Saturday, September 3, 2011

Having fun with muslin part 1: Tiered maxi dress

Muslin is the synonym for the cheapest, unbleached cotton used to try out sewing patterns. I won't even get into the whole debate whether toile, as it is also called is truly necessary or not. The purpose of this post series is to show how this inexpensive fabric can be modified to make actual garments.
On my last trip to Ikea I bought around 10 meters of muslin and decided to do a bit of experimenting. This first project was a tiered maxi dress that required  just under 3 meters of fabric of the standard 150 cm width.

I cut the fabric as follows:
  1. 2 upper panels: 60 cm long, 25 cm high
  2. 2 upper middle panels: 90 cm long, 30 cm high
  3. 2 bottom middle panels: 120 cm long, 35 cm high
  4. 2 bottom panels: 150 cm long, 40 cm high
As you can clearly see from the scheme, I really tried to achieve a true degradé effect, by lengthening and widening the panels symmetrically.
Next comes the fabric dye. I bought 3 different shades: baby blue, cerulean and navy. I used 1/2 of baby blue for the upper panels, mixed the other half of baby blue with 1/2 of cerulean blue for upper middle panels. The second half of cerulean blue was mixed with 1/3 of navy for bottom middle pieces and the remaining 2/3 of navy was used for the bottom panels.
Or you can just use 4 different shades, but a more fluent transition between pieces was achieved by mixing three shades.

The bodice was left in the original off white colour of cotton muslin. The tiered dress is designed so that the top panel ends just under the bust. The bodice piece was from Burda magazine.

Burda magazine 06/2010
I adapted the bodice piece by adding a triangular insert in the front and back because the orginal leaves a lot of cleavage exposed. A lot!

The seam allowances are included in the scheme, I used a 1.5 cm seam allowance and sewed all the panels using a flat felled seam, because ironing is made so much easier.

And the final detail, a grosgrain ribbon was sewn under the bust. But I left a bit unattached creating a sort of loop for tying a bow or attaching a corsage flower.

The specified dimensions of the panels are ideal for an almost floor sweeping maxi dress for a petite woman. I'm about 162 cm high and the dress fell just about 2 cm from my heels.

The dress worn with a bolero

Burda magazine 03/2010


  1. I admire your neat handwork, your creativity and the nice dress you made from the simple fabric. Good work :)!

  2. Heidi: Thanks. It seems a bit redundant to do a maxi dress tutorial at the end of the summer, but still if the weather keeps it might get an outing or two.

    Mette: This dress is my attempt at recreating the seaside, from the off white pebbles on the shore to the blue sea progressively darkening as we go deeper into the water.
    Not all of my ideas work out but this one did exceedingly well.

  3. The ribbon and blue flower add a very feminine touch to a delightful dress.

    You have certainly caught the seaside colours.Ida

  4. Ida: Fabric dyeing is one big gamble. I'm never sure how the colours will actually turn out. This was about 1/2 packet of experience mixed with about 1/2 packet of sheer good luck ;-)

  5. You're so talented! Nice work on those seams.

  6. Susan: Thanks, you're making me blush :-) The seams were quite difficult, I made running stitches to gather the fabric then stitched over it and removed the gathered running stitches afterwards. Got tired just typing all this.