- New Demos

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Getting Started
- Basic Sewing Tech
- Fun With Bias

Body Measurement
- What & Where to Measure

Pattern Development
- Basic Pattern Drafting
- Basic Pattern Development
- The Toile & Mock-Up
- Basic Rectangular Patterns

Sewing Tech
- Gores, Gussets, and Inserts
- Facings
- Cartridge Pleating
- Basic Handsewing Techniques
- Hand Bound Eyelet Holes
- Machine Seams

Trims & Embellishment
- 5 Cross Cultural Embroidery Stitches
- Appliqué Techniques
- Passemaine (hand made trims)
- Trims requiring very little equipment
- Complicated Trims
- Cardweaving
- Buttons
- Making Felt

Western European
- Underwear
- Shirts
- Farthingales
- Corsets
- Stockings
- Collars and Cuffs
- Partlets
- Gloves
- Hats
- Shoes

Eastern European:

- Shirts
- Pants
- Coats
- Shoes
- Boots
- Hats
- Jewelry

Ancillary Arts
- Fans
- Pouch Hinges, Part 1
- Pouch Hinges, Part 2

Demonstrations>Pattern Development>Basic Pattern Development

This demo relies heavily on a previous demo called Basic Pattern Drafting. If you've not read through it, you may want to do so before moving on. If you're comfortable moving on, then let's go!

This demonstration will show you what to do with the basic pattern you developed during the Basic Pattern Drafting demo. Essentially, during that demo, we drafted out a pattern based on the measurements of our subject (ourselves, our friend, our cat, etc.). Because the measurements are pretty simplistic, the chances that we will have a perfect pattern from them are small. This is not to say that we won't get real close - but I highly advocate moving on to this step in the process before finalizing the pattern. I NEVER skip this step. It is absolutely essential for a perfectly fitted pattern.

In period, what we are about to develop is most often known as "The Toile". It is not a "Mock-Up", which is more usually a completed garment out of fabric similar to the actual garment. The Toile is meant to be made out of cheap fabric, tacked together, fitted to the subject (ourselves, our friend, our cat, etc.) and then any fitting issues addressed upon it. Once the toile fits, it is taken apart and a finished pattern taken from it. From there, that pattern is used to create the final garment.

A Quick Bit About Pattern Shapes

If you are new to recreating costumes from this era, it may be helpful to take a look at various pattern shapes from extant Tailors Pattern Books. Examples can be found in the Research section of this web site.

What Garments Require a Toile?

Anything that needs to be fitted or is unfamiliar in construction. Bodices, doublets, and sleeves all need to fit. Slops, surcoats and mourning gowns are all somewhat unfamiliar to the modern sewer and have their own period issues of fit that need to be addressed. I don't make toiles for undergarments such as farthingales, underwear, shirts or smocks. These are all loosely fitted (relatively speaking). I will make a toile for a corset because it is essential that that fit correctly. A correctly fitted corset is really comfortable. An incorrectly fitted corset is torture.

The starting pattern, based on our pattern measurements, laid out on the toile fabric.

Creating a Toile -

Once we've charted out all the measurements into a definable pattern, we then add seam allowances. For general purposes , I use one half inch (1.27 cm) seams. This allows for both taking in areas AND letting them out - at least a little bit. Once I get a toile where I want it, I again measure all seams to make sure that they are still the right width. Some schools of thought suggest that using one inch (2.54 cm) seams on toiles is better as this gives more room for letting out if necessary. Realistically, as you begin to adapt this process to your own sewing needs, pick which ever method works best for you.

After adding seam allowance, we can then cut our toile out from cheap muslin (or other cheap fabric - sometimes I use old sheets). Make sure to note the seam allowances on the muslin. This is important when we start to adjust the fit on the subject (ourselves, our friend, our cat, etc.).

Tack the pattern together using a long basting stitch - not too long as we want it to hold the seam closed but long enough that when we take the toile apart, we won't need a magnifying glass to pick out the stitches.

The front of the tacked together toile, seams out, armseye and neck openings clipped for fitting.   The back of the tacked together toile. The back piece is pieced up from scraps to make use of the fabric available.

A Small Bit About Fabric -

Muslin is pretty limp. One of the reasons why it is traditionally used in toiles is that it is cheap and easy to manipulate. But, if the garment that you are intending to make from your pattern is going to be made from a heavy material, and you don't want to do a full Mock-Up, you may want to use a fabric for your toile that more closely resembles the 'hand' and 'drape' (thickness and stiffness) of the material you are going to be working with. Most un dyed twill will work but beware of twill's natural diagonal bias. I usually use a heavy jean or tabby woven canvas if I need to have a heavier toile.

Historically, the canvas that may have been used for a toile would've been the foundation of the finished garment and all the marks from the tailor would've been on it. It very often was the interlining of the finished garment. Making a garment this way is a good way to not waste canvas (if you use it) and to ensure a perfect fit since the actual canvas used to fit becomes part of the finished garment. I personally don't mind wasting muslin and there are accounts from period of making garments by either using muslin and then moving on to canvas or using canvas and moving on. The focus here is to have a garment that fits. Choose whichever way that works best for you, for the particular project, and for your pocket book.

On the subject, the issues of fit become immediately clear. Tell-tale wrinkles at the arm and chest show that the armseye needs to be opened up more. The shoulder seam is smooth and the rest of the front fit looks good.   In back, it is apparent that there is a huge amount of gap at the back when the toile is pinned together in front. This is from excess fabric in this area. These seams will need to be taken in a bit more for the fit to be smooth.

Issues of Fit and How to Address Them -

At this point, we then try the toile onto the subject, first making sure that the subject has on ALL the clothes they are going to wear under the finished garment. If there are no clothes under the finished garment (as in a corset), then it is not an issue. I can't stress enough, however, that any fitting of an over garment MUST be done with all the other under garments on. It really does make a huge bit of difference.

Put the toile on with the edges on the outside. This facilitates any pinning up or clipping out that you may need to do to adjust the fit. Once the toile is on the subject, take a look at how it fits the subject. Look for creases or wrinkles. These are telltale signs that the fit is not correct. Very likely, because of the way we measured our pattern, the neck hole and arms eye will need to be cut down to fit better. In order to cut down but still leave seam allowance, I mark out where the seam line needs to go, mark my seam allowance from there and then cut the arms eye down to the seam allowance. This does take a bit of practice to be able to eye where the seam needs to go. If you find that you are having trouble, cut down to where the arms eye fits and then be sure to add seam allowance to that area when you mark out your finished pattern from the toile.

Get ready to go through this process a number of times. It's really a back-and-forth process to get the toile to fit just right. Don't get discouraged if it takes you a couple of times to get the fit correct. Also don't be discouraged if you have to re-cut a fresh toile. It's better to waste cheap fabric on a couple of toiles than to have an ill fitted final product out of expensive fabric.

After all fitting issues are addressed, the toile should lay smooth and flat on the subject. (yes, I got impatient and moved on to making a doublet so this is the actual garment fabric laid over the toile fabric foundation).   There is still a little room in the back but that's ok because the subject is NOT wearing his beautiful new shirt that he WILL wear under the finished garment. Notice, however, that the fit is smooth across the shoulders and under the arms.

The Final Product -

When you are satisfied with the fit of the toile, take it apart, steam iron the pieces flat, and lay them out on paper to mark up your paper pattern. You can also simply keep the toile as a pattern but remember that fabric is a woven structure. Repeated pulling from use may distort it and that will cause problems with any garment that is cut from it. If you do keep the toile as a pattern, make sure to mark it with the person's name, the name of the pattern piece, and a date.

After the toile fitting is finished, it is picked apart, ironed flat and used as a template for a permanent paper pattern.   The pattern can then be used for future garments. Be sure to note all pertinent info on the pattern.


Viola! Perfectly fitted, individualized patterns. Happy costuming!

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