Sunday, 3 April 2016

Make More Muslins! Megan the Second (or Should it be Third?) in Liberty Needlecord

Hello there!

I've finally plucked up the courage to cut into this lovely Liberty needlecord that I bought on a trip to Goldhawk Road approximately a year ago for £12 or £14 a metre . I have a couple more Liberty fabrics from Goldhawk Road and Simply Fabrics in Brixton that are still langishing away until I can perfect the fit on the pattern they're destined for enough to dare to cut into them.
In the spirit of trying not to waste effort creating any more clothes that I can't wear due to fitting issues, I decided to correct my mistakes that I made on my previous Megan dress (which I ended up having to give away to a slimmer friend). Funnily enough this dress has made a resurgence on the internet recently thanks to a post from So Zo... about Spring sewing plans- thanks for the mention Zoe, and congratulations!

This time I cut a size up and did an FBA on top of that, but I can't remember how much by as I did it simultaneously with my 1970s Butterick dress. I also decided to do a muslin which I think turned out pretty wearable – the only adjustment I made was to make darts at the back neckline to eliminate some gaping. As these darts ended up meeting with the empire line darts I decided to see if I could convert this into a princess seam for the final version. I regret not making a muslin of this change before diving straight in as, it turned out that I'd forgotten to add seam allowances as it wasn't in the instructions in the Colette Sewing Handbook in their alterations section, which I definitely think should feature this information more prominently, especially as it's aimed at beginners!

So, foolishly I went ahead and painstakingly cut the new princess seamed back bodice pieces out of my fashion fabric, aiming for a perfect pattern match, and obviously they turned out way too small and with quite a lot of gathering as I eased the seams together. I had to leave the dress and sulk for a few days before I managed to work out how to recut the back pieces with seam allowance with the scraps of fashion fabric I had left, but had to abandon all thought of pattern matching. Even though the second attempt fit, there is a still a bit of gathering along the seam which, although not too noticeable, isn't really ideal. I was a bit scared of trying to steam the gathers out too aggressively too, as I was trying not to crush the fabric's pile. Better than back neckline gaping I guess, but I wish I'd just kept the darts as per my muslin!

Anyway, so that was a lesson learnt the hard way. I don't have any pattern drafting experience, so I'm sure someone who knew what they were doing could have handled that much more effectively. Perhaps the reason why most princess seams curve into the armsyce is to distribute the ease more evenly to eliminate any gathering? Anyway, it would take a sharper mind than mine to work out the most elegant thing to do!

Overall it doesn't look too bad, but after wearing the dress for a few days I still don't think it's quite right for my shape. From the front it looks fine, but from the side it isn't very flattering on my figure. I think perhaps I needed to lengthen the bodice a bit more too, as the dart tucks pucker around the bust apex which looks a little clumsy and, well, makes my bust look a bit droopy! I think I'll have to unpick the tucks a little so that the pleat opens out lower down. These tucks have ended up placed on the underside of my bust rather than sitting flat on the ribcage as I think was intended, but with my particular body shape there aren't really any flat plains to work with. I also wonder if I should have altered the shaping of the skirt pieces and dropped the waist as it flares to the hips much higher up than on my actual figure, so my waist is lost but the dress still manages to cling to my wider parts.

I'll still wear this dress as again I love the pairing of fabric and pattern, and at least it's more comfortable than the previous iteration, but perhaps this will be the last Megan while I explore other patterns more suited to my shape. I'm a bit disappointed as it was my favourite pattern in the book, but I still haven't made a Lilou for myself yet so perhaps I'll find a winner there as the fit and flare shape tends to work for me.

 As I mentioned in my previous post on the Margot PJ bottoms, I've been reading along as The DIY Fox works through this book and, as well as picking up a couple of tips, I've also realised that we share some of the same issues in terms of fit which are probably down to us having similar figures. I think I've been blind to some of these issues when making up these patterns for the first time simply because I liked the patterns and styling so much. With what I know now I realise all of them will need substantial tweaking to fit me and my particular quirks, and some of them perhaps aren't worth that much work when there are other lovely patterns out there to be made!

I am pleased however that I've somewhat reined in my impatience and got into the habit of making muslins as an essential part of the dressmaking process. While in this case I could definitely have benefitted from making another muslin when I decided to make another change to the bck bodice, another big thing I learnt was to make sure to wear the first muslin a bit more before cutting into the fabric for the final dress. I think if I'd waiting to cut the Liberty Megan after a day of wearing this muslin version I'd have realised a change needed to be made to the dart tucks and waist length, which is an insight you don't get from a quick try-on and check in the mirror, as it comes up when moving around and sitting.

So, definitely more muslins in the pipeline for me in this year of working towards a better fit (and many hanging around that haven't made it to the blog until the final version is ready to be revealed). How about you? How do you feel about making up a muslin, or toile?

NorseOtter xx


  1. When I'm drafting princess seams I use a 1 cm (3/8") seam allowance. I find that if I use 15mm (5/8") then I have to ease the bigger curve into the smaller one. Also I use 1 cm on collars and necklines too because I find it makes them easier to match up. Your dress is lovely!

    1. Thanks Lynne, that's a handy tip, I can see how that'd give more control over the curve. Will definitely use that in future! By the way I've been loving your collar drafting adventures x

  2. I think you might be being a little hard on yourself regarding the flattering nature of these beautiful dresses. Obviously real life is different, but from your photos they both look a great shape and honestly lovely on you. The front is nipped in quite high, but surely that's the style; the back waist looks to hit in the right spot? I have this blue Liberty fabric, too! Still waiting to use it, though. I'm just starting to make McCall's 7116 view c, which is similarly high waisted. I never toile, being both too impatient and too short of time, but I know it would help as I certainly have fitting issues. I just try to predict them by tissue fitting and pattern tweaking - mixed results! Jen

    1. Thank you! Ooh, just looked up your next project and it's gorgeous! Hope it goes really well. I haven't tried tissue fitting as I always trace my patterns to baking paper, so not sure it would have quite the same effect, and I'm trying to embrace making muslins as part of the process (it's certainly a trial at times!).

  3. I really like your final version of this dress, it looks lovely. I really like the fabric and it looks like a nice fit on the back neck after all that painstaking effort. It actually does look like a good fit overall.

    I hate doing a muslin, who wants to spend all that time making things to never be worn? You just want to get on and make something nice, but it does make all the difference. I have given up with trying to make wearable ones, they never end up wearable! I just buy cheap undyed fabric now and hack into that instead. I still find after making a muslin, then making adjustments I still find things I could change again but I think thats part of the process.

    FYI, for my back adjustments I just fold the pattern piece in at the neck and taper it to the waist, kind of like putting in a dart but I do it on the pattern piece so just done end up cutting that extra fabric and there is no extra sewing.

    1. Thanks Helen! Totally agree about how frustrating but essential muslins are, I've certainly learnt the hard way too many times! Thanks for the tweaking tip too, it's an adjustment I realise now that I've probably needed on most of my dresses so far. I've been really enjoying your makes from the book by the way!