Muslin-making is a popular concept in fashion, where designers take a lot of time to perfect a design by making a few prototypes to find the best fit.
But did you know that muslin is also a type of fabric that has a ton of everyday uses?
Muslin is a versatile type of fabric that is soft, lightweight, and breathable, and there are a lot of things that you can sew with muslin even if you are not working in high fashion.
Sewing with muslin, what do you need to know? Sewing with muslin is an inexpensive and simple way to test out patterns. When working with muslin you should pre-wash it. To test designs, give it a larger seam allowance, pick a muslin with a similar drape, and undo it to use as pattern pieces.
In this article, we will walk you through the different types of muslin, what you can make with muslin fabric, and some basic tips to help you get started.
What Is Muslin?
Muslin is perhaps most commonly known in high fashion, where designers use it to test out different cuts and techniques before making the final product. This material is relatively inexpensive, allowing fashion designers to experiment with the design without having to worry about the cost.
As a material, muslin is a loosely woven fabric that is quite versatile and easy to work with. There are many types of muslin that can range from high quality to cheaper, lower quality fabric.
Muslin that is made from 100 percent cotton (which is the traditional way to make muslin) or a cotton-silk blend is extremely soft and smooth.
This type of muslin, also known as mull, is a lightweight type of muslin that is often seen in couture fashion. Designers often use mull to make underlining to add structure to a piece of clothing or to produce prototypes of their designs to test a pattern.
There are other types of muslin that you can often find during everyday use. The most commonly seen type of muslin is gauze, a sheer and very loosely woven fabric that nurses often use to tend to wounds.
Other types of muslin include Swiss muslin, a lightweight fabric with raised patterns, and sheeting, a thick type of muslin that is often used in homewares.
What is Muslin Used For in Sewing?
In sewing, “making a muslin” refers to making a prototype of a new design to make sure that it has the right form and fit. In dressmaking, a muslin also means the prototype, not just the fabric.
When making a garment that employs expensive fabric, especially when the fit is important, making a muslin is quite useful to help designers test the pattern and adapt it to fit the wearer’s body the best. This practice is commonly seen when making wedding dresses or high fashion clothing items.
Of course, you don’t really have to be in high fashion to be able to use muslin. Since muslin is a relatively inexpensive fabric, you can use this material to test out new patterns, techniques and find the best fit for your garment before starting the real thing.
When working with a muslin, finding the right placement for your pockets, collars, and buttons is especially useful. You can wear your muslin and adjust the size and find a comfortable fit, as well as finding the best placements for your pockets and buttons.
You can also use muslin to practice a new sewing technique. When a pattern calls for something you’re not familiar with, starting with a piece of muslin will allow you to get some practice in before sewing the final project. Since practice makes perfect, you’ll be able to get it right without having to worry about wasting fabric and messing up your garment.
If you are making a few garments with the same pattern, starting with muslin first will allow you to perfect your garment before “cloning” it. In this sense, you’ll actually be saving time and money!
Muslin is also quite useful in everyday sewing projects. For example, quilters often use muslin as a backing fabric to add a layer of thickness to the quilt while maintaining its overall lightness.
Sewing With Muslin
Although making a muslin essentially means making an entire garment from your patterns, there are a few things that you should note when making a muslin.
Before you make a muslin, you should choose a type of muslin that has the same weight and drape as your intended final fabric. Since every type of fabric drapes differently, something that looks good with a muslin may not translate well to a different fabric.
Using a muslin that resembles your actual fabric will help you avoid any errors along the way and ensure that your final garment looks as good as your perfected muslin piece.
When cutting the pattern pieces on a muslin, you should pay attention to the seam allowance. We recommend cutting a bigger seam allowance than the pattern’s recommendations, so you can leave some room for adjustments.
Some designers trace the actual stitch lines from the patterns onto the muslin fabric and add the seam allowance on their own so that they can have some room to expand the size of the garment if needed.
If there are any adjustments you make on a muslin, you should clearly mark it with a different color fabric pen or sewing chalk. After all, you will need to be able to identify any deviations from the pattern so that you can make a perfect garment later on.
After your muslin is perfected, we recommend that you take it apart, give it a good press, and use the muslin pieces as pattern pieces to transfer it to your actual fabric.
Although this method requires a lot of seam ripping (which means it is quite time-consuming), you’ll be able to clone the perfected pattern from the muslin to your actual fabric, which takes out the guesswork.
If you are planning to make several pieces from the same pattern, this method actually saves a lot of time since you don’t have to adjust the pattern each time you cut a piece of fabric. The result will be really form-fitting garments that look like they are from a designer line!
Should I Wash Muslin Before Sewing?
Some muslin comes pre-washed to prevent any shrinkage after making your garment. However, we recommend that you still wash your muslin in cold water and hang-dry it before sewing.
Washing the muslin before sewing will allow the fabric to shrink (if any shrinkage is going to occur), so you don’t have to worry about your garment shrinking after it’s finished. When you purchase the fabric, some muslin may appear stiff due to how it was processed. Washing the muslin before sewing will allow the fabric to soften.
Of course, a stiffer fabric will mean that it is easier to cut, and some people prefer it this way. However, washing the fabric is still recommended so that you can prevent any shrinkage afterward, which may affect the garment’s fit.
What Can You Make From Muslin?
There are a ton of useful things that you can make with muslin, not just a prototype for your clothing. Since muslin ranges from really loosely woven and rough fabric to really fine, soft, and smooth fabric, its application is quite endless.
Muslin can add beautiful textures to your household items.
In your kitchen, it can become napkins and table covers. Since it is lightweight and soft, muslin can be used to make household linens like pillowcases, bedsheets, bedskirts, and so on. For this type of application, we recommend using a cotton or cotton-silk blend muslin for your comfort.
Since muslin is soft and highly breathable, using it to make summer clothing for babies and children is highly suitable. Since muslin is relatively inexpensive, you can also use it as burp cloths and napkins for babies.
As previously mentioned, muslin makes perfect lining and backing quilts, bags, and even chairs. The fabric is breathable and soft against the skin, and it adds an extra layer of thickness to items without bulking them up.
For embroidery enthusiasts, this woven fabric is also amazing for practicing embroidery. The smooth fabric allows a clean canvas for you to embroider on, and the loosely woven pattern makes needlework much easier.
Overall, there are a ton of ways that you can use muslin, not just to make clothing or clothing prototypes. We love its versatility when it comes to everyday application, especially since it allows you to experiment with your craft without having to worry about costs.
Can You Make Clothes From Muslin?
If you think it is a waste of time to be making a whole garment in addition to your planned final garment, it’s not. Muslin is definitely wearable if you get the cut just right the first time.
Since muslin is quite a light and soft material, it is perfect for making summer dresses, tanks, and shorts. It is highly breathable and drapes well, so there’s no reason that you cannot wear your muslin if it turns out well.
Most muslin is relatively inexpensive, so even if you mess up the garment, it won’t be such a loss. We recommend that you purchase muslin in a color that compliments your skin tone so that if practice pays off and your muslin looks great, you can definitely wear your muslin as a final garment.
Of course, you can simply make clothes out of muslin in the first place!