Tuesday, 21 December 2010

To toile or not to toile?

(image taken from The Haberdashery facebook page)

Toile? Muslin? Prototype?! I'm reasonably new to dressmaking, and my approach to sewing has thus far been, shall we say, slapdash. I sewed bits and pieces on my mum's machine when I was younger, but after moving out 10 years ago I've not done much in the way of sewing until reasonably recently. For my first proper project way back in 2009 (a pre-blog dress) I did make a toile of sorts - that is to say I made it using the cheapest material I could find in John Lewis that was also wearable, because I couldn't face the idea of making something that I would never wear. The dress itself (New Look 6848) turned out reasonably well, although I never wear it, the floral material and big puffy sleeves make it look far too hippy dippy, not to mention the cheap material means it's more or less see-through! The second attempt with more expensive material actually turned out worse than the 'prototype'. I think I was over-confident second time round and rushed it.

My second dress (Simplicity 2591) would definitely have benefited from a muslin in terms of the roomy fit - I already talked about the many issues I faced in this blog post!

My third dress project is to be the Colette Rooibos pattern. I am really keen to do this one properly. I want it to be something I am proud of and can actually wear.

To all those more experienced sewers out there - what are your thoughts on making muslins? If I'm being really honest, even if I made a muslin and it didn't fit, I'm not sure I would be confident enough to alter the pattern to address the problem anyway, unless it was just a simple seam allowance or something. Plus I am lazy. And I hate waste. The thought of spending time and material making something that will just be binned really jars with me. 

Do I just need to get over it and on with it? Any advice gratefully received!


PS the image I have used in this post is from The Haberdashery's facebook page. I hope they don't mind me using it. It is a very lovely little cafe in Crouch End and I would recommend stopping there for some lovely cake and tea if you are in the area. They also do fab 'Barboot' nights once a month with lots of vintage/homemade bits and bobs to browse and buy whilst you sip your vino (or something more seasonal!)


  1. I always hated the idea of a muslin that wasn't wearable. However I did a proper one for the Lady Grey Sewalong and I am so glad I did. Once all the alterations were made (seams mostly) the muslin was taken apart and used as the pattern pieces. Now if I was to make another I would use the muslin as the pattern not the tissue.

    It is time consuming, boring and feels wasteful but it is far better than going to a lot of effort with nice fabric only to waste it because the finished item isn't wearable. From now on I am always going to do a muslin.

  2. For what it's worth, I've started making toiles on dresses I know will be a problem. I have a large bust and often have problems fitting it into clothes. I know that anything with a shaped bust will cause me issues, so I usually make bodices up to check what the issues will be.
    Like you, I don't know much about adjusting patterns, but sometimes I've found an adjustment is obvious - a bit narrower here, a bit more of a curve there etc. I draw all over my toile in felt tip, unpick it and use it to make a second toile with changes just to check that I haven't done something mad! It does help and for clothes that you want to look really special, it's worth it.
    So, yeah, get on with it, though I know it's a P.I.T.A.! And buy some really cheap cotton in a market, 10m at a time so you can't use cost of materials as an excuse!

  3. I have also hated the idea of making toiles and have forced myself to do so - but I have been very grateful. All that time spent on a toile could still end up being time spent adjusting a final dress - and with each adjustment seams and fabric are weakened. Worth thinking about doing if you can bear it. But to put the cat among the pigeons, I found the Rooibos to have a very good fit and I didn't toile it first...

  4. If it's a fairly simple project that can just be taken in at the seams if it doesn't fit, I won't bother with a muslin, but if it involves anything more complicated, eg. a bodice with darts, a muslin saves a lot of time and stress in the long run. Not sure if I'd bother with a muslin for Rooibos, unless you're concerned the top bit won't fit.

    You don't need to sew a muslin of the whole pattern - just the parts that might have fitting issues, even if it's just half a bodice without the sleeves.

    If i'm sewing a vintage pattern, I kill two birds with one stone by tracing it onto Swedish tracing paper, both to preserve the original pattern and because it can be sewed up into a muslin.

    Really looking forward to seeing your next sewing project! x

  5. I'm lazy too and could never understand the point of wasting time (and fabric) on a muslin/toile until I made my first one recently. It's only for the bodice section of a dress, but adjusting it has made a massive difference to the fit. Like Tilly, I wouldn't bother making one for straightforward looking patterns but I'll definitely do a bodice muslin again if there are bust darts as that's where the problem lies with me. It is time consuming but for a special project you really have your heart set on, it's probably worth it. x

  6. Thank you so much for all the advice everyone. It looks like I should just stop whinging and get on with it!

    Tilly - Swedish tracing paper - what a revelation! I never knew this existed so thanks for mentioning it - a swift google later and I'm going to buy some when I get back to London.

    I also never thought about just doing a muslin for the tricky bits, I'd have been sewing up the whole thing.