Jenn from A Jennuine Life on KCW

PATTERNS: how to make sure it will fit

So, you’ve got your patterns ready to go, fabrics gathered and you’ve measured your kid to see which size to make.  One more step in your process could be: to make a muslin or not?

Muslin or Not


A muslin is a test garment made from inexpensive fabric.  Often it’s made only for the critical pieces of the pattern, like the bodice.  Seams are sewn with basting stitches to allow for quick revisions.  A muslin doesn’t necessarily need to be from plain unbleached cotton.  The term “wearable muslin” means using fabric that isn’t as dear to your heart but will still result in an outfit that can be worn for everyday if the fit is good and the seams are re-sewn with regular stitch length.

A purist might say you should always make a muslin, but I’m a realist — who has time (or frankly, the desire?) to make a muslin for every new project?  I thought I’d share some deciding factors for whether or not to make a muslin:

Is this the first time you’re making the pattern?  Pretty straightforward, right?  If you’ve already made the pattern once (recently) then there’s no need to take a trial run.

Is your fabric precious?  If you’re using something you can pick up at your local fabric store or you’ve got yardage in your stash, then go ahead and cut into it.  If you’re talking about something like Liberty of London, vintage fabric, or you’re refashioning your Mom’s wedding dress then you probably don’t need me to tell you that a muslin might be in order!

Is the pattern fitted or flowing?  Loose-fitting garments are more forgiving for fit, so you can probably skip the muslin for a peasant dress or swing top.  Something like a structured jacket or a button-down shirt you might want to do a quick muslin for at least the major pieces.

Is your child between measurements?  If your child is in between one of the critical measurements, it’s probably worthwhile to make a test version to see if you want to make the smaller or larger size, or if you want to blend the two sizes.  Even if you’re not comfortable modifying patterns, using the width from one size and the length from another isn’t too difficult if you make sure you’re consistent about applying the different dimension.

Are you sewing a pattern from a new-to-you designer?   When you’ve sewn a couple patterns from a given designer, you begin to understand how the resulting garments will fit your child.  They’re most likely using the same pattern block, or base dimensions, to build their pattern so a 3T in one of their patterns will fit relatively similar to the next 3T.  A new designer is probably not using the same block so you might need to check the fit on your child.

Did you draft the pattern yourself or are you heavily modifying another designer’s?  Freshly-drafted patterns probably require a muslin (or two or three) and the same goes for making major adjustments to a purchased pattern.

So, will making a muslin be part of your preparations for this Kid’s Clothes Week… or Not?




Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply EMily March 17, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I haven’t ever made a muslin, especially for kids clothes… BUT… don’t get me wrong… there are times I SHOULD HAVE ;o) I usually don’t sew with super pricey fabric, so I think this helps my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants plans! EMily

    • Reply Jenn AJennuineLife March 17, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Honestly, I’ve only made a couple of what I would truly consider muslins for my kids –  the rest of the time I’m doing a wearable muslin.

  • Reply Anna March 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I’m not going to bother with a muslin. My kid is seven months old and tiny for her age, so as long as things aren’t too tight, perfect fit doesn’t really matter to me at this point. Right now the plan is to make two Geranium dresses for her. Maybe a pair of baby pants if I have some extra time, but that’s a maybe. In the meantime, I have bibs to sew for a friend’s kid who is due sometime soon. Good practice for sewing on curves.

  • Reply erin March 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Great post Jenn! I have never done a muslin for a pattern, just when I’m trying to modify a pattern. It never occurred to me to do one if my kid was in between sizes, but that is a really good point! I have made more than one garment that are just plain old too big, and it’s really a bummer to spend a lot of time on something and then stash it in the dresser for next year!! (Although I did just pull out one such item last weekend that was made last year and had never been worn because it was massive. I guess not a terrible practice if you are patient. Hmm…)

    • Reply Jenn AJennuineLife March 18, 2014 at 7:58 am

      Definitely works if you’ve got another child in the pipeline.  I’ve had a few outfits that didn’t last very long on Arden when she hit a growth spurt, so it makes me happy to see them on Hadley.

  • Reply renee March 17, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    I think reading other people’s experiences of a pattern in their blog posts is often what I use for a muslin – not necessarily the smartest way, because of course not all kiddos are sized the same. I did muslin once recently for my daughter when a pattern piece looked way too wide – and it was 🙂 Thanks for your insights Jenn.

    • Reply Jenn AJennuineLife March 18, 2014 at 8:01 am

      I think you can get a pretty good feel about how sizing runs from reviews.  I can think of a couple of designers who’s patterns I’ve heard are more for slender children, etc.  Based on your experience then, another factor would be if something about the pattern just doesn’t look right.

  • Reply Marina March 17, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    Let’s face it now 🙂 Most of us have a little more fabric than we really like to admit to!  And there’s usually something lurking in the stash that’s not too precious and can afford to be the subject of a mistake or two.  Those are the fabrics I use for my “muslins”.  I always make a “muslin” in this way before I commit to using my precious fabric…..

    • Reply Jenn AJennuineLife March 18, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Right!  I don’t have a huge stash, but for sure there’s enough in there to find something that will work.

  • Reply Nicola March 17, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I have never made a muslin and probably wouldn’t for kids clothes given everyone’s reasons above. However, I think it would be useful for sewing my own garments as the first dress I made did not fit well in the bodice. My question is: once you make a muslin and know it needs to be altered, what happens next? I don’t feel confident about how to transfer the changes to my good material. Is that a dumb question?!

    • Reply Jenn AJennuineLife March 18, 2014 at 8:05 am

      Good question!  I think it depends: Sometimes your muslin might show you that a different size is needed.  If after you try the other size that one isn’t quite right, you could baste or pin the changes and then use a marking pen or chalk to mark the sewing lines and transfer those to the pattern with seam allowances added back on for cutting.  

      My friend Justine just did a post about fixing a gaping arm hole and I think this post could be helpful to show how to transfer markings to the pattern:

      • Reply Nicola March 18, 2014 at 9:00 pm

        thanks for that. Yes her example is good but freaks me out! I need to take classes I think to feel confident making those changes! So much to learn!

  • Reply Deanna {sewmccool} March 19, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I’ve made muslins for more important garment with fabric I didn’t want to re-purchase….but for everyday wear, I measure my child and hope the pattern measurements are accurate! 🙂

  • Reply Brooke March 19, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Great tips! I need to keep this in mind as I’ve made several items too small for my son in the past and then am bummed he can’t wear them. But I’m normally way to lazy to muslin for a kid. ;). 

    • Reply Jenn AJennuineLife March 24, 2014 at 11:05 am

      I hear ya!  I need to make muslins when I try to draft my own bottoms – I have “short rise syndrome” for some reason and they’re always too small in the rise even when I think I’ve added more than enough!

    Leave a Reply