What does it mean to slow down and Make in a thoughtful manner....?

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the wearable muslin

I learned to sew from my mother who has patience for many things, but, bless her heart, not for sewing.  So I was not taught to make a muslin before cutting into my prime fabric.  This lead to many moments of abject disappointment when something I had made did not fit, and there was no way to fix it... I was vaguely aware of the Vogue Patterns fitting shell pattern, basically a pattern for a sloper. And I knew that it was recommended to make a muslin, a test garment in a less important fabric, but somehow I thought this procedure was a waste of time.  I wanted to get to making the garment I was going to wear.  Consequently I spent about twenty years guessing at the outcomes of my sewing projects.  I got pretty good at picking patterns that I could figure out how to make fit my body, more or less, just from the design elements described on the envelope and a (slowly) growing knowledge of my body. I did pretty well, I must say, but the patterns I chose were rather limited.

A couple of years ago, when I started sewing again after about a ten-year break, I was reading an ever expanding roster of sewing bloggers and was brought around to the idea of making a muslin, or practice garment, before cutting into my garment fabric. I tried it once, I don't remember on what pattern, but it involved fitting in a way I would previously have avoided. What do you know, but I could fix the fit issues in the muslin, and then make a garment that fit, was flattering, and that I would wear repeatedly... Epiphany!  So this is what all the admonishments are about. Making a muslin equals predictable results on garments. What a realization!  I felt like a whole new world of sewing opened up to me. It was exciting and encouraging, and like finding a hundred dollar bill in the pocket of a coat...

I can already hear you saying, NOOOOOO! I don't want to waste the time making a muslin! I want to get straight to making my very cool dress/top/skirt using this amazing fabric I found that will make the most amazing dress/top/skirt that I have ever owned, that I will wear to that party I'm going to on Thursday where everyone will tell me how great I look and ask me where I got that dress/top/skirt and I'll tell them I made it and they'll be all stunned....  Slow the f*ck down...! All that last part will happen if you take the extra time to mock up the garment in either muslin, or some inexpensive fabric you bought on sale.  Get the fit right- lower those armholes, re-point those darts, take some fabric out of that back, add some length to that hem, and then cut into your beautiful fabric. Then you will create a garment that you can wear to that party, and many others for a long time to come. You will have to tools to make it again, in another fabric for another season, any time you like!  Think of the possibilities when you have that skill in your arsenal?!

Are you still resisting?  Here, let me offer you an intermediate step that might make the proposition more palatable.  How about a wearable muslin? This is not a solution for all situations, but for those when you feel confident about the pattern you are beginning with. Above is an example. These are two versions of the Scout Tee by Grainline Studio, brainchild of the very talented Jennifer Beeman. Click on the link and you can check out her website. Jen makes great classic patterns in shapes that are eminently wearable, garments that you will want to make (and wear) over and over again. Scout is a straightforward woven tee.  Three pattern pieces, no darts, no facings.  So I knew I could make a first version of this pattern with a good chance of success in outcome. So I used a fabric in my stash that I had a lot of, that didn't cost much and that would be a great knockabout piece. The plaid on the left is my wearable muslin. And wear it I do! I got the fit right the first time, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been crushed by the waste of fabric. I moved on to some silk that I had tie-dyed in a Shabd Simon-Alexander workshop back in May, and made a very cool one-of-a kind top. I angled it from front to back for a dropped hem look.  I would not have had the confidence to cut into this unique piece of fabric if I hadn't already made the pattern successfully. I now have two garments to wear, instead of a frustrated, wasted experience.  See, you can make a muslin.  I know you can do it.  [I don't know what's up with all the scowls in these pix but I didn't want to go back and shoot them again, so forgive me. You should be looking at the garments, not my face, anyway....]

I have invited Jen Beeman to come teach at AGOS. Stay tuned for details, we are working out timing and details.  In the meantime, if you want to learn how to sew garments, come take one of my workshops. I'm teaching the Scout Tee on Thursday August 7th. I'll help you work through the muslin concept.


And here is a gratuitous picture of another garment I recently finished.  This is an adapted Elisalex from By Hand London, a great group of designers in London. This is more tie-dyed fabric, this time a linen/cotton blend, from Shabd's workshop.  This is the third time I have made this dress, the first time having been a muslin!  And in the interest of fostering the making of more muslins, I will tell you that I only made a muslin of the bodice of this dress, because I knew that if there were any fit issues with the skirt, I could work them out in the final product without screwing it up. So that's another way of testing a garment construction through fit, without ruining your beautiful fabric.... Make a muslin, then make a beautiful garment! It's worth it....

Michael Miller

Why do I make….