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Regarding muslin shells

Rosiem | Posted in General Discussion on

I see in many posts that you all refer to muslin shells and recommend posters to make them as well. Is this something that I should take the time to do if I intend to sew for myself? Yesterday I made a great pair of pants and they were HUGE! I was so disappointed – would making a shell help to alleviate fit problems? Can you use any manufacturers fitting pattern or is there one that is better for determining and solving fit problems?




  1. woodruff | | #1

    Most of the big four pattern companies offer a fitting shell pattern for dresses and pants. I have made several of these, and yes, have found them valuable. They show me how different I am from the basic shape they use for all patterns in that size. So, when I get out a new pattern, I lay my altered shell over it, and I can see exactly where the pattern is too large or too small. Using the shell, and the notes you take when you make it, you gradually memorize the basic changes you know you will have to make.

    For example, I know that with all Vogue size 12 patterns, I have to start by lengthening the back and front different amounts, let out the waist a bit, make a 1/2" swayback alteration, take a small horizontal tuck between the shoulder blades, and that the neck may be tight.

    It's a time-saver, and sometimes, laying the shell out on a prospective pattern shows you that there is no way that thing is ever going to be flattering to you.

    By the way, IMHO, you might as well save yourself a lot of labor with pants, and start right out with a Burda pants pattern. They have the best crotch curve you're likely to find, and if you take your measurements carefully and choose the appropriate size lines (plural, because Burdas are multi-sized, and your waist will be one size, and your hips another), you will trace off a pattern for a pair of pants that will fit you better, out of the box, than those from any other line.

    1. lovemycottons | | #4

      Which Burda pants pattern would you recommend?

      Do you use the patterns that the local fabric stores carry or do you subscribe to the magazine. I heard the magazine patterns are a lot different than the store patterns.

      1. woodruff | | #5

        If you go to http://www.patternreview.com and type in burda pants, you will eventually get to a list of reviews of all Burda patterns. The one below, 8735, has been especially popular (there have been 20 reviews of it!), though it does have a very slightly lower waist, and wider hems.http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/readreview.pl?readreview=1&reviewnum=8735I have sewn Burda for years, and have noticed no real difference between the store and magazine patterns--except for this, and it's a big one: The magazine patterns have no seam or hem allowances. You have to add them yourself when you trace them. This is actually an advantage in fitting, but it's a little difficult for newer sewists to understand.

        Edited 3/6/2006 3:19 pm by woodruff

        1. Guenevere | | #6

          I just made a pair of capri pants for a friend of mine. She needed them last minute and I aready knew we were going to do alterations. If I hadn't done a muslin I would have ruined my gorgeous (expensive) satin and never gotten the pants done in time! I love muslin and I would recomend it !!

      2. SewNancy | | #7

        I think that the pattern magazine is the best bargain. You do have to trace the pattern, but I do this with commercial patterns that I am going to alter a lot anyway. I like the lack of sas it makes it easy to make the sas different widths and to mark the seam line. I also tape it together and miss the scratchs and from the pins. Then I cut it apart It is not hard to trace, I have lots of red pencils and rolls of tracing paper and I am in business. If you can't find a pant pattern in the latest issue, then buying a pattern will work for you.

        Edited 3/15/2006 7:54 am ET by SewNancy

        1. lovemycottons | | #8

          Thank you. Your response has been helpful.

    2. lovemycottons | | #9

      I picked up a Burda pants pattern and you are absolutely right. They do have a great crotch curve. I was able to fit that pattern without any major alterations in the crotch. It was one of the easiest pants fitting I ever did. Thank you

      1. woodruff | | #10

        I'm delighted it worked for you! Burda rules.

  2. mem | | #2

    I have found that doing a bit of fitting work on a pair of pants is reall worth it. Then learn to alter the pattern for different styles. The basic fit for all pants is the same no mattern what style they are.Yes get a fitting shell and make it up in gimgham or muslin . With the pants that you have made you need to find out where they are too big as they may well be a learning experience in themselves and can become you muslin so to speak . I didthis with a pair of pants I made for my son . I had put soooo much effort into them and then so as not to waste the effort ended up slashing and adding in and taking out . I kept them and they really helped me to make perfect fit pants until he grew again.

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    I have had no luck in using muslims or fitting shells, I think because I have to go long periods between sewing sessions so that I forget all the decisions and changes I made, even if I marked them.

    I have had better luck with "tissue fitting," the subject of several recent Threads articles. It involves cutting out the major pattern pieces, pinning them together, and trying them on, then making changes by cutting and pasting other tissue parts until the fit comes close to what I want.

    Although tissue has a completely different drape than fabric, it's strong enough to withstand quite a few try-ons and a lot of alterations and it works well for most alterations. I mark my final decisions in a bold, distinctive-color permanent marker directly onto the original pattern tissue, which I can then use to make a test garment and/or alter different patterns by laying them on top. In this way, it acts like a muslin, but it retains its transparency and my extensive comments.

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