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Tips & Techniques > Making practice garments until you get it right

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Posted by: ryansmumAria

About ryansmumAria starstarstar
Member since: 7/29/05
Reviews: 135 (tips: 96)
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Posted on: 4/21/10 1:49 AM
Review Rating: Helpful by 3 people   Very Helpful by 27 people   
Making "Practice Garments" is one of the most important things you can possibly do. (aka- Muslins)

I try to drive home this point with student's but it is one of those things 95 percent of them will not do. I must add that most all of these students have been sewing for years if not decades - at the local adult ed program.

It is understandable because it is very time consuming and maybe they suffer from poor eyesight because some garments look like train wrecks. Many garments need to fly off the sewing machine and straight into the trash bin, I say.

Now, you don't want to have garments that someone would think these horrible things so do what professionals do and make SEVERAL practice garments until you get it right.

We have loads of fabric -more than we will sew in 2 lifetimes, use it to make the test outs.

So this is how it works.

First attempt - you tissue fit and make your adjustments on the pattern, and then you cut it out and sew it up.

You make corrections on your practice garment and then change your pattern with the new adjustments.

2nd practice garment- It's looking much better but there's still an issue or two. Make more corrections and then go back and correct pattern again. Cut out next practice garment

3rd practice garment - Maybe this is good enough so you can move on to your real garment with the good fabric.

or you still see some areas that need more adjusting so you do it again. (I have done as many as 6!)

Do this until you get it right. You will learn so much from this.

Believe it or not, I still do this after 40 years of sewing. I will also use well fitting ready to wear garments as my starting point along with tissue fitting. My clothing never looks homemade and I always get compliments on my clothing.

I loved reading Kathleen Fasanella's chat transcripts - there was some brilliant info (as always -she is VERY smart)

I was happy to see someone else with an industry background say this...

Kathleen Fasanella (Apr 18, 2010 7:56:46 PM)
"we do dummies, mock ups. there is no shame we do actual sewing exercises to limber up we time ourselves, sewing shapes on work sheets when I sit down to do something new, I'll do it ten times that's how long it takes for your fingers to get the feel of it it's called "muscle memory". athletes practice. that's why they're good we would never sit down and sew something new, using a method we'd never tried before on an actual garment"

Kathleen Fasanella (Apr 18, 2010 7:05:36 PM)

" I do make practice garments. definitely. we call these dummies or mock ups we don't call them muslins :) we do this in at least two stages we make a dummy and fit it. we usually make it in the actual material. we buy extra then we fix the pattern for fit and make it again. at this stage, we call it a prototype. it has all the fixin's of the garment. the first duplicate If it passes muster, we lay it aside for later. Later on, it will be made into a sample for salesmen. So all told, we make three garments, not one"

Kenneth King in the Thread fitting DVD- Torso

"Always make muslins. In the garment industry they will make any where from 3-6 muslins..."

You can read the rest of KF chat by going to "Chat Transcripts" on the left hand side of your computer.

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Pam1212 said... (8/5/12 0:10 AM) Reply
I'm new at this and get frustrated but doesn't the muslin lay differently than most fabrics that the final project would be done in?
Pam1212 said... (8/5/12 0:05 AM) Reply
I'm new at this and get frustrated but doesn't the muslin lay differently than most fabrics that the final project would be done in?
threadgenie said... (1/22/12 0:43 AM) Reply
I like the idea of using up fabric that you know you won't use for anything good. I find that making a test garment is not so tedious if I'm at least using a decent quality fabric, even if I don't love its looks.
marec said... (5/8/10 6:26 PM) Reply
Good tip! I am guilty of impatience but do sometimes make muslins, especially for pants and fitted blouses.
Lynn67 said... (4/22/10 3:46 PM) Reply
That's funny about practicing. I was wondering why I can't sew a straight seam without going super slow while people in sweatshops are whipping through them - it's the repetition.
ryansmumAria said... (4/22/10 8:00 AM) Reply
sewme, No, I do not use the muslin as a pattern as the fabric stretches. For accuracy's sake, I measure the changes and then transfer it to the pattern. So yes, you basically start all over with the fitting process. After doing all of this, I still give myself an extra one inch in side seam allowances and I fit-as -I -sew still when using the good fabric as each fabric behaves differently. Yes, fitting probably accounts for 50 percent of my time...
Catbird said... (4/22/10 7:53 AM) Reply
This is excellent advice, as always, and something I have done faithfully for years. I agree that it's an essential part of sewing!
sewme47 said... (4/22/10 7:52 AM) Reply
Do you then disassemble the muslin and use it as your pattern? I've not had good luck with this...the garment sewn in fashion fabric is MUCH different than the muslin. I don't know if the muslin stretches, or the fashion fabric just doesn't behave like the muslin fabric. It always seems as though I have to start all over with the fitting process. Any thoughts?
psgates said... (4/21/10 1:11 PM) Reply
I am newly back into sewing - so I go into every project assuming the first is just a test run but with that being said - nothing gets thrown away... a lot can be learned by the "fixes" or "repurposing"
quathy said... (4/21/10 12:22 PM) Reply
sorry for double post!
quathy said... (4/21/10 12:22 PM) Reply
I loved reading this, too! It really stuck with me, about how important it is to make the adjustments and not expect perfection the first time. I was happy (and surprised) to hear that professionals also spend a lot of time on fitting! For me, the fitting is what takes the most time, but the reason I make garments is to have some that FIT. It's worth the effort!
nancy2001 said... (4/21/10 10:51 AM) Reply
I absolutely agree with this. I always make at least one test garment, and often half a dozen, before I get anything I'm pleased with. Sewing is a skill that needs to be developed through practice. Beautiful, well made, and perfectly fitting clothes don't just pop out of the sewing machine. There's a lot of preparation behind every professional looking project.
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