Emery Dress Sew-Along: Making a Muslin


Welcome to part four of our Emery Dress Sew-Along! Today we're going to learn the importance of sewing a muslin for your Emery Dress and why this is a critical step in the process. Get ready to be lectured by me a little bit, because this is a step I do not take lightly!


I cannot imagine that for some sewers this is considered an extra step or additional work, because to me, making a muslin is quite possibly the most important thing to do in garment sewing. In fact, I would wager that it is not only not an extra step, but rather a time saver! How is that possible you ask? Making a muslin is the ONLY way to figure out issues, finalize fit, and understand the shape of the garment in relation to your body before cutting into your precious fashion fabric.

I'm not going to beat around the bush with this at all and state it really bluntly and in the most clear and obvious way: YOU MUST MAKE A MUSLIN TO ENSURE GOOD FIT. Was that clear? I hear way too often that "the pattern didn't fit me right" or "the pattern was drafted wrong" or similar statements from people that did not make a muslin. Well no duh! No pattern will fit every body right out of the package. Have you ever taken all your measurements (shoulder to bust point, back of neck to waist, waist to hem, etc) and compared them to other people's measurements? They will be all over the place. There is no pattern that is exactly right for anyone. Some are very close, and might not require any fit changes, but none are perfect. Does the Emery Dress fit me perfectly? No. I am short-waisted and small in the shoulders, so those are adjustments I have to make for nearly every pattern I sew.

Other reasons to make a muslin: it's the first time you've sewn with a certain pattern company or the style of the garment is one you're not used to wearing on your body type. The first time I sew with any company's patterns, I always make a muslin. Each company has different body size charts, different amounts of ease built in, and different perspectives on what their "body type" is. For example, Sewaholic Patterns are designed with a pear shape body in mind. Likewise, when I've sewn with a pattern company for a while, like Colette Patterns, I know what changes are probably needed. For all Colette Patterns, I always have to lower my bust point on the dart by 2 inches. I guess I'm drooping...!

When you're working with a garment shape you're not used to wearing, that is another critical time to make a muslin. When I sewed the Laurel Dress from Colette Patterns, I was convinced that the shape would not work on me because I am fuller in the hips and ass department, and it is a shift dress, which never works on me. But my muslin taught me otherwise and showed me where little changes needed to be made to have a great fit, and now I've made like 100 Laurel Dresses and wear them all the time.

It's not a good idea to make assumptions. Not all full skirts are the same or will hit your body in the same way or place, just like not all shift dresses are the same. Not all bust darts are in the same place and many are drafted differently, especially in the indie pattern scene. So please for the love of god, make a muslin.


I often get asked if the entire garment needs to be made up in muslin, and the honest answer is no. Despite my rant above, I don't think that the entire garment needs to be made to understand the fit of the garment. For the Emery Dress, I think you need to make an entire bodice, both front and back, complete with all the darts and both sleeves. Sometimes you can get by with only making one sleeve, but rarely are we symmetrical and this will give you a chance to see how you can move in the bodice.

If you are making the collar, you could muslin that too if you like, but mostly muslin sewing is to understand fit, and the collar has nothing to do with fit. I also don't think it is necessary to sew the bodice lining, just as long as you understand that the neckline will be 5/8" lower all the way around when finished. Though, if you've never done my style of zipper insertion before and you want to give it a practice run, this is exactly what muslin sewing is for, so this could be your "dry run" at nailing the zipper insertion and lining before going to your fashion fabric.

For the skirt, I think it is a good idea to understand the fit and see if there is anything you want to change, so I recommend making the skirt up as well. If you're an experienced sewer, you might opt to change it and draft a less full skirt. I will not be showing how to redraft the skirt in the sew-along, but I will be showing you how to change the skirt to a pleated option if the gathers are too full around the waist for your personal taste. Pleats can be more flattering if you prefer a flat start to a full skirt at the waist seam.


I sew my muslins in actual muslin fabric, because it is cheap, and usually is a close representation of the fabric weight I am using in the finished project. I use my muslin as a guide for fit changes and like that I can write on it with sharpie and all my marks and changes are easy to see and read since the fabric is beige and plain without a print on it. I know others use whatever cheap cotton they have in their stash, and that's fine too, but I like a blank canvas that I can mark up clearly.

Most importantly, the fabric needs to be a close example of your finished fabric type so it represents your fit as closely as possible. I have smugly made garments up in a stretch woven and have been bummed with the looseness of the fit because of the stretch aspect of the fabric. But of course, my muslin didn't have stretch in it so it didn't fit the same at all.


It is important to take proper body measurements before cutting out or tracing off your pattern. On the envelope back are measurements for the body sizes 0–18, as well as finished garments. This will show you the amount of ease that is built into the garment. You will notice something if you look at the waist and bust measurements: I include more ease into the waist than in the bust. Let's talk honestly for a second; your bust will shift a little during that time of the month, but your waist is likely to shift a lot from day to day. I do not like feeling uncomfortable in my dresses and like to do things like take a deep breath or eat a pizza! So know this when going into your size selection.

If you want to blend sizes in the waist for less ease in the waist than I have built in, that is a very easy fix. Simply draw a line from the size you're making in the bust to a smaller size in the waist, after your bust dart. You would want to then make the smaller skirt size to have the fullness of the skirt equal the new waist size, but if you don't, it's not a huge deal. It simply means your skirt will be a bit fuller.

Take your measurements in your "real" bra and undies and don't cheat, as that will do you no good. Lying about your body numbers will result in a garment that doesn't fit, so don't do it!

So, are you ready to sew up a muslin? You have all weekend until our next post coming up on Monday, where Haley will join us to talk about full bust adjustments, followed with posts on small bust adjustments, and large and small shoulder adjustments. If you have any questions about this step, let me know in the comments below!

Happy muslin sewing!!!

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