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Muslin is a cotton fabric of plain weave. It is made in a wide range of weights from delicate sheers to coarse sheeting. It gets its name from the Indian port town Masulipatnam, known as Maisolos and Masalia in ancient times and the name 'Muslin' originated from the name Maisolos. Early Indian muslin was handwoven of uncommonly delicate handspun yarn, especially in the region of what today is Bangladesh. It was imported into Europe for much of the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Fine linen muslin was formerly known as sindon.
In 2013, the traditional art of weaving Jamdani muslin in Bangladesh was included in the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
ETYMOLOGY AND HISTORY
The word "Muslin" is derived from the name of the ancient port town "Maisolos". Muslin clothes were traded by ancient Greeks and Romans from the East Indian port town Masulipatnam, known as Maisolos and Masalia in ancient times and the name 'Muslin' originated from the name Maisolos. The chief merchandise of Maisolia, eagerly sought for by the merchants from the Roman world, was muslin-so favourite a wear with fashionable Roman ladies of that age that a legend has it that an ounce of muslin used to sell in Rome for an ounce of gold. Because of this trade Roman gold coins poured into Maisolia. Several Roman coins were found during excavations of Buddhist towns located near Masulipatnam (Maisolia).
Subsequently, the word Muslin found its place in various European languages as French mousseline, Italian mussolina etc.
Some believe Crusaders of the First Crusade found the cloth in the Middle East and brought it back to Europe.
In 1298, Marco Polo described the cloth in his book The Travels. He said it was made in Mosul, Iraq. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Mughal Bengal emerged as the foremost muslin exporter in the world, with Mughal Dhaka as capital of the worldwide muslin trade. During the Roman period Khadi muslin was introduced in Europe and a vast amounts of fabrics were traded to Europe for many centuries. It became highly popular in 18th-century France and eventually spread across much of the Western world. During British colonial rule in the eighteenth century, the Bengali muslin industry was ruthlessly suppressed by various colonial policies, which favored imports of industrially manufactured textiles from Britain. Brutality to muslin weavers was intense, William Bolts noting in 1772 that "instances have been known of their cutting off their thumbs to prevent their being forced to wind silk." As a result, the quality of muslin suffered greatly and its finesse was nearly lost for two centuries. There have been various attempts at reviving the muslin industry in modern Bangladesh.
At the end of the 16th century the English traveller Ralph Fitch greatly admired the muslin of Sonargaon. The Portuguese traveller 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, and sinabaka. 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 made note of the material's origin in Bengal (known as Ruhml in Arabic). Bengali muslin was traded throughout the Muslim world, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. In many Islamic regions, such as in Central Asia, the cloth was named Daka, after the city of Dhaka. In present day, many different types of muslins are produced in many different places, including Dhaka.
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 pieces from expensive fabric, thereby avoiding potential costly mistakes. This garment is often called a "muslin," and the process is called "making a muslin." In this context, "muslin" has become the generic term for a test or fitting garment, regardless of what it's made from.
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 is the material for the traditional cloth wrapped around a Christmas pudding.
Muslin is the fabric wrapped around the items in barmbrack, a fruitcake traditionally eaten at Halloween in Ireland.
Beekeepers use muslin to filter melted beeswax to clean it of particles and debris.
Theatre and photography
It also holds dyes well. It is often used to create night time scenes because when dyed, it often gets a wavy look with the colour varying slightly, such that it resembles a night sky. Muslin shrinks after it is painted or sprayed with water, which is desirable in some common techniques such as soft-covered flats.
In video production as well, muslin is used as a cheap greenscreen or bluescreen, either pre-coloured 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 sunlight.
Muslin is also commonly used in the manufacture of bandages. It provides a compact yet strong improvised material in emergency medicine, and is used for slings, swaths, and tourniquets.
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