Why you should dive into sewing the good stuff.

Do you always make a test version of your dressmaking projects in a cheap fabric?

Are you a maker of wearable muslins? Ie the prototype of a new pattern just to see how it works, sewn up in something cheap and cheerful in case you mess it up!

Why you should dive into sewing the good stuff.
Ok, so I am being a little contentious here, as there’s a commonly held belief that dressmakers should make up the first version of a project in something inexpensive, just in case it doesn’t work or they mess it up. This is often called a wearable muslin, and it’s different than sewing a “toile” I sometimes do this, and a lot of my students join my dressmaking courses with cheap fabric in case they “F.A.I.L”
Ok, I can hear you saying “but you do this too, why is it a bad idea?”……
wearable muslin
wearable muslin in action
This is my most recent “wearable” muslin. It was a cheap fabric I bought that was a similar quality to the ponte I planned to make the final version in. It was originally destined to be a toile, as the project is ponte roma, so I couldn’t sew it up in calico. When I toile anything that toile is part of the patterning process and is usually cut up to accurately transfer adjustments to the next version of the pattern. Short on time, and needing a version of this to wear on Sewing Quarter I decided to go for a finished make and make as a wearable muslin. I figured I was killing 2 birds with one stone….
This is why I wish I had dived into my viscose ponte for a first version, and not the 100%synthetic ponte I used
IT IS BOILING… And It makes me sweat profusely, in fact it makes me feel like I’m being smothered. I’m not a massively sweaty person, but this fabric sure makes me perspire!
I have a lot of Ponte dresses and usually I can get several wears out of them before washing. Not this dress though, it needs a wash after wearing just for a few hours.
fit as you sew
Ok, so here’s what I think! I always fit as I sew, so had I cut into my good fabric, there would have been opportunity to adjust as I went along. Basically I have spent precious hours sewing a dress that’s going to languish in my cupboard, what a waste of time! So here’s what else I think about sewing with cheap fabrics to “Test”
  • You’re almost setting yourself to accept failure by not committing to the good stuff, and that’s a bad mind-set for dressmaking. Mistakes are part of the process
  • I make so I can have more choice about fabric quality. Using cheap fabric means I might as well have gone the ready to wear route
  • Aside from the waste of my time, I have contributed to a disposable fashion, this piece won’t become a staple part of my wardrobe and that is a waste of resources and isn’t at all sustainable

Good fabric in a pile in a cupboard is wasted! What’s the point of fabric if it’s not used, piles and piles of fabric is really just hoarding. Who knows what’s around the corner, a friend of mine recently lost all her precious stash in a house fire. She regrets not using all her “lovelies” when she had a chance!


What do you think? I’d love to know, do leave your thoughts in the comments.


Happy stitching CL:)

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  • Sue Burton

    25.04.2018 at 16:16

    I completely agreei with all the coments, use your nice fabric, enjoy making the garment and then enjoy wearing it and all the compliments you’ll get. Nobody knows about any forced errors and who cares anyway as long as it looks and feels good to wear. If a mistake is made chances are you won’t make the same mistake again.

  • Esther

    09.04.2018 at 23:00

    The fabric that I usually buy is not that expensive anyway so I do not see the point of making a toile or test version. As a rule, I start paper fitting the pattern and I also fit as I sew which has been working so far. As you said, making mistakes is part of the process and I try to learn from them.

  • Vicky

    09.04.2018 at 20:30

    I sew agree. Life is too short for cheap fabric. Why waste time and effort on something you could buy in Primark for half the price. I always buy the best I can afford.

  • Fraggle

    09.04.2018 at 15:31

    Completely agree. I never saw the point of a wearable muslin. I occasionally sew a toile of a bodice, but that’s normally out of fabric that’s no good for sewing anything else, stained curtain lining, or an old sheet etc! If you’re just sewing the bodice you can get a surprising number from a sheet 😁 I always want to wear what I make because I sew so slowly. I always fit as I sew, and now I know that I need to do an FBA and lower the bust point on every make I have very few duds.

  • Janet Moore

    09.04.2018 at 13:44

    Well, you would’t make a wool fabric coat out of a cheap fabric as a test, as that would be a waste of time and money. I think start as you mean to go on, make your garment out of the best , most suitable for the pattern fabric and measure carefully before cutting – all the usual things that we are told to do; adjust the pattern as needed before sewing up. Take your time; its much better to spend more time on better fabric than rush a cheap garment, which ends up not being worn. Even if you choose to make a garment out of inexpensive fabric for economic reasons, make it as carefully as you would a more expensive fabric.
    I’ve been making my own clothes since I was a teenager in the 1960’s, when making a toile or muslin was not something done very often by amateur dressmakers. perhaps for a wedding or evening dress.

  • Lilia Visser

    09.04.2018 at 08:45

    Totally agree with you. I mostly go straight for the good stuff, but sometimes, if I’m unsure of the end result I do choose a cheap fabric. Mostly something I would wear anyway. I do use some sewable tracing matetial. I can’t find it here in the Netherlands, but a friend sends it to me from New Zealand, where they use it a lot – more for fitting, thus a muslin.