Instead of a straight-ahead sewing pattern review, I thought I’d walk through my process for making a muslin. I stitched the Sew Caroline Larchmont T that appears in the new “Weekend Style” sewing book.
It’s a simple woven T-shirt pattern that was a freebie in the spring issue 2017 of Sew News magazine. Because it’s only three pattern pieces (front, back, and placket) with no shaping elements, I knew the muslin AND pattern would sew up fast.
I’m always curious to know how other sewists work, mostly because I sew alone and don’t have an in-person sewing sensei helping me improve my skills and optimize my process. Sharing how I make a muslin is a way I can reach out to other sewists who are process wonks like me!
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Sewing a muslin: My steps
When I make a muslin, which I do more often than I do not, I generally follow these steps:
Step 0: Take measurements
My size doesn’t fluctuate much, so I don’t retake my measurements frequently. Best practice would be to remeasure before each project, but let’s be real: Mama don’t have time for that. Seriously, though: You need measurements so you can pick a size.
Step 1: Pick size + trace pattern
Here’s where I make initial adjustments, usually adding length to accommodate for long-waistedness. I find most small tops are too short for me. With the Larchmont, I compared my front waist length measurement (from middle of shoulder to waist) to front waist length on the flat pattern piece. The pattern piece was an inch shorter than my measurement, so I added one inch to the front and back pieces as I traced the pattern.
When it comes to tracing patterns, I use a pencil and nice tracing paper (I think it’s this stuff) from Dick Blick art supplies. I can’t recommend it enough; it’s so much nicer to work with than tissue paper. The transparency of it is wonderful.
Step 2: Add to seam allowance
I added to the seam allowance to make it one inch. (The SA for this pattern is a half-inch, BTW.) I don’t usually add to the seam allowance, but I wanted extra width in case I decided to add darts. A little extra fabric to play with in a muslin never hurt anybody. For your reference, I used a Clover double tracing wheel and Saral tracing paper — good things to keep in your sewing toolbox.
Step 3: Cut paper pattern pieces
Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns cuts her paper pattern pieces with an X-acto, and I figured if it’s good enough for Heather, it’s good enough for me. And Lord above, it’s an epic improvement over cutting with a scissors.
Step 4: Cut fabric + sew + judge fit
The fun stuff — sewing! And after it’s sewn, you get to try it on for the first time, which always is a hoot. My initial assessment found the top waaaay too long, so apparently my added inch for long-waistedness was unnecessary. (I did, however, discover that this pattern would make a C-U-T-E dress.)
I also thought the back had excess fabric. But because this muslin covered my butt, I hypothesized that the bonus fabric pouf probably was caused by the bottom of the shirt sitting weirdly on MY bottom. At this pointed, I held off on any adjustments for the back until I made the shirt the correct length.
Step 5: Adjust pattern pieces
I marked on the muslin my preferred length and folded out the excess at the length-adjustment line. Then I trued the side seams.
Step 6: Re-cut pattern
I took extra care to re-lay out all the fabric pieces to ensure symmetry as I re-cut them.
Step 7: Sew + judge fit
I was right about the excess back fabric — that issue went away when the top hit above my hips. I pinned the hem to the correct finished length and found it was too short. Here you can see the “hemmed” (top) and the “unhemmed” lengths. Unhemmed was more to my liking.
Step 8: Make final adjustments
I added length back to the front and back pattern pieces and trued the side seams again. Then I cut my fashion fabric!
Here’s a protip for making a lot of adjustments: Check your work on the pattern pieces as you go. I ended up with a shorter back piece than front piece. If I’d checked whether the side seams matched in length with the paper pattern pieces BEFORE I’d cut the fashion fabric, I could have had a deeper hem, which may have looked marginally better. This error wasn’t a big deal, but it could have been avoided.
My Sew Caroline Larchmont T details
The Sew Caroline Larchmont T is part of my spring/summer sewing capsule. I sewed a small with the aforementioned length adjustments.
The fabric is Liberty of London cotton Tana lawn from my stash, and it’s the first time I’ve sewn with the fabric. It’s a dream, you guys. It’s smooth and lightweight, not too drapey or too stiff. And the intense color. I love it so hard.
I went the extra mile finishing the Larchmont, because the Liberty deserved nothing less. I made matching bias tape and did French seams, which is a great finish for this lightweight fabric.
After the fabric, my second favorite thing about my Larchmont is the scoop neckline. I also like the A-line shape; it gives me ’60s vibes, which is a good thing.
The Larchmont T is designed for drapey fabrics, and the Liberty lawn might be the most body a fabric should have for this pattern. I’d love to make a Larchmont in double gauze. I want to make it in a drapey knit, too, and omit the back closure.
I’m usually less keen on kimono sleeves, but they work hard for the Larchmont T.
5 tips for sewing the Larchmont T
Even though there’s not much to this pattern, the directions that appear in Sew New magazine could be better. For instance, there’s no listed seam allowance. I messaged designer Caroline Hulse via Instagram, and she told me it was 0.5 inches. (My guess is that crucial detail appears in the book but was left out of the magazine feature.)
Here are five more tips to make stitching your Sew Caroline Larchmont T more enjoyable:
1.) Staystitch the neckline. If you’re working with a lightweight woven as recommended, staystitch to ensure the neckline doesn’t stretch out on you.
2.) Go for 75 percent. Finish three of the four edges (overlock, zig-zag, pink, etc.) of the locket closure placket BEFORE sewing it down. You can leave one of the short edges unfinished because it will be finished with the neckline. The directions call for turning the edges under and topstitching (from the right side). If you go this route, I suggest basting for best results. (But I think finishing the edges before sewing down the placket is the way to go.)
You may notice I’ve only finished TWO of the four sides of the placket; that’s because one of the long sides is the selvage.
3.) Baste the loop in place. The button loop is sandwiched between the placket and shirt back. Make things easy on yourself with basting.
4.) Engage basting tape. I used Wonder Tape to position the placket. And I pinned it, too, because, like Ozzy Osbourne, I’m paranoid.
5.) Reduce placket bulk. To create the locket closure, you sew the placket to the shirt and then cut it down the middle in an upside down “Y.” The placket then is turned to the wrong side, and the cut edges are sandwiched between the placket and shirt back. Trim the cut edges to one-eighth inch to reduce bulk.
Over to you, dear readers: How is your muslin process different? Did you like reading about my process? If yes, I can work on more posts like this one. Have you sewn with Liberty cotton lawn? Do you have a favorite woven T-shirt pattern? Please sound off in comments! Thanks!
P.S. ICYMI, here’s my previous post: Cali Faye Collection Pocket skirt + How to use basting tape like a pro.
P.P.S. Most. Embarrassing. Photo shoot. Outtake. Ever.