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Muslin (// or //) is a loosely woven cotton fabric. Originating in Bengal, it was introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the 17th century. It became very popular in France at the end of the 18th century. Because air moves easily through it, muslin clothing is suitable for hot, dry climates.
Etymology and history
Muslin (AmE: Muslin gauze) from French mousseline, from Italian mussolina, from Mussolo ‘Mosul’ (Mosul, Iraq, where it was woven and exported to Europe).
There is a theory that Muslin was first brought to Europe by the Crusaders of the First Crusade who had found the cloth in the Middle East, it being named after Mosul in Iraq, the town where it was woven.
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. In 1298, Marco Polo described the cloth in his book The Travels. He said that it was made in Mosul, Iraq. At the end of the 16th century the english traveler Ralph Fitch greatly admired the muslin of Sonargaon.The Portuguese traveler Duarte Barbosa described the muslin of Bangladesh in the early 16th century. He mentioned a few types of fabrics, such as estrabante(sarband), mamona, fugoza, choutara, sinabaka etc. Although this view has the fabric named after the city where Europeans first encountered it (Mosul), the fabric is believed to have originated in Dhakeshwari, now called Dhaka, which is now the capital of Bangladesh. In the 9th century, an Arab merchant named Sulaiman makes note of the material's origin in Bengal (known as Ruhml in Arabic). 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.
Dress-making and sewing
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.
Muslin 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 can be used as a filter:
- in a funnel when decanting fine wine or port to prevent sediment from entering the decanter
- to separate liquid from mush (for example, to make apple juice: wash, chop, boil, mash, then filter by pouring the mush into a muslin bag suspended over a jug)
- to retain a liquidy solid (for example, in home cheese-making, when the milk has curdled to a gel, pour into a muslin bag and squash between two saucers (upside down under a brick) to squeeze out the liquid whey from the cheese curd)
Muslin is the material for the traditional cloth used to wrap a Christmas pudding.
It is also used by beekeepers to filter melted beeswax, making it clean and particle-free for sale.
Theater and photography
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.
In video production as well, muslin can be used as a cheap greenscreen or bluescreen, either precolored or painted with latex paint (diluted with water). It is commonly used as a background for the chroma key technique.
Muslin is the most common backdrop material used by photographers for formal portrait backgrounds. These backdrops are usually painted, most often with an abstract mottled pattern.
In the early days of silent film-making and up until the late 1910s, movie studios did not have the elaborate lights needed to illuminate indoor sets, so most interior scenes were sets built outdoors with large pieces of muslin hanging overhead to diffuse the lighting.
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.
Muslin is also commonly used in the manufacture of bandages. It provides a compact yet strong fabric for use as an improvised material in the field of Emergency Medicine. It is standard practice to use it for slings, swaths and tourniquets.
|Look up muslin in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Michaud, Joseph Francois; Gustave Dore, illustrator (circa 1875). Dover Publications, Inc., 1997, ed. History of the Crusades. George Barrie, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
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