In Sew For Victory

More vintage pattern tips and my muslin progress

I’ve gotten started on my Sew For Victory wearable muslin so I thought I’d share my progress so far. Well, first I suppose I should explain what a “muslin” is for those who aren’t familiar with the term. A muslin is a trial run or a practice version of your garment that is typically made out of unbleached cotton muslin fabric. Muslin fabric is used because it is inexpensive and easily found at most fabric shops. A “wearable muslin” means I’m using a non-muslin fabric in hopes I can actually wear the finished dress in the end, but it’s still made with an inexpensive fabric and is a practice for my final dress.

Tasha started an excellent discussion in the Sew For Victory Flickr pool about how you can “make do and mend” with muslins. Members have been coming up with some really fantastic ways to make their own muslins without buying new fabric or using extra resources. I’m so impressed! Usually I use 1940’s sewing as an excuse not to make a muslin first (because that would be using double the resources) but since this is my first time sewing with a non printed vintage pattern, and my final fabric had to be specially ordered, I really don’t want to mess it up! However, I’m still trying to stay true to the “make do and mend” theme, so I used three different fabrics from my stash and large scraps to piece the muslin together.


As I mentioned this is my first time working with a non printed vintage pattern, but as you now know from Debi’s guest post, they’re really not that difficult to work with. My 1946 Hollywood pattern is original and was still in factory folds when I recieved it, so I took extra care to try and preserve it. I photo copied the pattern envelope and instructions and traced all the pattern pieces so I could work only from the copies and keep the original pieces tucked safely away.

I highly recommend reading Casey’s Vintage Pattern Primer and tips for tracing vintage patterns to help you get started. Sunni also has a great post on different methods for tracing patterns.


Here you can see the original un-printed pattern piece next to the one that I traced and wrote notes on. It’s important to remember to transfer ALL the markings, and follow the layout directions.


Notice the language is a bit different on this 1946 pattern vs a modern one. For example, they’re calling the straight of grain the “straight of goods”.


Everything I need to know about my pattern pieces is included on the pattern layout instructions, so I just wrote this information on my traced pieces so I don’t have to refer back to the original pattern anymore. Again, I’m trying to preserve the original!


Many people seem to be scared of the darts on non printed patterns, but as you can see from this little scrap example, they’re not scary!


After I transferred the dots, I roughly connected the lines so I’d have a better idea of where I was supposed to be sewing, and then matched the dot points with the pins and sewed the darts as I normally would. The only thing I did a little differently was use more pins, and use the dots as the official guide and the drawn line to help me connect them a little more smoothly. See, not so hard after all.

I thought about attempting to sew my darts as instructed by the pattern for super authentic 40’s sewing…


But yeah, that’s definitely not happening haha!! That’s just crazy!!



For all my 1940’s sewing I “pink” my seams using pinking shears instead of using my serger. Sergers did exist in the 40’s, but were only available in factories for industrial sewing, and not for the home seamstress. Debi also has a great post on her blog about era appropriate seam finishes. Pinking your seams is one of the most accurate ways to recreate a 1940’s home sewn garment, but if you’d like to use your serger for this sewing challenge, that’s perfectly okay!

Tips for pinking seams: Pink the seam before you press it open so you’re not doing double the work, take off a minimal amount of fabric from the seam allowance (if you cut too close to your stitch line you’re severely weakening that seam and it could rip out!), and try to line up your scissors in the grooves where you left off for a nice clean looking row of zig zag cuts.


After you’ve pinked your seams, press them open on both the right and wrong sides of the fabric. Since this is cotton fabric, I like to use a nice hot iron with lots of steam and a few spritzes of water. A nicely pressed seam is one of the easiest ways to make your home sewn garments look more professional.



This dress includes two zippers. One at the back neck and one at the side. Now, it took me a second to figure out WHY there would be two zippers in a dress. Why not just one long one? Well, if you do one longer zipper at the side, you still wouldn’t be able to get the dress on over your head because the neck opening is so small. You can’t do one long zipper at the center back either because the back of the skirt is put together in 3 pieces, leaving no middle seam for a zipper to go into. Trust me, I tried to think of ways to work around the two zippers (especially with the metal ration still going on and all. wink wink), but a snap closure at the side appeals to me less than a “slide fastener” so I’m just sticking with those. I chose metal zips, of course, because that’s what they would have had available in the 40’s. (Again, if you’d like to use a polyester zipper for your garment, that’s okay! I just personally wanted that authentic touch.)

My bodice doesn’t actually fit over my cheap-o dress form with non-collapsible shoulders so I just have it pinned to the front, but you get the general idea of how this patchwork “victory” muslin is going to look! …pretty funny actually haha!


Have you started a muslin or preliminary fit yet? How’s it going?


It’s not too late to join Sew For Victory! Project photos are due on March 29th. Remember to refer back to all the Sew For Victory related posts so far and join in the Flickr Group if you haven’t already (the group discussions can be viewed by members only).

Have a great week!

  • Pingback: Sew For Victory Completed Muslin | Lucky Lucille()

  • Jessica Cangiano

    Thank you very much for the great explanation of what a muslin, in the context of sewing, is. I’d heard that term so many times and had a general idea, but really appreciate that you expanded on that. I’m learning so much about sewing via your awesome site, dear Rochelle!

    ♥ Jessica

  • Kate-Em

    I found this really interesting thanks. When I first learnt to sew a garment my teacher insisted on tailors tacks! Like the pinking shears tip.

  • sallieforrer

    Aw your muslin is so adorable with it’s patched fabric. And so darn wearable too!! How’d you do that? I don’t think I could find three sizeable scraps in such pretty, coordinating colors if I tried! It’s funny, I LOVE tailor’s tacks!! I use them for all my marking because I find that, especially with delicate silks, they are so much more precise than chalk marking. Anyway, I can’t wait to see how this looks on you – the pattern is just beautiful with it’s flutter sleeves!

  • LadyD

    I’m finding my cotton choice mans the pinking works really well. but I still want to bind the seams to make it ‘hardwearing’ as I think I’ll be wearing it quite a bit for dancing. (inspired by the 40’s newsreel ‘modes for the million’.) I did think about putting a ‘CC41’ label in it.
    I’d like to know what a ‘rip proof seam’ is though.

    • Ooh, are you also a swing dancer?

      • LadyD

        yep. Been going to lindy hop lessons/social dancing for a year now.

        • Yay! It’s been about four years for me and it’s so nice running into other swing dancers in the sewing community, since making vintage clothes for me to dance in was part of my motivation to learn to sew.

  • I don’t have to finish my seams as my jacket will have a lining, yee haw! lol I love having a serger now but I only really use it when I’m worried the fabric will fray a whole lot. I am totally not adverse to pinking. 🙂 Oh and I am soooo not doing tailor’s tacks. Ha!

    Your muslin is totally adorable! That dress is going to be great. I like how the sleeves look on the muslin even better than the pattern drawing!

  • Sarah

    Wow! This is coming along really well 🙂

  • Carlee McTavish

    It looks great Rochelle! I can’t wait to see what it looks like finished!

  • Thank you for the post and sharing, that’s it, I am starting to pink my 1940’s cloths. Not on my aprons though, I french seam those. I wonder when french seaming started? I will have to do some research. Thank you as well for sharing the 40’s pattern pic’s. I know I will be a little more comfortable working with them now.


  • I’m considering getting a pinking blade for one of my rotary cutters. For the most part, though, I use my overcasting foot and overcast my seams. I looked at one of the links, and overcasting was used back then (though not by machine), and that’s close enough for me. I don’t feel like spending extra money for something I don’t actually need and I think that using what I have, modern or not, is more in spirit with the challenge.

    • I just purchased a pinking blade for my rotary cutter too, but I’ve been too lazy to switch it out with my standard blade since I only have one handle. And I agree with you that using what you have is definitely more in the spirit of the challenge 🙂

  • the Garment Farmer

    oh yes, the metal ration! 😉 Well, I hope to start my muslin by mid-March… not really leaving myself much time here, am I? What can a girl do… seems my time is strictly rationed lately. If nothing else, hopefully I’ll have a wearable muslin by the deadline–at least something to show and tell. I’m really enjoying all your 40’s posts Rochelle!! Thank you 🙂

    • You can do it!! I’m glad you’re enjoying the 40’s posts 🙂

  • Brigid

    That is so funny about finishing the seam, as I am pinking my seams too! Love how it’s looking so far, and I can’t wait to see the finished muslin, and finished garment!

  • Rachel Proffitt

    I need to get some pinking shears. My pair are my late MIL’s old ones, totally blunt and they probably date from the 1940s LOL
    My trousers are calmly waiting for my brand new sewing machine! It is coming this week and I want to use it to make them, so in the meantime I have made a snood and some pjs for my daughter LOL
    I also have a bunch of 1940’s crafty books on the way- one knitting one (it arrived today) several sewing ones and a housekeeping one. I was terribly disappointed only one arrived today LOL

  • Miss Crayola Creepy

    I didn’t make a muslin for my pants (which is pretty crazy considering I have never made pants), but I’m trying to make do and mend 😉 Right? Ok, I just didn’t want to have to make a muslin!!!

  • Sabs

    Really fascinating and useful tips too! Completely agree about the pinking, it’s what I’ve started doing as I don’t have an overlocker (and not planning to get one). In fact my sewing class teacher keeps saying that the mark of a quality garment is well pressed seams! Can’t wait to see your progress…