Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Using 108" quilt backings to make a garment muslin

Muslin made with a white-on-white
108" wide quilt backing by Blank Quilting.
If you sew clothes or make wearable art pieces for yourself, chances are you make a toile or a muslin—a mock-up of the garment—from the pattern before cutting into your "good fabric." If you're going to spend the time and effort sewing a garment for yourself, you want it to fit your body properly, right?

I recently took the Sewing: the Art of Making workshop with Diane Hall, master seamstress and former pattern maker for Alabama Chanin. In the workshop, all the class participants made a sloper with their measurements and then made muslins of their projects to insure proper size and fit before committing to the fashion fabric.

Generally, inexpensive muslin or cotton calico is used for making a muslin (thus the name, "muslin"). However, have you thought about using a 108" wide quilt backing for this process?

I took a piece of 108" wide white-on-white quilt backing (about 1.5 yards) to the workshop. From this yardage, I made a sloper (top, skirt and a long sleeve), and muslins for a short sleeve blouse, pants and a long, paneled vest with princess seams. Working with a 108" width of fabric (vs. 44/45" width) was very efficient for laying out pattern pieces and there was very little waste. I got a lot of bang for my buck!
My muslin had white dragonflies on it.

Helpful tips for choosing fabric for a muslin:

  • Choose a light colored fabric. When you draw fitting marks, adjustment lines and notations on the fabric, the marks are easily seen.
  • The fabric for the muslin should be similar in weight to the fashion fabric. We used woven fabrics for the projects in the workshop, so a cotton 108" wide quilt backing worked well. You'd want to use a knit fabric for a muslin if your final garment was going to be in a knit fabric.
  • Make sure the muslin fabric is on grain when laying out the pattern pieces. Some quilt shops will tear wide quilt backing fabric to insure the cut piece is on grain. Because of the way this extra-wide 108" fabric is doubled and rolled and wrapped around a cardboard bolt core, the fabric can be slightly stretched on the bolt. (It's just the nature of the mechanical wrapping process.) 

So, the next time you get ready to make a garment from a new pattern, check your stash or visit your local quilt shop for a piece of wide quilt backing. It's a great option for making the all-important muslin. After all, you want your finished project to fit, right? 

For more info about making a muslin or a sloper, here are links to a few good resources.
From Tilly and the Buttons: How to make a muslin
From Threads magazine: The Merits of a Basic Fitting Pattern
From Burda Style: Toile Anyone?
From Craftsy: How to make a sloper
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