Creating my first Toile with Calico Muslin Fabric

Simplicity pattern 8346 toile test garment

Sewing my first toile with calico

I’m making the Simplicity pattern 6346 Skirt B in size 10 and because my past two garments have resulted in a few mistakes that I’m less than happy with, I’ve decided to create a test garment to hopefully omit all the errors in the test and make my fashion fabric version to perfection! (Got to think positive!)

I first heard of a toile in the Craftsy course class Sew the Perfect Fit, lead by Lynda Maynard. I haven’t finished this class as I think it is aimed at more advanced sewers but I watched the first few videos and picked up a few tips (I intend to complete it in the future once I have a few more skills under my belt).

What is a Toile?

A toile is a test garment created exactly as if you are making the real deal, but using plain fabric, which in the United States is known as muslin. Here in the UK we call it calico I think, (muslin here is thin fabric used for cleaning up babies and squeezing fruit for jam making).

I bought 5 meters of medium weight calico for £15 from ebay UK. It feels good quality and is nice to cut. When I iron it, I found it smells quite sweet, a bit like cake batter. I’m not sure if it always smells this way, or if this is just the batch I got. It’s not offensive though.

toile muslin calico sew a test garment

Calico purchased from ebay UK

I traced the size 10 pattern and cut out the pieces, I only need five pieces for this skirt (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) 1, 2, 4 & 5 are cut from the fabric, 3, 4 & 5 are cut from the interfacing.

toile using plain medium weight calico fabric

Cutting out my toile using plain medium weight calico fabric

I then cut out the interfacing for pieces 3, 4 & 5 and ironed them onto the relevant waistband pieces and down the buttonhole strips. This was straightforward and fairly quick to do.

Applying the Iron on Interfacing to the Skirt Waistband pattern pieces

Applying the Iron on Interfacing to the Skirt Waistband

Interfacing for skirt pattern pieces Simplicity Pattern 6346

Interfacing for skirt pattern pieces Simplicity Pattern 6346

I then sewed the back pieces together with a 5/8″ seam and the front pieces to the back piece, also with 5/8″ seams. At this stage it really started to look like a skirt and I was excited to see it taking shape.

Attaching the Waistband

I then attached all the waistband pieces both outer and facing and let it hang overnight.

Attaching the waistband was the trickiest part so far. Getting the seam allowances layered and understitched into the facing was a little fiddly. Then top stitching from the outside of the skirt,very close to the edge of the waistband, but ensuring I caught the folded edge of the waistband facing was a little harder than I anticipated, particularly after trimming the fold of the facing to 1/4″.


Calico Skirt Taking Shape Front View

Calico Skirt Taking Shape Front View

Calico Skirt Taking Shape Seams on View

Calico Skirt Taking Shape with Seams on View

Creating the Hem

Next up was the hem. This was a precise way to make a hem, which really impressed me and I enjoyed doing. At this point it states to baste along the hem at 5/8″, so I used this perfect opportunity to test out machine basting.

My Janome does not have a specific basting stitch (a long, loose stitch) but it is easy to create one by simply increasing the stitch length of the straight stitch. So I chose the straight stitch and increased the length to the maximum of 5.

The point of a basting stitch is that it can be removed easily after sewing is complete and it is at this point that I found this to be such a neat trick. Once the row of stitching was complete, it made it really easy and accurate to fold over the hem to meet the 5/8″ row of stitching and press down carefully with my iron. I then folded it over again exactly on the row of basting and this created a perfect little hem. There were also some confusing instructions that I had to carefully decipher in the pattern to fold back, stitch and trim the facing, but in doing so it reduced the bulk and all folded back out the way neatly to hide the raw edges.

I was generally happy with the toile at this point and decided to move on to creating the actual garment, rather than measuring and marking all the buttonholes.


  1. Lovely post – a toile has never occurred to me before as I’ve never really done anything too complicated, and I seem to be a very standard size when it comes to measurements but can I ask a v. beginner question…What are the pros and cons to tracing a pattern onto your own paper rather than using the one out of the packet? Is it simply preference or is there a good reason to do this? I always just hack away at the tissue paper and then regret not looking more closely at how it folds back up into an envelope that it couldn’t possibly have fit into in the beginning!

    • Thank you for your comment. Whether or not to cut or trace the paper pattern is definitely personal preference. I do both. The reason I trace out the pattern onto my own paper is because it means I can reuse the pattern again if I want to. It also means I can simply trace and cut out my own size and by using paper that is a bit thicker than the pattern paper, it is more durable to work with. It’s useful if you want to use the pattern for different sized people, such as making pyjamas for 3 members of your family.

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