Wouldn’t it be great if a pattern would fit us exactly without any alterations needed? Sadly, the fact is that each of us has our own special dimensions, and even if by some freakish occurrence our measurements are the same as the pattern, chances are good that won’t guarantee an exact fit.
Patterns are developed two ways, either based on a fit model or a dress form (which is based on fit model.) And while the final pattern draft that goes into the envelope may be tweaked to have a more universal fit, the fact is that it was based on someone else’s body, not yours.
- That’s why any instruction on garment construction will always recommend making a muslin, which is a sample created from inexpensive fabric to test the pattern. (The shortcut exception to this rule is when you are working with knits, whose fit is much more forgiving than woven fabrics, and which is just one reason among many that I love sewing knits.)
Generally, a muslin is sewn together quickly in a cotton muslin fabric or cheap textile that is similar to the drape of the fashion fabric you’ll be using. The idea is that you put it on a dress form or yourself, and mark and pin or slash where adjustments need to be made.
However, the thing that I don’t like about sewing a muslin is that you can’t undo and adjust the seams easily during fitting. This is why I prefer pin-basting. Pin-basting is an industry technique that I’ve learned in my pattern-making and draping classes for creating a muslin. The garment is literally basted together with straight dressmaking pins. In class, we use a form, and usually just create the right half of the garment. You can do this as well if you have a dress form that matches your dimensions. If you are fitting on figure, you can either go with a half or full garment, but make sure that you allow for a 1 inch seam allowance at center front and back for the half garment..
The trick to pin-basting is how you secure the pins. They are put in perpendicular or at a slight downward angle to the floor, taking just the tiniest bit of the fabric to secure the seam, as if it were the size of a stitch. There are two reasons why it is critical that you pin in this manner: the first is that the garment will hang much better for fitting adjustment, and the second is that you are much less likely to get pricked while putting the muslin on figure, as 98% of the pin is on the outside the garment. But always put ithe muslin on figure very carefully, so as not to disturb pinning or get poked. Note: You will definitely need a sewing buddy to do the adjusting when you are fitting yourself.
A pin-basted garment will go together much faster than a sewn garment and is much easier to test for fitting. So for those of you who have been dragging your feet on making muslins, you can try this quicker alternative.
For plenty of high-fashion patterns to try out your pin-basting skills, check out the latest issue of BurdaStyle in the Sew Daily Shop.
Do you tend to make a test pattern when you sew a new pattern? I would love to know!
Happy stitching (and pinning)!!