Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To toile or not to toile?


Jorth was in an extraordinarily indecisive mood. On the one hand she really wanted to immediately start cutting out her red fabric to make a skirt, using the Burda magazine pattern she had just traced. But on the other hand she always had trouble getting skirts to fit well, and there was an annoying little voice in her head that kept insisting she make a toile.

Jorth knew that making a toile was the sensible course of action, but man! Toiles were so boring! They were like the court shoes of sewing: dull, practical and guaranteed to not cause you any trouble. Jorth glanced out the window, and sighed at the grey leaden skies. On such a dull day she wanted excitement, she wanted to be rash and reckless... but she also didn't want to ruin her fabric.

Suddenly Jorth was struck with a sterling idea: she could consult her Magic 8 ball! She rummaged in the cupboard until she found it, and then breathlessly asked "O Magic 8 ball, should I make a toile?" She shook the ball, and was dismayed to find the answer was "Yes".

"Maybe", thought Jorth, "it doesn't work anymore. It is pretty old after all. Perhaps I'll ask it another question: O Magic 8 ball, should I do more piano practice?" Once again the answer was "Yes", leaving Jorth to conclude that the ball probably wasn't broken after all, as she was in dire need of more piano practice.

"What now?" thought Jorth. Then she remembered her bag of runes. Although she hadn't even touched them since high school she was sure that the Germanic alphabet, used by many to cast divinations, would be able to provide her with an answer.

With a trembling hand she carefully drew the first rune she touched out of the bag. It was the Nauthiz rune, which signified need, delays and restriction. "Oh that's just great", thought Jorth. "So this means that I need to do a toile, otherwise the darn skirt won't work, and I'll be delayed in wearing it, and it'll probably end up too tight, hence the restriction. Fabulous!"

Jorth wasn't about to give up so easily, though. Murmuring to herself "third time's the charm!" she rummaged in her spice draw until she found a bag of dried rosemary.  Jorth knew that the ancient Greeks and Romans had burnt this herb to offer prophecies. Putting some on a place, she carefully set a lit match to it, and anxiously watched the smoke that rose. Unfortunately for Jorth, the smoke rose steadily, floated in the air and then formed the following message: Make a toile, you idiot.

"Fine!", yelled Jorth as the smoke alarm went off. "I'll make the darn toile!" After turning off the alarm she found her roll of calico, and started cutting the toile out, wondering as she did so if any other sewers made up toiles first for potentially tricky garments, or if they just sewed on the fly like she had been tempted to do.


  1. For a shirt, dress or blouse, I should make a toile, though, like you, I see how I am feeling on the day.

    For skirts and pants, I can usually get by, making necessary adjustments afterwards.

    If you take the time to make a skirt sloper now, it is pretty easy to see how most future skirt patterns will fit and make the necessary adjustments without making a toile first. Doesn't help you today though!

  2. I make far too many toiles and they are a mega drag.

  3. I don't make toiles and many friends and relatives get gifts and I have nothing to wear!

  4. I've reached a point in my sewing that I make up a toile every time. Yes, it's a tad tedious and drawn out but without it, my sewing world would be a string of disappointments and disasters.

  5. Oh whistle while you know the song. Boring aren't they, but necessary. Ps. I try to avoid them too.

  6. I make toiles for jackets & coats, because the time invested in them. But if skirts give you trouble make a toile! It can be very liberating.. .you can mark every little thing on them (grain lines,center front), write notes...

  7. Anonymous6:52 am

    Ah, the dilemma that always gets me. But more often than not, I make one these days. I'm done with garments not fitting, especially when I have the skills to make them fit. (ps - is draw an Aussie/Brit thing? I just saw it over at so,zo, too... thought I knew loads of non-Yank!)

  8. Depends what i'm making. I usually regret it if i don' that pair of Burda pants i recently made :(

  9. I very rarely make toiles... I have done some for jackets...

    I usually can't be bothered. Every fabric is different anyway. There is a dress I have made up about 7 times in different fabrics, all in the same size, but some of my later versions are too tight for me while the first ones still fit...

  10. I was a toil virgin until recently for a jacket - I had some very special vintage irreplaceable fabric so I wanted to be extra extra careful.

    Have to say it was lovely making a jacket that was already all the right proportions instead of having to muck around with it, unpick, get annoyed, Leave it for a few weeks before deciding to tackle it again. (my lovely jacket is awaiting the self covered buttons I have ordered and I'm very very happy with it)

    And I'm about to make another jacket from my toile which again will be the perfect fit. Sometimes being practical is boring but it does pay off!

  11. Anonymous4:47 am

    Once upon a time I never made toiles...and nothing ever fitted...and everything ended up in recycling, the charity shop or the bin. Since starting to make toiles my sewing is slower but oh so very much better. So much so that I'm slowly starting to love the pesky things as I know that whilst they add time to the front end of the project, the actual sewing is considerably speedier and the end results more professional. End result...less waste both of time, fabric and expletives.


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