All that a muslin should be

So, still sewing clothes. And, no this isn't for any of us to wear. It's my first muslin from one of the goodwill sheets from a couple weeks ago. But, I did use this big printed sheet to show Sydney what was going to happen if we made this shirt with the big print she had picked out for it. The lines go everywhichaway and soon as she saw that, she picked a solid for this nice, dressy looking shirt. This post is heavy on the garment making, so if you're not interested in that...well, today may not be our day to share a post.

Okay, so Sydney doesn't fit the printed patterns. From what I've read, few people do. While a medium men's handmade shirt fits me to a T, a medium store bought shirt is confining on me. That same medium men's shirt pattern is slightly snug in the shoulders for Rob, but a medium men's storebought shirt is comfortable for him. Who can figure?

But, when sewing for Sydney, she differs from the pattern sizes a LOT. If I make a garment that fits in one dimension, it doesn't fit in the others. Sydney has broad, round shoulders that slope down and a big rib cage that tapers to a relatively narrow waist and a large diameter neck. I've given up on trying to pick a size that "averages" all her meaurements together because I don't have any knowledge of the bust in women's clothes (stop snickering), so, I've decided to pick a pattern size for her based on the bust measurement. In the sewing books I've read, much is made about making women's garments fit in the bust. There are also extra instructions for making shirts fit in the bust in patterns. So I've decided to make that the most important measurement. As you'll see from this muslin, that means adding to everything else. But, if I go to a larger size, the bust on her is too big, so it's a trade off.

First thing I did was put the base of the shirt together. The front and the back have princess seams (thank you anonymous!) Each side of the shirt front is made of two pieces. There's a piece that runs from the shoulder, around the arm and then curves in and down to the hem and a piece that sets into that to form the bust dart and the side seam, from underarm to hem. In the back, just under the arm, the back tapers and "matching" curved pieces are set into the back to form the back dart and the side seam from underarm to hem.

I did all that and then attached the front to the back and had Sydney try it on. The bust fit great. By bust, I'm referring to the shape of the garment, horizontally, from one arm hole to the other. But, the waist was so tight she couldn't breathe and the bust line was about 3/4" too high.

So, I added an inch and a half to each side seam, which gave her room to breathe.

And an inch and a half to each shoulder, which brought the bust and back darts down to put the shirt's waistline in the right place.

I tried explaining how to slash and add pieces to the muslin and it's way too wordy and still unclear, so if you want to read about that part, I'd refer you to find a good sewing book. Mine is a 60's edition of a book published by Better Homes and Gardens. It is very complete with great pictures. The final result of all this is that I will add 3/4 inch to the edge of each pattern piece at the shoulder and side.

Adding all that size meant that the sleeve had to be altered, so I added a strip to the center of each sleeve by slashing them in half and sewing a strip into the center. I also added 3/4 inch to the underarm of each side of the sleeve. I didn't want to add three inches to the sleeve all in one place and dividing it like this, so it imitates where fabric is added to the shirt base, makes it all fit together well.

If you aren't adding strips to a muslin, don't worry about the math. But, here's my explanation. You have to add the amount you want to add, plus you have to cut the strip to allow two new seam allowances that won't exist in the finished garment. Let's say I added 1 1/2" strip down the center back. I'd have two seam allowances, one on each side of the new strip. Each seam allowance would be one quarter inch. Because there are two pieces of fabric in each seam allowance, each seam allowance will eat up a half inch of fabric. That is one inch eaten up by seam allowance and I have to add that to the original 1 1/2" I wanted to add. So, my strip is going to be 2 1/2" wide.

Now, when I added three inches to the sleeve diameter, that meant I had to add 3 inches to the cuff.

And, because I added 1 1/2" to each shoulder, I have to add 3 inches to the collar.

And, after calculating all that, I set in one of the sleeves. Looks good while the arms are down.

But, there's some pulling when she crosses her arms. Doesn't look so bad here, but if you could see the other arm hole, you'd see that there is some pull from all the way across the back, indicating the shoulders are too narrow. So, when I add size to the shoulder and side, I'll also add a bit to the armhole so that the upper back won't be quite so snug.

It's also the perfect length, but it isn't hemmed yet, so I'll be adding 3/4" to the length of the pattern as well.

And, the last thing that I use the muslin for is to help me figure out how I want to finish the actual garment. I serge all raw seams unless I'm going to turn them under for a flat fell. But, so far, I only flat fell on men's dress shirts. Camp shirts and all Sydney's clothes do better with a finished seam edge that gets left exposed. If I didn't have a serger, I'd zig-zag that edge or use the overlock stitch on one of my other machines to keep it from raveling.

Sometimes, I want to finish both those edges together after the seam is sewn and fold them to one side and top stitch them down. That's what I plan to do in those curved pieces in the front and back. Sometimes I want to finish the edges separately and press the seam open, as in the shoulder and side seams. I make those notes in my pattern as I'm going through the muslin so I won't have to think about it again when I'm making the real garment. But, I don't go to the trouble of finishing the seams in the muslin garment. I used to finish seams when I needed to practice that, but that part I've gotten down.

So, why a muslin? It's easier to slash and add strips to a muslin that I don't care about than a final garment that I do care about. Sydney has shirts where I have artfully added these same dimensions in ways you can't see. But, why not add them to the pattern, before I sew it together. Second good thing is that I only have to make one muslin, but I can make the resulting pattern over and over again. As she outgrows it, I can slash the muslin and add to it to keep it fitting.

Next step is to add all these measurements to the paper pattern. I'll show that later this week, I hope. I'll need to draw some pattern pieces anew, but others, i can just add to with tape and more tissue.

Okay, so that's Monday. I realized I'm getting old when I worked in the yard yesterday morning and couldn't move yesterday afternoon. But, it was a balance. Work hard in the morning. Sit and sew in the afternoon.

Take care and have a great one. Lane


Anonymous said...

The seams in the front/back are called princess-style.

Becky said...

Wow! You did a great job altering that pattern to a perfect fit. I'm afraid that it would be an epoch fail for me.....I can't balance a checkbook! Math is NOT my forte....and my dad was head of the county math department! UGH.

Coloradolady said...

I am afraid I'd have just given up and went shopping!!! This post so reminded me of my grandmas style of sewing. She never really used "real" patterns, made them up herself and cut them out on paper. She had rolls of paper patterns rolled and rubber banned together! She was a master seamstress, sewed for me most of my childhood. Some things, you just never stop missing...but this post really inspired some great memories!

Hats off to you and your wonderful sewing and ability to figure it out!!

Anonymous said...

And that's the reason when I buy a pattern, I look for the easiest one with little or no shaping. Thanks for sharing.

Bratling said...

My advice is to use graph paper to add to the final pattern. Each square is 1/4 inch, so it's easy to be exact about how much you're adding to the pattern.

I sewed garments long before I started quilting, so....

Judy Dietrich said...

Hey Lane, I spent a semester in college doing the same thing you are doing right now. We did exactly the same concept. We used muslin and found all our body differences. I have super long legs, but my torso is short in places?? Now you will know all the places that you have shaped your flat pattern around an actual human figure. I got an A in the class and a great fitting dress that I added a special neckline to. Used it for my engagement photo!! Do remember one thing, 13 is the age when the body will start growing in certain sections and may throw a few of your dimensions off. But as you said, you have made your muslin so you can add this to it!! There is nothing like a well made outfit.

chutchings said...

Picking according to the bust size is the way to go, shoulders/chest are much harder to adjust than waist, although you certainly did a great job. The only note I'd add is that patterns are intended for a B cup, so if she is (or gets to be) much larger than that, you might find it better to use the upper bust measurement under her arm pits and then do a full bust adjustment. I've ended up with shirts that were way too big in the shoulders etc before I heard about FBA in blogs.

Not fitting the standard sloper is pretty common, it seems to be a reason a lot of women get into sewing.

lw said...

Good! You're one step away from drafting your own patterns. I'm impressed!

Glenn Dragone said...

Very impressive! I don't know if I'd have the nerve to try something like making clothing.

Maybe one day?

Patricia said...

I took "Home Economics" beginning in the 3rd grade (I went to a small school that thought little girls should learn to cook and sew) through high school, and although I was taught to use a muslin model to make well fitting clothes, I have to tell you, I am a lazy girl and NEVER did it once I got out of class. My hat is off to you!!!! You do a very good job!!

qltmom9 said...

You must have the "engineer gene"...that post was SO not typical from those who sew dresses. I had to LOL at your wording and funnies throughout though. VERY fun and educational. When Sydney's sticking to a size for a bit, you might want to make a duct tape dressmaker body to build creations on for her. I have to remake my patterns, but it is easier for me because of the way I am built. She is very blessed to have someone care so much. That was a delightful post. Thank you.~

Anonymous said...

Definitely the engineer gene is showing in the descriptions. I sewed for three daughters as they grew up. If I had known about duct tape doubles, life would have been easier as they have no patience at that age and it's like trying clothes on jello in motion. I mostly had to get measurements (lots of them) and try to do my initial muslining when I was tracing and flat measuring. I still tend to trace patterns and work on them flat but that is just what worked for me. I had to flat measure lots of their favorite items as well since they were never around when I needed them. I have that Better Homes book in my sewing library that I picked up recently in a thrift. I have also found Perfect Fit in the simplicity series helpful. I enjoyed the post tremendously and will try some of the muslin slashing on my next fit challenge which is now fitting myself. mssewcrazy

woolywoman said...

I like this book:Fast Fit: Easy Pattern Alterations for Every Figure [Paperback]
Sandra Betzina

for pattern alterations. It has a very straightforward format. Not that fitting a pattern is every really fast, and you're so right, a muslin is essential. Sometimes I use muslins as PJs, if they are comfy enough. I also tend to use sheets or weird prints for muslins, so it makes for funny pajamas!

Vivian said...

Lane, another suggestion for pattern fitting techniques is Nancy Zieman's "Pattern Fitting With Confidence" system. She doesn't go by pattern size so much as choosing patterns based on what she has found is the most important fitting areas (and it's not the ones you'd usually expect) and then "pivoting and sliding" to make the width and length adjustments to create a custom paper pattern.

I purchased the book years ago (80s? 90s?) when the series originally appeared on TV and recently saw an updated version airing. She currently has the book, DVD and combo set on sale at her nancysnotions.com website and you can check out a demo video there too.