15 tips for fitting a muslin

Since many of you are starting to sew more for yourselves, I know you’re also making more muslins so you can adjust the fit of each pattern for your own body. Here are my top 15 tips to help you along!


  1. Use cheap, somewhat stiff muslin. No need to splurge on the quilt quality at the fabric store. It’s easier to see fit with a muslin if the fabric isn’t too drapey and soft. Look for something that’s a bit stiff, and don’t pre-wash your fabric. I buy my muslin by the bolt at Steinlauf and Stoller here in New York. It’s very inexpensive and it’s nothing you’d want to wear in real life.
  2. Select the proper size based on your shoulders and high bust. The full bust and all the other parts of the pattern can be adjusted much more easily than the shoulders and high bust, so focus on the shoulders and high bust to get the right size and you’ll spend much less time fiddling with the fit. See this post for additional information.
  3. Once you’ve traced or cut out your paper pattern, draw in all the pattern’s seam lines using a 6″ ruler.
  4. If you already know you need to do a full-bust adjustment (FBA) or make other changes to the pattern, make that  change before you cut out your muslin. If you aren’t sure, check the measurement charts to help you get a sense for how the pattern differs from your body. See this post for additional information.
  5. If you know you’ll need extra room in one area (the waistline, for example), leave extra seam allowances in that area so you can easily let out the muslin. Here’s a post to help you with blending between sizes if you already know you’ll need extra room in places.
  6. Skip facings and linings and simply fold under the seam allowances at necklines and collars. This will make it easier to check and alter the neckline and will also save you time and effort when making the muslin.
  7. Use carbon paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the seamlines from the paper pattern to the right side of your muslin. That way you can easily see where the original seam lines were when you make changes to the muslin.
  8. Baste together all the major pattern pieces in muslin and press the seam allowances as you would with the full garment. With a well-pressed muslin it will be much easier to see the fit.
  9. Wear well-fitting undergarments. It’s preferable to wear the same underpinnings you’ll be wearing when you wear the finished garment.
  10. Ask someone to take a photo of you from all sides. Be sure you have good lighting. (Natural daylight is best). You can often see problems more easily in a photo, and you might notice things you wouldn’t otherwise see in a mirror. I find that photos help me to take a very different look at a garment, so I make a regular practice of this when I’m working with fit.
  11. Look at every aspect of the garment, starting at the shoulders and working your way down. Look for drag lines (folds) in the fabric, which will often point to the area that needs adjusting. Remember to check the hem length, too!
  12. If you’re sewing for yourself, it’s helpful to work with a friend who sews. It’s easier to fit another body rather than your own. If you’re working alone, make adjustments gradually and try on the garment after each change.
  13. Get yourself a copy of the book Fit for Real People, which covers fit in a very understandable and comprehensive manner. This is such a useful reference tool, and you’ll refer to it again and again if you sew for yourself or for someone else.
  14. Remember that ease is your friend! Every garment should have some room for movement built in, and some garments have additional design ease. Refer to this post for more information on ease.
  15. Once you’ve made alterations to the muslin, transfer your changes back to the pattern. Refer to the original carboned seam lines to help you make the changes to the paper pattern. If the changes are substantial, you may want to take apart the muslin and make a new pattern, tracing the pressed muslin pieces onto a new piece of paper.

I hope these tips help!


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  1. Kari

    How helpful–thank you!

  2. Sarvi

    Just a quick note for anybody worrying about how much work it will be — it’s really not as much time as you might think. You’re basting, not sewing with tiny stitches. Even a long side seam just zips by. You’re not doing all the little fiddly bits like interfacing stress points or hand stitching a collar. And you’re not starting from scratch. The pattern instructions give tips on how much of an FBA to make for your cup size (for example).

    And remember — you could do a quickie muslin — or you could do a whole dress with a disappointing fit. Even in less than precious fabric, it’s pretty annoying to waste work that way.

    1. Yes, thank you for mentioning this, Sarvi! Making a muslin may seem like a hassle but it can save you so much time and frustration in the long run. It’s well worth it!

  3. Jenny

    Plus, once you put the time in for your muslin, and perfect your pattern, not only are you happier with your results, but it is easier to reuse the pattern successfully. 🙂

  4. Thank you!! I am very new to self sewing and have been using my full bust, now I know why the shoulders were too big!

    And I am with Sarvi, it doesn’t take that long and is worth it!

  5. Thank you Liesl, you are an absolute brick!

    I muddles through a muslin for a Lisette dress a few years back, and got the best results!
    I cannot wait to try again with your guidance.

    PS For AUS residents, I buy calico from Spotlight to make my muslins, you can pick up a roll when they have their sales.

  6. Maili

    Liesl, what is the pattern for which this muslin is made? I like it!

    1. This is the Cinema Dress! Sew-along starts next week–join us!

  7. Maili

    Liesl: Ooh, just looked at it–I’m loving the lines and flow of that dress. I think it’ll be next up in the hopper. Your patterns are always so well-written, clearly instructed, with extremely flattering results. Thanks so much!

  8. Nadia Block

    I make prom dresses and this is the only way I work as each dress is tailor made for each lady to her body. Better than standard shop bought dresses.

  9. Salome

    I really like your post! Everytime I am about to start with a more complex project, a muslin is a must for me! Always love the results!
    May I ask where to buy your dress form? It is gorgeous!

  10. Luz Marina

    Hola buen dia, soy venezolana, mi nombre es Luz Marina, no tenemos acceso a dolares, estamos pasando por una crisis terrible, me gustaria me dijera si puedo bajar gratis ese patron del vestido de cine que es muy lindo y muy fresco, y quiero hacerlo, mi talla es 14, gracias,

    1. Luz, el patrón del vistido de cine no es gratis. Puede comprarlo en este pagina web: http://oliverands.com/liesl-and-co-patterns/OLV-LC010CI-D.html. Si tiene una tarjeta de credit o debit, puede usarlo. La compania de su tarjeta hace el cambio a dollars para usted.

  11. Rachel

    I was wondering if a pattern does not include a measurement for shoulders or high bust, should I still try to choose based on my high bust?

    If my high bust is 34 and bust is 36, and let’s say a pattern’s size small’s bust is 34 and size medium’s is 36, should I choose the bust size based on my high bust and make a S or full bust and make a M?

    Thank you for all of these wonderful tips! I am currently in the process of making my muslin for a dress with princess seams from the shoulder seams down to the hem as we speak! I’m wondering if my muslin fabric is too drapey. I will take your recommendation and get stiffer muslin next time!

  12. Dear Liesl,
    I am trying to figure out what size of the Cinema dress pattern to get. Where can I find the high bust measurement? I can’t see it anywhere in the size chart? Where should I look? Please advise.

    1. Lucy, you don’t need the high bust measurement of the pattern to determine your size. You only need to compare your own high bust to your full bust. Here is a full explanation for you: https://oliverands.com/community/blog/2013/11/finding-your-correct-pattern-size.html

      I hope that helps!

  13. Elaine Battuello

    Wouldn’t it work to use the muslin itself as the pattern, after the fitting has been done.

  14. SShaw

    I have never made a muslin before but my body has changed since the last time I sewed for myself and I haven’t quite acclimated myself to it so I plan to give a muslin a try this time around in hopes of achieving a good fit. Thanks for this post- I am bookmarking it and will use it as a reference.

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