also read pattern drafting books and tailoring books. I read a whole lot.

Now I will only make a muslin in the following situations....
*When fitting a non-stretch or knit fabric
*When working with a complicated design that just can't be tissue-fitted.
*When I'm working with expensive fabrics or sewing for a special occassion.
*To test a pattern when I'm not sure if a silhouette will work on me

Truth be told I still make my fair share of fitting "faux pas" but that's just part of the sewing process. But it's the muslins and pattern measuring and fittings that drastically cut down on this.  Hope this answer helped!

Sister said...
Beautiful dress! Fits beautifully and looks RTW. Now about your back alteration - did you do this on a dress form or did you get somebody to check the back for you? I have a hard time with this and usually twist in the mirror to see the problem then work it out roughly on the dress form but can't ever get it right.

Sister, I did not do this on a dressform. Can you believe that my dressform, which is about 2 sizes smaller then me, has a wider back then me? I must really have a narrow back!!! Years ago I had a friend measure me (and I've done it recently) and I'm exactly 14" wide and 14" long in the back---just a little box. For this dress I did a muslin and evaluated the fit on my back (and yes I had to look over my shoulder in the mirror) and noticed it to be just a little wide.  I then measured the pattern to confirm this and ended up taking it in a little bit. I used to have the hardest time with this as well and sometimes still do. I recommend comparing the pattern's measurement to yours (excluding the seam allowances of course), and if you're still not absolutely sure, do a tissue fit or muslin to check it out further.

lamstu said...
I love this pattern and I *love* your dress more! I really want it, but straight, fitted skirts don't have any place in my lifestyle - do you think the skirt would look okay with some flare or fullness in the back? (Primary transportation is by bicycle and if I can't ride it in an outfit, it won't be worn.)

Lamstu, this is a very unique question (thanks for the love btw)! You're right, to ride a bike wearing this dress on, you'd have to make some serious adjustments of some kind since this dress is pretty fitted from the hips down. I'm sure you could add some fullness to the dress bottom but personally I was attracted to the dress because of the entire package--fitted dress and all. Maybe you can add a box pleat or some other type of pleat or godet that would provide the extra width you need at the dress bottom and when you stand up it will lay fairly streamline. If you really love this dress and don't want to fool around with too many changes, you could make this your only "special dress" that you could carry on your bike and change into (smile).


  1. Thank you so much so this Victoria, as a beginner sewer i'm sooo hungry for knowledge on everything that has anything to do with sewing, especially fitting issues. And following blogs of some of you advanced sewers i always wonder how you learned so much. So thanks for sharing, much appreciated!

  2. Great post! I'm at that get all the books on pattern drafting phase now :-) Have you read Adele Margolis' Make your Own Dress Patterns? I cannot believe the importance of darts!!

    And I think "high derriere" sounds like a nice adjustment to have to make :-)

  3. Thanks for a great post. Getting the fit right is so important but not always easy so I always love to read advice from experienced sewists, like yourself, on this subject.

  4. Thanks for the info! My dressform isn't exactly like me either. I want to do a duct tape one, but until then I'll measure my back and compare like you suggested.

  5. Branka---no problem! It's always my pleasure to help where I can!

    K-Line, you're always so sweet:) I have seen Ardele margolis' book. It's a good one and is very popular. For some reason I had a hard time really getting in to it. Maybe I need to look at it again.

    Eugenia--- I've seen the stuff you make, I think we have the same skill level. You're pretty experience yourself (wink)!

    Sister--- I'm thinking about getting a custom made dressform from Andy's Dressforms in NYC. You should google it and check it out. You can give them your measurements and they'll create your body double. I've heard good things about them!


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and for following me on my 10,000 Hour Sewing Challenge:)


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