I recently received a question about making a 'muslin' for knit tops and t-shirts which leads me to share thoughts on what is a 'muslin' and how it relates to testing a pattern or design. Here is the question and my response including some thoughts on the process of making or using a muslin and facts about the fabric itself.
Hello Marcy ,
I am a recent member of the local American Sewing Guild, for which fitting seems to be the major emphasis. A concern of mine is for a couple of women, when trying out a new t-shirt pattern, who are using muslin, (woven fabric for knit pattern). Is there something out there in the knit form that could be comparable for 'making a muslin' for knit tops and dresses?
I look forward to your words of wisdom.
Fitting is a challenge for everyone, and a never ending learning curve.
Please PLEASE tell your group that they should never use a woven fabric to test a knit pattern, it is doomed to failure. The word ‘muslin’ can have two meanings for those of us who sew. In one case, it is a type of woven fabric, unbleached cotton, plain weave, natural color, comes in different weights and qualities, and is frequently used for making a mock-up of a design or by some designers for draping the first draft of a design.
The other meaning for muslin is used to describe a ‘test’ garment that is used to determine fit and style. People must be clear on the double meaning here!
When working out the fit for a knit top, you would use a knit fabric, never a woven. The issue with knits is that each one is different, and each knit might hang and fit differently. For people who are just starting to work with knits, ponte is the best choice as it has some stretch and drape, and is stable with no rolling at the cut edge. I would not start with a jersey, but would make a few ponte tops to get the hang of sewing and fitting and developing the 'touch' needed when working on knits. Then move on to lighter weight fabrics. With 4 way stretch and lighter weight fabrics which can stretch a bit in wearing, I use wider side seam allowances and adjust the fit as I sew. I also find it takes a bit of practice and experience to develop the touch and feel in handling these fabrics.
Test. Test. Test. Practice. Practice. Practice.
• Make samples with scraps
• Test needle size and type.
• Test thread
• If you use a serger, test serging the seams
• Test for handling rolling at the cut edge
The one fabric I do NOT recommend is interlock as it stretches and has very little recovery. Interlock is inexpensive to buy, but is a problem fabric and not a good option for testing a pattern for fit. In my own sewing and design work I have abandoned using muslin fabric. The ONLY time I would use it is in making a pre-test for a tailored jacket or coat. In that case, the preliminary steps are to do in depth preliminary work before even cutting the pattern, which includes flat pattern measuring and tissue fitting so the muslin test garment is as close to a good fit as possible, with extra wide seams to permit adjustments. In this case, the muslin is of a firm weight that simulates the fashion fabric. It is cut and marked with precision, and the fitting takes close care. I recommend your members watch my 2 Craftsy classes which contain all my methods, tips, tricks of the trade and wisdom about working with knits. I also have a series of you tube videos that are helpful - see below for a couple of clips and links to the Craftsy classes.
Thanks for your question -I want to nip this recipe for disaster in the bud, so please pass the word!
The in-depth Dior exhibition in Paris at the Louvre devoted one vast room, floor to mirrored high ceiling, with row upon row of garments made in muslin fabric in different weights, sometimes two or more weights in the same garment. All sewn to perfection with pencil markings showing details as shown in the photos I took on my visit in September 2017. All of these garments are draped directly on the dress form, a process that takes years to master. The draper or toileiste will start with a sketch from the designer and work in tandem with the dressmakers and designer to achieve the finished garment. The muslin/toile is then painstakingly disassembled and the muslin fabric is use as the pattern itself. This is a long involved process! If the garment is being made for a customer, there is a custom made dress form that replicates the customer's figure precisely, so the garment will fit with few adjustments.
Wishing you every success!
Because all of life is a journey, in planning my 2018 grouping of
patterns, my intention is to create designs that travel well through
life, whether staying at home, going to a job, or out and about
exploring the world. I travel a lot - am on a plane an average of once a
month, and I want my travel clothes to function on the move as well as
for days at home in the studio. I seek designs that...
Our talented ArtBarn team have been stitching up a storm using our collection of French Digital Knits. I've just made new portraits of each person, shown here and in our About Us section on the website. We usually have a lunch meeting on Tuesdays, and two brilliant suggestions emerged. Marcy offered the challenge to make something from our collection of French Digital Knits. Beth suggested that we all should go to Paris. Both are in the works!
Everyone is very excited as the ArtBarn team will be joining Marcy and Katherine in Paris in May for a special visit after our spring tour is finished, and we are all sewing with Paris in mind. We will be closed the week of May 21 - May 28.
Even thought she is an experienced and creative sewist, Nellie always reads the instructions through start to finish. This is the second time she had made this dress, (AKA 'the pocket dress), Vogue 8975. Nellie is 5' 2", so, on the second go-around, she shortened it 2".
Diane took advice from Nellie and found it helpful to read through the whole pattern, and then follow the instructions step by step. She used Olive Confetti French Digital Knit (sold out).
Carol used Woodstock French Digital Knit for Vogue 9171, known fondly as 'the pumpkin dress'. She cut sections on the bias, using Wash-Away Wonder Tape to match up the lines, saying 'It made me so happy to have it be this easy!'
Nellie used the same lengthen/shorten technique as on the dress shown above for this tunic top, Butterick 6101. She says, 'it helps to know your body well enough to make the adjustments that work for you. This knit is stretchy and tends to 'grow', so after having worked with already, I took this into account.' The fabric is Zola French Digital Knit, (sold out).
Beth used a self drafted pattern for this little cardigan-shrug, combining Adele French Digital Knit for the sleeves and neckband, and Josette French Digital Knit (sold out), for the body. To stabilize the front edge and keep the wrong side from showing, she used a wide self facing, stitching it in place by hand with small invisible stitches.
Beth is our resident expert at using the Alabama Chanin hand applique techniques and making them her own. This top combines two layers of knit, turquoise and navy, and is entirely stitched by hand.
Marcy used her newest (about to be released as I write this), pattern, Vogue 9300. More details on this pattern to come in the next blog....
Version #1 uses Pascal French Digital Knit. This is a panel print - the panel is one yard long (36" x 58"), and the top took two panels.
Version #2, uses Domino Theory and Claire de Lune Danish Knits, also available as our Copenhagen Combo - the combo includes 1 1/2 yards of each fabric which is enough to make this tunic. These are a soft ponte, easy to sew and feels delicious to wear.
More to come in 2018!
Happy Sewing from my studio to yours.