What is a Toile and why should I make one?


What is a Toile?

A toile, a french word (pronounced Twarhl) is basically a draft version or prototype of a garment made from a cheap basic fabric, usually calico.

A toile is used in the design process, it allows the designer/sewist to check the fit of the garment.

We know that you don't want an extra step and you just want to cut in and get sewing but taking the time to make a toile and get that perfect (chef's kiss) fit will fill you with confidence to make the garment again and again.


Why should I toile?

We are all unique and that should be celebrated. There is no such thing as standard size when it comes to bodies. Some of us may have a sway back, longer arms, narrow shoulders (that's me!), shorter legs etc. By doing a toile, you can quickly see if any adjustment need to be made. As you sew more garments for yourself, you will get better at knowing what to look for. 

What do I need to make a toile?                                                  

Pattern paper



marking pen or chalk

rulers can help




How do I go about making a toile?

Make up the garment in your chosen toiling fabric. You don’t have to add facings, collars or pockets etc. You don't have to worry about buttonholes or zips, just pin the opening closed when it’s on.

You just want to check the overall fit of the garment, so you will only need the main pattern pieces. There is no need to finish the seams.

Mark the position of pockets so you can check pocket placement, without actually having to sew them.

When sewing, consider using a long stitch length, so that you can quickly and easily unpick any seams that need to be altered. You can also use a contrasting thread to make it even easier to see your stitches. 

What do I do now I've made a toile?

Put it on, stand in front of the mirror and have a good look. Asses how it is fitting you.

  • Does it sit nicely?
  • Is it pulling anywhere?
  • is it sagging or too loose anywhere?
  • Can you move your arms and walk comfortably in it?

Now you can get to work on altering the toile. Grab your pen to begin making alterations to fit your body.

You may want to....

  • lower the neckline
  • bring in a side seam
  • move or alter bust darts

Once you have made all the changes you need, you can set about transferring them back to your pattern.

You can find out more on how to do this at one of our Measure, Alter, Make courses at Carolyn Rose School of Sewing.


Written by Sam Whittaker for Carolyn Rose School of Sewing