Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The fashion industry and top custom designers make muslins (test garments), often substituting the woven or knit fabric that will be cut in mass-production instead of dressmakers’ muslin. Dressmaker’s muslin is an inexpensive, heavily sized cotton fabric traditionally used during the drafting process to test a pattern’s fit and style.
Cathy tested her blouse pattern in inexpensive fashion fabric, substituting the fashion fabric for muslin.  This is a good idea when testing a blouse pattern. When sewing at home it is usually better to test jacket patterns in muslin because of the extensive construction involved and because fabrics used to make jackets are often quite expensive. Muslin comes in various weights. It’s best to use muslin with a weight as close to the weight of the intended fashion fabric as possible.

In this video link Janet models her jacket muslin. The bodice shell patterns have been cut and corrected several times and now fit correctly.  The next step is to test the sleeve patterns. They need corrections drafted in so they will sew into the armholes.

In the industry muslin tests are essential as they prevent problems that, when multiplied by the sheer volume of garments mass-produced from one pattern, could easily add up to thousands and thousands of dollars of lost profit.  Because so much is at stake each pattern that is to go on a factory line needs to be thoroughly tested. Even patterns from styles that have been previously mass-produced should be tested again before they are manufactured in a new fabric.

Muslin tests help you prevent the same problems in the garments you design and make.  Testing a pattern in muslin allows you to check your pattern’s style and fit, decide if corrections are needed, and determine the best way to make the corrections.

Shira’s first muslin on the right shows why testing Shira’s Bat Mitzvah dress several times in muslin enabled success with the finished garment, shown on the left. All problems should be corrected BEFORE the fashion fabric is cut. The rule is, The pattern must fit before the fashion fabric is cut.
A designing department is a lab where the patterns' style and fit are corrected. The work done in the designing department makes mass-production possible.  

A muslin is quick and easy to make and fit because a muslin is cut from just the shell patterns (all supporting patterns are drafted from the shell patterns). The muslin is sewn with the longest stitch on the machine.  Hand or machine finishing is eliminated or replaced with pinning. A muslin can be written on, ripped, pieced, and pinned. Shira shows how she marked the darts on the muslin for her Bat Mitzvah dress.



In the above picture a front bodice, layered between tracing paper, is being cut from muslin. Care must be taken when cutting muslin, or any fabric, as this, with careful pattern drafting, and precise gauge sewing ensures that the fit is maintained throughout the construction of the garment.
Here are some of the reasons muslin tests are worth your effort:

1.       The only way to know if ta garment fits is to try it on. A muslin allows you to do this before you cut the fashion fabric.

2.       Testing in muslin helps you to finish your projects sooner. Using a muslin to correct your pattern eliminates the possibility of spending hours of misery, ripping and altering the finished garment.

3.       Fit and style corrections that would be impossible to make in the finished garment can be easily made in the muslin and then quickly transferred to the pattern.

4.       Making a muslin gives you an overall view of the problems involved in the designing of the garment. It allows you time to think through your solutions before beginning work on the garment.

5.       Running up a muslin makes you familiar with the garment’s construction, making the garment easier to sew.

6.       After you have completed your muslin test and pattern corrections you can cut and sew your garment without any fittings whatsoever, confident your finished garment will fit and look the way you designed it.

7.       Taking the time to test and correct your patterns enables you to produce clothing that is more professional because finished clothing looks more professional when it is cut and sewn with as few corrections as possible.

Link for Laurel's books on Amazon
P:215 884 7065, C:610 908 7222




Sunday, July 14, 2013

24 – HAIR

“Oh, Lawd, not another conversation about black Hair.” began Elizabeth Wellington’s  Mirror, Mirror column in the Inquirer Magazine section on March 01, 2013 

My answer then and now is:  

OK Elizabeth, I ‘m not going to talk about black hair. What I’m going to talk about is women’s and little girls’ hair. I’m white. My family produces little girls with straight hair. May sound good to women of color, but that’s not good to white women. Curls are a MUST! 


At age 6 my straight hair was braided. But by the time I was 9 my hair had to be curled. As is very evident from the picture on the right, curls didn't work well for me. When straight hair came in in the sixties I thought I had died and gone to heaven! People asked me how I got my hair so straight. Did I iron it? I said No, it just grows that way. Oh, they replied, obviously impressed. Finally I had the RIGHT hair. It was a wonderful feeling!
As a child I sat under a miserable contraction with wires that came down from overhead and that were attached to big clips that where clamped on my hair that was tightly curled up. I had two fears, electrocution and that if I were to bend my head even slightly the weight of this contraption on my head would cause my head to separate from my body. The glorious result?  Thanks to the need for curls I spent most of my childhood dealing with split ends.  And, just in case anyone is wondering, the perms never really worked. Right after the ordeal my hair frizzed, then over the next several weeks it gradually became straighter and straighter.  The split ends, though, were constant. 

My friends of color were undergoing some crazy procedure that was probably just as nasty. Their mothers were just as determined that they would not have nappy hair.  

So there we were, growing up with the constant reminder through these crazy hair rituals that we weren’t right. Needless to say the boys’ hair was always the way hair should be. They didn’t go through any of this. But we girls were wrong. We knew that because of the extreme effort our mothers made to correct the curl or lack of it in our hair.

NO MORE! I campaign for natural hair. Mother Nature gets it right! So why argue with her? I lead the battle for natural hair. Mine is cut about once a month and the rest of the time I wash and blow dry it and that’s it. I don’t color it either – because if I leave it alone it then matches my natural palette. 

I refuse to take up with all these stupid advertisements that try to convince me that if I just buy some coloring product or spend hours in the beauty chair that this will somehow make me more attractive to the world in general. The REAL attraction is that of Wall Street to my pocketbook.  

My advice to the women of the world?
Leave your hair alone!

Link for Laurel's books on Amazon
P:215 884 7065, C:610 908 7222


Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Drafting accurately is extremely important. Patterns drafted for manufacturing should be accurate to 1/32 of an inch. This accuracy also enables someone sewing at home to produce professional clothing. Drafting on the computer ensures accuracy to an even higher fraction. When drafting hands-on it is important to check one’s work, measure, and make sure that straight and cross-grain lines are parallel and at right-angles. 

In this post Shira is drafting a pant sloper. A sloper is a basic pattern from which other patterns are drafted. Once Shira has a pant sloper she will be able to draft many pant styles from her sloper without worrying  about fit.

As Shira drafts she is referring to the instructions in the Second Edition of Drafting & Fitting Pants and Skirts, the book I am currently editing and that I plan to put back on the market this fall.

Shira is tracing the underlying lengthwise grain line on the yellow tracing paper on which she is drafting her pant sloper. She is using a 4-foot metal straight edge, available at hardware stores. 
Shira first marked a lengthwise grain line down the center of the underlying grid paper. She then taped her front and back skirt sloper to the grid paper. She make sure that her skirt sloper’s side seam laid precisely over the lengthwise grain line before she laid the yellow tracing paper over her work.
Shira now adjusts the 4-foot metal straight edge before drafting the hip cross-grain line.  She is checking that the hip cross-grain line will be drafted at a perfect right-angle to the lengthwise straight grain line.

Next she marks the hip, crotch, knee and ankle cross-grain lines. She is drafting all of these cross-grain lines to her measurements, taken before the drafting began.

Shira checks that her cross-grain lines are squared (at right-angles) to the straight grain line by laying an L-square against the 4-foot straight edge. 

Shira finds her work is correct. It’s now time for a great big smile.
Happy Drafting!
Link for Laurel's books on Amazon
P:215 884 7065, C:610 908 7222