Muslin is a loosely-woven cotton fabric which originated in Bengal in South Asia, which was introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the 17th century. It became very popular at the end of the 18th century in France. Muslin is most typically an unbleached or white cloth, produced from carded cotton yarn. It is often used to make sewing patterns, such as for clothing, curtains, or upholstery. Because air moves easily through muslin, muslin clothing is suitable for hot, dry climates.Muslin clothes were traded by ancient Greeks from the Indian port town Machilipatnam, which was called Maisolos or Masalia in ancient times. Some believe that the name muslin originated from the name Maisolos.
Marco Polo, the famous traveller, visited the Kakatiya kingdom in which Machilipatnam was located and praised the muslins available there.In 1298, Marco Polo described the cloth in his book The Travels. He said that it was made in Mosul, Iraq. Although this view has the fabric named after the city where Europeans first encountered it (Mosul), the fabric is believed to have originated in Dhaka, which is now the capital of Bangladesh .
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, which in the UK and Australia is known as calico.In British slang, muslin used to refer to women or femininity, while in nautical slang, muslin can refer to a vessel’s sails.
When sewing clothing, a dressmaker may test the fit of a garment, using an inexpensive muslin fabric before cutting the intended expensive fabric, thereby avoiding potential costly mistakes. 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. Cotton muslin bag is also often used as a backing or lining for quilts, and thus can often be found in wide widths in the quilting sections of fabric stores.Muslin is often the cloth of choice for theater sets. It is used to mask the background of sets and to establish the mood or feel of different scenes. It receives paint well and, if treated properly, can be made translucent.It also holds dyes very well. It is often used to create night time scenes because when it is dyed, it often gets a wavy look with the color varying slightly, such that it resembles a night sky. Muslin shrinks after it is painted, but it is widely used because it makes an excellent painting surface.