Tilly’s Tucks

I’m working on Tilly’s Mathilde blouse, adding the tucks. Well, I say I’m working – this is the first time in over a week that I’ve touched my sewing machine. How did that happen?

With these tucks, don’t think you can wing it, eyeball it or fudge it. You’ll want to measure carefully and, if you have the patience, I might even recommend some practice goes on scraps of fabric. I didn’t bother and had to use my seam ripper on fabric that really retains puncture holes, which is a shame, but there you have it. I learned the hard way!


Once you’ve sewn your first tuck, it becomes much easier to place the others. I found it easiest to make a chalk mark 1.5cm away from my sewn line and then another mark 3cm along from that. Tuck lines established, ready to be pinned and sewn!

I’d devote a good hour to each set of tucks on either side of the front bodice. Embrace Slow Sewing. This step is tricky and time-consuming, but once these are done Tilly promises that we’re off and running. I believe her!


Let’s talk fabric choice for a moment. I would urge caution around using silks or anything slippery. My fabric is gorgeous but challenging to work with. A voile would be super-perfect – The Village Haberdashery stocks gorgeous voilesΒ here. I have some of this fabric and can attest to its softness and drape, combined with an opaqueness which means you wouldn’t need to underline for a blouse. Result!

I haven’t done a toile of my Mathilde, so this may become a wearable muslin. Or not. Only time will tell… I’m curious. Do you always make a toile/muslin, sometimes make one, or never bother? Vote in the poll below! (For new Sewists, a ‘toile’ (UK term) or ‘muslin’ (US term) is a practice go of a pattern, usually in calico, that allows you to judge and adjust fit. You then transfer those adjustments to your pattern pieces, prior to commencing with the real make.)

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34 Responses to Tilly’s Tucks

  1. KristiEllKay says:

    I always do, though they sometimes are wearable muslins (American over here haha!). I just don’t trust my sewing abilities enough to judge what a pattern will look like on me in a nice fabric.

  2. I never used to make a toile – I just went with it and subsequently I have had alot of handmade items going unworn over the years. I have just started on a prom dress for my step-daughter and have promised myself that indeed I will make a toile! I also have a toile part made for a pair of trousers which I am hoping will become my standard pattern – and of course, I have my Mathilde blouse pattern which I am going to make a toile for – I haven’t found the perfect fabric for the real thing yet but I shall take your advice and seek out The Village Haberdashery for a voile – thanks!

  3. Gjeometry says:

    Oh, I love this fabric! So pretty! Can’t wait to see the finished blouse.

  4. joelle says:

    if i make a toile, then it’s a “real” one. i recently discovered the joy of ripping away a muslin and using it as a pattern. I’m not much for wearable muslins… well at least not intentionally. i often just sew a pattern and hope for the best!

  5. Helen says:

    I voted “sometimes” but I’ve only ever done it once. I would do it again though if I was uncertain about the pattern and/or didn’t want to risk precious fabric. For a loose fitting garment like the Mathilde, I wouldn’t bother. How wrong can it go?…

  6. Can’t wait to see the finished item (great fabric btw!)


  7. I often make a muslin for my bust area as I’m still trying to work out my standard alterations. Bust darts never seem to be in the right place! If I don’t make a muslin (like for a peasant blouse), then I spend quite a bit of time matching the ‘new’ pattern to something I might have sewn before that is similar. The later also helps me determine my ‘right’ size. Not much sewing going on here either. No dog excuses for me – just two tired girls that are settling into school/kinder and an alarm each morning (which curbs my night sewing). Oh to be back on summer holidays…

  8. Marie says:

    Oh yes, Tilly’s tucks are tricky (but the rest of the blouse is easy peasy)! I too found it necessary to take my time with them. I marked them all in one go and then I pressed and sewed each one individually, which I think made the whole thing easier! Also, on the muslin front, I tend to always make one. as I have serious fitting issues if I don’t :o(

  9. Lynne says:

    Thanks for the tips on the tucks! I’m hoping to start my Mathilde at the weekend, and haven’t done tucks before. I always make a toile due to narrow back, fba, short body… blah, blah, blah! And I’ll be making one for Mathilde. πŸ˜‰

  10. I would second everything you said about sewing these tucks, and using slippery fabric. Of course I ignored all of that and although it is still better than most things I have made due to the french seams on the inside I think mine still fits into the ‘wearable muslin’ category.

  11. Philippa says:

    No sewing over here either – in bed with flu (and I had the jab – how does that even work!!). Anyway I hope your blouse does fit you. I can picture you in that fabric!

  12. Tilly says:

    Those tucks look super neat, madam! Can’t wait to see the finished product. x

  13. Omg, I’m now taking sew the perfect fit on craftsy and just made muslin version 4 of my back bodice! Trying to learn as I go but sometimes I feel like quitting!

  14. I really love the fabric you chose… If you can find some extra i’d love it if you could share the details. Thanks!

  15. Amy says:

    I always feel like I’m slow sewing. I have no idea how people sew so quickly! Can’t wait to see your final blouse!

  16. Eeep I’m scared! haha

  17. Dixie says:

    I make muslins when working with woven fabrics. For knits, I tissue fit the pattern, then fit by the seat of my pants (so to speak).
    Very nice print on the fabric you’re using!

  18. funkbunny says:

    I never used to make muslins, but after doing one for my Belladone, and getting a good fit I’m now a convert. Your blouse fabric is lovely! I’ma bit scared of working with silk but have been reading some good tips about using corn starch to make it more stable (although might this mess up the fabric?)

  19. Danielle says:

    That’s a very interesting fabric print you have there, I think it will look great in that shirt pattern!

    After putting this same question out there (and getting a few responses), I decided to follow everyone’s advice and go with the muslin (sorry, American over here!) on my very first ever top (the Colette Sorbetto tank Top). It definitely helped me realize that though the width of the shirt was fine, the length was a bit short for my taste, so I was able to adjust for the “real thing”.

    I started my dress (my sewlution!) a couple weeks ago, but just made a muslin of the bodice, and I haven’t picked it up in about a week… (where does the time go?!). I’m still debating on whether any adjustments need to be made as the back seems to be a little bunched, but the rest fits fine, so I’m wondering if adding the waist and skirt (along with lining), will add some weight to it and smooth it out…? (I’m afraid to do it on the “real” fabric!)

  20. CGCouture says:

    I only make muslins when I’m working with precious fabric or if it’s going to be something that I desperately want the fitting work out on. And I seldom heed the advice of choosing a less finicky fabric on a new pattern (or at least one that uses new techniques), but I always wish I had later!

  21. Sara says:

    I do toiled more and more often, but if I really don’t want to, I don’t force it. Better to make a shitty garment that you can maybe unpick and salvage somehow than to never get started because you just can’t stand the thought of doing a muslin.

  22. Shelly says:

    I’ve never made a toile but I’m about to make my first. I’ve had too many wadders to continue this practice of never having a great fit.

  23. grenouille78 says:

    Like Sara above, I can’t stand the thought of making the same thing twice (and then is the eternal question of what to do with all those muslins?!). I just try to be careful. HA! The one and only muslin I’ve ever made was for a pair of trousers. Guess what? The trousers don’t fit. Pfft. Muslins, shmuslins.

  24. Kathryn says:

    ooh this looks lovely – I love your fabric! In my, so far very limited, clothes making I’ve only made one toile. This was for a dress and it was worth it to improve the fit, however I still made it out of fabric I could wear as I’m a bit too impatient to spend time on something I can’t wear!

  25. lisa g says:

    i’m definitely in the “sometimes” category… i think it’s easy to get carried away with over-fitting, so unless a pattern just looks wrong (i do think one develops an eye for this stuff over time!) i don’t bother. i’ve learned what my dart intake should look like, so mostly i have to check for shoulder seams being in the right place and watching out for potential gapes in the back neck, etc. i do often leave extra seam allowance at the sides to adjust for fit at the waist. i find different fabrics need different amounts of ease and it’s hard to predict these things with muslin! but a free-flowy type top? nah. i’d take that risk and not muslin, though i’d probably use inexpensive fabric just in case!

  26. LinB says:

    Make tucks in your uncut yardage, and make them any however you want: deep, shallow, on an angle, curved. THEN lay your pattern piece over the tucked fabric and cut it out. This is an industry and a costume-shop technique that can make your sewing life far less stressful.

  27. I made my first toile last weekend! It was for the Sewaholic Cambie dress. I got fed up of making things that never quite fit and that I never wore outside the house. So this time I thought I’d do it properly and I made the toile…. but knowing what to do with it was the problem! I’m in the process of changing darts, adding tucks, raising waists to get the fit how I want it. I started clueless, but the amount of information I’ve found since I started my blog is amazing. I’ve been introduced to a world of sewing I never knew existed!

  28. Jenny says:

    The first time I make a pattern it is a toile whether I call it that or not!

  29. Can’t wait to see the finished result Karen… P.S. I particularly like the fabric choice my dear πŸ˜‰ !

  30. Today is your birthday, isn’t it? You share it with Saint Valentine, did you know that?! Best wishes, hope you’ve had roses and lots of productive sewing time. And booze, I think. There probably needs to be a fair bit of that if not necessarily at the same time as the sewing.

  31. symondezyn says:

    I really like your choice of fabric; it’s a nice print with what looks like a very nice texture; is it a silk crepe? πŸ™‚ I make a toile if it’s either a pattern company I haven’t used before, or a pattern I haven’t used before and/or I’m planning on making it out of a fabric I’m particularly fond of; otherwise the adjustments I make are almost always pretty standard across the board, and I can try on/make minor adjustments as I go πŸ™‚ If it is a dress, I only muslin the bodice, as that’s where I have the most fit issues. I never make toiles for knits, because, well… they stretch πŸ˜›

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