trial run, mock up, prototype, muslin, toile

yay, my patterns are acceptable according to US Postal Service! They are know for their style, I’m sure.

Accepted at USPS Origin Sort Facility

April 18, 2013, 10:52 pm


Before sewing a good fitting pattern it is a good idea to make a mock-up. Mock-ups are like a quick draft in fabric. A prototype. You make it in cheap cloth and you use it to check fit.

In sewing they are called Toile or Muslin. Ah, names that sing the hope of future elegance loudly!

I found a fantastic tutorial about them, on Frabjous Couture:

With lots of explanations and reasons why you do things a certain way (I live for understanding things!)

NB to me:

  • take a royal seam allowance (if you’re going to fit the mock-up to your body) 5 cm is no luxury!
  • learn early the habit to let length wise grain run from head to toe in everything you sew, including toile
  • wash (and press) your fabric up front. including all tidbits and lining etc.
  • don’t go for silk just yet. It’s better for experienced sewers.

I don’t understand: you put tracing paper unto the fabric and unto that the pattern and than you first trace the pattern unto the tracing paper? With one of those ‘spur wheel’ (I’m going for jargon here, obviously)

This picture is from/by April1930s, a USA based shop selling old antique Singer sewing machines with another hundred years desire to sew in them. I have an old foot threadle (not from them) and it is reliable, well engineered piece of machinery. I love it! I oil it and I admire the well executed bits and how they work together. Love it!

April1930s has a wonderful atmosphere on the site. This is a card they carry:

Well, perhaps a bit too Holly Hobby when I see it out here, away from their site… but sewing clothes and working on an old machine that will give any modern piece of plastic a run for its money does give a sense of belonging to a place in history.

This is precisely how I feel, now that I’m preparing to sew on my antique foot threadle. I feel like I’ll be joining in a long queue of skilled artisans. Starting with my mother who made expressive garments in the ’70s and my grandmother in the ’30s who sewed spiritual dresses for her dance performances in colonial clubs in the East Indies, accompanied on the piano by the love of her life whom she met on the voyage getting there.

On to the centuries of farm women who knew their measurements and made everything from scratch while abiding and expressing social messages in their Dutch traditional clothes. They knew how to make cloth from a sheep, from a plant or from leather. They learned how to make well fitting clothes from that cloth. It was as common and great a skill as making fire from a tinder. Just because modern people haven’t been exposed to it doesn’t mean we don’t have a knack for it.

Dutch traditional dress from various regions, all distinctively different and all hand made. Within a region or village each woman could express individuality within the set of rules for the dress. A little bit of different seaming, a little bit of different colour.

I’m rambling, aren’t I? Yes I am.

It was supposed to be about tracing a paper pattern on another piece of paper…and not getting near cloth or sowing needle any time soon. Why trace paper on paper?

aha, some people love to keep their patterns intact. For later use and in different sizes. I’m guessing that’s the reason they trace it on tracing paper. To keep the main template. Makes sense. Also, in tracing paper you can make alterations and set it on fire without loosing the original.



these American patterns come with a seam allowance. European patterns typically only show the lines along which you are supposed to stitch. You cut as much extra fabric as you think you need. The tracing is done to indicate these stitching lines as they are not marked on the pattern. With customizing the fit you need to know the intended stitching lines. That’s why you trace them. With a ‘tracing wheel’. Not a ‘spur wheel’.

Right. Well. A mock up, muslin, toile, is a method of getting from a generic pattern (which is garanteed not to fit you because you are an individual) to a personal pattern. You alter it. You fit it. You alter it some more. If you’re able to end up with a 3D pattern (in muslin or other cheap cloth) that fits you splendid, you take the 3D mock up apart, trace the cloth pieces on another piece of paper. And that will be your personal template, to be used from now on. You can burn the commercial pattern. Is my guess.

generic form, ready to be burned.

ps. one more word about the traditional clothes you see above. The reason there is so much black is that black was added to a costume to indicate sorrow or grief. There are various rules for this: how long you had to wear black, how subdued the overall colours had to be. All depending on who died and how close related you were to them.

As these traditional ways of dressing were dying out only the elder people were still wearing it, with lots of reasons to wear black. Their spouse might have died. Or an adult child. That’s why the memory that still remains in our culture of these dresses is that they are often black or dark coloured. But they are not, in their origine. When everybody in the village was wearing them.

They were brightly coloured and very elaborate. Colour indicated richness. (although dark coloured woolen skirts are very practical in use, I must admit)

Marken dress from around 1910, via wikipedia. The girl in the back is grieving for a distant relative, her sleeves have more dark in them and her hat and bodice darker/more subdued too.

Spakenburg, photograph by Guus Herbschleb.

dress from Hindeloopen, by

lets end with a print by Paul Berthon, 1872-1909 (artist); L. Prang & Co. (publisher)

Did you know tulips aren’t original from Holland? We just got smitten with them, back in the 17th century.


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