Muslins: measure twice, cut once?

Muslins: measure twice, cut once?


The main reason I have taken up sewing is a deep-seated (pardon the pun) desire to have clothes actually fit me. And trousers are at the top of the list! Before I started sewing, I would have said trousers don’t fit me because my hips are proportionally bigger than my waist, so by the time I’ve gone up to a size that I can get past my hips, the waist has huge gaping expanses that don’t exactly scream “elegance”. This is probably the main reason my personal style for work wear has always been shift dresses, with a few skirts sewn in. Well, not anymore…!

I have been working on a muslin for the Clover trouser pattern by Colette Patterns. I liked the look of this pattern because I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a slim fitting, high waisted, cropped trouser. I wanted mine to sit quite long though rather than above the ankle. I was intrigued that the pattern is a beginner pattern, as I’d assumed that trousers would be for the super advanced seamstress, but it really is a simple sew.. The difficulty is in the fitting, and helpfully Colette Patterns had published a sewalong for Clover, which focused on fitting issues and had a lot of great info on troubleshooting your fit.

I almost didn’t make a muslin, assuming I could just tweak the fit directly, but I’m glad I did as my first one had serious lines across the front and gaping/inability to reach my waistline in the back.

(Excuse the picture-taking setup, it was about 4a.m. and I couldn’t get to a full length mirror without risking waking someone up.)

A few days of research, pattern adjustment, and two muslins later, I think I have a much better fit. I self-diagnosed as having swayback, a full rear, and a short torso/high waist. I therefore made the following adjustments:

  • Raised the waistline on the back leg by about 4cm and on the front by about 2cm.
  • Took out a wedge from the center back seam of about 4cm, tapering down to nothing at hip level
  • Sewed the crotch curve with a smaller seam allowance to get a little extra room.. I couldn’t tell whether the lines/wrinkles were “smiles” or “frowns” as they looked pretty horizontal to me, and I found one fitting reference that suggested adding to the inseam at the crotch for horizontal wrinkles.
  • Lengthened the pattern by about 17 cm to allow for a longer length and hem
  • I also want a thinner waistband so decided I will fold it over and topstitch it down, like a bias binding, and see how that works out.  I need to draft a new waistband to be a bit wider to account for this and also shorter on the back waistband piece, to match the reduced back leg waistline after my alteration above.

My third muslin now looks like this:

Which I’m pretty happy with! If I’d come across ready to wears that fit like this, I would have bought them! So now I get to press on and use some real fabric and see how I like the finished article when it’s being properly worn! In typical fashion I’m tempted to throw myself in at the deep end and make a lined pair with some houndstooth wool from my stash?!?! (Houndstooth/printed bottoms are not typical fashion for me but in my new ‘carefully curated wardrobe’ mode, I’d like to introduce them!)

All in all this experience has persuaded me of the benefit of spending time on a muslin first.. Not so much ‘measure twice, cut once’ as ‘muslin as many times as it takes to get the fit right, then make it as many times as you like in your actual fabrics, with no disasters’! Sounds like a win to me!


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