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Courage and a muslin

I've been wanting to sew clothes for myself for some time now. When I first started sewing, that's what I made - a-line skirts, dresses, jumpers. I wasn't afraid of cutting fabric one bit. I was also a teenager with a very different body than I have now, if you catch my drift. In the past few years, I've tried a few items with so-so results and, as such, have been hesitant to jump back in. I get so frustrated when I spend oodles of time and money on lovely fabric and not have it work out. So, I stick with quilts and accessories because in my mind they are fool proof most of the time.

Last week, while the house was upside down, I sewed Jane's costume and some other skirts for the school play. I don't have any photos to share yet - I finished *just* before we had to walk out the door for the first dress rehearsal. The costumes were simple pieces - elastic waist skirt, peasant blouse, belt - but I found myself immensely satisfied putting clothing together instead of a pillow or such.  It made me rethink my adversion to sewing clothing for myself. What I am waiting for? It's just fabric and thread, both of which are plentiful around here. Why am I so scared to make mistakes? I'm often telling the girls to just try something, that they will learn from their errors. Sheesh, I bet I would, too.

Hello, Erin? Would you listen to yourself? Gather some courage and get sewing.

I've had the Evening Empire Dress pattern for a long time now. I wanted to make it last summer and chickened out because of all I said above and because I realized once it arrived here, that it's not going to be the most flattering dress on me.  Yesterday it dawned on of the best parts about sewing for yourself is that you can take something and make it work for you. I thought about the dresses in my closet that fit me well and that I like to wear. I knew that I would have to lengthen the bodice on this dress to flatter me. My torso is longer than average and also the thinnest part of my body - I had to emphasize it in some way while keeping the fullness in the skirt to accommodate my hips.

Melissa convinced me to make a muslin. So I did. (And this is the part where I become brave and actually post a picture of it on me.)

I took some quick measurements with my strapless bra on and went with the size large. I took the pattern pieces and drafted a band under the bust to lengthen the bodice.  I sewed it all up, including the seam where the zipper will go in order to save time. And then I tried it on. I think it will work. I'm going to add an extra 5/8" to the pattern piece so that the seam line will be where the raw edge of the band is now. I may have to adjust the bust seams and/or let out the sides a tiny bit - there's plenty of room to do that with a 5/8" seam allowance.  I will add straps to the dress, too, although I may make them thinner than the pattern calls for.

The fabric is going in the wash today and, with any luck, I'll be sewing this up over the weekend. I will show and tell, regardless of the outcome. I want to sew for myself and figuring out what works and what doesn't is the only way I am going to get better at this.  If I really screw up, I figure the girls will get some lovely voile skirts during Kids Clothing Week Challenge. And if I manage to make this work, well then I have a dress.

Either way it's going to be just fine.



erin! look at your tight midriff! go girl! your muslin fits like a dream!
I also have a long waist- most patterns don't fit me properly w/o adjustment. I'm tickled for you!


ohhh good for you! i'm definitely scared of sewing for myself. i feel like it's harder to make adult clothes look "not homemade," though i have no qualms with sewing clothes for my kids (they look "boutique-y!"). but if i really look at some of my store-bought skirts, they're nothing special. i need to bite the bullet and find courage, like you are!


Oooo, I have the same problems (long torso and unwillingness to screw up my own clothing and waste fabric), and only sew clothes for my kids. I will be watching to see how this goes for you and then maybe borrow some of your techniques to make some clothes of my own! Good luck. Can't wait to see the dress (love that pattern).


Can't wait to see your results. You might just give the rest of us fence sitters courage. I also have a problem cutting into fabric - even for quilts and such. I'm always afraid I'll ruin it!

jen j-m



this is so inspiring to me. i have a lot of the same issues about sewing clothes for myself (and off-the-rack or off-the-pattern clothes don't usually fit)... but you are right. it's fabric. i have a lot of it. :) i need to embrace muslin-making and make it work for me.


How awesome! I can't wait to see how it turns out. I just stocked up on some muslin so I can work on AM's Socialite Dress and adjust the Evening Empire Dress. I had made one last year, but I didn't like how it turned it. It's now been scrapped into the Flirting the Issue Skirt. Good luck!!!


This looks terrific! It's time for some sewing for yourself, good for you!

Sarah Jackson

You're going to look fabulous! I really want to make this dress too, but I'm concerned about it not working for my body. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

melissa f.


have you seen melissa's short version?

rachel | buttons magee

Good for you! I bet it is going to look great.

Amy Hodge

Awesome that you are making this. I think it's looking great! One idea for you -- I recently made a dress with a band below the bust (see It was part of the original pattern, though I did have to alter it quite a bit. Anyhow, the band was done ON THE BIAS. Just a thought -- might make your dress a bit more comfortable to wear (assuming you have enough fabric to do that). Can't wait to see it when it's done!


I have seen that pattern somewhere & absolutely fell in love with it! ooh .... I will live vicariously through you in your making & wearing of that gorgeous dress! Have no doubts it is going to come out perfect!


Good for you! I have the same qualms about sewing clothes for myself now. I made nearly everything I wore, years ago, but haven't had great results lately. You're going to inspire a lot of us...and just in time for summer dresses!

Amber  Carrillo

Looks great - I started on that same dress (without the muslin - big mistake) and now it's sitting in the drawer waiting for me to fix it....Can't wait to see yours!


Oh I know what you mean on the wasting fabric and time front. I have pretty much abandoned sewing for myself. Too many items unworn. But that muslin is looking very promising!


Ohh. I have a long torso too. Bathing suits are hardest to buy.

Have you ever ready ? I have learned so so much about sewing garments from her. I got a dress form for Christmas so I almost have the courage between the two.

And oh my goodness what is that firey ball in the sky!?! I don't even recognize it!

krista - Poppyprint

I feel the same about sewing clothes for myself - I look forward to your big reveal and also to your advice about making the pattern work for your measurements. I've had the school house tunic pattern for a year as well and not done anything about it!


Good for you! I'm wanting to branch out into making clothes for me, but am also scared of wasting fabric. I'm short waisted and have a large bust so things can look super frumpy and weird if they don't hang correctly. I'm looking forward to seeing how your dress turns out!

Kris Bair

Awesome! I too am just starting to experiment with sewing clothes for myself - and realized after I made the first top how long waisted i am (which would explain why the top seems a little Great job and can't wait to see the finished project!


Thank you SO much for this post. One of my goals this year is to also make some clothing for myself and I am just so chicken to even start.
I love how the words we tell our children are actually the ones we need to hear ourself.

cheering you on in this journey!


ooohhhh, i can't wait to see! Good luck! I know it will turn out great!


I love that you are taking on this dress. I started my muslin last summer but never finished it (didn't know how to put in the zipper), but I am determined to finish it soon then sew myself a dress. I like the idea of the band. I'm not sure if my torso is long, but I'm a little afraid of the high gathered skirt looking maternity-ish. I think the band would prevent that look. Can't wait to see your finished dress.

I want to sew more for myself too. I'm fed up with store bought clothes at the moment - they are just so cheap or too expensive for what you get. I'm determined to improve my wardrobe though sewing.

And you look great of course!


What a great idea! I have yet to sew myself seems like there are always more pressing projects to be tended to.


you are my hero.


You're so so brave!! I worked on this dress at the workshop with AMH(amazing!). I only used the bodice of the dress and then used the wrap skirt panels from Heather Ross' book. I have never finished it...... so sad. It fits great....and I think a band below the bust is brilliant...would have made mine better. I should fix it up but......
xo Raven


I do the same thing ... I just might start a few skirt and top patterns. Off to buy muslin! Thanks for the push.


I'm right there with you. I so much want to make my own clothes since I can't seem to find anything in the stores! I bought a pattern and two fabrics to make it out of. Now, all I need are time and the courage to cut into it. I might just have to try muslin. It would definitely make me more comfortable in the learning process!


I have that pattern and have been chicken too - I am short and rounder than I'd like, so I have a whole set of fitting issues, too. Your muslin looks like a great fit!


Hurray for you! I really appreciate your candor and your courage. :-)

Diane (Vruwink) Carlson

Wow - YOU are worried about your shape??? You look fantastic from what you can tell!!! I used to sew a ton, but haven't for years, going to have to get into it again!!! Your dress has a very unusual dart!!! If I were you I might just add a tch to the boob area - so there aren't lines between your boobs - and the straps will hold it up well) - anyway, just a thought! And good for you - to tough it out and just give it a try!!! Good luck! (love your blog - btw!!!)

Hugs from Michigan - Diane


yah! go for it... muslins are definitely a good idea... and it's so satisfying when you sew yourself something you love! and the only way to get good at it is to practise!! (and not be afraid of some failures! goodness even the most talented clothesmakers have failures!!)


Erin,I'm really enjoying your blog which I learned about through I'd like to mention something fun I do that all of you might enjoy. I buy resale cloths from a very inexpensive thrift store near by and then modify. For instance I got a black booooring jacket and I slit the sleves and added in (think Elizabethan sleves) home died fabric that I'd quilted. Also bound the neck and front of that one. Modifying existing clothing in fun ways is a total blast (and it only cost $4 or so to start out so how far wrong can you go?)


I will be watching for updates eagerly - and good for you, you looked great - that is quite a fit tummy, nothing to be shy about.


Love it. I might have to make that dress for is soo great.


I am impressed. Can't wait to see it! BTW, you look great.


so incredibly true! i've had this pattern too for a long time- even the fabric, but just think it will look not so cute on me and am afraid of wrecking it all. when i sew for my girls they always look cute and it's just less frustrating. i'm going to follow your lead. thanks for your bravery in showing pics and the outcome! best of luck!

Rachel at Stitched in Color

Good for you, Erin! I know it can be a funny mental block, but you're so right that making the mistake(s) won't really be so bad. I am planning on making a dress from a pattern I draft myself with the help of a book. And although I think I'm half crazy, I'm darn sure I'll learn a lot!


I've had similar fears about sewing for myself. I've changed a lot since home ec class!

You've inspired me to try making a muslin with an old sheet I have on hand. You will not find me being as brave as you were though. I wouldn't want to frighten anyone!



Lana D

oh yay! I am not the only one...good girl for braving it! I like it so far!


I am with you. Personally I think it will look grand on you. It is hard for me to invest in either the fabric or yarn plus my time when I am unsure of getting a finished product that a) fits and b) I like. Good luck.

Secret Admirer

I found that doing a clothkit skirt was a great way to dip my toes in first feel comfortable with the process before diving right in. Fingers crossed, I am sure it is going to look made for you!


startling sometimes, isn't it, the parental doublespeak? i am always astonished to find myself taking my own advice, detoured through my children.

that said, seems to me you are the very model of courage. tally ho, then...


I learned a while ago that I really only like sewing garments. But mostly I make stuff for my kids. Partly because they are smaller, and cuter, and use less fabric, and ... I'm afraid. I don't really know how to alter patterns and I would have to alter anything I made for myself unless I bought ugly plus-size patterns. Patterns like Built by Wendy or the more popular designers are not in my size. Skirts are easy and I've altered or designed my own several times. But I would love to get a top to work.

I am excited about your dress. I have not worn a dress in 9 years because of nursing! LOL!


I love the Evening Empire dress but wish I had made a muslin too. I made the XS and the top is still too big. I've been meaning to add straps to make it wearable. Lesson Learned! Good luck with your dress. :)


good for you for going for it! i am so not a risk taker (in any area of my life!), so i feel like i can relate with your sewing conundrum. but i do find that when i do take a sewing risk, it usually turns out pretty good. why don't i learn that it's worth the risk? i can't wait to see your results!

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