How to Choose Fabric for Testing a Pattern

I've been making lots of muslins lately as part of my patternmaking certificate. These test garments are usually created from muslin fabric, hence the name, and they are created to check fit. Muslin is an unbleached cotton fabric, and I get mine at the fashion design bookstore at my school. It comes in several grades, ranging from a fine to coarse weave.


Making your test garment from 
one fabric is a good start!

 

The idea is that you choose a woven fabric that is similar in weight and drape to the fabric that you will ultimately use on your finished garment.

I was pulling a long night this past weekend, working on my final projects as the class draws to a close, and I ran out of muslin. I had enough to cut out the bodices in one grade, the arms in a rougher grade,  which matched the back of the skirt. The front skirt was cut out from a white cotton-poly I had inherited from my mother-in-law's stash.

The finished result was quite a hodge-podge, as you can see from the picture, and the professor had a good laugh. But this was good instruction for me on why it's best to make your test garment from all the same fabric. Muslin creases easily and will hold darts and seams with just a few pins. The poly on the other hand had a different drape and refused to be molded, fighting me with every pin and needing  lots and lots of pins.

Not everyone uses cotton for their muslins. There may cases where you would want to use an inexpensive fabric more similar to your fashion fabric. For instance, I designed a silk chiffon dress and used polyester chiffon to test it. You could do the same with charmeuse, satin, and so forth. And of course, for knits, you will want to use a knit to test your pattern.  I just recommend sticking with lighter colors that can be marked easily as you make adjustments.

For lots of projects to utilize your sewing skills, check out a subscription to Sew News magazine.

Have you ever worked with muslin, or a different fabric to try out a pattern? I would love to know!

Happy stitching!

 

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Amber

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

15 thoughts on “How to Choose Fabric for Testing a Pattern

  1. I’ve recently started making muslins and wonder what do you do with them once you finish your end garment? Do you save them or cut them up for smaller projects, or collect them? I seem to have a few laying around and don’t know what to do with them!

  2. Yes! I’m taking a few sewing classes at the present time, and it’s my first experience of working with muslins — makes total sense — so worth the extra effort to have a much better fitting final product! Where are you getting your pattern making certificate?

  3. Yes! I’m taking a few sewing classes at the present time, and it’s my first experience of working with muslins — makes total sense — so worth the extra effort to have a much better fitting final product! Where are you getting your pattern making certificate?

  4. I make a lot of ‘muslins’ since much of what I end up making is not from standard patterns and I hate wasting costly materials. As a devoted cheapskate, my favorite source of fabric for the purpose is worn bed sheets, either things we no longer want to sleep on, donations from friends, or from thrift stores. There are lots of weights/weaves, and it repurposes material otherwise useless.

    To respond to JustPeachyDesigns, the fate of the muslin is dependent on how likely I am to ever want to recreate the design. For things I want to make more of, they get disassembled and used as the pattern, alterations already in place. If it was a one-of a kind (or I hated the result) I’ll salvage what I can and send the rest to the fabric recycling at our local land fill.

  5. There is always something new (to me) to learn. Although I’ve been sewing for many years, I only began making muslins about ten years ago. This is the first time I’ve heard that there are grades/different weaves of muslin fabric. There isn’t a large selection of garment fabric available locally. Tell me more about this please. It would open up so many possibilities.

  6. I am taking the Patternmaking Certificate at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The school bookstore that sells the different muslin grades is on 27th btw 7th and 8th on the FIT campus. I believe it’s call The Fashion Bookstore.

    I keep all of my muslins, in case I make the pattern again. Also, if you have fitted yourself with a muslin for a basic bodice and straight skirt, that can be used as the foundation for other patterns, depending on the design.

  7. I am taking the Patternmaking Certificate at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The school bookstore that sells the different muslin grades is on 27th btw 7th and 8th on the FIT campus. I believe it’s call The Fashion Bookstore.

    I keep all of my muslins, in case I make the pattern again. Also, if you have fitted yourself with a muslin for a basic bodice and straight skirt, that can be used as the foundation for other patterns, depending on the design.

  8. I’ve used a muslin when trying out patterns from Japanese pattern books. This allowed me to save my fashion fabric from disaster as I became familiar with a sizing system that I couldn’t read!

  9. I’ve used a muslin when trying out patterns from Japanese pattern books. This allowed me to save my fashion fabric from disaster as I became familiar with a sizing system that I couldn’t read!

  10. Sounds like your ‘odds and sods muslin’ wound up providing good information for the future. I collect cast-off cotton sheets for using as weft in weavings and in quilts. Depending on what I want the outcome to be, the good cotton sections (sometimes the whole sheet not worn and contains good, strong cotton) can be used as muslin, for the purposes of fitting. Also, as one can see when dismantling tailored garments, bits of sheeting can be used as lining or support inside a garment or other structure.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences as you study.

  11. I have made muslins when I’ve used any of the retro or vintage patterns on the market, and found them to be invaluable. The fit and styles of these patterns are very different from those we’re accustomed to today! You might not realize the actual fit of such a pattern ’til you go to make it. With some retro patterns, it’s easy enough to keep the style but alter the fit slightly to make a pattern less form-fitting.
    Making a sample from muslin is a good time to experiment–and to get it right.

  12. I find when I design a knit garment I need to use the real fabric as a test. The stretch is always different depending on the knit you use. Just buy extra with that in mind….

  13. When I sew garments for myself, I always make a muslin to test the fit. I am a D+ cup so I always have to alter bodice patterns. I have had too many garments not fit that well because I skip this step. I am considering just buying an entire bolt so I always have it on hand. I just made some knit tops for myself and bought several pieces of fabric. I used the least favorite one as the test case and lucky for me it fit great! Then I could confidently sew the others.

  14. I am a retired educated from the Scarborough Board of Education in Ontario, Canada. In 1975 we went with a co-educational program and offered sewing to the boys, they were amazing. Several designed their own projects and produced some great stuff.. It was wonderful when they came back to visit and told how our program had influenced their lives.

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