Luna Pantsalong Day 2: It’s Muslin Time

Today I want to talk about making a muslin for the Luna Pants pattern. This makes a great weekend project if you’re joining me as part of the Luna Pantsalong!


Here are the previous Pantsalong posts:

Let’s have a Luna Pantsalong!
Luna Pantsalong: Inspiration
Luna Pantsalong: Planning
Luna Pantsalong Day 1: Measure, Print, Tape, and Trace
(you can find the Luna Pants sewing pattern here if you still need it)

What is a muslin?

A muslin (or toile) is a test-version of a pattern made of inexpensive fabric. Some people like to use an old vintage sheet, or cheap garage sale cotton, but I personally prefer using plain muslin fabric. I don’t recommend using anything with a great deal of drape or loose weave (even if your first pair will be rayon or double gauze!!), because apparel fabrics tend to be pretty forgiving, and believe it or not, you don’t want the muslin to be forgiving. The point of the muslin is to get the best idea possible of the true fit of the pattern pieces relative to your body, and to help quickly identify areas on the pattern that may need fixing for you, and a stable fabric with very little stretch is a great way to do that.

How to make a muslin for Luna

To make a muslin for the Luna Pants, you’ll need to cut 2 FRONT PANT pieces, 2 BACK PANT pieces, and a FRONT WAISTBAND and a BACK WAISTBAND from your muslin fabric. Place your pattern pieces on the folded fabric with their grain arrows parallel to the fold and selvages of the fabric. Use the cutting layout diagrams on page 3 for suggested layouts. Remember to place the waistband pieces on the fold. Cut carefully but efficiently; you don’t want to be sloppy when cutting or your muslin won’t be an accurate assessment of the pattern, but you also don’t want to spend too much time on your muslin, so don’t putz around. You want to get to your Real Pants, right? Chop, chop!

To sew the muslin, follow the sewing instructions on page 4, skipping Step 1 (you don’t need pockets on your muslin, unless you really want to practice that part of the construction), and sewing the entire side seam from top to bottom in Step 2 instead of leaving a hole for the pocket. Use the 1/2″ seam allowance as recommended. Use a basting (long straight) stitch, and skip backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam, so the seams can be easily pulled out if necessary. You’ll find that just these two things will make sewing the muslin go much more quickly than if you were making a finished pair of pants (this is why I prefer a true muslin over a “wearable muslin”). Skip pressing and finishing. Leave the elastic hole in the waistband casing and cuffs open so you can easily adjust the elastic (plus, I like to pull the elastic out of the muslin after I’m finished and use it for my Real Pants).

Try it on and assess, adjust

Try the the muslin on and pay attention to where the muslin is to tight or not tight enough. Wrinkles, excess bagginess, tightness or pulling are all clues to finding areas that need adjustment. Use your fingers to pinch in the side seams tighter if they are too loose, or rip out a seam and baste it with a smaller seam allowance if it is too small. Change one thing at a time, and see what happens, then make another change, rather than changing two things at once. Take in or let out a seam in small increments (such as 1/8″ or 1/4″ at a time), since even small changes can make a big difference in fit. Remember that if the entire muslin is too big or too small, you may need to go up or down a size, or trace your pattern between two sizes to get the perfect size for you.

Adjusting length

If you’re petite, pinch out the excess length at the knee by pulling the excess up and then folding it back down and pinning it in place to shorten the legs. Repeat pinching out the excess above the crotch (if possible, above the pocket) to remove extra depth in the rise if needed.

If you’re tall (I’m 5’8″ and have fairly long legs, and the pants are a 1/2″ too short on me, so keep that in mind), make a note of how much more length you need at the bottom, or just pull out the cuffs and resew the casings at a smaller width to see if that small fix will be enough. To add more length to the legs, slash the muslin at the knee (take them off first, please) and then pin or baste in a strip of fabric to add length. Since it’s definitely harder to add length than to subtract it, you may need to make a subsequent muslin, but if you’re confident, this is easily done in your final version.

Adjusting the rise

If you notice that the waistband doesn’t land where you’d like, you may want to play around with the elastic in the waistband first to see if letting it out or taking it in solves the problem. If the waistband is too high for your preference (this may be an issue in the back especially), try folding it over until it feels comfortable and then mark directly on the muslin with a pen how much height you’ll want to remove from the rise. If the rise is too short, you may want to try deepening the crotch curve to increase the length of the rise; if this doesn’t work, you may need to add a wedge into the back crotch curve of the pattern, or raise the top of the waistband in the back, and try another muslin.

Make changes to your pattern

Once you’ve adjust your muslin to the point that you are happy with it, mark directly on the muslin with a pen where your changes are. It’s easy then to transfer the changes onto your pattern pieces (remember if a change effects both front and back to mark BOTH pieces!) and write yourself some notes for next time. It amazes me how quickly I can forget which pattern changes I used with which fabrics, the date I sewed something, and the changes I made, so write those things down, straight onto your pattern pieces!

One more thing: just because you have to adjust your muslin doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your body, or that this pattern will never look good on you. There’s no one perfect pattern for every type of body, so just because you need to change a muslin does not mean that you need changing! Your body is beautiful and unique. This pattern is a template for you to manipulate. Remember that each adjustment you make gets you one step closer to creating a custom-fit garment that will look fantastic on YOU.

Do I really need to make a muslin?

Let’s say you’re a pretty standard size and average height. For a relaxed-fit pattern like Luna, the truth is that you can probably get away with just making the pants. You might need to make some small adjustments as you go if you need to, but Luna has a gathered elastic waist, so there’s no waist darts or tailored fitting, and there’s no fitted waistband to get just right. Even the length has a little flexibility, since the bottoms can “pool” a little bit and still look great due to the elastic cuffs, and it’s pretty easy to shorten or lengthen them a little if you need to. So if you’re feeling confident, and just want to jump in and cut out your fabric, I’m not going to stop you (haha, seriously, how WOULD I stop you? Jump out of your computer screen and wrestle the scissors out of your hand? Hee. OK, moving, on…).

But most of us don’t have “standard” bodies, and I include myself in that. Maybe your booty is pretty full, or flat, maybe your belly has a little pooch (like mine), maybe your thighs or hips are fairly wide, maybe you’re petite, or tall, or maybe you just fall into two different sizes depending on whether you’re measuring the waist or hip (yup, that’s me!). If any of these things ring a bell, I really recommend that you make a muslin first whenever you try a new sewing pattern, and Luna is no exception. There’s just no better way to get a sense for how the pattern fits before cutting into precious (and potentially $$$) fabric, and for me it’s just not worth the risk. I’d rather spend a little time (if you cut and sew quickly, it shouldn’t take more than an hour; remember,  you’re skipping the pockets, pressing, and seam finishing) up front to make sure I know what I’m doing when I’m ready to cut into my nice fabric.

Another reason to make a muslin is that it gives you practice with the construction steps of the pattern, so you can make all of your mistakes on the muslin and sew your the final version like a pro!

Additional pant-fitting resources

I know that many of you would like some tips on how to shorten the pattern, and I plan to post those soon. Meanwhile, here are some additional links to check out:

Colette’s Pant Fitting Cheat Sheet – tell-tale signs of fit issues and how to fix them

Colette’s Pants Fitting Basics – a list of common fit issues for pants, along with even more links and resources to help you address them

Fashionable Stitch’s Trouser Sewalong – a number of great posts addressing pant muslins and fitting under that tag

Pants for Real People
I bought and read this book last year and was amazed at all of the adjustments this book covers. The Palmer-Plesch method for fitting pants is a tissue-fitting method (they show how to adjust using the classic tissue patterns), so it’s a slightly different approach than making a muslin, but if you’re interested in the nitty gritty of fitting pants for real bodies, it’s a great read, even if slightly outdated in terms of style.

Go to day 3

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Are you sewing your own pair of Lunas? Join the Luna Pantsalong! Post a photo of your pants, either in progress or finished, to your blog, Flickr, or social media platform of your choice, and either link back to my blog or use the tag #lunapantsalong!

Still need the Luna Pants sewing pattern? Find it here!

Other posts in the Pantsalong:
Let’s have a Luna Pantsalong!
Luna Pantsalong: Inspiration
Luna Pantsalong: Planning

Sewing for Little Ones with Rae Hoekstra

2 thoughts on “Luna Pantsalong Day 2: It’s Muslin Time

  1. What a fantastic post!! I dove in and made 2 Lunas without making a muslin and was ok. I’m 5″4 and average body. However in my third pair I tweaked length and fullness in leg for nearly a different look … So glad you posted these tips!

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