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A ‘Toile’ or a ‘Muslin’ is a early prototype version of a garment made up to perfect how it fits before making the garment for real. I often make these as I have a large bust and a lot of the patterns I make do need adjustments to my figure. This is the beauty of making your own clothes, you can make them to your own specification so that they fit perfectly. But what is a toile? How do I go about making a toile? And what is the best toile fabric to use?
*This post has been updated – it was first published in 2018
What Is A Toile? And Which Is The Best Toile Fabric?
What Is A Toile?
The word ‘toile’ comes from the French word meaning ‘linen cloth’. The word ‘toile’ can be applied to the fabric itself, or the test garment made from the fabric, or a repeating pattern or decoration printed on the fabric. (Usually when referring to the repeating pattern this is more accurately called a toile de jouy print or a toile de juoy pattern – which was a fabric which became popular in the 18th century)
But what is a toile in fashion design? Within dressmaking, a toile is a practice garment, a draft version of the final garment that it is useful to make before completing your chosen sewing patterns.
Within the toile, you can check fitting and make design adjustments such as a bust adjustment, seam allowance adjustments, length, waist and pattern pieces changes. So that once you make the garment in your chosen expensive and beautiful fabric it will fit perfectly.
What Should You Use For Your Practice Garment?
Traditionally, cream or off white calico is used to produce a test garment. Calico is a thin, cheap unbleached cotton material that can be line drawn on and stitched in a different colour. Then you can easily see where adjustments need to be made.
However, even calico can be relatively expensive per metre. So I actually like to make what I refer to as a ‘wearable toile’, a test garment in really cheap material. This way I actually get a real garment that I can wear.
So What Toile Fabric Should I Use?
For my toile clothing I like to use a weight and type of fabric close to the same fabric as the finished article I am making.
For instance, if you are making a jacket, it is probably not good to make a toile in a thin and fluid fabric if you plan on making the real thing in corduroy. It just won’t move or feel the same. So if you can find some cheaper cord or fabric of the same weight to make the toile is a much better idea.
Here are a couple of the toile dress patterns that I have made.
Similarly, it is nigh on impossible to make a toile of a stretch knitted garment out of a woven fabric. I actually keep as much offcuts of old jersey as I can. Then make ‘hotchpotch’ jersey garments as a toile before making a real garment.
Where Should I Buy Fabric?
The general consensus amongst my sewist friends at the home sewing group I go to every week is that they prefer to look at and handle fabric in person so they know what they are getting.
If this is the case, trying a local market or local fabric shop is best, particularly if you want to see the stretch of a fabric or how thick it is. Obviously local shops do have sales, and you may get a really good deal.
However, for the real bargains, there are some great outlets online that sell fabric very cheaply.
Buying fabric online can be tricky, as you can’t inspect it for weight and thickness before you buy. I tend to stick to the fabrics I know well
- 100% cotton,
- cotton elastane mix jersey and
I recently got some fabrics from Pound Fabrics, they really do charge just £1 a metre on a lot of their fabric.(£6.99 shipping at time of writing) I even got some red corduroy fabric for just £2 a metre. I did stick to 100% cottons and cord though.
Another of my favourites is The Textile Centre. Again they have a massive selection of great fabrics at a low cost. And free shipping when you spend over £35.
Minerva sell an incredibly wide variety of fabrics and haberdashery.
And finally Seasalt Cornwall now sell fabric, and often have sales of 50% off. Then their fabric can end up being bought very cheaply. And is usually lovely quality cotton and cotton lawn perfect for dressmaking.
Do I Really Need To Make A Fabric Toile?
Obviously at the end of the day that really is up to you! But I will say, the few times that I have not made one, the finished garment has not been the best.
I hope that this has helped you if you did need some ideas on how and why you need to be making a toile. And from where to source the fabric. Do you enjoy making a toile or wearable prototype garment? I would love to see your makes. Do tag me on social media
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