Introducing Mildred

I’m not sure I’ve actually introduced Mildred, who came to live with me a few weeks ago courtesy of the John Lewis vouchers given to me by my former colleagues when I left my old job.

Mildred in action

Here she is modelling the pieces of my new Clothkits skirt. I’ve adjusted all her measurements so they match mine, and she’s also wearing an old bra padded out with toy stuffing to give a more accurate representation of my proportions. She’s not a perfect match for me; I have more of a sway back than she does, and her hips also curve out a bit more abruptly than mine (I have a very high waist and a kind of long, gentle slope out to my hips from there, which is why for years I thought I didn’t actually have a waist at all), but she’s close enough that I could get a reasonable idea about fitting issues, and could tell (as I’d suspected from the fit of the Clothkits skirt I made in the summer) that the fit would definitely be improved by the addition of a couple of darts in the back of the skirt.


Having pinned approximate darts on Mildred, I then pulled out the Mccall’s pattern I used for the skirt I made in my dressmaking class and used that as a guide to the best placement of the darts and the required depth.

Marked dart

After sewing the darts and basting the pieces together I tried the skirt on, and was extremely gratified to find that it fitted beautifully; the darts mean it curves nicely against my lower back instead of being too wide and slipping about.

Finished dart

I’ve now finished sewing the side seams and sewn together the lining (without darts – I recall from the skirt I made in my class that there were no darts in the facings and the lining is very lightweight); next weekend I might even get it finished.

I know that adding darts is a pretty straightforward adjustment (even more so as I just cribbed them off an existing pattern) but it’s the first fit adjustment I’ve ever done and I’m really very proud of it; I’m not at all confident about sewing and this makes me feel that I might actually be capable of learning to make myself properly fitting garments. I think the next step has to be conquering the full bust adjustment, as until I do that I’m stuck with skirts and what I really want to do is to make myself summer tops and dresses which don’t need camisoles underneath (wearing a camisole under a winter dress is no hardship at all, but it kind of defeats the object of a nice cool summer frock if you need a tight-fitting jersey vest under it!). I have been pondering the question of making muslins/toiles. Most of the sewing blogs I read say you should always make a muslin and that skipping this will Lead to Disaster, in the same way the knitting blogs utter dire threats about the dangers of not swatching, but then swatching just uses a bit of the yarn you already have (and swatches can be unravelled if you need to use the yarn for the final garment), whereas a muslin means buying twice the amount of fabric you actually need, and unbleached calico* is not actually particularly cheap here. I wouldn’t want to launch into a new-to-me pattern requiring a full bust adjustment in an expensive fabric but for not much more than the price of the calico I could get a cheap cotton or cotton blend which will end up making a wearable (if not perfect) garment.

Anyway, I think my next project should definitely involve a full bust adjustment. I can’t quite decide whether to try a re-run of the Market Blouse or have a go at Colette Patterns’ Sorbetto, which has the advantage of being much simpler although it would require me to get over my reluctance to wear sleeveless tops (though I see that someone has drafted a sleeve pattern for it). I think I could probably make either one out of the fabric I got from Natalie at the Glasgow School of Yarn, anyway. It’s got to be worth a try!

*which is apparently the UK term for what the US refers to as ‘muslin’ – I was rather confused as to me muslin is something which has mainly culinary uses!

12 responses to “Introducing Mildred

  1. Nicely done – I really must tackle mine. I’ll need to make similar adjustments and it’s encouraging to see how well yours have gone🙂

    • I was surprised how easy it was! I almost chickened out and just sewed it as it was, even though I knew that would end up being a poor fit, but having Mildred there made me think ‘well, I should give it a go’ and it’s definitely a big improvement🙂

  2. I have only ever made one muslin – for the dress I made for my brother’s wedding. I had to make quite a lot of changes to the pattern and I had a limited amount of the actual fabric so I wanted to make sure I got it right.

    For darts and fitting, it often works well to put the garment inside out on the form, so that your pins are on the side you’ll sew.

    • I can certainly see the logic of making a trial version in a cheaper fabric, but as I’m more than happy to have multiple versions of the same basic garment it seems to me to make far more sense to make something wearable rather than a pure muslin (which seems a bit wasteful, really – what do you do with it afterwards?). Though I suppose it would be different if it wasn’t an everyday garment.

      And I will bear that tip in mind – logically that would make much more sense!

  3. When I do a muslin (not often at all, I usually use the tissue paper pattern with masking tape to fix the shaping, but I’m a B cup when not pregnant/lactating so only need to adjust for length), I often do only half the garment, rather than the full bodice. Uses far less fabric.

    • It is quite discouraging that the possession of a larger bust means there are so many more things to take into account just learning to sew! I think for now I’m going to experiment with tissue-fitting and using cheaper fabrics to learn to do a full bust adjustment on a top, though I might go the muslin route when I’m actually ready to make a dress.

  4. Ooh, I want a dressmaker’s dummy! But I also want a drum carder, and I don’t have anywhere to keep either of them (which says something about the number of possessions I already have, given I live on my own!)

    I’m with you on the muslins. I do swatch, but making a garment twice? I think that’s why I knit, actually…

    • It’s definitely a luxury, but I had the John Lewis vouchers and a dummy seemed like a much better thing to treat myself to than just buying random clothes. And of course I don’t spin so don’t need to find room for wheels and so on!

      I am a definite convert to swatching and thinking about fit before I start, but muslins currently feel like a step too far – although if I wanted to make something in, say, a Liberty fabric I might well want to do a test-run in a cheaper fabric first, but I’d far rather it was a wearable test-run!

      • The nice thing about a toile is that when you make that same dress/skirt/bodice again, you can use the toile as your pattern and know exactly how it will fit. I have one tiny princess line bodice block which used maybe .4m of calico that I have used approximately fourteen times, and it saves me so much effort.

  5. Darts are marvellous things – glad Mildred is working out well for you🙂

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