To Muslin or Not To Muslin…..

….that is the question!

So, here’s the deal:  If you don’t make a muslin, you’re missing out on a ton of info.  If you do, you get a cheater’s shortcut guide to making the garment you’re working on.

It’s hard to think of making a muslin (like making the whole garment twice), when it can’t take that long to make a garment – after all it’s only $17.98 at the local fast/fashion store.  It can’t take that long to make.

Well, the fact is that comparing your work to the local FCF store is like comparing apples and horse dung.  They just ain’t the same thing.  Many sewists don’t even dawn the doors of these sellers of horse dung and many (including a lot of sewists) do not even look on the inside of these garments  If we did, we would be frankly shocked.

This is from Collette Patterns Instagram account and she gathered a few pics on the net showing folks actually doing muslins.

Here’s another thing to consider.  Why do most professionals almost always do muslins?  Is it because they have time to spare and just want to make something up twice? Is it because it gives them so mch information that it’s hard not to do it?  I think you know which one is reality.  As I’m very fond of taking the lessons learned by professionals, whether they are designers or sewists or tailors or whoever, there’s no reason we can’t learn from the pros on this.

They to a one almost always do a muslin.  If they don’t it’s for several reasons: 1.) they’ve done the pattern umpteen many times before, 2.) they’ve designed the pattern and know it inside out or 3.) they’ve got a time crunch that won’t allow for it – usually for me this is something like needing it overnight or in a day or two (a lot of times this is for my costume part of my job).

For the pros, it is worth it.  For me, it’s incredibly invaluable.  The dress above was for a beloved family member.  This would have been OK had it not fitted as well, but that wasn’t good enough for me.  This dress had to be the dream dress of a lifetime cause it was payback for a my aunt who had purchased my first Bernina for me.  This HAD to be right from the get go and had to be beyond expectations.    It was.

There is only one way this dress would have turned out the way I wanted – ONLY ONE……with a muslin.  It WAS the dress of her dreams,; I DID payback the debt owed;  the bride FELT like a dream; and I WAS totally gratified.  But it all started with a muslin.  I placed a lot more pressure on me than my niece or anyone else.  But with a muslin I was able to meet those expectations.


Now here’s some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What happens if you could take a test, only before you were taking the real test, you could take a practice test first and have a chance to look up all he answers to see if it was right.  Would you take that practice test first?
  2. What happens if you had to give a big speech or make a huge presentation, but before you did the real one, you got to give a practice one first and you could stop and go back and correct anything that was wrong, confusing,  ambiguous or too long?  Would you do the practice speech/presentation before or not?
  3. What happens if you are having a really important person for dinner and they’ve requested a difficult dish which you can do, but you’ve never done before.  Would you make the dish before so you could see what you might change or do the same?

In all these cases, would you take the practice test just once or every time?…would you do the practice speech/presentation just for the one time or do it for every speech/presentation?…would you cook up an unknown (to you) recipe every time, or just once?  My bet is that you’d not only do the practice round first, but you would do it every time.  I mean really if you had the chance to take the practice test to learn all the answers before, why would you even ask if?…you’d just say “Hell, yeah!” and be in the middle of the practice test before you could snap your fingers.

That’s what a muslin does.  Sure the practice test takes more time;  the practice speech takes more time and the practice of an unknown recipe takes more time, but the time it takes is well worth it.

So is the muslin.

Take it from a pro.  The time you spend making the muslin not only saves you time in making the garment, but stress, draining failures and fitting – well we haven’t even gotten into that yet!



  1. Sing it, Sister!!!

  2. I find I can whip out a muslin in short time. I make collars one layer, hems just cut edges and such. For details I simply cut one layer of the shape for a pocket or such to discern placement. I make sure I do the sleeves because their weight can certainly alter things. Muslins are so worth and they really do save time.

  3. A muslin is a must for fitting and so many other reasons. Thank you for this article. Great.

  4. Excellent – well put. OK, thanks – I’m convinced! I would like to copy part of your muslin argument for my guild’s fb page (of course, with reference back to your blog), but will wait until you give the go ahead. Cheers!

    • Kathleen – help yourself – credit to the blog is excellent!!! Thanks for asking!

  5. Ah, just about to do a muslin! For a winter coat for a hard-to-fit client. It will allow me to try out some design changes she wants, and it will be fairly easy as her moulage fit perfectly!!

  6. Done – and with thanks! Here’s a link to the entry on our fledgling fb page: (Claire, you don’t have to post this, just wanted you to have, but don’t know how to pm you)

  7. Had my 50th High School reunion last fall and hooked up with an old Home Economic friend Linda. She has continued sewing all these years and what I call a master sewer now. I on the other had not sewed in over 40 years. As we were talking she gave me some tips on making a muslin pattern. I had never done that before and I really appreciated her tip. I’m glad to say I now make everything in muslin first. What a great way to get a good fitting. THANKS LINDA!

    • Yeah – muslins seem like a pain in the neck till you get used to them and then working without them (flying without the net) gets to be REALLY scary!

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