THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

November 13, 2006

Muslins Matter

Filed under: Fit/Pattern Alterations,Pattern Reviews — Gorgeous Things @ 10:14 am

by Diva Ann, GorgeousThings 

I have just finished the HotPatterns Tango Blouse. It’s a very pretty look, and I wanted to make it in a wavy eyelet that I bought from Kashi at Metro last month. I love the lines of the blouse, and I especially love the sleeves, with their fluted cuffs. I also know that, as with just about any new blouse, I wanted to make this one work out, so I made a muslin. And as always, I’m glad I did.

Even in the event that a pattern fits me with very few changes, making a muslin first allows me to find any glitches or tweaks, and it gives me a dry run on the construction process. I know some of you are rolling your eyes and saying, “A muslin? But that takes too much time!” Well, sorry to be harsh, but get over it people. It’s far less time for me to spend whipping up a basted together shell using cheap fabric (yes, this is the one time that I use cheap fabric), than to cut my good fabric and end up ruining the whole thing. Nothing ticks me off more than having to toss good fabric into the trash because I wanted to save time. I also find that muslins give me a much better view of the fit on my body than, say, tissue fitting. I’m not dissing tissue fitting. I do it. But I find that muslins just work better for me.

Let me show you the process I went through to make my blouse. After tracing off the appropriate size, I cut out the blouse using a stiff muslin I bought from You can argue that this particular fabric isn’t that great as a muslin for my purposes – it’s much stiffer than my final fabric, which I have washed umpteen times and tea-dyed until it is very soft. But it suits my purpose for showing the drag lines. The first thing I did was lower the waistline darts by an inch. I knew I would have to do that before making the muslin. Then I sewed the test garment together. Here is the result of the first run:

Sharona, my old dress form, doesn’t fill it out quite the same as I do, but you can still see a couple of things. Look at the right front (on your left as you look at the screen). Here’s a close-up:

You notice some drag lines emanating from the shoulder and the armpit. The shoulder lines aren’t a problem when I wear the muslin because my shoulders are much broader than the form. But there was a definite diagonal drag line from the middle of the armscye pointing to the bust. I pinched that out and made a dart from it. I sewed that up on the left front, as you can see here:

This took care of the excess fabric. Then after conferring with my fellow Divas, I rotated that dart to the side seam:

At that point I decided to make a second muslin. Believe it or not, it’s easier and faster to cut out a whole new muslin than ripping my basted seams and resewing everything. I also changed the neckline slightly to give it a more V-neck. This was a styling detail that someone pointed out on PatternReview, and while I like the original neckline, I figured I would try it with a V and see if I like that better. To make the V, I measured to the point on my chest where I wanted the opening, and used my curved ruler to draw the new cutting line. I lengthened the collar by adding 5/8″ at the center back. Here is the result of the second run:

After trying it on, I was satisfied with the fit in the upper chest area. I still needed to adjust the armscye slightly since I had taken some length out of the armhole seam. Again, my dear Divas came to my rescue and showed me how to do that. I was able to transfer all the changes to my final pattern and make the blouse from my eyelet:

Now you may be wondering, how long did all this take? Not very. I cut out and sewed the first two muslins on Saturday afternoon. Yesterday I cut out and sewed most of the blouse (except the sleeve frill and the buttonholes) in less than an hour. It took me another hour to finish it today, but that had more to do with my Pfaff buttonhole being persnickety and not with any major construction issues. The total time I spent on this blouse, from start to finish, was less than 6 hours, maybe even less than 5. The result is very satisfying. The fit is exactly as I want it. I have a “tried and true” pattern now, and I know I can whip one of these together in less than an afternoon. Here’s what the final version looks like on me:

So the moral, dear friends, is don’t be afraid to make muslins. Yep, I mean muslinS plural, if that’s what is necessary. They don’t take that much more time, and the results will be worth every bit of effort, and you will have a garment that you will be proud to wear for a long time.

Happy sewing!



  1. Oh, Ann, it’s beautiful! That fabric looks even more fantastic made up.

    Comment by Gigi — November 13, 2006 @ 11:34 am

  2. Ann I would love to see that on you. It looks faboo! I agree that a muslin is a great idea when you are adventuring into uncharted waters with a new pattern that needs to be tested. Do tell, what interlining did you used for the eyelet?

    Comment by Georgene — November 13, 2006 @ 12:37 pm

  3. Georgene, I’ll get DH to take a picture later. I used ivory silk organza as the interlining. It’s crisp, but not too opaque. I discovered that I will need to wear a liner under the blouse just to keep warm during the winter!

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — November 13, 2006 @ 1:46 pm

  4. Rotating a dart into the side seam is something I’m still trying to get my head around….

    Do you mean that you rotate the dart to the lower edge, and then remove the excess width from the side seam? Wouldn’t that make the fabric hang off-grain?

    Sorry – not trying to be dense here, but is sitting on FFRP and none of my other books mention that option for dart rotation.

    Comment by LornaJay — November 13, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  5. Love it, love it, looooove it! I think I like that little change on the collar better than the original. Even though I don’t think it was designed to be buttoned up all the way, thus the famous gap which gives a bit of a rever effect (if that is the right word? desperate to improve the sewing vocab here!).

    Comment by Lorna — November 13, 2006 @ 5:30 pm

  6. Beautiful blouse. Although I really like the original neckline on this blouse, the v-neckline is also a very nice option.

    Thanks for all the pics. I love it when there is some detail to look at, including muslins, which are a fab tool.

    Comment by Mardel — November 14, 2006 @ 6:27 am

  7. I am so with you on the muslin thing. I tissue fit too, but nothing beats a muslin.

    Comment by Mary T — November 14, 2006 @ 7:45 am

  8. Yes, more buttons! I do love a good button bank.

    Comment by Mary Beth — November 14, 2006 @ 8:52 am

  9. I hear you on the muslins! Must get with muslin #2 for the Marfy pants.

    Comment by Summerset — November 14, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  10. Thank you for the words of wisdom! What a beautiful, perfectly tailored blouse!

    Comment by Cheryl — November 15, 2006 @ 5:33 am

  11. Magnificent! And Love the hair!

    Comment by Kelly — November 15, 2006 @ 9:44 am

  12. Your new HP blouse turned out very pretty.

    Comment by Els — November 15, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  13. Ann, it looks fabulous on you. I absolutely love it!


    Comment by Anonymous — November 15, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  14. I am so in love with this pattern now…gotta get it.

    Comment by Phyllis — November 16, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

  15. Hot damn, your hair looks fabulous! (It goes without saying that your shirt is also gorgeous of course. 🙂 )
    Judy Williment

    Comment by Anonymous — November 17, 2006 @ 9:00 pm

  16. This looks great on you. I have this pattern but haven’t made it yet. My eyes are bigger than my time. What exactly did you do to alter the armskye? Did you do an FBA on this blouse?
    You have reminded me that muslins really serve a purpose and are worth doing.

    Comment by Nancy — November 19, 2006 @ 7:51 am

  17. I have to add that I did a muslin of hp’s cocoom coat and am I glad I did. I realized that there would be 6 layear of coat fabric and 3layers of lining and 1 of interlining at the back collar! there is no way my cashmere wool coating would work. I didn’t realize this until I sewed up the muslin. Going back to the description of the coat I understood why all the fabrics mentioned are thin for a reason! I also realized that the directions for the back pleat left something to be desired and that if I do make this coat I’d have to work out the problems ahead of time.

    Comment by Nancy — November 19, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

  18. I now consider myself persuaded that muslins ARE worth the effort.
    Your finished top is such a success – and the time & effort you spent on the muslins isn’t as bad as it first sounds.
    worth it!!

    Comment by Robin — December 16, 2006 @ 4:34 pm

  19. I’d like to know if it is a requirement to transfer muslin changes to the original pattern? If one transferes all of the necessary markings to the muslin could it not be used as the pattern?

    I’ve found the issue of transferring to the pattern problematic in that I’m not for certain where to put what, and in what order (if any).

    Comment by Wanda — February 12, 2007 @ 8:23 pm

  20. Do you press your muslin?

    Comment by Amy — May 7, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  21. Do you use your altered muslin as your final pattern? Please explain what you do. Also do you feel you need a dress form to hang your garment on when testing the alterations, or is it just as good to test on your body?

    Really curious how muslinS are that helpful.



    Comment by Jill Morgenstein — December 18, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

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