The Life of a Garment: Picking Fabrics and Making the Toile

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It’s true, I’ve decided to talk about both the best and worst part of garment making in one fell swoop. Making a toile—or muslin, prototype, whatever you fancy calling it—is not absolutely necessary, but it can save a few headaches down the line when you are using a limited supply of much loved fabric. The idea is that you will practice making a piece with cheaper fabric so that when you make your piece de resistance you won’t need to figure out alterations on the finished garment that are easier to make to the paper pattern instead. It sounds easy, yeah? Yeah. But it’s terrible.

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Since muslins are so helpful, and usually aren’t difficult to do, I can’t really articulate what turns me off to them. I imagine it’s the idea that I will take X amount of time to work on something that may never see the light of day. With that said, I should note that wearable toiles are common. I’ve made a few that see quite a bit of wear, but they still feel more laborious to make. The time that passes between making the muslin and the finished garment is going to be different for everyone, but I have noticed that, while I may give careful attention to how I construct the first piece, I tend to get lazy by the second. I like to wait a few weeks, even months, before I move on to the final version. In some ways, this may defeat the purpose of sewing a wearable muslin (no one looks the same forever), but I want to make sure my clothes are all getting the care and attention they deserve—from fitting to construction. For the sweater I’m drafting, I used an inexpensive white cotton interlock to test the fit, and I have a lot of issues to address before I try to make it again.

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Picking fabrics also comes at a different point in each project, and for some it may be hard to know exactly what fabric to buy. I’ve had a reasonably simple time picking what I like because I’ve always been drawn to the same textiles, even when I was buying ready to wear. For example, I enjoy wearing extremely fluid knits and stretchy denim, along with woven fabrics that have a lot of texture. Obviously I buy things that don’t fit in those categories, but they make up the bulk of my wardrobe. For this particular project, I plan to use a black modal rayon jersey with loads of drape and some black lace for cut outs. Here’s to hoping they work well together.

Elizabeth Hyer is a barista by day and an avid fan of eating Cookout and watching Netflix by herself by night. In addition to this, she makes all her own clothes and seeks to inspire people to live consciously in regards to the clothing they buy. You can further follow her adventures on Instagram, as well as her blog at Hyer Handmade Design.