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The Most Valuable Fabric at Mood

An example of a test garment, or “muslin.” Threads Magazine has an excellent article on sewing muslins. Photo: Scott Phillips.

Here’s a question for you: What is the most valuable fabric Mood Fabrics sells? The $350 per yard embroidered lace in our NYC store? Not even close. It’s the $3 a yard muslin. For fashion students, designers and home sewers alike, plain old cheap muslin is priceless in terms of saving time and money and getting the best end results.

Definition of a muslin for sewing (I’m borrowing this one from Webster’s online dictionary because it’s pretty good):

“When sewing clothing, a test or fitting garment may be made of inexpensive muslin fabric before cutting the intended expensive fabric, thereby avoiding a costly mistake. The muslin garment is often called a muslin and the process is called making a muslin. With the availability of inexpensive synthetic fabrics, which closely resemble the hand (drape and feel) of expensive natural fabrics, a test or fitting garment made of synthetics may still be referred to as a muslin, because the word has become the generic term for a test or fitting garment.”

While muslin cotton is the preferred fabric choice for creating test garments, as you can clearly see stitching lines and it’s easy to write on, you can substitute any inexpensive fabric as long as it mimics the properties of your fashion fabric. I like to pick up fabric at rummage sales to use for many of my muslins.

Do you sew muslins regularly? Fashion students are taught to make muslins, and designers always use them, but most beginning home sewers aren’t initially aware of this important step. Personally, once I started sewing muslins as a routine part of my process, the quality of my finished garments really improved and my sewing success rate went up.

When should you sew a muslin?

  • Any time you’re trying a new design or pattern that is not similar to previous designs or patterns you’ve sewn
  • Any time you’re making a garment and the fit needs to be spot-on
  • Any time you’re sewing with fabric that you’d cry over if you cut, sewed and then discovered you hated your pattern or cut it too small, etc.

Here’s a jacket muslin I made and subsequently discovered that my pattern was too big. Making size adjustments to a muslin is way easier than fussing with good fashion fabric.

Sewing muslins: For home sewers who don’t need to worry about production issues, fast and quick is fine. Machine-stitch with long stitches. Mark anything with a pen or tailor’s chalk that you may need to see to make alterations to your muslin, like seamlines and darts. Sometimes I’ll leave off details like a collar or pocket and sew a muslin just to the point where I can tell if it will work or not. Sew and alter a muslin to the point where you’re confident it’s ready to be used as a pattern with your fashion fabric.

Hopefully you’re convinced muslins are the way to go. Now here are some muslin-worthy fabrics ready for you to sew!

Stunning Marc Jacobs brocade, $50/yd

Lovely French chenille lace in pumpkin, $30/yd.

Scrumptious 4-ply silk in lavender, $40/yd

You know we have lots more where those came from. Visit Mood Fabrics online.

Are you a muslin maker? Or do you prefer to take your chances and forge ahead with your fashion fabric? There’s always healthy online discussion among sewers about this very topic.

Thanks for stopping by. Check back here again on Favorite Fabric Friday, featuring the effervescent Sueann of the cotton department in the NYC store. She’ll share her favorite fabrics of the moment, and she has great taste.

6 Responses to “ The Most Valuable Fabric at Mood ”

  1. Annie Sue

    I make one about half the time. It really depends on the garment and how the garment is suppose to fit.

    723 days ago   |  
  2. Sara

    I’ve only ever made muslins when I worked in a costume shop, but not on my own time. However, I’m making a vintage (Madmen-esque) dress pattern this week and I will be making a personal muslin. Wish me luck!

    723 days ago   |  
  3. Robyn Wellington

    I make one 95% of the time, but in Australia we call it a ‘toile’ (the french term).

    723 days ago   |  
    • Meg

      “Toile” does sound more elegant than muslin, oui?

      723 days ago   |  
  4. Carolyn Crowder

    Does muslim ever come in colors beside white n ivory?…like black

    723 days ago   |  
    • Meg

      Generally not…besides, it would be hard to see stitching and markings in dark fabric.

      723 days ago   |