Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Spring Suit: An Update on Muslin 1

Oh, my pretties, this is a serious project. S and I intended to come armed with pre-made muslins and to work out all the kinks, but it didn't go that way. Instead, we spent the better part of 8 hours making and reviewing and pinning our partially-complete muslins 1, observing where markings aligned and where they didn't (even in this beautifully-designed pattern, we found some notch misalignment in both of our sizes when we "walked the pattern*").

Here's what I can say so far:
  • We both have finished muslins that, for the most part, align at all of the notch points or which are knowably discrepant at some (but which we've accounted for in terms of overall fit).
  • We have the sleeve muslin sewn, but not inserted as first we need to sort out the bodice.
  • Intriguingly, though we have very different body types, when first we tried on our finished shells, they fit us both, in broad strokes, very gracefully. Of course, we're going to need to adjust each, but this is a beautifully drafted pattern. 
  • I'd tell you that the pattern is drafted for a curvy shape, what with how it practically fit, out of the envelope, in the bust (unheard of for me!) but it also fit S's bust quite elegantly and she has but an inch of difference between her under and full bust dimensions (compared to my 7"). We were both amazed by that. On her the jacket is quite equestrian, IMO. On me it's kind of 50s-lady.
Here are a few pics on the dress form (yeah, yeah, inaccurate, but the muslin doesn't fit me either at this point):
You can see how we've already opened up the princess seam to allow for a bit of extra full bust ease. Note that the amount it opens, on me (narrower and having more projectile breasts than the dress form) is about 0.25" on either side. Not a lot. What we intend to do next is to slash above the HBL (that horizontal line above the bust) to allow the fabric to drop slightly which will account for the extra length I require over the bust...

I have to resew this seam because, as you can see, the pieces do not align. (They did on the other side, intriguingly, so it's likely my sewing that's at fault here.) The seam lines - that black pen on the underside of the pieces, should be matching up.

The waist HBL is totally level (my dress form is a bit askew here) and the waist of the pattern fits beautifully. I've got the centre fronts pinned here.

Waist HBL on the back is also level.

Observe how the waist of the jacket does not sit at my waist (or that of the dress form). I will need to shorten all of the pieces above the waist by 1.25 inches - not as much as I usual...

Adjustments to follow on muslin 1:
  • Shorten all pieces at lengthen/shorten line by 1.25".
  • Increase full bust at princess seam (the one currently open) by approx 0.25" on each side.
  • Slash above the bust to allow the fabric to fall. In the top pic you can see how the HBL (horizontal balance line) is not level. It arches up toward the centre front on each side. Allowing the fabric to fall should mitigate that. In an irony, that means we'll probably add back the 1 inch we've removed above the waist on the front. This particular alteration will be a wedge alteration, unlike the shortening above the waist which is a tuck. Wedge alterations start at a seam (where they're closed) and end at another seam (where they're open) but they aren't even at both sides, like a tuck.
On S's muslin, which is all around 1 size too big as she accidentally ordered the 12-14-16 when she really needs a 10:
  • Take in every seam by 0.25".
  • Make an SBA at the princes seam. This will likely be the exact opposite of my alteration i.e. we'll subtract fabric at the princess seam and then shorten the bodice above the bust.
  • We may or may not require an alteration at the upper back to account for breadth there.
Seriously, that's not a lot for either of us, in the scheme of things - though marking up the muslin and then altering the paper pattern is SO not intuitive for me (aka the most painful and confusing part of this entire process, IMO). Thank goodness for S who will work with me to make the adjustments on the pattern piece from the once-altered muslin. She has a really strong grip on the technical elements.

When we've got the shells working, then we'll insert the sleeves. We've read a variety of reviews of this pattern which indicate that inserting the sleeves can be tricky. In certain instances puckering has ensued. Since I haven't read the sleeve insertion instructions in detail, as yet, I don't know if Claire Schaeffer suggests the bias strip easing method. If not, that might be a way to mitigate challenges. However, if she suggests that method and still people have had issues, we may have to consider altering the shape or rotation of the upper sleeve. Mind you, that's a concern for another post!

*What's walking the pattern? This is simply aligning the edges of the seam allowances (on the paper pattern) of adjoining pattern pieces. For example, your side seams on your actual garment, will need to line up when you sew that seam. Perhaps you take it for granted that this should automatically occur. However, some patterns contain drafting or grading errors.

All you do is stabilize a knowable intersection point of both pieces, one on top of the other, and then move the pattern pieces over one another, to the next intersection point i.e. a notch (noting whether it lines up). Start at the hem, move to the underarm. It's 2 parts engineering, 1 part intuition. Sometimes it doesn't work on the first try so you try again, factoring in ease, maybe sewing up the muslin (which is easier to ease than tear-able paper), and verifying how accurately the pieces come together.


  1. Thanks for the detailed post; it does look like a well-drafted pattern from your description and pix. I love how the back is drafted and your adjustments. I was surprised it was curvy - but that is good to know - I am an inverse triangle! Glad I am following your review!

    1. Which way is inverse triangle - broad shoulders, narrow waist?

  2. Wow...that's a pretty amazing fit straight out of the envelope. It must be such a relief after your last experience.

    1. It's kind of a relief, for sure. But I don't know that I'm going to truly be able to relax till the whole thing is finished. What a statement. I've got to change that attitude!

  3. Fascinating. Thank you for writing out all of the details of your process. I've never heard of "walking the pattern" but it makes sense to check alignment before sewing.

    1. I think you'd really like Sarah Veblen's fitting book. Martin probably would too!

  4. You're making great progress with your Muslin. It seems going the extra mile and making all of the muslin markings helped you in the process. I will follow suit!!!

    1. Thanks V. It's a lot of up front work. You know how that is!

  5. This one looks very involved and challenging, but the finished product promises to be beautiful. Are you having fun with it?

    1. I am having fun but I think I could have more fun if I wasn't so focused on the fact that it's such a huge project. As time goes on, I hope I'll be able to feel more integrated with it. That's how it's worked the other times I've tailored.