Muslin fabric is a type of cloth you’ll come across in fashion and textile design, as well as in everyday life as a material for some types of clothing. But exactly what is muslin? What is the difference between muslin and cotton? And if you’re interested in using it, where can you buy muslin cloth? Read on to find the answers to these FAQs and more.
What Is Muslin?
Let’s start with the basics: What is muslin? It’s a type of plain-weave cotton fabric. It’s usually beige or of another plain, undyed, unbleached color, although these days you can also find dyed muslins.
Muslin has been around for centuries and is believed to have originated in present-day Iraq, where it was made in the city of Mosul (hence its name). However, it’s more commonly associated with Indian textiles now, as Dacca in Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) has been a muslin-producing center since the 17th century.
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What Is Muslin Used For?
Muslin has any number of uses as it comes in different weights and thicknesses. A lot of muslin is fine and light, so it’s ideal for lightweight summer clothing and muslin blankets and wraps for babies. Lower-grade muslin is also used for household cleaning cloths and in some types of food production, such as cheesemaking.
Muslin also has many uses in crafting and fashion design and manufacturing. It can be used as a backing and lining for quilts (such as patchwork quilts). Muslin is a good fabric to use for fabric dyeing and printing projects as it’s inexpensive and plain. It’s also commonly used for making mock-ups of patterns to test the fit before you cut into more expensive fabric.
The Difference Between Cotton and Muslin
Muslin is made from cotton, but not all cotton is muslin. It usually has a regular weave, is non-stretchy, and isn’t blended with anything else, like silk or viscose. It has a loose, open, and plain weave, meaning it doesn’t have patterns or texture woven into it (although Bengali jamdani muslin is a notable exception).
These days, some fabric called muslin is made with artificial fibers too, but it’s debatable whether this can actually be called muslin.
Fabric Qualities of Muslin
Muslin was traditionally used to make lightweight clothing in hot climates, such as the Middle East and South Asia.
Although you can find heavier, thicker muslins (this type of muslin is used in furnishing), the fabric is usually lightweight.
You can find dyed or bleached muslins, but they’re usually unbleached and come in shades of off-white.
How is Muslin Made?
Muslin is woven on a loom from natural cotton fibers. The ultimate quality of the muslin will depend, in large part, on the quality of the cotton fibers used. Weaving was traditionally done by hand, although these days machines are also used to make much larger quantities. As the cotton fibers used to make muslin are usually very fine, handweaving was typically done in the wetter months so the strands wouldn’t dry out and become brittle and break.
Is Muslin Sustainable?
On the fabric sustainability scale, muslin sits somewhere in the middle. Muslin made from organic cotton is the most sustainable. Organic cotton muslin is biodegradable, uses less water in the manufacturing process than non-organic cotton, and doesn’t require the use of pesticides. However, muslin made with non-organic cotton may have more of a negative impact on the environment and ecosystems.
How Do You Wash and Dry Muslin Fabric?
If you have a fine muslin fabric, take care when washing it to avoid ripping it. Ideally, hand wash it in warm water. Muslin is prone to shrinking, so whatever the weight of fabric you have, avoid putting it in a hot wash or on a hot dryer cycle. Air dry muslin, particularly clothing you want to last, to keep it in good condition. Muslin is usually quite neutral in color, too, so don’t put it in the wash with a red t-shirt unless you want it to take a pinkish tinge!
Where to Buy Muslin Fabric?
You can buy muslin by the yard from almost every fabric shop out there. The variety of colors and quality may vary depending on the size of the store, but some type of muslin will almost always be available. If you have a large project, buy wholesale muslin fabric online so you can shop around for the best deal for the quantity you need.
To buy lengths of fabric for sewing or craft projects online, try Amazon or fabric.com. If you’re looking for ready-to-wear muslin clothing, Etsy sells a huge range of stylish, unique pieces for adults and kids, as well as muslin blankets and accessories for babies.
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