This is my first time working on a toile. Working on the toile, in this case made of muslin fabric, takes a lot of time. It’s the place where you explore fit, proportion, and design. It is where you will set the path (via seam line) of where and how you will sew your fashion fabric and linings. I find this process so very time consuming, but it’s where you get to know the purpose of the design elements of the pattern, and for me, it gives me confidence knowing why certain elements work the way they do in the construction of the garment. You also get to make your mistakes on the toile, and if this early version of the garment doesn’t turn out, you can either begin again with a fresh toile, or simply move on to another project, because it is within this test/experimental zone where you will also see whether you will like that garment design on your own body, and where you will fit it to your own body shape.
I’m not new to sewing my own garments, I’ve been doing this since I was 13 years old, and I understand how a tissue pattern works and how I can fit a pattern to my body. What I am new to is using couture techniques, which includes making a toile first in order to customize the garment to my body’s shape by fit rather than a pattern’s pre-measurements. Where I got to the point of wanting to create the more difficult, tailored garments, I haven’t always had success, and I think that some of my fit failures are a big reason why I turned away from sewing my own wardrobe a few years ago. It gets very expensive trying out new patterns and designs using the fashion fabrics, especially when the cost accumulates! Now, with a toile sample, I can preview the look, because if the garment looks good on my body with a muslin fabric, then it will look fabulous with a gorgeous fabric.
I feel a confidence growing as I work on my toile, knowing that by the time I get to that fashion fabric stage I will know my garment intimately both inside and out, and from the viewpoint of my own body and fantasy/idea of what I am trying to project with this garment. A key bonus to doing all of this work: I will always be able to refer back to that toile as my base pattern in order to make more of the same garment, and to even alter the design if I wish to. It’s a win win situation no matter how I look at it! So it’s worth the time and the effort.
There is also something interesting that I’m realizing while working through this challenging process: it is really not different for me than when I’ve designed any of my book works. In the case of couture work, I’m considering fabric/textile materials (instead of papers and inks) and mediums that will add or enhance to the narrative of my garment. Again, as in my past artwork (theletterarian.com) I am still chasing after that subtext quality in a work, in that the underlying element of my garment will “tell” itself as much as me the wearer wearing the garment… (ah, another post is brewing here!)
It’s fun…. yes tedious, but I love the challenge!
So, back to my sewing….