Why I started making a muslin every single time

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Before we start, if you don’t know what a “muslin” is in garment sewing, it’s basically a mock up of the pattern in an inexpensive fabric called muslin. I didn’t used to bother with muslins at all. When I got really into garment sewing about 10 years ago, I lived in a place where nice fabric was readily available to me at a good cost. That is no longer the case. The industry has changed quite a bit, I no longer live somewhere conveniently located to good fabric stores other than JoAnn (don’t get me started), and sewing definitely isn’t a cheap hobby these days!

Several months ago, I got really tired of making things that didn’t turn out and having to toss out my nice fabrics and decided to muslin my next project. I had such good results that I have made a muslin of every single garment since then and have only had one wadder due to poor fabric choice (rookie mistake.)

Whether you’re just starting out with garment sewing or are an old pro, I thought I’d give you some tips for making muslins here today.

How to make a muslin for sewing patterns

1.Your muslin doesn’t have to be muslin

You can of course buy muslin fabric by the yard or by the bolt for just this purpose, and if you’re the kind who really needs your practice clothes to be uniform in color, this may be the way to go. However, you can use anything to make a muslin. When your well-meaning neighbor gives you a box of ugly fabric, keep the biggest pieces to use as muslins rather than throwing them out. I’ve taken to buying sheets at the thrift store to use as muslins and it’s been working awesome for me! Be strategic, though. Sheets come in all kinds of fabrics these days. I use the microfiber kind to sub for my drapier fabrics, 100% cotton sheets to use as heavier fabrics and jersey sheets to mock up patterns for knits. Sheets at my thrift store are around $4 each and I can get three or more garments out of one.

2. Cut only the necessary pattern pieces for your muslin

You don’t need to construct the entire garment. You’re making a muslin to check and perfect the fit, so only cut the pieces you need to do so. Omit collars, facings, pockets, and often even sleeves or skirt portions of dresses. No need to insert the zipper either.

3. Use a basting stitch

Use a long stitch length and go ahead and sew your pieces together. I so still back stitch at the beginning and ends of seams so that when I try them on they don’t just come apart. Assume you’ll need to take some of those stitches out as you adjust. A basting stitch will make this much easier.

4. Nip and Tuck

Try on your muslin, pin up any openings or what have you, then see what adjustments needs made. You can get a lot of information about fit by pinching out excess or slicing open spots that pull. Is your top too small in the bust? Do you need a full bust adjustment? Do the edges not quite meet where the zipper will go? Try taking smaller side seams. I the back of the neckline gaping? Take some darts out of it. While I can’t go into a whole fitting series here, you’ll have no trouble finding tutorials for every issue only and below are some fitting books that could be very helpful for you.

5. Transfer your changes

Many people prefer to trace their pattern pieces and make their changes there, but I usually just make my changes on my pattern pieces with good ol’ scotch tape. If you changes were extensive, you may need to cut a new muslin of one or several pieces. I promise it’s worth it! When I posted a wrap dress I made recently, I made the comment that the pattern would not have worked out if I hadn’t taken the time to make a muslin. The front would have gaped wide open and I would have been so sad if I’d had to throw that project away! You can see below how I taped up that front bodice pattern piece and added printer paper to heighten the neckline! I posted Natalie’s Easter dress here, where you can see the taped up pattern piece.

How to make a muslin

Proceed with confidence!

Now that you have your pattern perfected, you can cut into your nice fabric with confidence! Just make sure your print isn’t upside down. A muslin can’t help you there ;)

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Tips for sewing with kids

This post contains affiliate links, which mean that while I am not paid to promote certain items, I will earn a small commission should you purchase items through these links.  For more info, see my disclosure policy. 

I've been teaching kids to sew for a couple years now, have had well around 80 children come through my studio and finish projects successfully, so it's about time I share some tips with you, whether you're wanting to sew with your own children, or teach others. And if you desire to help your own kids learn to sew, but don't have sewing skills yourself, this post is just as much for you as it is for the pros! 

Tips for teaching kids to sew

Tips for teaching kids to sew

I'm going to jump right in! 

FIRST, gather quality tools. I get asked very often by the mothers of my students and others for my recommendation on a beginner sewing machine. My advice is and has always been, DO NOT buy the cheapest machine of any brand. You will only be frustrated. If you've made this mistake and have had lots of problems, let me reassure you, it's not you, it's the machine! That said, a good machine doesn't need to break the bank. I use this one in my studio. I have six of them and they've been dreamy. Here is more on why I like them and why I upgraded from the ones I used to teach on. 

Teach kids to sew

Teach kids to sew

Your machine isn't the only tool you don't want to cheap out on! I know the little packaged sewing kits you can pick up for $10 are cheap and sometimes even cute, but you're not doing anyone any favors, as they tend to include the flimsiest of supplies. Here are the basic tools you should have and my recommendations on good ones: 

1. Scissors. I've used many kinds in my classes, but realized the kids were always scrambling for dibs on the regular orange Fiskers scissors. For some reason, they just don't dull or get out of whack like all my other brands did. So now I have six pair of the Fiskers and also the Fiskers sharpener. This eliminated our scissor woes. I also noticed that my younger students sometimes have trouble with cutting and ordered a pair of the Fiskars for small hands. That solved the issue for most littler ones! 

2. A good seam ripper! Unsewing is a necessary skill, so get a good sharp unsewer and replace it when it start to slack off on the job. 

3. Pins. You don't have to be too picky about these, I like quilting pins because they're longer, but any pins will do. Along these lines, Wonder Clips are wonderful to have on hand, although totally optional, because they are sometimes easier for kids to use and they don't get poked as often. 

4. Pin magnets. I use plenty of pin cushions on my classes, but have a pin magnet next to each machine and they're nice because they make it so easier to pick up the piles of pins left on the table and even on the floor! Plus, the kids just think they're fun. 

5. Fabric! Ok, I know this is obvious, but what I want to say about it is that kids will take to sewing much more gleefully if you have some cool fabrics in trendy prints.  Think, cactus, llamas and unicorns! The hand-me-down quilting fabrics from the 80's or that box of polyester suiting you were "gifted" from a well-meaning person who found out you sew ... these won't go over quite as well. Let your kids pick out some fun prints, have lots of felt on hand and see what they can do! 

6. Stuffing. When told they can sew whatever they want, kids will sew a pillow or a stuffed something 99.9% of the time. Ha! Have stuffing. I keep the big box of polyester fiber-fill on hand. I use a coupon from Hobby Lobby or get it at Wal-Mart (for some reason, it costs a ton more at JoAnn's). 

TEaching kids to sew

TEaching kids to sew

SECOND, don't teach them everything at once. Others may have another method than me, obviously, but I don't teach the kids to thread the machines when they're brand new. I teach them to use the machine by going around a sheet of paper, learning to backstitch, stop and pivot, etc ... and then we get down to our first projects. I have found that the older girls pick up the threading as they watch me thread and before long, they learn how to do it naturally. Choose projects that build skills incrementally and let them come up with their own ideas too. Before long, they'll start to understand more and more about construction. 

Kids can sew

Kids can sew

THIRD, try not to micromanage. Many moms have a tendency to hover, overcorrect and criticize when their kids are learning to sew. Please don't worry so much about "wasting supplies" or not having a perfect outcome. The reason I teach kids and not adults as much is because kids are always just so proud of what they've made! They don't see the flaws, they are just thrilled that they produced something. And when something's a total disaster, they're always willing to try it again, having just learned how not to do it. Relax, moms! ;) Keep your cool. Teaching children a skill like this requires a lot of patience and positivity. 

Kids sewing

Kids sewing

FOURTH, provide them with inspiration! This is the fun part. There are so many great projects out there that kids can attempt to make on their own, once they know the sewing basics. I know I've mentioned several of my favorite kids' sewing books in various posts, but a few of my favorites are Sewing for Children (perfect for brand new beginners, younger learners or hand sewers), and the We Love to Sew series. There's so much good stuff on YouTube too, including my channel, Pin, Cut, Sew, which I try to keep very beginner friendly! Pinterest is a well spring of ideas, of course. You can follow my "Kids Can Sew" board and find plenty of ideas. In class recently, we made hoop art (check out their creations in the photo below!) and had Pinterest open browsing for hoop art inspiration. So I even use Pinterest in my classes! 

Hoop art sewing class

Hoop art sewing class

I hope this has helped some of you and given you courage to give sewing with children a try. I know there's a lot of logistics about what classes actually look like that you may have questions about, so I'd be happy to help answer those the best I can if you'll ask me! 

Cheers and Happy Sewing :)

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