Glossary: Cotton Utility Muslin

The short-staple, coarse-textured cotton fabric of modern days bears little resemblance to the range of textiles historically referred to as muslin. In order to be clear, I try to be very specific when referring to any textile which might in one century or another be called muslin. When referring to the modern fabric, I will throughout this site say “white cotton utility muslin” or “unbleached cotton utility muslin.” When referring to the fine, long-staple, sheer or semi sheer fabrics that were historically referred to as muslin, I will try to be as clear as possible, and will usually use specific a modern term for the fabric as well.

For more information on historical muslins, see the entries for cotton voile or cotton batiste. For more information on cotton in general, see the entry Glossary: Cotton Fiber.

For information on mid-weight to slightly lighter weight plain-woven cotton fabrics, including modern utility muslin, see the entry on cotton broadcloth; see also cotton calico. Note that like the term “muslin,” the terms “broadcloth” and to a lesser degree “calico” also had different meanings in the past. Also, in the UK and Australia, “calico” is the term used for the utilitarian fabric known as “muslin” in the US.

Modern utility muslin, in the bleached white version, can be useful for making inexpensive underclothing for 19th century reproduction garments, especially since it is readily available in 36″ widths, which would have been a more common width for 19th century fabrics than the 44″ and 60″ widths commonly available in fabrics today.

Online Resources:

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post like this one, which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Updated January 10, 2012

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