I make a muslin for each new pattern I sew to make sure it fits and that the various elements are flattering in length and placement. (Some garments never make it past the muslin stage.) Making a muslin is not as involved as sewing the garment itself. There are plenty of shortcuts you can take, and a few you shouldn’t. Here are my tips:
❦ A muslin is called a muslin because that is the fabric traditionally used. It’s main advantage is that it’s inexpensive, but it’s not the only fabric suitable for testing a pattern. Some people like to use gingham because the woven check makes the grainline easy to see, which can be important as alterations are made. Free fabric options include “What was I thinking?” fabric from your stash, and old sheets from your linen cupboard.
❦ Take the time to iron your pattern pieces. You are making a muslin to check the fit, and using wrinkled patterns can affect the results. Besides, you’ll need to iron them before cutting your fashion fabric anyway.
❦ Don’t bother to cut out the facings, unless you need to check them specifically. Facings are not generally critical to the fit.
❦ Don’t waste your good marking pens on your muslin! No. 2 pencils work just fine.
❦ Use contrasting thread. It will be much easier to see when you need to rip a seam apart, and it’s a good way to use up the weird colors on your thread rack and your half-empty bobbins.
❦ Use a basting stitch (long stitch length). You will be glad you did when you need to pull apart a seam; but use a backstitch or lockstitch to start and end each seam, or they will pull apart as you try the muslin on.
❦ Take the time to match and sew your seams accurately. This is one area where you shouldn’t take shortcuts. You are checking the fit, and inaccurate seams defeat this purpose.
❦ Don’t bother to iron your seams. Finger pressing (running the back of your thumbnail or the blunt end of a point turner along a seam to open the seam allowance) will work fine for a muslin.
❦ Don’t cut full-length patterns if you don’t need to. For example, If you only need to check the fit on a skirt from waist to hip, there’s no need to cut the entire pattern in muslin.
If you minimize the time and resources used in making a muslin, you may find that the confidence you get from taking a pattern for a test drive will be well worth the extra effort.