(RIGHT) This trouser toile of S9610 is made to shorts length in calico with size info and helpful markings transferred onto the fabric.
(LEFT) Even our pattern designers use toiles. This V1872 mock up helped them check the construction and visualise the design lines.
What fabric to use
- Toile and calico are excellent fabrics to practice in as they can be bought by the roll for relatively little. But using a fabric that behaves just like your fashion fabric will work better.
- For instance you’ll need to use jersey on a stretch knit pattern and something drapey is best if you’re sewing a satin or challis project.
- Use large scraps left over from other projects or shop end of line sales to find ends of rolls and large remnants to work with.
- Light coloured plain fabrics are best as you can add helpful markings onto the toile to work out your fit requirements.
How much of a toile to make
You don’t have to make the entire garment in order to get the information you need. To fit your upper half sew a bodice with sleeves (if the pattern includes them) but skip facings if they’re turned to the inside. For shirts you’ll want to add at least the stand part of the collar so you can tell if the neck will be too tight.
For trousers and skirts only make your toile as long as your hips to identify the fit around the waist and hips without wasting fabric on the full length. For gathered or voluminous designs with lots of ease you can choose to skip this stage if you’re comfortable with the loose fit at the hips.
Skip linings and don’t worry too much about hem lengths. You can check those with your tape measure separately.
Whatever the reasons, here are my top tips for whizzing up a super helpful toile:
You can mark darts, pleats and notches with biro to save precious fabric markers and make easy to see annotations. You’re not wearing the garment after your test so it doesn’t matter if you make permanent marks!
Transfer your bust, waist, crotch and hip markings plus the grain line from the pattern onto your toile. These will be very helpful in seeing how the pattern is fitting your body. For instance your bust dart might be in the totally wrong position. Or the crotch is hanging too low. The grain line could also be pulled out of alignment so you’ll be able to see what needed fixing!
Increase your stitch length to at least 3mm and don’t finish the seam allowances to save time on constructing your toile. You’ll also find it easier to unpick anything you need to redo with a longer stitch length.
If your final garment is lined, you can maybe make your toile out of lining fabric … if the toile fits you’ve suddenly jumped ahead with your project steps.