Why You Should Make a Toile

How do you even pronounce it?

Tool? Twa-lay? Toyol? To-lez? Twarl?

/twɑːl/ (according to the dictionary).

Creating toiles, aka muslins, were something that I didn’t do and I’d cut into my fabric first time and end up messing everything up. But what can I expect when I did everything last minute?

Well I’ve changed my wasteful ways and I now make toiles before I cut into my lovely and not-so-cheap fabrics. My new disciplined self created one for my Christmas 2017 dress. I was trying out a new design and wanted to see if it would work. The good thing is, it did work. The bad thing is the red fabric I chose didn’t.

There are obvious reasons as to why you would create a toile, all of them positive. For me personally, especially as a pattern drafter, the most important reason is to be able to test out my patterns to see if they fit and are drafted well.

Mind you, sometimes there is no point in creating a toile, specifically for garments using knit fabrics. Firstly, because knits tend to be stretchy, they should be able to easily accommodate your body even if measurements are slightly off. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a practice garment using a cheaper knit fabric with similar stretchiness to your main fabric.

I rarely work with knits, so creating a toile is important for me (or should be important for me). Most of the garments I make are close fitting with little to zero stretch in the fabric. Calico (unbleached cotton) tends to traditionally be used for toiling, therefore toiles are typically created for non-stretch, fitted garments. You can get great toiling fabrics from Minerva Crafts. They have a range of fabrics of different weights. The one I personally use is their medium weight calico fabric.

So, why else should you create a toile?

Testing for fit

For those of you who buy your patterns, testing for fit would be the obvious reason for why you would create a toile. We’re all uniquely and wonderfully made and no two bodies are the same. Buying a pattern therefore means you won’t automatically be getting the best fit for your shape. Creating a toile will help you test for fit and make any necessary adjustments.

For those of you who draft your own patterns, you’ll know that drafting is a pain and 9 out of 10 times you’ll get something wrong. A measurement will be too small, the waistline will be too short, something will be too something. Whatever it is, something will go wrong – guaranteed. Putting together a toile will show you exactly what has gone wrong and allow you to make amendments to your pattern.

Experiment with designs or modifications

I have an upcoming tutorial for Valentine’s Day – I’ll be teaching you all how to make a babydoll dress. I’ve never made a babydoll before. In fact, I’ve never even worn one. The pattern is one I had to make up and it took me numerous attempts to get a version that looked good and fitted well. I drafted and sewed together about 10 toiles – not even an exaggeration. But because of this, I was able to produce something that looks amazing. And that is why toiling is important for pattern drafters. You may think you can get it right first time but it just doesn’t happen like that. That’s why for drafters, toiling should be something you do. Don’t be naughty like me.

Also, you may have a design in mind without knowing exactly what the pattern should look like. This is your opportunity to experiment to see what works!

For those of you testing the waters of pattern drafting or who like getting a little creative you probably modify your bought patterns. This is a fantastic way to get a good fit while still being able to execute your own design. Toiling allows you to try out your ideas and create something new and wonderful.

Practice skills

Does anyone here sew for fun? You put together a garment, not because you want to wear it but because you just want to practice your sewing skills? For drafters and non-drafters alike, toiling is a good way to refine your drafting and sewing abilities. Want to learn how to insert an invisible zipper into skirts? Create a toile. Don’t know how to sew in a neckline facing but want to try it out? Create a toile. Just learnt how to slash and spread but want to see what the dart will look like on an actual garment? Create a toile!

There are many things you can practice by creating a toile. Even if it’s just that you’re a little bit nervous about cutting into your beautiful fabric and want to create a practice version first to figure out the complexities of the pattern.

Whatever reason you have for creating a toile, when possible, you should be creating one. It’ll save you a lot of time and stress before starting on your actual garment. And what can go wrong with a toile? Nothing. Because mistakes are allowed!

So happy toiling. May you never go back to your untoiling ways.

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    • Exactly. Even though it does take extra time and effort, in the end, it really is worth it.

  1. This is the first I’ve heard of a toile and so happy to learn of it. It makes so much sense and is a money saver before you cut into expensive material. Approximate cost of toile material?

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