Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thoughts on The Fitting Muslin

This is the process I go through to create a fitting muslin. It's not quick and dirty, but it will yield a well fitting garment. It's not a process I go through for every garment I make either—just so that you know that I'm not completely crazy.

In a post to follow soon, I plan to document step-by-step the muslin process that I go through to fit a coat or jacket. I'll illustrate this post with photos. If you're feeling like "it's the first of June and I'm ready to go", and you don't need illustrated steps, then here are the steps involved:

  1. Measure your pattern tissue. If you're using an American pattern you'll need to first draw the seam allowances on the pattern tissue, so that you measure only the actual garment pieces, not the seam allowances. If you're using Burda or Marfy or Patrones, you're in luck because these patterns don't include preset seam allowances.

  2. Determine if you need to make pattern alterations. You'll need to make the same alterations you normally do. For example, if you typically do an FBA, adjust for length or a sway back, etc., you'll need to do that here too.

  3. Determine how you want your coat to fit. Snug? Loose? This is a personal choice. Wearing ease for a fitted coat will be minimum of 4" in the bust (circumference), minimum of 2" at the waist, and 5"-6" at the hip. Minimum ease for the sleeve, at the bicep is also 4". If you're planning to wear your coat over a suit everyday to work, plan on 6" at the bust, 4-5" at the waist, and 6-8" at the hip. These are minimums for wearing ease, and do not account for style/design ease. Those of you making full skirted coats such as Vogue 8346 may have 4" ease at the bustline and 10" or more at the hip. Be sure to check lengths too—back neck length, sleeve length, overall length.
Once you've altered your pattern in the flat tissue stage then you're going to want to lay it out on your muslin, leaving room for 1" seam allowances on all your vertical seams, and 1.5 to 2" seam allowances at the shoulder. I would add 1" seam allowances on the sleeves also.

You'll be transferring to the muslin every stitching line, every mark, every match point on your pattern, as well as the grain line for every piece. Draw your horizontal lines on your pattern tissue for your waist and hip lines, across all pieces, then transfer those lines to your muslin also. I use a tracing wheel and large sheets of wax tracing paper (link in a previous post on sources) to do this. You'll also want to cut out your collar, pocket welts, and any other relevant pieces.

After you've got your garment fitting properly you can add the collar and the welts or patch pockets and evaluate them for proportion to your body, placement, etc.


When the muslin is first put together it will look something like this:

(My sister probably wouldn't appreciate being used as a model here, but this is a closed blog, and these pics have appeared before. This picture was taken during a long-distance fitting session. I was drawing on the pics and sending them back to her so that the next correction could be made. This was early on in the process of making a fitted jacket—the princess seam still needed to be moved, the shoulder extended too far out and also needed moving forward—but it was a process.)

You can see the 1" seam allowances. You can also see that I not only traced the stitching lines and markings onto the muslin, but where I needed them to show on both the right side and the wrong side I stitched my lines on the muslin.


To show you where we're eventually going with this:

Above is a muslin that I fit for myself. After the fitting I cut the muslin apart on the altered stitching lines, and am using that as the pattern piece to lay out and cut this houndstooth fabric. You'll notice the original pattern stitching lines that I marked (what you're looking at here is the back). I needed to let out a bit in the hip and take in a bit in the waist. At the hemline I ended up sewing on another piece of muslin because I didn't like the length on the original pattern. The red horizontal line is just added fabric.

In this photo above, the muslin is ready for thread tracing on the seam lines, and then cutting apart, adding seam allowances.


To many of you, this is old hat. But if this looks intimidating to you, don't worry. I will be breaking it down into steps with photographs so that you can make your own muslin. NancyK, I'll also illustrate changing your princess seamline then.

And I'll take pics on the process of making a 2-piece sleeve from a one piece sleeve pattern.

Also in June we'll be trueing up the grainlines in all fabrics and preshrinking.

Making up the muslin and prepping fabric is all that's on the table here for the whole month of June, so you've got plenty of time to sew fun things to wear now and to go play and work and everything else you do.


Vicki said...

Thanks Marji, this is great information. And I am glad you are going to show how to turn a 1 piece sleeve into a 2 piece. My preferred pattern only has on piece sleeve.

Melissa Fehr Trade said...

Thanks, this is great! When I've done muslins before, they've been more of the "quick and dirty" sort, so it's good to know how to do them properly. And I definitely plan to for this!

I know Carolyn's blog had a great "steam the heck out of it" preshrinking method for wool crepe in which she also explains the London method. I'm not sure of this is of any use, but I used her method before on my wool crepe dress...

Mary OK said...

I also remember that Carolyn described the London shrink method. That is what I usually do, though I am not sure I have the steps exactly right. Wet and and spin extra water out of a sheet in the washing machine. Lay it out flat on the floor or a bed. Lay out fabric on top, smoothing to reduce wrinkles and to keep it more on less on grain. Fold sheet and fabric over and over into a bundle, so that there is a layer of wet sheet touching all the fashion fabric. I usually fold in 1 ft or 18 inch sections. Then fold crosswise, and put all in a large plastic bag. Tie off bag opening. Let sit for at least 8 hours or overnight. Take fabric out, lay out flat to dry, smoothing out wrinkles and gently straightening grain.

Nancy K said...

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is adding walking ease. Sandra Betzina gives a good description in Power Sewing as does Roberta Carr in her Couture Sewing. This really makes a difference in how your coat hangs and moves with you. Unless you are making a plaid coat you would add it at cf in kind of a long triangle with the wider part at the hem.

Linda said...

That is a good point. But it made me think of two other things. Are you talking about a straight, long coat? If you are making one that is at or above the knee, like mine will, I don't think I will need walking ease. I have one like this and the buttons don't close past the mid thigh and I still have room. And the other things is how can we tell if our coat patterns already have walking ease added in? I'm using a Burda pattern and given there excellence in drafting, I would like to think this would be incorporated already if the pattern needed it. If I knew what to look for in the pattern, I could tell if it was there. Thanks.

Els said...

Also mark the horizontal lines like waist and hip lines on your muslin on the right side ( visible) If you use tailor tacks than both sides have marks, if you mark using carbon paper use a long stitch length and a non matching color thread so it will be visible from the right side.

Nancy K said...

Anything below the waist needs walking ease. This is what keeps the coat closed below the buttons. The amount just increases the longer the coat is. Roberta Carr writes that (and this is from memory as I take this book out of the library) that the amounts she gives are starting points and that thicker coating needs more room. It will throw the front edge off grain, which is why you don't do it at cf for a plaid, but the grain line remains the same. I can't just copy SB's outline due to copyright, but if you don't own her book it is probably at the library.

Nancy K said...

I realize that I didn't finish answering your questions. The last couple of coats I made were Burda and I added it. Just assume that it doesn't have walking ease if the front edge is parallel to the grainline. The pattern is generic in the sense that the drafters don't know what fabric you will be using. You won't see this in a rtw coat because it uses more fabric. These are the kinds of changes that patterns don't talk about that will really make a difference to your finished product. I am using a Vogue 'easy' pattern for my jacket and I find that they use techniques that while technically easier than traditional methods and drafting will, in my opinion give me an inferior result. I will be changing the drafting here, especially on the back slit.

Summerset said...

Lisa Laree wrote a post about the London shrink at one time. She's not participating in the coat sew along, but you could email her. Her blog is: I can't find an email address, but if you leave a comment about that post, I'm sure she'll get back with you.

Lisa said...

I am 6' tall. Which will give me the better fit:
1) adding 3 inches to the hem or
2) adding 3 inches at the waist where it shows the lengthen here or
3) dividing up and adding 1 inch at the high chest, 1 inch at the waist and 1 inch at the hem?

I am thinking of number 3.

I have straight shoulders and a small bust (A cup); however, I am considering not making a bust adjustment. Will this make a huge difference in the fit of my coat? (Vogue 8346)


Nancy K said...

Lisa, it depends on where you are long. Are you long waisted or short? Does your bust point line up with the pattern? Your arms are probably longer too. But, I would think that just adding to the hem won't give you the best fit. As Els mentions, mark the waist and hip and I would add the bust point and see where they fall on you in your muslin. You can always cut across and add in muslin to bring the lines on your pattern into line with your body.

Lisa said...

Thanks Nancy.
I will mark on the muslin and see where to go from there. It will be hot trying on all this muslin with a turtleneck on!

Lisa said...

Thanks so much Marji!

I will go back over my measurements and compare to the pattern. The armscye usually doesn't bind. I will be sure to add the corresponding length to the sleeve cap.

WOW! I don't know about the rest of the particpants, but I am really hyped up about this sew along! I am reading this blog at least twice a day--but that will have to stop so I can get to altering and straightening my fabric!

Sigrid said...

I decided for the Butterick coat, with a few alterations. One of them is changing the sleeve to two pieces. Just traced the pattern, but do I wait cutting the muslin till I changed the sleeve (for which I rely on your instructions Marji)?

Mary OK said...

Do I understand correctly that in the muslin stage, I do not have to add the seam allowances to my traced burda pattern? I will trace the stitching line onto the muslin, then cut 1" seam allowances on the sides and sleeves, 1.5" on shoulders, add hem allowance, etc. If the fitted muslin becomes the pattern, it seems like extra work without benefit to trace seam allowances on the pattern. Not that I am lazy, I'm just looking for a way to streamline the process!

Marji said...

Exactly MaryOK,
In fact, I'm going to the trouble on some of my American patterns to actually cut the seam allowance off.

Liana said...

Marji, Reading the lengthening info, I suddenly had a flash, but it may be a dim bulb instead. Here goes.

I have shortened between the bust point and shoulder with good results and done the same to the sleeve. I just measured a Marfy pattern before altering, and I note the bust point is just right now. Can I just cut out the armscye and shorten it and tape it back together? (In the back I'll fold all the way across.)

Should I do this alteration to a coat pattern at all, or should I just be glad to have the extra depth in the armscye so I can wear big sweaters under the coat?

Nancy K said...

I never add sas to BWOF patterns. I like adding sas on the fabric. On Tany's blog, you will see that she thread traces her seam lines and this is much more easily accomplished without sas. When you add large sas it is much more accurate to have the seam lines marked than to pin together from the cut lines. In fact, since I will be using 2 American patterns, I am going to cut off the sas after I mark them.