AskDefine | Define muslin

Dictionary Definition

muslin n : plain-woven cotton fabric

User Contributed Dictionary



From Mussolo, the Italian name for the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq > mussolina.



  1. A term used for a wide variety of tightly-woven cotton fabrics, especially that used for bedlinen.


Extensive Definition

Muslin is a type of finely-woven cotton fabric, introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the 17th century. Its first recorded use in England was in 1670. It was named for the city where Europeans first encountered it, Mosul, in what is now Iraq, but the fabric actually originated from Dhaka in what is now Bangladesh.
Muslin is most typically a closely-woven unbleached or white cloth, produced from corded cotton yarn. Wide muslin is called "sheeting". It is often used to make dresses or curtains but may also be used to complement foam for bench padding. Muslin breathes well, and is a good choice of material for clothing meant for hot, dry climates.
The word muslin is also used colloquially. In the United Kingdom, many sheer cotton fabrics are called muslin, while in the United States, muslin sometimes refers to a firm cloth for everyday use. In the UK, that firm cloth is called calico. In British slang, muslin used to refer to women or femininity, while in nautical slang, muslin can refer to a vessel's sails.

Non-clothing uses

When sewing clothing, a test or fitting garment may be made of inexpensive muslin fabric before cutting the intended expensive fabric, thereby avoiding a costly mistake. The muslin garment is often called a muslin and the process is called making a muslin. With the availability of inexpensive synthetic fabrics, which closely resemble the hand (drape and feel) of expensive natural fabrics, a test or fitting garment made of synthetics may still be referred to as a muslin, because the word has become the generic term for a test or fitting garment.
Muslin can also be used as a filter in a funnel when decanting fine wine or port to prevent sediment from entering the decanter.

Theater and photography

Muslin is often the cloth of choice for theater sets. It is helpful in masking the background of sets and helping to establish the mood or feel of different scenes. It can be painted to look like countless different settings and if treated properly it can become semi-translucent. It also holds dyes very well and is often used to create night time scenes as by dyeing it, it often gets a waved look resembling a night time sky with the colors varying slightly. Muslin shrinks after it is painted. It is widely used because it makes for a great paint surface.
In video production, muslin can also be used as a cheap bluescreen, either precolored or painted with latex paint (diluted with water).
Muslin is the most common backdrop material used by photographers for formal portrait backgrounds. It is usually painted, most often with a random mottled pattern.


Muslin gauze has also found a use in cerebrovascular neurosurgery. It is wrapped circumferentially around aneurysms or intracranial vessels at risk for bleeding. The thought is that the gauze reinforces the artery and helps prevent rupture. It is often used for aneurysms that, due to their size or shape, cannot be microsurgically clipped or coiled.


India could be called the 'cradle of cotton' since it is in this country that domestic cotton cultivation and manufacture into clothing really began. The civilization of the Indus Valley dates back to 3000 BC and it is here, around the towns of Harappa and Mohen-jo-Daro (now both in Pakistan), that remnants of homespun cotton garments, bone needles and wooden spindles have been discovered dating back to that time.
Bengali tantees (muslin weavers) were once the finest in the world, famous for their fine cotton and silk. Indian muslins produced in Dhaka, Bengal (now Bangladesh) soon became an important part of East India Company trade. The fabrics proved to be so popular in England in the early 18th century that the British woollen and silk trades were seriously affected.
Muslins were first imported during ancient Greek times, via the Sba and Adulis traders who carried Greek trade to India and brought it back, along with spices and luxury silks.
Several British patents concerning the textile industry relied on pre-industrial techniques perfected in India. In fact, many of the earliest textile machines in Britain were unable to match the complexity and finesse of the spinning and weaving machines of Dacca.
In the early 1800s imports of Indian cotton goods faced duties of 70-80%, while British imports faced duties of only 2-4%. As a result, British imports of cotton manufactures into India increased by a factor of 50, and Indian exports dropped to one-fourth. Many ruined spinners and weavers were rendered jobless and often became landless agricultural workers.
Muslin was legendary because a 5-yard-long piece of fabric could be squeezed into a matchbox,M1. Today's Muslin is a different fabric altogether; the art is all but lost.


muslin in Bengali: মসলিন
muslin in Bulgarian: Муселин
muslin in German: Musselin
muslin in Modern Greek (1453-): Μουσελίνα
muslin in Spanish: Muselina
muslin in Esperanto: Muslino
muslin in French: Mousseline
muslin in Italian: Mussola
muslin in Hungarian: Muszlin
muslin in Japanese: モスリン
muslin in Polish: Muślin
muslin in Portuguese: Musselina
muslin in Swedish: Muslin
muslin in Turkish: Muslin
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