|This tip is by no means new. Several other sewists have mentioned wearable muslins in their reviews but this is such a good tip I wanted to share.
The first time you make up a pattern, make the no-frills version. Make it up in its simplest form without embellishment. This lets you test the style and fit without spending a stack of time on it. If it's a great pattern you can embellish to your hearts content next time and you know it will work. If it isn't great, well, you haven't wasted too much time and energy on it.
To make a wearable muslin:
make your usual paper pattern adjustments. Bust, CBL, sloping shoulders, whatever.
choose a fabric that is easy to handle and presses well, doesn’t require pattern matching and doesn’t ravel.
choose the view that lets you test the full range of the pattern.
don’t spend time adding special details like pockets, trim, topstitching.
analyse the results according to your own requirements.
This is the checklist I use for tops. I don't have a 3-way mirror so I take lots of self-timer photos to do this checklist.
1. Check the fit
Upper bust - too loose/too tight?
Full bust - enough room for the girls? need an FBA?
Waist - need extra for a full tummy?
Back width OK?
CBL - no folds = too loose or pulling = too tight?
Hemline - is it even?
Darts - do they point to the bust? is the uptake enough? are the darts the right length?
Sleeve – does the shoulder seam sit on your shoulder point? is there room to move? is the length good?
Collar and collarstand - check the notch position, point spread, length and roll.
2. Check the style:
Side seams - shape ok? staight fall to the floor?
Hem shape -what suits you best? Mine is a gentlecurve.
Darts – should any be unsewn?,
Sleeve – check for style and cuff.
Collar – is it a good shape?
Other style features – does it need side splits, pockets, embroidery.
Generally, I then make all of the fit changes onto the paper pattern but not style changes since these decisions change with each garment.
*updated to include checklist Dec '06*