Before I publish a new pattern and instructions for a women’s peplum top with ruffles, I would like to show you a few photos from the process. I don’t really want to show you the design process today, but I want to talk about my (thorough) pattern testing process. I thought it would be nice to show you another part of the work that what goes into creating a clothing pattern…
In one of the recent articles, I described the traditional way of sewing a muslin (test piece). You can read more about it here: How and why to make a muslin. You will also find detailed information on which material to use for your test piece in that article.
The test piece in today’s article is machine-sewn.
How to make a muslin on a sewing machine
To answer a question that will certainly arise – I sewed according to the ready-made pattern, not tailor-made one. If it was tailor-made, the process would be faster, and the total number of fitting tests would be lower. But I wanted to show that regular ready-made patterns, which are based on size charts, have to be adjusted by almost everyone and almost always. Even if you have exactly the same body measurements as one of the sizes in the size chart, you can have, for example, a larger bust and at the same time a narrower back. This is a very important attribute and the piece will not fit you perfectly if you do not make the appropriate adjustments.
So, in today’s article you will find out more about some adjustments that you may need to make, and I will explain to you how to do that.
Even if you are preparing “just” a test piece, you have to be accurate. You might feel that if it’s just a test model, you can cut corners and do it quickly, but the opposite is true. You are sewing the test piece to find out what changes are needed to ensure that the final product fits perfectly and therefore it is necessary to have it prepared exactly according to the original pattern. Transfer all important marks (for the sleeve alignment, zipper, darts, etc.).
I use soft pencil to transfer most of the marks (and lines) and pizza cutter with a copy paper to transfer dart marks. As for the seam allowances, I choose exactly the same width as I plan to have for the final product. I even add a seam allowances for bottom hems, because the fabric may fray. If I had the bottom hem cut to the final length (without seam allowance), the overall appearance may be different when I lose some part of the fabric due to fraying. So, to make everything clear – I sew with the same seam allowances as the final piece will have.
As I wrote in the previous article, it is best to use light-colored fabrics, which are similar to the fabric which we want to use for the final product. When making a muslin on a sewing machine, use a contrasting color thread so that all seams are clearly visible. Also set your machine to about 3.5 – 4 mm long stitches, in order to make the seams easier to rip if needed.
Guide lines & quick check
Always sew the darts first. I usually pin them first, so I can check that everything looks as it should. If something does not seem right, check the body dimensions, the size of the pattern and the correct placement of the darts. If you are using a pattern that you designed yourself, then you need to check the pattern as a whole.
Next, I draw guide lines on the front and back piece. The most important are the center line from the neck downwards and a horizontal line above the chest line on the front piece. The vertical and horizontal lines then serve as a simple visual aid for us to see if something is not going right.
I recommend making one horizontal line directly on the chest line and second a little bit above the chest line. The second line must be 100% parallel to the floor. Below the chest line, where the garment adapts to the body more substantially, the horizontal lines no longer run parallel to the floor, as our bodies are three-dimensional.
Test piece #1
After drawing guide lines and pinning darts, you can sew the darts. Sew stabilizing seams at the edges to which nothing else will be attached (the neck opening and for me also the armscyes of the back piece). Sew exactly along the lines where the seam allowances start – in the places where there will be seams on the final piece.
I left the armscyes of the front piece unsterilized, because if I wanted to adjust the breast dart after the first fitting test, I would have to rip the stabilizing seam as well.
Even before the fitting test, you can simply put the front piece on your body and find out what you will be dealing with. I put the front part on, and it was clear that I would have to make a lot of adjustments. The bodice looks too “low” – it is necessary to pull it up and move the breast and waist darts closer to the bottom hem.
Because there will be a lot of things to edit, I sewed a stabilizing seam.
I sewed a stabilizing seam due to the large number of adjustments that need to be made.
Pin or stitch the zipper to the pieces. The zipper must start and end 1 cm from the neck opening / bottom hem
Cut the seam allowance of the neck opening (every centimeter or so), so you can perform the first fitting test.
Also cut off the seam allowances in the armscyes (along the stabilizing seams).
First fitting test
As I said in the previous article, it is necessary to proceed gradually – do not make more adjustments at once and try the garment after each one. If you make several adjustments at once and a new problem arises, you won’t be able to tell which change caused it. Tailoring your piece requires a lot of patience and time, so please come to terms with it and don’t try to cheat in any way. It pays off, because it will help you to sew the final piece with a minimum of adjustments and problems.
Immediately after the first fitting test, it was clear that it would be necessary to extend the back and front pieces around the shoulders, so I ripped the shoulder seams and sew in the inserts.
When sewing the insert, it is necessary to align both edges of the armscye (and neck opening) precisely.
Then cut off the excess parts of the inserts and move on.
This is what the top looked like during the second fitting test. Shoulder seams look better, but still not perfect. The overall silhouette is too high, so it is necessary to lower the breast and waist darts.
During the test, don’t forget to check the back part too. It is not ideal to turn your back on the mirror and then try to look over your shoulder. Stand upright and use a small mirror to observe your reflection in a large mirror. Instead of a small mirror, you can also use the selfie camera of your phone.
The photo shows that the back is a bit creased. This means that there is too much fabric, so the back parts need to be shortened.
I wanted to know what the whole top would look like, so I sewed a peplum ruffle to it before making the adjustments.
In order for the top to fit as it should, the seam allowances of the ruffle and the top must be cut every centimeter or so.
I ironed the edges of the ruffle, stabilized its bottom edge…
…and cut off the excess seam allowance.
So, this was the second fitting test.
Test piece #2
For the third test, I cut fresh pieces, so that I would not be confused by the old marks.
The photo you can see that I already have sewn darts, stabilizing seams and cut off unnecessary seam allowances.
As with the first test piece, I put loose pieces on my body (or mannequin) to know what I’m dealing with. At first glance, it looks much better than the first test piece.
Next, I assembled the top – sewed shoulder seams and side seams and stitched a zipper to the back piece.
I ironed the top and proceeded to the third fitting test.
Third fitting test
I didn’t take a picture of every single adjustment, because that would make this article very long. So, let’s skip to the third fitting test.
- position of the breast darts
- shortened waist darts
- shortened back pieces
- modeled back pieces (upper back)
I saw that it would be necessary to slightly loosen the chest area of the front piece – it is not obvious in the photo, but the top was a little tight across the chest, because I adjusted upper portion of the back pieces. It was also necessary to change the shape of the neck opening.
This is the second test piece from behind. The rear parts were shortened and shaped. But it was still necessary to slightly modify the back – to set it higher. It can also be seen that the armhole in the back piece does not fit perfectly, although everything looked fine from the front. So yeah… Be sure not to forget about the back of your piece…
Here you can see the second test piece before (left) and after (right) the neck opening modification. It was a very simple change and how much of a difference did it make…
So, this is the final version of my second test piece.
Test piece #3
There were still quite a few changes to be made, so I prepared a new test model, the third one.
- the back was moved up
- widened chest of the front piece
- reshaped armscye of the back piece
- modified shape of the neck opening
Fourth fitting test
This is what the top looked like during the fourth fitting test. The silhouette is looser overall. The shape of the armscyes and the size and location of the breast and waist darts seems fine. I extended the back of the peplum ruffle; this is its final version.
I can still see the problem with the neck opening, it peels of at the front, which, paradoxically, indicates a problem with the back piece. So, let’s look at the third test piece from behind.
Test piece number three & fitting test number four: The rear pieces still need to be shortened. The front piece looks fine from the side. Peplum has the right length.
If I’m standing straight, the neck opening is fine, but when I relax a little and hunch into my “natural” position, then there’s a bit of a problem.
Test piece #4
And here is the last test piece.
- shortened back pieces
- shaped back pieces (around the neck opening)
During the last round of adjustments, I reshaped both back pieces. This is a very common modification nowadays, when we are slightly hunched over thanks to the lifestyle. In my experience, only people who are physically active regularly (at least 3 times a week) have a straight back.
The rear zipper is therefore curved towards the front. This makes it fit my slightly hunched back and it also solves the problem with the front part of the neck opening.
I also made the back piece a little tighter (as you can see from the reverse side).
Fifth fitting test
And here is the final, fifth fitting test.
Finally, one recommendation – keep all test pieces until you know the cut well and adjust it appropriately, also number the test pieces so that you can compare the various stages and changes. It will also help you take a step back if you get a little lost.
Also record all changes as you go (you can write notes directly on paper pieces). If you start with a new test piece, I also recommend copying a fresh set of paper pieces so that you can continue to take notes without getting confused.
I hope that this article did not scare you too much – if you buy this pattern, you will not have to work that hard, because I’ve already transferred all the important changes to the pattern (neck opening shape, shaped back pieces, etc.),. 🙂
Pattern of this top will be available later. We are just waiting for me to finish the final pattern, write a detailed guide, cut videos, export the pattern files, prepare everything for the web and write an article with instructions. Easy peasy, only about a week worth of work… ♥
Have a nice day, Peťa