Tag Archives: cotton utility muslin

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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Glossary: Cotton Fiber

Cotton is a natural fiber which comes from a plant. Many different fabrics are made from cotton fiber, including voile, batiste, organdy, calico, sateen, flannel, jean, and a wide variety of other fabrics.

“Cotton is a vegetable seed fiber. Botanically, the fibers are the protective covering of the seeds in the cotton plant, a shrub that grows from four to six feet high. Dry cotton fiber is from 88 percent to 96 percent cellulosic.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 62)

“Under magnification, cotton (a staple fiber) appears like a twisted ribbon. This twist is what makes cotton easy to spin. Cotton is weaker than flax, but its ease of manufacture quickly overcame that deficiency. Cotton is absorbent and thus comfortable to wear in hot weather.” (Bassett, Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850, page 14)

“Extremely versatile in weight, texture, and construction. Found in fabric such as organdy, broadcloth, poplin, terry, corduroy, seersucker, denim, tweed. Used widely for summer wear, work clothes, and in heavier weights, for warm transitional garments.” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, page 50)

“Cotton is cool, washable, appropriate to nearly all [mid 19th century living history] impressions in some way, and comes in a wide variety of colors and well-researched prints. Cottons fade with laundering and sun exposure, and tend to wear out more quickly than other fibers. It’s an economical choice for everyday or ‘wash’ garments.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)

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 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.

Glossary Entries for Cotton Fabrics:

Online Resources:

Print Resources: See the article Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials for a list of print resources.

Updated January 10, 2012

1860s tucked petticoat of white cotton

Garment

1860s yoked chemise of white cotton

Garment

1830s bodiced petticoat of white cotton

Garment

1830s tucked petticoat of white cotton

Unlike many of the overly ambitious plans around here, this project did actually make it to completion! But I haven’t written up my notes or taken pictures, so there’s no evidence of it. Eep! Soon…

Until then, this basically blank post shall continue to be sad.

1830s white cotton drawers with wide tucks

Garment