Friday, March 17, 2017

Spring 2017 Sew-Along: Making a Muslin/Toile

Welcome to week three of the McCall's Spring 2017 Sew-Along!

Week 1 - Announcement
Week 2 - Inspiration and Fabrics

This week is all about making a muslin to perfect fit. I usually make muslins when I'm using a pattern that's a fitted design and I don't want to waste my fabric if it doesn't turn out. It takes more effort then just jumping in but I'm always glad when I take the time to do it.

Okay, let's get started.

1. It's really important for this project that you pick a fabric that's similar in stretch and weight for what you plan on using for the real thing. We want this test pair to mimic the end pair in order to get a good idea of how they will fit. I'm using a stretch twill for my overalls, so I picked a lightweight stretch denim for my muslin.

2. After you get out your pattern pieces, you need to first decide what size waistband you will be using. This is piece #8, and there are waist measurements on each pattern piece on the bottom and slightly to the right of the middle. This was hard for me to locate at first, but it is there. The waistband is going to be interfaced for stability, and it's not going to stretch like your other fabric might. If you're making pants, I would use the waistband that's closest to your waist measurement. You make be in between sizes and that is fine. If you're making the overalls like I am, you may want to size up. I don't want my waistband to be tight like a pair of pants, because the straps are going to hold this up and I want a little extra ease in that area. I picked the waistband size 14.

*Meg suggests cutting the waistband 1 or 2 inches longer then the pattern piece so you don't have to ease the pants into it. This is especially appropriate for people like me with a square shape!

3. Cut apart and gather the necessary pieces. I'm using #2, #5, #8, #9, #12, #13. I also used the front and back pants pocket pieces because I wanted to test how those would look.

4. Decide which size to cut based on your hip measurement. If your fabric has stretch - which I highly recommend - you might choose a size that is at or a bit below your hip measurement. If your fabric has no stretch, choose a size bigger then your hip measurement depending on how much ease you like in your clothes. You must consult the measurements on the actual tissue paper and NOT the measurements on the back of the pattern envelope. For my starting point I chose a size 12.

5. It's a good idea to make any quick alterations now. For example, I knew I wanted my overalls to be cropped at the ankle, so I compared a pair of pants in my closet to the pattern pieces and decided to cut off 1.5" from the start. I also wanted longer front pockets and ones that extended all the way to the side seams.

6. Consult the instructions and consider if there are any steps you'd like to do differently. I like my insides to be really neat, so I'm always deviating from the instructions if I think there's a way to do something smoother. For this pattern I wanted to try a different way to construct the mock fly. My way does not trim the fly extension from either side. If you are interested in it simply skip step 8 for the pants or step 10 for the overalls.

7. Okay, start with the pants and get your side seams and crotch stitched together. I went ahead and put the pockets on and did the topstitching in order so see how it would all look. The size of pockets - either too big or too small - can really effect how flattering the pants are, so I wanted to get those sizes right. For reference, I made my front pockets 1.5" longer then drafted, and cropped the corners to mimic the back pockets. I also topstitched the crotch seam on the left side instead of the right as instructed.

8. After I'd finished the side seams, I tried it on. The legs were looser then I wanted, so I pinned out the excess fabric with pins until I got the silhouette I was after.

I also noticed that the front waist laid higher on me then the back, and made a note to trim 1/2" off.

9. Now I put the pattern piece on top of the pinned out leg and marked where each pin was. I then smoothed out the line with a black marker and transferred it to the other pattern piece. I took out the side seams, recut with my new altered line, and restitched.

I actually repeated this step once more to further narrow the area around the knee.

10. The rest is pretty straight forward. Attach the waistband, front and back bibs and shoulder straps. I experimented with adding topstitching to the sides of the legs, which I decided I really like. It was difficult to do the topstitching with the leg seams already sewn, so on my final project I'm going to sew the outer leg seams first.

Here's my finished muslin. The fit is pretty great and just what I had in mind. One leg is hemmed, the other isn't. The length and bottom circumference is perfect. The straps are a little too short on my long torso. I'll be adding some length to them.

The top of these overalls looks really plain right now, but with all the topstitching, pocket and hardware, it's going to look awesome. I'm really excited to get started! What do you think about this pattern? The pants look like real winners too.

Next week, Meg is going to go through steps 1 to 13 - attaching the pockets. Don't forget to join the Sew-Along Group on Facebook. There's lots of great discussion going on over there. Also find us on Instagram under #m7547sewalong.


  1. Your muslin is coming along great! I was intrigued by this pattern when it was released, but wasn't sure I could pull off the look. You make them look easy and wearable, and this isn't even your real garment yet, so I think I will break down and purchase this pattern. Also, do you have any suggestions or "rule of thumb" about the placement of the back pockets? I have a hard time deciding what looks the best, and of course it's not easy to move and repin them on oneself!

    1. I put the back pockets where the placement dots were on the pattern. I really don't make pants often, so I don't have a lot of experience about putting them in a flattering place. I was concerned they might be a little big after comparing them to another pair of pants that are similar and store bought, but then again these are higher waisted pants, so bigger pockets are probably necessary.

  2. You are amazing!!! I enjoy seeing your process, because it helps me with my own. The pants look fabulous already!

  3. Your muslin is amazing - looking good!

  4. These look great Amanda! I'm not sure that the style will work for me but I'm looking forward to seeing yours finished before I decide.

    1. The pants without the bib is a really great option if you aren't sure about wearing overalls. But I totally understand wanting to see the final version before making a decision. That's almost always why I wait to sew up patterns until I see someone else make them first.

  5. Hi Amanda! The muslin looks great! I really like completing a muslin first before the actual garment. However, I'm concerned about muslin fabric price when doing this. Plus your muslin looks pretty good that it could actually be the garment. Will you wear it or will you throw the fabric away? Any cost saving tips on buying fabric for muslin so it doesn't get too expensive?

    1. Whoops, just saw this! Usually I use cheap muslin fabric - think thin cotton - or other cast off fabrics that I know I won't use for anything I want to keep. But for this particular item - because it has such a fitted design but isn't knit, I recommend using a piece of stretch woven similar in thickness to your final fabric. Maybe look for something in the discount area? Or if you plan to wear them even if the fit isn't perfect, you could make a "wearable muslin" and then perfect the fit from that. I was thinking about using my muslin for pants, but I messed up the topstitching on the leg and they turned out a bit too high waisted for me. I haven't thrown them away yet but I'm not sure what to do with them. But yes, I usually do throw away my muslins. However, if all I need to fit is the bodice portion of a design, I will only muslin the bodice so there's not too much waste/time involved. HTH!