Thursday, 23 September 2010

M for Muslin

M for Muslin

The word Muslin means two separate - but related - things in the world of sewing.
1. Muslin cloth
Image from
Those of us who have had experience with children will be well familiar with the muslin cloth. Muslin fabric is a very loosely woven cotton fabric which is almost always white in colour and may be soft or stiff in drape. This will vary from one supplier to another.

Muslin was initially introduced to Europe via France in the late 17th Century from the middle East .The lightness of the fabric made - and makes - it perfect for cotton slips and undergarments and may be used as a light and breathable lining for clothes. It is often used in hot and dry climates as a lightweight, breathable covering.

As well as for clothing, muslin is also often used to make curtains, as padding in furniture and even to wrap cheeses and filter red wines.

2. Muslins -

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Often also known as toiles - are essentially "drafts" of clothing made to assess the fit of a garment. Muslin is traditionally the cloth of choice for this as it is cheap and readily available but any cloth may e used. In fact, the pratice of calling a toile a muslin has become so ingrained and commonplace that any fabric may be used and the test garment will still be called a muslin.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to make a muslin (what a waste of fabric!) it is highly recommended for any garment, but especially one that is to be constructed from the final fabric. In this way it also helps prevent expensive mistakes that might be made when using the actual garment fabric. You never know, your first draft might even turn into something you would be happy to wear (There is a war raging amongst sewing circles between the wearable vs non-wearable muslin campls, but I'm not getting into that here!) if you so desired.

Finally, and most importantly, making a mulin of your final item will help you iron out any problems with fit or form, dape or creasing etc. It will help you find out where the problems like and will show you how to fix them. You can cut and chop into your muslin where and whenever you want. You can add bits in and you can take bits out. You can do whatever you like to it! And since you're making you own clothes, surely you want them to fit you. Making a muslin is the best way to try this, and an ideal place to try out new techniques.

For further informative reading (and not just on muslins!) I suggest reading Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing ( Gertie is learning, just like the rest of us, and she has wonderful tuturials and vlogs of her experiences. You'll find this site highly addictive once you start reading it: be warned!

This post was written by Aileen McKenna sewing enthusiast and author of

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