Sunday, March 30, 2008

Muslins, Wearable Muslins, and Test Garments

I wasn't long in the sewing world before I started hearing the words "muslin", "wearable muslin", and "test garment".

So what is a muslin? And why should you care?

The term "muslin" or "making a muslin", generally refers to making a "test" copy of your garment. That is, trying out a pattern with an inexpensive fabric prior to making it with your chosen fashion fabric.

The term originated from the name for a particular kind of woven cotton fabric that was traditionally used to make the test copy. Muslin fabric can still be purchased today and can be used to make muslins, among many other things.

A "wearable muslin" refers to a test garment made with a less expensive fabric than the chosen fashion fabric, but turns out itself to be wearable. I like those!

People make muslins for various reasons, including:
1. Going through the construction process for a particular pattern.
2. Trying out alterations that are made for fit.
3. Trying out new ideas and techniques.
4. Getting a feel for how the finished product will look.

I'm sure there are more.

I always make a muslin prior to using my fashion fabric for all four of the reasons listed above. I'm not nearly comfortable enough with my sewing abilities to pick up a new pattern and try it out on more expensive fashion fabric without trying it first on some good old $1 fabric from WalMart. Witness the fun I had with the wrap view of Simplicity 4076!

I'm also still learning a lot about what will work for me in terms of looks, and what will not work so well. Putting a muslin together helps me understand how a pattern will translate from the picture (usually of someone half my size) to my own wonderful, but definitely not size 3 body.

So should you make muslins? Like so many other things in sewing, it's a personal choice. But it's a choice I highly recommend. The payoff for getting a garment that I truly like is worth it.

1 comment:

Gwen said...

I'll give a resounding "SECOND!" to your recommendation to make a muslin - especially for any pattern that is important and/or involves a new technique or new level of difficulty. In fact, I made a series of muslins before cutting into the real fabric for my first wedding dress, and one of my top regrets is that I moved on to the real fabric before getting the muslin perfect. I got it pretty d*** close and thought I could make the final adjustments in the real fabric - and that led to two scary and distressing episodes with the $59/yd silk satin... It all worked out in the end, but there were some bad moments that could have been avoided... ;)