Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tutorial: Making a Toile (Part 1)

Dear readers!

First of all, thanks to everyone who commented on my post on muslins. My post for Burdastyle is ready and I will let you know once it is uploaded there. Here, I am now posting a tutorial on how to make a muslin, as I learned in different classes, from Thread articles and books. Hope you will find it useful!

I firmly believe in mise-en-place  [miz  a(n) plas] concept. This French phrase means “put in place” and is used in professional kitchens todesribe preliminary arrangement of all ingredients and tools required to prepare a dish, or a menu. Having everything set up before you proceed with a task allows you to work without wasting time in search of tools – very desirable in time-consuming couture sewing.

You will need the following tools to make a toile:
18” Transparent Ruler
Red pen
Tracing wheel
Tracing paper
Paper Scissors (for cutting the pattern)
Tailor’s Shears
Tailor’s Point Shears
Wrist pin cushion (optional)
Pattern notcher (optional)

1. Cut and press your pattern pieces.

I cut generously around the pattern pieces, so the pattern remains intact and I can use it later for a different size.

2. Mark Stitching Lines and Grain

If your pattern doesn’t have marked stitching lines, draw them using a transparent ruler and coloured pen. Also, extend the grainlines on your pattern from edge to edge.

A note on cutting lines and seam allowances:
Cutting lines on patterns are useless whenever you custom-fit the garment. They are used in ready-to-wear, which relies on precision cutting for a fast assembly. In addition, seam allowances on commercial patterns are narrower than in couture garments, where they can be as wide as 1” (2.5 cm.).

There are three main reasons why you want to allow 1” (2.5 cm.) or more on your seams:
·      To accommodate fitting alterations and design changes on muslins (and also on fashion fabric).
·      To help seams lie flat and drape well.
·      To avoid bulk by grading seams into several layers where necessary.

That’s why I do prefer Burda patterns, which give you stitching lines only.

Tip: If there are some standard alterations you make on most of your garments, mark them on you pattern as early as possible.

2. Pinning

Place your pattern on muslin (use double layer if needed). Align grainlines and pin the pattern along the lengthwise grain, around pattern perimeter and close to the end of the darts.

Tip: Prepare the muslin by clipping into selvedge to release the tension, and by pressing the fabric.

Graining: Don’t use selvedge as a guide for graining! With muslin, you can clip into selvedge and then tear the fabric into two sections. The fabric will tear more or less accurately along its crosswise grain. The lengthwise grain on your pattern should run perpendicular to it. 

3. Cutting

Cut the muslin around the pattern perimeter leaving generous seam allowances. At this point, seam allowances can be up to 2” (5 cm.), you don’t need to measure as we want to mark stitching lines, which will serve as our reference guides.

4. Tracing (the bottom layer)

Put tracing paper underneath the muslin layers and trace the pattern with a tracing wheel. Don’t forget to trace lengthwise grain lines.

If you are cutting on double–layered muslin, proceed to the next step.

Tip: Marking and tracing the center fold of a dart may be helpful when sewing the dart.

5. Tracing the top layer

·      Unpin the pattern avoiding shifting the muslin layers.
·      Remove the pattern
·      Carefully turn the layers with the traced side up
·      Pin into seam allowances and next to the dart end where necessary
·      Place tracing paper under the muslin and carefully transfer the markings from the traced side using a tracing wheel
·      Unpin the layers

6. Adding labels to each pattern piece

With a permanent marker label each pattern piece on the traced side indicating the following:

·      Name  of the wearer
·      Name of the pattern piece indicating whether it is left, right, center left, center right, top, bottom, etc.
·      Patern number, including the name of the pattern company, and description
·      Size
·      Finally, add an arrow pointing toward the top of the pattern piece.

7. Thread–marking the pattern pieces

You can thread trace muslin using your sewing machine, using a relatively long stitch length. Stitch along your traced lines, thus marking the lines on both sides. Do not turn at the corner where two lines meet, but, instead, stitch from edge to edge – this will ensure more accurate sewing because your seams extend beyond these corners

TIP: When I am machine thread-tracing, I try not to clip the thread at the end of each line, but lay the next piece edge to edge with the previous one, like illustrated in this image above. I cut the thread joining these two pieces later. This saves threads and allows faster thread tracing

8. Assembling the muslin

Assemble the muslin in regular order. If your pattern has sleeves, do not attach sleeves yet – this will be done after the bodice has been fitted. Add zipper, if needed.

Et voilà, your toile is ready for the first fitting.

Please feel free to post any suggestions and ideas re muslin-making process!


  1. This. Is. FRABJOUS! Thank you SO much....I had a couple of head-slapping 'D'oh' moments reading this (clip your selvedges, for instance). I've actually never read any tutes on muslin-making, & didn't even realize how much more effective my muslins could be! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to put together this guide. When I've made toiles from patterns in the past, I've simply followed the pattern's instructions using a cheap fabric or muslin instead of my fashion fabric. I think the toiles for my wedding dress were made this way (from a home-drafted pattern), but I was too new to sewing to appreciate what was going on. So, thank you for reminded me. It's wonderful how you're creating workable pattern pieces here. I'm definitely going to do this in the future. And, from what I've gathered from following your blog, you keep all of these pieces with pictures and detailed notes for future use, right? By the way, where did you get your large pieces of tracing paper and your wrist pin cushion from? Thanks again!

  3. Hi Marina, I'm having a hard time finding your email address so am just going to leave a comment here to say thank you so much for the lace from the Lace Giveaway! Canada Post finally came out of strike mode and I received it today. It's so pretty. I'll be sure to link up to you once I make something with it. Thanks again, hope you're having a great week....Tamara~

  4. Thanks for that. I use some of this tecniques but you dot it so organized !!! Wonderfull ! xx

  5. This is really helpful. I may just be able to fit a pattern ok now!

  6. Wonderful post! I often ignore seam lines and shouldn't really as they are handy.

  7. Great tutorial. :)
    So where's part 2? :)

  8. Question. What is the benefit of thread tracing over the paper traced seam lines on the muslim? Can anyone with more experience than me (most of you!) enlighten me. Thank you in advance!

  9. Hi Anonymous :) Machine thread-tracing is important on all those seams that are off-grain, because it prevents distortion and stretching out during handling and fitting. In addition, thread tracing grainlines and all other lines makes them visible on both sides of the fabric, which is quite convenient when assembling the muslin and fitting it. It takes between 15 min and max an hour to thread-trace the muslin, but it saves time and effort later on. Thanks for asking, I should have added this in my post earlier :)

  10. Have run into two methods for completing the pattern. One is transferring back to paper, which to me is a waste. Other is using the muslin which I've fitted and cut down to stitching lines, placed on fashion fabric, pinned and thread traced. Now I'm looking for the most effective way to add back the seam alowances. Any thoughts

  11. hua cai- I was just wondering what your comment was referring too ? Seemed like a whole lota irrelevant links to retail outlets. I've gotta be confused, right ? After all, who the hell would do that ?

  12. Gotta love the robotic spammers ruining the moment......ughh
    Anyway.... Just found your blog, and have so far spent 1.5 hrs reading...lol, and I'm sure many more future hours to come :) The info you provide is quite priceless....its contributers like your lovely self that is welcoming a whole new era to sewing. Keep up the amazing work, and ill be following you in your new blog endevours!



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