Auxiliary Reference Information | Test Garment Creation | 4. Fabric Preperation

As we don’t usually intend to wear the muslin test garment I don’t launder this fabric. I like it crisp to work with and washing it can remove the sizing used which helps with stability and washing would take this feature away, although I do worry about any Chemical reagent topical finishes that are in our fabric these days so I am always looking at other options.

To get the fabric ready for cutting follow these steps;

Prepare the muslin by folding it in half selvage to selvage lengthwise matching the selvage as perfectly as possible in line with the horizontal grain of the fabric. As you create the fold you will be able to see if there are any ripples which may mean that the selvages are not lined up properly.

  • Pin down the selvage to join the two sides together.

  • Iron the muslin (I place it short side along my ironing board and keep pinning and shifting the fabric up as I iron it) and I do press down the fold when doing this for muslin tests just to get the fabric as flat as possible or just in case a Flexible Pattern piece is to be placed and cut on the fold (which will later open out to give you a mirror image piece say for the front of a dress where you did not want a seam in the design).

  • Lay the ironed and pinned fabric on your cutting area, if you don’t have a cutting area use the floor (but don’t cut into your carpet or use a rotary cutter in that case). It doesn’t matter which side the fold is on as we are not going to use the fold.

  • Weigh the fabric down with fabric weights (otherwise use anything to hand such as staplers or scissors, paper weights etc).

Creating the Fabric Pattern Pieces

As the fabric is prepared and ready to cut out and we have our pattern pieces ready then we can start to layout the pattern pieces.

Manufactured patterns usually have a pattern layout diagram where they indicate a visual layout for all of the pattern pieces on the fabric which does help to avoid wastage. However as you have created your pattern pieces you do not have a layout diagram to follow so you will need to assess this for yourself. If you can fit all of the pattern pieces on your fabric on your cutting area you can play around with them like a jigsaw puzzle and see where you would like to position them. When you do this you should be aware of 3 things;

  • During construction you won’t be sewing the Centre Back seam because we are going to leave this open for access. Therefore if you would like an extra width seam allowance to give you more fabric to hold onto at the Centre Back then consider this now. I am happy using a 1” seam allowance for the Centre Back seams.

  • You will need to allow space around each pattern piece for an element of seam allowance. For a first fitting I would allow a good 1” or more around each piece unless you have an area of concern and want to increase it, with a very small body you may wish to decrease this. You are only eyeballing this and not measuring it so if you want to sneak in that one piece somewhere and use a smaller seam allowance then you could do this but you risk having to add in fabric if you need to extend the fit at that position. To be honest after taking all of the measurements on the Base Template then you should be ok but I would not push it smaller than ½”. If I have to redo the test garment for the Base Template and I am happy that I don’t need 1” then I won’t waste fabric I will cut ½” instead, however still leaving 1” at the Centre Back seam to assist with closure. With a 1” allowance around each pattern piece you need to be allowing over 2 inches between each piece so they can share the space.

  • You need to be placing patterns down with the grainlines running parallel to the selvage edge so make sure that the orientation of the piece is going the right way.

It is important to check the grainline and then secure the pattern piece onto the fabric by pinning. I would always pin, I would not use weights for this because I don’t want the pattern piece to move after all of the measuring.

To align a pattern piece with the Grainline of the pattern in line with the grain of the fabric, measure from the Grainline on the pattern piece to either the selvage edge of the fabric or the pressed fold note this measurement.

Pin the pattern piece to the fabric at the Grainline to secure it at this point.

At the other end on the pattern piece, measure the same distance from the edge of the fabric to the Pattern Grainline, pivot the pattern piece until it lines up with the measurement.

Pin the pattern to the fabric on the Grainline to secure it.

If the pattern piece is a long piece then you may have to do this at appropriate intervals down the length of it on the Grainline.

Then check that the pattern is lying flat and add in a few more pins to secure the rest of the pattern piece down, 4 or 5 pins around the edge should do it.

Allowing approximately 1” for a seam allowance around each pattern i.e. 2” approximately in total between each pattern piece.

Then start to pin out the second piece along the Grainline as before.

This next photo shows a pattern piece being measured from the other side of the fabric.

Keep laying out all of the pattern pieces until they are all pinned, like my photo here you may have to move pieces around a little until you are happy with the layout.

I also spun one pattern piece upside down to fit it all on and get best use of fabric, and this is fine to do as long as the fabric used is a balanced weave with not nap like this muslin. Before cutting out the pieces stand back and have a look at the choices made, this will be the last chance you have to change your mind, ensure you have all the pieces pinned along the Grainline and that you have enough fabric between each piece.

In this photo I am acknowledging areas on the pattern that I know may need attention during fitting (pattern weights help identify the areas, although at a later stage you may decide to mark the pieces. I may need to consider a larger seam allowance in these areas if I am not sure that I will have enough fabric.

Roughly cut out the pieces with either your scissors or rotary cutter. Yes you did read that correctly! We don’t need to measure, just quickly but carefully cut them out.

In this photo all pieces have been roughly cut out.

Once cut out you could trim them down to ensure that all sides are approximately 1” or if this is for a second or subsequent fitting smaller if you prefer. Obviously you cut out more carefully first time, but I prefer to do it this way, it takes no time at all to quickly cut around each piece then trim them down a little, I like to think that doing it this ways gives me two passes to get it right for each piece. Any fabric pieces can be placed into the offcuts bin for later use. Some can be cut up for quilting if big enough, or applique or go off to school for art work, nothing gets waisted at this stage. Do not remove the paper pattern pieces at this stage.

Transferring Pattern Markings to Fabric

Each pattern piece has markings that we need to transfer onto the fabric such as the outline so that we know where to sew (as we don’t have a seam allowance to work back from). I tend to transfer the pattern markings for a test garment in a different way to when making up the actual garment with the fashion fabric. I use Wax Tracing and Machine Thread Tracing for a test garment and either hand thread tracing or a seam allowance for fashion fabric (preparing fashion fabric for sewing is covered in Module 8 - Creating a Garment - 1. Introduction).

Wax Tracing

​​Firstly we are going to transfer the markings from the pattern piece onto the fabric using wax paper.

Place a large wax paper sheet onto a table top.


Place the fabric with the pattern still pinned in place directly onto the wax paper with the pattern piece face up, and ensure that the fabric is flat.

With the tracing wheel trace all of the lines including the outline and grainlines and dart lines by running the wheel down each line, I tend to start each line ½” as a run up to the line and finish around ½” after the line.

Have a look and make sure that all lines have transferred onto the fabric below.You need to trace the other piece of fabric as you have 2 pinned to the pattern piece. To do this you will need to remove the pattern but as you remove a pin off the pattern replace it underneath by repining the fabric back together.​​

Do this until the pattern piece is removed but the fabric pieces are still joined together. ​

Place the fabric back on the wax paper with the traced out lines facing upwards.Simply retrace all of the lines again to get the wax marks onto the other fabric piece underneath.

Check all the markings have been traced onto both pieces prior to removing the pins and separating the fabric pieces.​​

These pattern pieces can start to look very similar so keeping them labelled will help. Write the name of the pattern piece on each fabric layer just to remind you what they are e.g. Upper Front Side and label the sides for each piece, if it helps to add in a right or left label then do that also. It is ok to write on the fabric as you are not making a garment, the more information you place on them the easier the process is going to be. I use a pen to do this.

You will need to ensure that Darts are traced also on any pattern piece that requires it.

Repeat the Wax Tracing for each pattern piece until they are all traced out.

Thread Tracing

Review Auxiliary Reference Information - Fabric - Different Stitch Types to study Thread Tracing.

Thread Tracing is the process of sewing along the sewing line either by hand or by machine on fabric pieces that don’t have a predetermined seam allowance.

This step although not essential will really save you lots of time when you come to sew up the pieces. Having worked both ways I really do think that it is worth the effort because it helps with accuracy as you will be able to feel the sewn lines underneath when you are joining seams together and this really does save time and gets a better finish. I actually enjoy it so I don’t really mind.

Thread Tracing Machine Sewn

When making a Test Garment it is recommended to Wax Trace to transfer the pattern marks to the fabric first, you can then ensure you have your horizontal and vertical guides in place ready for fittings and your Grainlines showing.

Once the pattern markings are on the fabric and the pattern is removed then you can Thread Trace onto the markings to ensure that they are more permanent and clear. The great advantage to doing this is that it also helps when lining up seams. It’s amazing how much quicker you can line up a seam when you can feel the seam line on both sides of the fabric. Once the seams are sewn later it is also a great indicator of how accurate your sewing was because you will be expecting both lines of thread to line up correctly, if you are out by 1/16” on each seam you are adding too much to your test garment and need to sew more accurately, but you always have the chance to unpick and resew seams until you are accurate. My mum and I always thought that taking the time to unpick whether you are a knitter, do crochet, embroiderer or weaver moves a person from being a beginner or intermediate to being a master of the craft. Yes I have spent many an hour unpicking!


So we have established that by sewing along the sewing line you are defining it especially if you use a different coloured thread to the muslin, I usually use black for the reel and use up any bobbins with left over thread from other projects, another great way to use up your scraps of thread.

So with your machine threaded and stitch length set to around 3.5mm as we don’t need small stitches with your contrasting thread sew along the lines for every wax marked line for example Bust, Hip Bone etc., all darts and the Grainline on every pattern piece.

As with the Wax Tracing I start around ½” prior to the beginning of the line and sew past it at the end by around ½”.

A little tip after sewing a line is to not drag the fabric out of the machine and cut the thread but to pull it out just a little way to loosen the thread then turn the fabric around to line up the needle for the next line then carry on sewing, this is going to create less thread waste.

It creates a little loop to allow you to straighten out any suggestion of a gather after sewing and saves a little thread in the process.

This photo shows a full Thread Traced piece, notice that I have not Thread Traced the Grainline, I don’t think this is necessary the wax tracing is enough of a guideline for me for fitting purposes.

And here is the back view.

Repeat the process until all pieces are Thread Traced.

The layout shows how the pieces are going to be sewn together, here is a closer look at one half from Centre Back to Centre Front.

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