V1419 Sewalong: Making Your Muslin

Muslin made by the McCall Pattern Company for the #V1419 Sewalong. Ralph Rucci coat for Vogue Patterns.My sewalong co-host Lauren and I are as different as night and day, but on this we completely agree: You need to make a V1419 muslin before you cut into your fashion fabric. Here are three main reasons why:

  1. This coat style has a slim fit through the bust, waist and shoulders. You need to ensure the fit in these areas before you proceed to working with your actual fabric.
  2. This coat, while not very hard to make, does require time, especially with the interior finishings. You want to make sure you are 100% happy with the way this style looks on you. Sewing a muslin gives you a chance to try before you buy.
  3. This coat has a slightly tricky area to sew, and making a muslin gives you a chance to practice first. Then you’ll put less stress on your fashion fabric by not having to rip seams and re-stitch it excessively, because you’ll get it right on the first try.

Bottom line about sewing muslins in general: You’ll never regret making a muslin, but you’ll always regret not making a muslin.

Laying out my muslin for V1419 sewalong using cotton duck. Ralph Rucci coat pattern for Vogue Patterns
Laying out my muslin for V1419 using cotton duck.

Ok, enough preaching, let’s talk about sewing this muslin (“toile” in other parts of the world). Here are 10 tips:

  1. Use a muslin fabric that mimics your fashion fabric. I made my two muslins out of cotton duck, which is stiff and substantial. Use solid fabric if you can: At the McCall Pattern Company we sew all our muslins out of solid fabric so we can easily make notes on them.
  2. Transfer all the pattern markings to each muslin piece. This is really important. Indicate every single grain line and every single dot that’s there to help you line up pattern pieces when you stitch. You will not regret this. Also, on the side piece (#3), write on your muslin that the seam with the point that juts out is the back seam. On the gusset (#4), write on your muslin that the seam with the two dots (bottom of triangle) is the part that gets stitched to the top of the side piece (#3).
  3. Choose your size first by bust size on the pattern envelope, then by looking at the bust and waist measurements on the tissue pieces. The tissue measurements are the actual circumferences of the finished garment as though it were buttoned up ready for wear. I confess I made my first muslin of this pattern by using solely the tissue measurements, and I had a hunch it was going to be too small but I went ahead anyway. Yup, too small. I cut the size up for my next muslin and it’s 95% there, just needs one small tweak near the front shoulder, and I’m going to make the sleeves straight instead of belled.
  4. Stitch your muslin by machine basting, and use an easily visible contrasting thread.
  5. Stitch following the instructions but omit the parts about any interior finishing. You’re just sewing to ensure you like the fit and the style on you. Add the belt and welt pockets but don’t worry about stitching these pieces. I just baste them on more or less to make sure I like the way they look and that the placement works for my body.
  6. As I said above, this coat has a slightly tricky area to sew. That would be around step #18, where you attach the side piece with gusset to the front and back pieces of the coat. This is where you will be so happy you marked the pattern dots on the muslin piece. Match the dots and then ease the pieces to fit, pinning where necessary to ease-in fullness. If you have ever sewn a sleeve where you had to ease in fullness on the sleeve cap, then this is the same principle and you’ll be fine with this step. Take your time.
  7. Press open seams and clip every place we tell you to. Don’t feel you can skip these two steps just because you’re sewing a muslin. You won’t be able to truly assess the fit unless you press and clip. Trust us on this.
  8. When you’re finished, hopefully you’ve gotten lucky as Lauren did and your muslin fits just like you want it to. If not and you’re not quite sure what kind of adjustments you should make, then please feel free to post a photo of you wearing your muslin to the V1419 Sewalong group we just created on Flickr and ask for opinions. (Please join and follow this Flickr group so we can share, support and encourage each another!)
  9. If you do have to make another muslin, save the side piece and gusset stitched together, plus the lower sleeve piece. These do not change per size and you can save time by reusing them. Just cut a new front, back and upper sleeve as needed. You also don’t need to cut new belts, pockets or welts.
  10. Once you are happy with the size of your muslin, rip it apart, press it flat, and use these pieces to cut your fashion fabric. Remember to transfer all the markings on your muslin, like the dots, to your fashion fabric.
Mark pertinent information, like grain lines and name of piece on your muslin. V1419 sewalong for Ralph Rucci Vogue Patterns coat.
Mark pertinent information, like grain lines and name of piece on your muslin.

You’re gonna be surprised at how quickly this muslin stitches up. It’s actually not that hard a pattern to sew, and when you’re just machine-basting it will make up fast.

Tip: Keep everything for this pattern sewalong organized by using a clear jumbo bag like this one. I swear by these Ziploc Big Bags you can get at your local grocery store.
Tip: Keep everything for this pattern sewalong organized by using a clear jumbo bag like this one. I swear by these Ziploc Big Bags you can get at your local grocery store.

Next week on her blog Lauren will talk about prep work, cutting your fabric, underlining and more. Don’t worry if you are behind us or ahead: This is a go-at-your-own-pace sewalong. No pressure, people! Just relax and enjoy sewing a couture coat with your friends. Leave me a comment here and let us know how you’re doing, sewalong-wise.

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

27 comments
  1. These are all great tips. Here is my own muslin making tip… Don’t cut out the tissue (like shown in the photo) in case you need to make another size. Cut generously around each pattern piece and when pinning to the muslin place the pins about 2″ inside of the chosen cut line. Slide a long strip of waxed tracing paper between the tissue and muslin and trace the cutting line and all markings with a tracing wheel.

  2. This is going to be a beautiful coat because just the muslin itself is gorgeous.

  3. I’ve made a forward shoulder adjustment in my muslin, which I’ve not quite finished sewing up yet. I’m also wrangling with the sleeves since they’re 7cm too long for me too. I’ll let you know how I get on.

    1. Karen K, –I’m quite interested to know how you did it and how it works out. I always need a 1/2 inch forward shoulder on everything, but didn’t know how to go about it with this style. Did you just angle the dart forward or change the back seam line up and the front seamline forward? I’m sewing up my muslin to day without an adjustment to see how it fits.

      1. I’ve just tried on my forward shoulder adjustment, which conveniently is half inch, like yours and I’m pretty pleased with the result. I just moved the shoulder point forward half an inch (where the small dots are marked half way down the shoulder dart) then redrew in the curve, blending it in to match the rest of the dart which goes down the top of your arm. It does mean the top sleeve isn’t symmetrical, but for a smallish adjustment does work. Good luck with your muslin

        1. Karen,
          I did a 1/2 shoulder adjustment differently than you and am really happy with the way it came out. I measured from the curve of my neck to the edge of my shoulder and marked that on my pattern front and back. I removed a 1/2 inch from the front at that spot and added a half inch to the back at that spot, tapering to nothing by the elbow marking (where the two top sleeve pieces meet). I smoothed out the lines and left the top sleeve piece with the dart unchanged. I’m super happy with it (my photos are on the Flickr page). The dart lies along my shoulder line perfectly.

  4. Hi
    Newbie here but trying my hand at this beauty. So before material I’ve cut out the pieces out of pellon easy pattern, and I’m stumped as to what should I be matching on pieces #3 to #2. do I line up the little circles? Or notches, or start from the big circle at the top of #3? Don’t judge me;-)…..

    1. Add the gusset (#4) to piece #3, then attach to the front matching the dots. The gusset & side piece seam will line up at the inside corner of the front piece where the sleeve and front part meet.

  5. Hi babes!
    I have my very first doubt!!! I am copying the pattern into the toile (with tracing carbon paper), and since I am not used to the included seam allowance nonsense (ooops, sorry!), I don’t know if the bottom hem allowance is also included or not, for the coat and sleeves. I mean, the bottom line of the tissue pattern is the actual bottom line or does it have the 15mm (5/8′) also included like in the rest of the pattern??
    I hope I make myself clear. I also hope this is the right place for this kind of question.
    Many thanks in advance!

  6. … and also (sorry, I cannot edit my previous entry) I doubt about the front centre line. Does it have a seam allowance included or it is the definite end line of the front?
    Thanks again!

    1. All the edges—front, sleeve and bottom hem—are bias bound. Take a look at the photos I posted of the original coat on Pinterest and Flickr. Links in my blog posts about the sewalong.

  7. Thank for your quick answer, Meg, but I did not make myself clear. My question is regarding seam allowance included in the tissue pattern. There is a seam allowance of 15mm included in all seams, but is it also included in the front and sleeve and bottom hem?

    1. Ah, now I see what you’re asking. The directions aren’t clear on this. Let me talk to some team members here and get the answer for you. I’m guessing it will either be a 5/8″ seam or a 1/4″ seam, but I’ll clarify.

    2. It’s a 5/8″ seam in those areas too. Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you! I can proceed now to cut the toile. I am not used at all to this system of seam allowances included in patterns, and I beleive it is confusing and inexact. If I have to “imagine” a line, I prefer to imagine the seam allowance itself, and decide if I want to cut it bigger or smaller for further adjustments.
        But that’s only my opinion. Thanks again for being so kind, Meg!

  8. I asked this over at LLadybird as well but I think it got lost in the other comments:
    If your muslin doesn’t have quite the same weight/stiffness of your fashion fabric, is there a good way to tell whether or not you should really size down if your mockup us too big? I cut out my pieces according to my size on the envelope, but according to the final dimensions on the pattern that will give me ~6″ of positive ease. I know I’ll have some layers underneath but this still seems way too big!
    I’ve traced out my pieces but haven’t sewn together the muslin yet so this may be a moot point.

    1. Allison, go ahead and sew it up. Better to be a little big and size down from there. I am so glad you are being smart and making a muslin first!!! You are probably somewhere between the tissue measurements and the envelope measurements. At least I was.

  9. Hi Meg,

    My question is off topic but, I could use some help. I really admired the Sandra Betzina remake of Vogue pattern 1036 in the October/November issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine (page 56). Unfortunately, there were no instructions on how she created the look. Specifically:

    1.), what modifications did she make to change the jacket closure from snaps to a separating zipper. Where can I find the directions to achieve this look?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Deborah! We’re forwarding your question to Sandra and will get back to you as soon as we hear from her. Thanks!

  10. I also think a muslin can help with making adjustments if the sewer has to live with medical equipment(for example orthotic braces for scoliosis and other back conditions, and insulin pumps for diabetes)

    So if you make a muslin, take note of any medical condition you have and make modifications accordingly to what you need.

    1. Good tip!

  11. Well that was a little tricky to sew! I’ve posted pictures of my muslin Flickr. I thought it was looking pretty good but now am questioning whether I need to take in a small amount in the back.

  12. Just finished the muslin! You are right- size up. I usually ALWAYS wear a 12 and have to take the top and waist in, but based on your recommendations, I cut out the 14. It’s going to be perfect. Went quickly and it was pretty easy (we’ll see when we get to that seam binding and those buttonholes..)

    I used a hideous piece of fabric that I had turned into curtains some years back and hated them. It’s about the same weight as my fabric.

    I have a really beautiful plum wool crepe, and after making the muslin, I really think this coat, to be my dream coat, will need to be interfaced and underlined.. Sigh.. It’s going to be exhausting, but I love that structured look of the sample coat. And I think I want it warmer:(

    Buuut- fit of one size up beautiful and we can proceed!

  13. Amazing issues here. I’m very satisfied to peer your post.
    Thanis so much and I’m taking a loik forward to touch you.
    Will you please drop me a e-mail?

  14. I’m so glad to read the comments about sizing up. I measured the pattern tissue and was debating which size to cut, and chose to go up to a 14 based on these comments. We’ll see how it goes. I can’t start sewing the muslin until after Halloween costumes are finished, but that should happen this weekend.

  15. I used the size I usually use in Vogue patterns, but I need to narrow the shoulders. I am just unsure which way to cut the pattern to make the shoulder curve hit me in the right place. Usually I cut out the arm scye and move it towards the neck by the amount needed. This pattern is a funny shape through the shoulders, so I’m stumped.

  16. Dear Meg,
    Could you please have a look at my “fitting problems” discussion on Flickr? and tell me what you think? Also, can you please have a look at the pictures and tell me your opinon about the coat on me and how can I improve it. I am really bad at adjusting a pattern!

    (My name on Flikr is Mertxita)
    Many many thanks!

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