To toile or not to toile

Sewing patterns are designed to fit what the pattern company think is a standard figure, and  I think lots of you will have found out by now, there is no such thing.  I saw on a post by the wonderful (and very dapper) Zack, @pinset_tailoring , when asked did he make Plus size clothing state that he “did not make plus size only you size”.  What a perfect way to describe all our clothing and I will no longer be describing myself as a 14, 16, 18, 20 or whatever size the fashion industry has decided I am on that particular day, but Mercedes Size.  However, the pattern companies have not yet agreed to make patterns specifically in Mercedes size so for now I will continue with this blog post. 

To toile or not to toile?

This is a question I used to ask myself and the conclusion I came to was Nope.  But then, as I made more garments, I became more aware of the fit of my clothes.  One ground breaking moment for my toile passion came when I found out that if I continued the line of the bust dart it should hit my nipple.  Well, checking out some of the garments I had made, my nipples should be in some very Picaso-esque areas of my body. And so my love affair with the toile began.

I know a lot of you out there are shouting at me now saying you have not got the time to make a toile, but I will counter your protestations with, you have not got time not to.  A toile does not need to be perfectly finished, you will not be adding facings or potentially adding sleeves or hemming or adding a perfectly sewn zip.  A toile is just the main pieces of your garment sewn together to try on.  In an ideal world the toile will be made of “a similar type and weight of fabric to your fashion fabric”.  But in my world that means any old sheet, curtain or other piece of fabric I have acquired in my that will do for a toile pile and to date that has not caused me any issues.  The time and effort you spend on your toile will elevate your finished garment to a different level and save you time trying to resolve fit issues on your expensive fashion fabric. Adjustments made while sewing up your garment will only ever be a bodge.

Recently the very stylish Rumana, @thelittlepomegranate , made her first princess seam bodice dress for a family wedding.  She was kind enough to show the process of adjusting her toile on her Instagram account.  I think Rumana was very unlucky with how the initial fit of the bodice was so wrong for her own body shape, but through persevering with her toile she created her Rumana Size pattern and then was able to sew her dress together in super quick time, I seem to remember it was a night or two before the event, without any fit issues.  Do check out her post it is a stunning dress and her pattern matching is perfection.

Hand in hand with making the toile of course is the art of pattern adjustments, on which there is a mine field of advice and recommendations.  Bra making was the moment that the pattern adjustment penny finally dropped for me.  After 5 or 6 attempts at adjustments using my own “common sense”, I came across an article that said “never make changes to your seam line as you will then have to adjust the corresponding seam line.  Always adjust the inside of the pattern piece” and what a difference that has made to all my adjustments.  I know this will not always be the best way to adjust for an issue and you may need to check out one of the multitude of other pieces of advice available, but it is a great place to start.  

Remember with your toile you will not ruin anything, you can always unpick your adjustments, if it all goes completely pear shaped, or apple or oval, you just need to take a deep breath and start again, safe in the knowledge that your expensive and beloved fabric is still packed away, happy to wait till you have conquered your understanding of you and your own (*insert your name here) Size pattern needs.


8 thoughts on “To toile or not to toile

  1. Loved this! Great advice for anyone who has just dipped their little toe into dressmaking.
    Thank you and I’m looking forward to your future blogs.

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  2. Such a good reminder of “MY SIZE”. That is why we sew! I just cut out a toile for the Jacqueline jacket by Republique du Chiffon. I have had trouble with making my usual flat pattern adjustments and having them not work out. I haven’t made a toile for a while!

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    1. It is definitely one of the reasons I started to sew. That is a lovely pattern, love the yoke shaping. I know I am teaching you to suck eggs but don’t forget to wear a thickish jumper under your toile as it is outerwear. Enjoy.

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      1. Yes! Once I finished the toile, I was overwhelmed with the number of adjustments needed. Oh well, I give it a break.

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  3. Love that ‘me size’ … such a great way at looking at it. I struggle with toiles because even when I have done one I find I’m not very good at spotting the changes needed until I’m actually wearing the garment. I get a bit overwhelmed. And you’re right, different fabrics behave so differently… I’ve had a couple of fails of tnt patterns recently on that score. I will try again though and I love that tip about not adjusting the seam line. My big thing is fitting shoulders and I have a darted raglan that I struggle with… this may be the answer.

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    1. I love “Me size” too and as dressmakers we are so lucky to be able to embrace it. I always seem to miss something on my toiles but hopefully remember to check it out on my next one. Check out my IG feed for some of the pattern adjustments I have made on different garments. X

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