#8 Muslin: Part 1: Its fractured history in India

by | Feb 7, 2021 | Blog, Homeschoolers, Podcast, Teachers

Hello there! Get cozy…

Stitchers – whether you’re sitting in your comfy chair with your coffee, in your car,

or looking for ENGAGING content teaching in your home or in a school—

We’ve got your stitched stories covered!

Get ready for an in-depth look at Muslin: Part 1: Its fractured history in India.

But before we dive deeper, let’s get inspired!




Ready for inspo? Your motivation mantra?..

This episode’s quote is from New york-based writer Tavi Gevinson. When asked: 

What quotation or saying inspires and motivates you to be yourself and do what you love?

she answered 

“Quoting writer Vivian Gornick: I had always known that life was not appetite and acquisition. In my earnest, angry, good girl way, I pursued meaning..”  

And isn’t that what we all want as makers? 

Not just in our studios but woven throughout our lives? 

What is the meaning of my life? Why am I here?

For me, it’s sharing the underreported stories of textiles– the social, economic, and political implications of cloth and stitch. It’s integrating this content into k-12 art and history curricula– and to share it with those who CARE.

This is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Quote from  In the company of women: inspiration and advice from over 100 makers, artists, and entrepreneurs, by Grace Bonney. >>Get it >>>here


Blue background with stars

What quotation or saying inspires and motivates you to be yourself and do what you love?

Share on Instagram, Facebook page, or in our private FB group, Storied Sewing Circle ( >>join here!)




Here’s my “muslin” story–What’s yours?

I used muslin for sample or sloper patterns as a fashion design student at Mass College of Art back in the eighties. You sew your initial flat pattern in this cheap muslin and you adjust it on some form of a model—human or dress form. 

Or you can use the muslin to create a flat pattern by draping it on a dress form and adjust it as necessary. It’s cool because you work in three dimensions as opposed to two. 

You can use both methods— perhaps create a garment on the dress form then create a flat pattern for production. Or you can create a flat pattern first and then Stitch the muslin and adjusted on a dress form 

You want to buy the correct thickness of muslin and you want to get the cheapest you can because you’re going to be ripping it up and marking and making adjustments.

I remember the muslin I bought.

I think it was a dollar a yard in Boston’s Chinatown—which had like five or six really good fabric stores. Big box fabric stores weren’t mainstream then!

Muslin is central to my free form stitching practice where I create small to medium-sized quilt blocks of images layered with thread 

I love this cloth because I feel I can make as many samples and experiments as I want because I use medium grade— I don’t buy a super expensive or cheap muslin. 

In doing so, I can be as wild and creative as I want without thinking about much money I am spending!  You’ll agree, right, that it’s very freeing as an artist! 


Now, think about YOUR first yard of muslin!

What is YOUR thread or yarn “muslin” story?

Share on Instagram, Facebook page or in our private FB group, Storied Sewing Circle ( >>join here!)


What’s this episode really about?

In our introduction to muslin, we’ll discuss muslin’s storied history in Iraq, India- its popularity, its role in politics/economics and revolution—and its role in the independence of India- Bangladesh-Pakistan from Great Britain.

You’ll see how a fabric holds so many stories- my personal experience with a particular grade of muslin- and then it’s massive world-shattering history!

We’ll detail its role in colonial and independent India– and its continued legacy in India.

Join us for this podcast, and get the answers to the loaded history of muslin in India!!



#8 Muslin: Part 1: Its fractured history in India

Just in case you want a bit more detail about Indian muslin, here you go!

Early muslin was handwoven of delicate handspun yarn, especially in the region of what today is Bangladesh. 

Marco Polo described the cloth in his book The Travels. He said it was made in Mosul, Iraq.

Romans LOVED Bengal khadi Muslin and imported vast amounts of it. 

Muslin was imported into Europe for much of the 17th and early 18th-centuries.

But the fortunes of India’s muslin trade changed under British rule.

The British East India company could not compete with local Indian muslin with their own export of cloth to the Indian subcontinent. 

Naturally, the colonial government favored imports of British textiles, so they could make fortunes. That’s what colonies are for…

Hence, Britain instituted a new trade deal: India’s cheap raw cotton materials were shipped to Britain, manufactured into finished goods in British mills- clothing/home goods- And shipped back to colonial India to be sold for high prices….yes, that’s how colonies work, they lose and the colonizer wins…

Unsurprisingly, the Bengali muslin industry was suppressed by various colonial policies….the quality of Bengali muslin suffered and the finesse of the cloth was lost.

What was muslin’s Role in Indian Independence?

Ready for more? Listen to episode 8! Thanks and see you soon!!!!!


Middle school student drawing

Hey hey! References for educators and….. nerds!

Want more juicy info? Check out the refs below! Indulge in your LOVE of all things “stitch!”

Clothing Gandhi’s Nation: Homespun and Modern India. By Lisa N. Trivedi. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2007. Brings together social history and the study of visual culture to account for khadi as both symbol and commodity. ISBN 978-0253348821


Image and other content sources here


[This post may contain referral-affiliate links. If a purchase is made, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.]



Why the School of Storied Stitching?

For me, needlework is a deeply meaningful form of personal expression that I want to share.

The sewing circle is a way to connect with fellow stitchers – and to remember those who are gone…