let’s talk about muslins

I didn’t even know what a muslin was until I cracked open The Colette Sewing Handbook. I never really saw my mother make muslins, and maybe that’s just because her years of experience helped her know what alterations to make, if any. The more I read about muslins, though, the more I see their value to the home-seamstress.

First things first, what is a muslin? A muslin is a test run, a garment you make out of a similar and less expensive fabric to get an idea for what you’re getting yourself into with fitting. It’s a key ingredient to making perfectly fitting garments.

Making muslins is simpler than making the actual piece of clothing. You don’t have to finish seams or attach facings. All you need to do is construct the garment to the point where you can try it on and evaluate your fitting needs. It doesn’t have to take so much extra time. If you were to go to a couture fashion house, the seamstresses would almost certainly be making muslins for you to try on before constructing the final piece. Muslins are an essential piece of garment fitting.

I made a muslin for the bodice of my Myrtle dress, because I added sleeves, and I wanted to make sure that my fix actually worked before cutting into my pretty rayon. I had a cut of some cotton lawn that had enough drape to do well for a muslin in this pattern. Because of my muslin I identified a couple of areas where I needed to adjust my sleeves.


Do you need to make a muslin for everything forever and always? No, you don’t. Unless, you know, you want to do that. A-line skirts, for instance, don’t really require you to make a muslin, because the only fitting you’re dealing with is the waist. Even pencil skirts may not need a muslin. Knits are far more forgiving when it comes to fitting, and you can easily get away with knit projects sans muslin. Tops, though, and outerwear and dresses can often be made more satisfying in the end when you’ve taken the time to make a muslin. The bottom line is that the more you sew for yourself and your body, the more familiar you’ll become with what alterations you’ll need to keep at the ready. It’s one of those “skills born of experience.”


I usually make a muslin when I’m unfamiliar with a pattern that’s especially fitted, like a blouse. The above blouse was actually intended as a wearable muslin, a test garment that you can still wear if you like how it turns out. This was a useful muslin, because it turned out that I needed to do a small-bust adjustment (SBA) to the pattern to make my final product fit well. So I don’t currently wear this muslin because it doesn’t fit me in the bust–but that’s OK, because its first purpose was to be a test. It’s also nice to make a wearable muslin so that you can familiarize yourself with the pattern construction. I’ll often make a muslin if my final garment will be made in an expensive or finicky fabric. You want to make your muslin out of a textile with similar drape, and most expensive fabrics have affordable muslin-material counterparts. Muslin, cotton batiste, and lawn are great textiles for muslins.


So what do you do with the muslin once it’s made? You begin any adjustments with the muslin. With my Hawthorn wearable muslin, you can see where I pinned the excess fabric to begin my SBA. Now let’s be clear that I am not super confident in my adjustment prowess. I’ve read through tutorials and books on fitting and haven’t mustered up enough courage to tackle a pattern that gives me significant problems. I should also concede that patterns usually fit my body pretty well from the onset. Really the only adjustments I’ve ever needed to make have been a result of my small bust. But that doesn’t mean that I might not encounter a bigger fitting issue later on down the road. So fitting techniques are good to have in your back pocket.

Where do you stand on muslins? I have certainly benefited in many instances by making a muslin, though for my body type it’s not always necessary. Those floral shorts I’ve been dying to make may have come out better had I sewn a muslin first, but the project wasn’t near-and-dear enough to my heart to put in the time. For garments that have your soul, make the muslin, learn fitting techniques, and take the time to make it perfect. For projects that you’re excited about but not devoted to, you make the call. For me some garments have merited a muslin, even just to double check fit. For others, I’ve been willing to take the gamble and not make a tester.

You should check out this dress made by Shannon, a recent high school graduate who made herself the most stunning grad dress. She has posts on her muslin and wearable muslin. Her project is a perfect example of how to benefit from using muslins in your sewing. So maybe find yourself a pattern and make a muslin for it. Try some simple alterations. I found great alteration guidance from The Colette Sewing Handbook and The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting. Muslins have given me such a clear and productive way to take my sewing to the next level–let me know how your muslins turn out!

This entry was posted in sewing techniques and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    så sant som det är sagt! får vi kopiera inlägget och länka till dig på vår bloggis? kram på dig bästa hanna!!!!!!!!!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>