Look, there are no rights or wrongs in sewing – we each have our own preferences. But here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth: One or two muslins is enough. Step away from the mirror, stop tweaking the fit, and jump into real fabric. Make something wearable, and then go back and tweak the pattern later if you need to.
- Everything looks terrible in muslin. I mean, come on. Half a garment made of unflattering fabric – it’s not a recipe for feeling foxy! You see every wrinkle, and without the neckline, sleeves and hems finished, the proportion can look off. It’s the fabric and finishing details that make a garment look wonderful, and sometimes you just have to jump in and use “real” fabric to give the pattern a chance to shine.
- Overfitting is real. You study endless tutorials, you read posts by women who have been sewing for years or even decades, and you want to apply it all at once. Yes, a garment should look good when you are standing still in front of a mirror, but a great garment should also work all day long. You need experience to tell what good fit looks like and feels like for you, and that experience comes from making garments that turn out to be too wide in the shoulder, or too tight in the waist. We’ve all done it, and those imperfect garments are part of the learning process.
- A wearable muslin is a beautiful thing. A muslin is typically a partial mock-up of a garment, but a wearable muslin is fully finished in cheap and cheerful fashion fabric, It lets you see how everything sits and hangs when complete. The weight of a skirt, the fit of two finished sleeves, and the swish of a lining can all really impact how the rest of the garment sits, and you won’t know that until you’ve made something complete.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect. Store-bought clothes don’t have perfect fit, and your homemade clothes don’t have to either. You can always throw a cardigan or scarf on to camouflage fit issues!
- Sewing stops being fun. If you sew muslin after muslin, chances are you’ll start to feel down on the pattern, yourself, or your skills. Remember this is a hobby, and hobby should be fun! (And challenging and skill building, but also fun.)
Now admittedly, there are times when you can and should muslin the daylights out of a pattern:
- when you are using super special, irreplaceable fabric or sewing for an important occasion
- sewing pants (but your muslin needs to be exactly like your fashion fabric, and often that means you need to muslin in fashion fabric)
- if you love fitting, or are trying to crack a particularly annoying fit issue with the help of class or book
Most experienced sewists I’ve talked to do one or possibly two muslins for a pattern, and said that if a pattern takes more than two muslins, they discard it and move on to another pattern. For a familiar company they’ve sewn with before, many said they would make their “usual” adjustments and cut right into fashion fabric. That’s certainly the way my Mom and Granny sewed in the past! Nowadays I keep a stash of cheap fabric on hand, and usually jump right to wearable muslins, unless it’s a big project like a button-up shirt or coat.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about muslins (by all means, disagree with me!). How many is too many? When do you make the leap to fashion fabric, and see how it turns out?