Re-using Old Muslins for New Muslins

Remember, a long time ago, we talked about what to do with old muslins? Some of you keep them, some of you toss them, and some of you suggested cutting them up into smaller pieces for new muslins. That’s what I did for my recent Hazel dress, used a mix of new muslin and old muslin to be less wasteful.

It’s not complicated to do but I did take photos as I cut the muslins, so I thought I would share them in case they are helpful to you!

re-using old muslins

This was a muslin for the Hollyburn Skirt. There’s not a ton of fabric to work with, but we’ll save a bit of muslin by cutting small pieces.

cut up your old muslin into smaller pieces at the seamlines

When you’re cutting apart the first muslin, you don’t have to be super accurate. The goal is to salvage as much as possible! (You could unpick the seams, but that would be much slower, and speed is important to me.)

cut carefully next to seamlines

This works best if you’re about to muslin a pattern with many small pieces. While cutting the muslin for Hazel, I also cut a muslin for Parfait at the same time, which has several little pieces that are required for the muslin.

two decent sized pieces of muslin to work with

Now we have two decent-sized pieces of muslin to work with here!

When you’re placing the pattern pieces on the muslin, look through the tissue to find the grain of the muslin. It’s not super easy to see. If you’re having trouble, you could tear the edges of your fabric to determine the crosswise grain, and then use this edge to find the grainline. You’ll end up with less muslin to use but it’s best to have your pieces cut on grain as much as possible, for the best fit.

place pieces on grain

I cut one piece at a time but you could easily place all of the pieces and cut them all at once.

cut out muslin pieces from used muslin

Look how many pieces I was able to cut from just the skirt fronts! That’s a bodice back, a bodice side front, a strap piece and a strap tab. Four pieces that I’d have to cut out of fresh muslin otherwise.

two more pieces cut from used muslin

Do you do this, re-use old muslins for new muslins? If not, it’s a great way to reduce the amount of waste we create! (Especially me. Between Caroline and I, we make a lot of muslins.) If you’ve never thought of doing this, I hope this post was helpful!

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27 Responses to Re-using Old Muslins for New Muslins

  1. Diane @ Vintage Zest March 4, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    I totally love this idea! So far, I’ve only made wearable muslins because the patterns & fabrics have been pretty forgiving. (http://vintagezest.blogspot.com/2013/01/sewing-rewind-skirt-shirt-and-coat-oh-my.html)

    I will DEFINITELY utilize this for my next tailored garment. Thanks!

  2. Maggie March 4, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    I need to start doing this. I have a stack of muslins just waiting to be re-used! Thanks for the tip :)

  3. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) March 4, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Yep I do this when I have an old muslin – which is not very often, as I rarely make them when sewing for myself :)

  4. Michelle March 4, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Oh, sewing bloggers are so ingenious. I love finding new ways to reduce my impact. This is a wonderful suggestion. Thanks for detailing your process.

  5. Sabs March 4, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    yeah i’ve been doing the same thing too – although as the pieces get smaller and smaller each time you cut them, there comes a point when you have to throw it away or use as dusters!

    • Tasia March 4, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      For sure! It works best when you have large-to-medium sizes pieces of muslin to work with and the muslin is still in pretty good shape – not stretched out, ripped and re-sewn, or drawn all over.

    • Julianne March 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      I’ve been saving my tiniest scraps as ottoman stuffing. I cut them up into about 3×3″ pieces, so that it’s not very lumpy, but very tough. In 2 months I’ve filled an entire large garbage bag, with pieces that would have gone into the trash! Now I just have to make an ottoman.

  6. meganleiann March 4, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    May I ask a novice question? How are you cutting your patterns out without cutting the size out of the tissue? My pattern tracing and cutting seem to be what is holding me back from being a competent sewer.

    • Tasia March 4, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Oh, I cut the size out of the tissue! I know that not everyone does that, and there are tons of people that prefer to trace. But when it comes to patterns that I’ve bought, I’ll go ahead and cut out the size I want to make! If I really think I might want to make a size, I save the cut edges to tape back on later. (But I’ve never had to do that..)
      It’s totally a personal preference. I’ll trace vintage patterns most of the time, because they’re not replaceable. But for regular modern patterns I usually cut out my size.

      • meganleiann March 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        So are those pictures just an example or do you cut both the fabric and the tissue out together?

        • Tasia March 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

          Yes, I cut through both layers at once, tissue and fabric. I would do that with tissue paper only, not if the pattern pieces were made of real paper as that would be hard on the fabric scissors. I hope this helps!

          • nothy March 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

            I’m glad to hear that you cut right through the tissue Tasia. I felt like I had a guilty secret. It seems like everyone traces but I just want to get to work. I’m pretty adept at sizing up if I need to (I cut pants with a one inch seam allowance for instance) and I have a good idea of what types of patterns fit on me (and the type of alterations I need to make.) But I am glad I am not the only one who cuts tissue patterns.

  7. Aleksandra March 4, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Lovely idea! I always feel guilty about the fabric waste of my muslins. For skirts I usually only make partial muslins… like an extra short mini skirt (my boyfriend thinks they’re hilarious!) but I could probably reuse some parts of my blouse and dress muslins.

    One question though… I usually write on my muslin in marker. My mom does it too (she’s the one that taught me to do it.) Does no one else do that? Especially when making the super short skirts it’s really tough to tell which piece is which, so I just write on to save time. I guess maybe I could cross it out for reuse though.

    • Tasia March 4, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      I do that too, or I use pencil to write on mine. For the Hollyburn skirt muslin there wasn’t any writing or if there was it was light pencil so it’s easy to ignore and re-use. You could use pencil, or cross out the old writing, or try to ignore it.

      • Aleksandra March 4, 2013 at 10:42 am #

        All good suggestions, thanks! I just ordered several of your patterns last week, so perhaps I’ll try these with my new muslins. ;)

  8. Truly Myrtle March 4, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Did you lay the pattern pieces out to gauge size or did you cut them? I’m curious what you do with tissue – trace it? Run a pokey wheel over it?

    • Tasia March 4, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      Cut them! Bad me, I know some of you might be thinking. I cut out along my size, no pokey wheel, no tracing. It’s faster, it’s easier and I rarely need to go back and cut a different size or sew my patterns for anyone else.

  9. Kathleen March 4, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    After “The Unfortunate Cocktail Dress Incident of 1999″ I vowed I’d never sew again. Granddaughters have sent me back to my sewing machine but, am I the only person who has never made a muslin? I keep seeing reference to muslins on sewing blogs; but what – and why – does one make a muslin?

  10. Erin B March 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    I always recut muslins into smaller and smaller pieces until theres nothing left. If you use marker try a different color marker when reusing.

    • Tasia March 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      That’s a good idea about changing the colour of the marker! Smart. Thanks for sharing!

  11. nothy March 4, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Sometimes I sew my seam lines in different colours if I am not sure of the fit on a garment. I also unpick my muslin and use that as a pattern piece for the future. So only half can be economized and reused.

  12. Katie March 4, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    I also quilt and have cut up old muslins to practice different quilting patterns on them.

  13. nic March 5, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    Hi. Just a very small point – in the UK we would say toile instead of muslin, so I clicked on the post mainly from confusion. At first I wondered if it was about net curtains (voiles) or nappy (diaper) liners! The two things that muslin are mainly used for over here. The fabric I would use for toiles, we would call calico. Funny, eh?

    • Lucy March 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      The calico or muslin used to confuse me as well! We use British English in NZ – well, I certainly do – and could never understand how people could make good test runs out of muslin, because it’s so light and loosely woven. What we call muslin is also known as cheesecloth – you know what you would strain cheeses or boil puddings in? I have no idea if the test run itself is officially known as a toile or muslin, however, because I’m completely self taught.

      Mind you, I normally just buy $2 sheets from the op shop and they do the job just fine ;-)

  14. Erin B March 6, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    So neat to hear the names from across the pond. In the US, toile generally means a type of monochromatic printed fabric usually cotton or linen with a scene on it.

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