Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I am amazed and amused at how a simple post on making a toile turned into a Muslingate.

I am talking about my Burdastyle guest blog post. The post triggered lots of positive comments and great questions. Of course, some readers also explained how they never make a toile, or, even, how toiles are a waste of time. That’s ok, right? I believe in personal choice, and we all want to have an opportunity to express our opinions.

But there were also some pretty fiery comments, like the one Gertie decided to comment at on her blog. I read her post on Google reader, before, couple of hours later, she removed it from her blog.

“Enough people were irritated by my directly quoting a Burdastyle comment that I figured I should take my earlier post down lest I offend anyone else,” she said

Ok, here is the culprit:

“Unfortunately it seems to me that this one-upmanship in the couture standards (as if every single summer dress needed to be a work of art) has been muddled with working methods of past custom dressmakers, so that innocent beginners now thing it’s normal to muslin every t-shirt. As a result they have encouraged pattern companies to be even more slack in sticking to their defined sizes. So one now often needs to do a muslin when sewing up the big 4, which seem to be morphing from merely strange sizing to really all over the place. Sigh.”

I did comment on this on Burdastyle, readers. Nothing scandalous - be disappointed :-) but, seriously, do you think pattern companies are lurking in the blogosphere looking for a pretext for neglecting their jobs?.. or, is there really a need to protect ‘innocent beginners’ from negative side effects of muslin-making?..

Now, about directly quoting the comment here. I posted it, readers, because I have something to say about it. I know it may seem ‘frightening’ to some that a comment can be reposted and responded to, but that’s the essence of social media we all are part of– we act and react. There is nothing bad about it. We do want to be nice to each other, but we also want to be able to express our opinions, like that person who posted the initial comment on Burdastyle.

Now, do comment, criticize, argue, but ‘keep it civil’ as Gertie said. I believe constructive debates are very useful!

I am adding this edit after I read Gertie's comment that she intends to repost her post with some changes. I am looking forward to it!


  1. That comment makes me think that the person doesn't think we should take pride in our work, but make sloppy, ill fitting clothes. That's just my take. A muslin or toile isn't about making a piece of art, but about having a garment that fits nicely. So we don't look home made in a sloppy way. If someone fits perfectly into a pattern as is, they are so lucky. As for myself, that isn't going to happen.

  2. I have never made a muslin but I am still learning so go for easy pieces in simple (cheap) fabrics and then add darts if necessary for a better fit. Some pieces I see in blog land are works of art and make me strive for the perfect french seam or ribbon finished hem, it is wonderful to see great construction and the work that goes into the most simple of pieces. as for sizing this is a debate for all clothing as no universal size guide and I use vintage patterns which make me a 14/16 where as in the shops I am an 8. If we solve that problem, life would be so much easier but as we are all different shapes one size will never fit all. I have also heard that Burda are the worst with construction instructions, so that may be to blame as well. Keep up the good work, I enjoy your blog and all your posts. axx

  3. I'll be honest - I don't typically make muslins. I'm an "eyeball first, take in later" kind of girl. But when I'm going off of one pattern and trying to turn it into something else (like when I took a 1970s shirt pattern and made a motorcycle jacket) you can be damn sure I'm going to sacrifice an old bedsheet to the cause and figure out exactly how to get it to work.
    If it's a circle skirt, I know better. That's the thing. Maybe I've been sewing for too long and I'm out-of-touch with what "beginners" need. if they're watching Project Runway, though, guaranteed they'll see muslins being made, but those folks have no access to patterns.
    I'm full of righteous indignation on your behalf.

  4. I agree with you to each hers (or his) opinion but in fact I though the same when it came down to how muslin makers are affecting big companies. ?!? Honestly it made me laugh.

    I personally see the value in toile making but sometimes also struggle with the potential fabric waste. However, for me, having a ill fitting garment that I will never wear is far more wasteful than toile making.

  5. One of things I like about the sewing "social media community" is the sharing of ideas. I love that a single process such as fitting can be accomplished in more than ONE way. I’ve been garment sewing less than five years. I’m still learning to fit my body so I do make a muslin of most of my patterns. It works for me, at this point in my sewing journey. In a few years, I might not make as many muslins because I would have learned new methods or techniques for fitting. Pattern companies are in business to sell patterns not to advocate a particular fitting technique. As for pattern sizing, don’t they use a standard? Standards can and do change in an industry.

  6. Muslingate! well said. I don't think the bloggers are the reason the big four have sketchy pattern sizing. If I was to do a pattern from 7 years ago, or whatever time was pre-sewing blog, wouldn't the sizing be the same?
    I thought your burdastyle post was excellent.
    I also want to make muslins all the time out of spite now.

  7. I think everyone missed the commenter's main point (that you did not include in your quote) about fitting shells. Her point was that pattern companies used to use the same sizing across the line so you could buy the fitting shell (a pattern meant only for making a muslin) for the line and fit that so you wouldn't have to make individual muslins for each pattern. My mom has a bunch of old fitting shell patterns in her collection. Now sizing isn't consistent across pattern lines so you're forced to make a muslin for every pattern in the line and people act like that is normal when it didn't use to be. That was the main point that I got from that comment. I don't think she was trying to say that muslins aren't needed.

    I don't think it's the internet or the blog-o-sphere that's caused this. I think it's caused by lowered expectations and sloppy fast production.

    1. Thank you. When I first read that commentor's post this is how I interpreted it, and then I felt bewildered about some reactions. The comment about the online community seemed like it encourages pattern companies to be lazy since there are not enough complaints, not that people online are at fault.

      Anyways it was a great post. And a I got a lot of insight from different standpoints. The comment about not every summer dress needs couture techniques doesn't mean that she's giving the green light on sloppily made dresses, but that there is a time and place for everything.

      For instance, one of the instructors at my college joked that Halloween costumes were meant to be fun to make and "last only one night". Now, I may not agree with that exactly, but it was something good to keep in mind.

  8. #1. I never used to make muslins (in my former sewing life, when it was all about saving money) Now I DO make muslins, because it's about making nicer garments, and clothes that fit. And I'm much happier spending the extra time practicing on cheap fabric, before I cut into my pricey fashion fabric.

    #2. I don't care if anyone else makes muslins or not! As you said, everyone gets to do it their own way :)

    #3. The concept that home muslin-makers are affecting the sometimes sloppy and often oddly-fitted big 4 pattern makers, who clearly do NOT have a standardized sizing, is, frankly, ridiculous to me. Where on EARTH did that idea come from???

    #4. IMHO, I think you have every right to copy that comment anywhere you want to. It was, after all, a response to your post. Personally, I didn't mind Gertie's copying it at all, but in the Blogiquette scheme of things, I do understand that a modicum of respect when copying someone's words is appropriate. The fact that some people voiced their offense, and Gertie chose to take the high road, speaks volumes to me about the sort of person she is. :)

    #5. I am eating up your muslin posts, and love the info! Thank you :)

  9. Muslingate - haha! I'm sorry that Gertie felt she had to take down her post (I did read it before she did and many of the comments but I guess I missed it taking an ugly turn). I think you said it best above - personal choice. Either make or muslin/toile or don't. The choice is up to the stitcher. There won't be muslin police coming to the door to punish you if you made one or didn't.

  10. Muslingate-- that's funny! I found your blog today through all this. I just recently went through a whole multiple muslin process for a pattern and I have to say, I didn't really enjoy it. Not that I don't think it's very valid method of making a pattern work for you. It's just not in my nature to prepare so much. I think I'm going to make a bodice sloper and see if I like that better. I say whatever floats your boat! There's no right or wrong answer- just do what works for you.

  11. I don't know anything about pattern companies, but I always alter my patterns to fit my particular slouch, etc. I have to. All the parts of my body are different sizes! But once the patterns are altered, I trace a more permanent copy to save. I have a selection of patterns I like and I remake them in different fabrics. If I'm uneasy about some new technique, I use yellow gingham to make a test dress. These I wear to go out and water the flower beds. I'm the best-dressed tulip bulb planter in town.

  12. Muslingate - brill! Honestly I think if you can make a garment straight off the pattern sheet without making any alterations good for you, but most of us need fitting - frustrating as the process often is. How much time you are prepared to spend on this is surely up to you.

  13. Humm.. hard one! I had never tried to make a muslim 1st by after seing how sucessifully makes a garment I am going to try on a jacket as my adjustments are so many and I can see the advantages of having a test garment! I dont think pattern companies check if we make muslins or not.. I think they check sales on each pattern and reflect some fashion trends by adding few new styles every season/year. some I think theses days they havent change their methods or sizing because It would required huge call backs of patterns... We can see from vintage patterns a size difference from the 70/80 patterns and those last ones have the same sizes now...they in future will have to make a change as our bodies change .... you can see how hard is to get a cup size pattern bigger than D ! They havent done anything about it yet..

  14. When I first started sewing, I followed the conventional wisdom of matching my largest measurement with the envelope measurements. This resulted in many hours spent making things that were waaaay too big to wear in public. :) Now, I'm more of a "wearable muslin" person. I look at finished measurements, pick my size, sew it up. If it works out, great! If not, when I make the real deal, those problems can be resolved. For something that is not for a special occasion, or supposed to be form-fitting, I can see not wanting to put the effort into making a true muslin that you won't ever be able to wear, but I also think one of the points in sewing was to make clothing that flatters and FITS you. My thoughts, for what it's worth. :)

  15. Well, passionate debate has not gone out of style... we know that to be true! I'm still learning to make a muslin - but my main goal is to make them for garments I plan to create in more than one fabric, or use as the base for modifying the design. I think they're key for learning how to tailor. I wouldn't call them a task for absolute beginners anyway... that's what A-line skirts are for.

    1. Having had 2 enormous babies and stretched into a v weird shape (think Easter Island fertility statue), I wouldn't even attempt an A-line skirt without a muslin these days �� jjosiejo

  16. @Lizzy B.

    P.S. Thank you so much for being the catalyst of so much muslin-talk! I'm learning a lot from the discussions going on in multiple forums!

  17. @Andi

    I totally agree. I read the comment, but sadly their doom and gloom attitude really gets in the way of her main point. I agree that clothing manufacturers are getting lazy and inconsistent... but people keep buying.

    I commented on Burda in response to the comment. I thought the comment was a good one, but it missed the point of the article - which was to help people willing to DIY to reach the goal of having clothes that fits.

    Both the article and the comment had valid points, I just think the comment was kind of left-fieldy.

  18. holy cow marina, and oh my god. i'll tell ya, i haven't read all the comments, and i prolly won't because really? fire bombs over muslins? but i will say (and i think we agree?) if one comments publicly, well, erm, it's public. quote away. why should others be offended? was the original commenter offended?

    as for muslins; i so want to be a person who makes them. but i have not the patience! and most of my fabric is $2-$5 a yard, so in my mind that further justifies my methodology. but, i DO spend a lot of time tweaking the paper pattern now. i mean, hours. by the time i'm done adjusting i've almost lost the will to cut the fabric! but like you said, the big 4 sizes are a mess-- i really haven't found a pattern i can make right out of the envelope.

  19. I found your blog through that "muslingate" article (good name!) And I do indeed think it is a big conspiracy by the Big 4 to encourage people to make muslins so they can get away with sloppy drafting. Just as I believe trying to convince us men didn't land on the moon :-P

    Seriously (omigod, do I get my head chewed off for making it into a joke? meep!) I have been sewing for 26 yrs (hey hey I am only 35, I started young. Blame my mum, she taught me!) and in all that time the sizing of the Big 4 has been all over the place. What fortunately HAS changed is my skill in working out how any given flat pattern will fit me in 3D by using my tape measure, my eye, and my experience - including many muslins, and many wish-I-had-made-muslins as well as successes.

    Another tiny thing that helped once I realised it, is the words "Fitted/semi-fitted/loose-fitting" etc on the pattern envelope. They actually tend to give a fairly accurate idea of ease, in my experience.

    Which is a good thing because muslins bore me to tears. But since TOADing a garment (throwing away in absolute disgust) upsets me more than muslins bore me, I will totally do a muslin if I am unsure of fit.

  20. I rarely make muslins if the style is basic and the pattern can be measured well enough to convince me that it will fit. I do make muslins when I am making an advanced pattern (such as a jacket) or a pattern with unusual style lines. Basically, I make a muslin when I cannot predict the fit or when I have expensive fabric that I don't want to waste.

    I do not think Muslins are always necessary, however I have become very jaded about pattern sizing of the big four because often the pattern measurements are actually incorrect and there is often not enough information on the pattern envelope to determine which size I should purchase (I am often between pattern envelope sizes). I would prefer that the big four do a better job of accurately describing the finished garment sizes on the envelopes. That would help newbies avoid sewing disasters.



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