There’s more to muslin fabric than meets the eye. Learn about the rich history of this versatile fabric, and how it’s used today.
Muslin, a plain-woven cotton fabric, is one of the world’s oldest cotton cloths. It gets its name from the city of Mosul, Iraq — where it was first encountered by Europeans — but the original fabric is believed to have been created in Bangladesh and traded widely in the Middle East before being further popularized in Europe.
Cotton muslin fabric has a simple, loose weave and is made in varying weights, ranging from finer, delicate textures to coarser, unfinished sheeting. Early muslin was created from a fragile hand-spun yarn. Nowadays, coarser muslin is woven from irregular fibers, while finer fabrics are made using evenly spun cotton yarn and then bleached or printed.
What is Muslin Fabric Used For?
One of the most common uses for muslin is in sewing and dressmaking. When using expensive material to construct a garment, seamstresses will first test the fit with a muslin fabric pattern. This “practice garment” is now commonly known as a “muslin,” no matter what it’s made of. Muslin is also commonly used as a lining or backing for quilt squares.
Any parent with a newborn infant knows the value of a muslin swaddle blanket. The breathable fabric of a muslin baby wrap is great for moms who want to carry their baby or breastfeed discreetly.
Photography and Theater
Muslin backdrops make excellent set pieces for theater, film, and photography. A muslin backdrop can be painted to set a particular mood, such as a stormy night or festive party scene. Muslin backdrops can also provide a great background for a formal photo, and in video production, dyed muslin makes the perfect inexpensive green screen.
Cooking & Food Prep
Whether you’re preparing homemade jam, decanting fine wine, squeezing a lemon, or making your own cheese, bleached muslin cloth makes a great filter to separate liquids from solids. You can even make your own tea bags with muslin pouches!
Around the House
Muslin fabric’s soft surface makes it great for dusting and everyday cleaning. It has the added benefit of being lint-free, giving glass surfaces and windows a streak-free shine. You can also use muslin to freshen the air in your home: use printed muslin bags to create a pretty potpourri sachet, or add your favorite essential oil to a bundle of white muslin squares to make your home smell fresh and clean.
Drawstring muslin bags are a quick, easy and attractive way to wrap gifts. Keep it simple with a plain cotton muslin pouch or add some pizzazz with a printed muslin bag. White muslin cloth can also serve as beautiful (and inexpensive!) gift wrap. Add a muslin ribbon, and you’ve got a gift worthy of any party!