You've pattern cut your design and now it's time to cut out your pattern pieces and create your top... but wait...something tells you you should be making a toile*. You hesitate for a second and then think, what a waste of time, it'll be fine. Only to find you've finished the whole top, put it on and low and behold it doesn't quite fit!
*Toile - an early version of a finished garment made up in cheap material so that the design can be tested and perfected.
Why are toiles so important?
I know I've had times where I've thought 'forget the toile, I just want a finished garment now'... but we all know that they are a vital part of the process.
What does a toile really tell us?
✂️ If the fit is right
✂️ If the design is how you imagined it to be
✂️ How to put the garment together. Remember that your pattern, annotations and notes are your instructions and once we've made the mistakes once we're less likely to make them again.
Toiles can come across as a time and money waster. That is exactly the opposite of what they are! You should even make toiles for shop-bought patterns too. Then you can test the pattern for a fraction of the cost and time needed to make the final garment!
Top toile making tips:
Time saver tip: You don't need to finish the hems or even cut out the extra fabric required for them. Save fabric and save time. If you think you may forget to add these on later, then you can just fold them under when making a toile.
Money and ethical tip: Before spending money on calico, use unwanted/damaged fabrics, clothes or bedsheets. Calico should be your final option and we recommend using organic calico. Click here to get your calico fabric made from 100% GOTS Organic Cotton. BUT REMEMBER - if you're creating a stretch agreement make sure to create your toile out of a stretch fabric that has a similar amount of stretch too.
The true test tip: The fabric you make your toile in should be as similar as possible to your final fabric(s). This is so you can test the fit and movement of the garment properly.
Quality tip: Toiles aren't about the finish. That doesn't mean to say you can bodge seam allowances and measurements. These still have to be accurate otherwise it's not a true test of the fit but the thread doesn't need to match and you don't need to sew on all the buttons.
What are you really looking for?
So you've made up this great toile but what are you really looking for?
Trying it on a mannequin doesn't count as testing the fit and look! It's for you, and you're right there so put it on!
TOP TIP: Put it on inside out and you'll find it easier to undo any seams to make them bigger or pin them in to make them smaller. It will also make it easier to copy these alterations over to your sewing patterns.
What does a bad fit look like?
✖️ Ripples in the fabric where it is stretched over a particular area.
✖️ Excess fabric, creating loose areas which aren't meant to be loose.
✖️ The fabric gapes open around the bust or armholes.
✖️ The darts don't point to the highest and lowest points of the body.
✖️ The overall balance of the garment doesn't quite work for your design.
✖️ The garment is too short/long.
✖️ You can't move easily in the garment and it won't work for what it's designed for.
What does a good fit look like?
✔️ The fabric is smooth across the body.
✔️ The garment looks balanced and how you imagined it to be.
✔️ The fabric isn't pulled anywhere.
✔️ There isn't excess fabric in any area.
These are just some pointers but if you need any help with the fit of your creation then I'm here to help. Send me some photos on Instagram and I'll send you back a few pointers.
Pin it, draw on it, cut it!
You've spent the time making a toile, so let the toile work for you.
Pin it where it needs to be smaller, write on it where it needs to be bigger and draw on it if something needs moving like a bust point, dart or design feature.
Use your pins, drawings and notes as your alteration to-do list. That way you won't have to remember what needs altering and you can take measurements from the toile.
Use safety pins so they don't come out when you're taking your toile off.
For example, if you'd like to lower the waist by 2 cm then do an arrow on your toile and write 'lower by 2cm'. Use your toile like a notebook, you'll feel like you've got your time and money out of it then!
What if you have any major alterations?
It may not be what you want to hear, but if you've got any major alterations you should really make another toile or alter the one you've made if you can. It's worth the investment I promise!
Have you made a toile before? Or maybe you're making one at the moment? Send us some progress photos, it's great to see the creative process behind the shiny make! Just message me on Instagram.
Happy creating, Sarah x
P.S. Come over to part 4 where I'll be talking about getting the best sewing results with your final garment. Let's make your designs come alive! Click here to start reading
In case you missed Part 1 and Part 2, then here are the links below 1. How to design and make your own clothes - Designing