All About The Muslin

Hello, quilt lovers!

I’m writing this post to answer questions about this subject. I get A LOT of emails on muslin and I thought it would be easier to have it here for you. If you still need to email me about it, feel free. I don’t mind at all. I LOVE talking to other quilty people and I don’t have any real life quilt/sewing friends so….

I’m going to tell you all about muslin from how I found it, what it is and where you can get it. Where you can get it, seems to be the most questions asked.

I started making quilts with rag quilts. I would go to my local craft store, buy fabric, come home and make a quilt. This was long before Southern Charm Quilts was born.

I knew nothing about quilts, other than I loved them. My mom had bought me a pattern for a rag quilt bag. I made tons of them and then thought a quilt would look good this way too. Little did I know that rag quilts were even a thing. This is also before rag quilts were all over Etsy, not that I knew what Etsy was yet.

Being the newbie that I was I went to the craft store and bought my fabrics and for the backing I chose broadcloth. Didn’t know what broadcloth was, I chose it for the color and the pricetag. Well, broadcloth sucks! Big time! It may be okay for clothing, but stay away from it for a quilt. I hated it. It never dawned on me to just use the regular basic cotton. I don’t know why.

Remember that I don’t have a pattern or directions. I didn’t search the internet for clues. I am completely making things up as I go.

I ended up purchasing some muslin and the rest is history.

Muslin is actually used to make garments before making it with the good fabric, kind of like a practice, or so I have heard or read. It’s 100% cotton.

It doesn’t look like much on the bolt. Just a plain thin fabric. But after you wash it something magical happens. It wrinkles up and becomes unbelievably soft. It comes in the most amazing natural color. This varies from muslin to muslin, but a lot of times it has these little specks in it (my current muslin does not). It has always reminded me of oatmeal because of this.

I do not make any rag quilt that does not use muslin on the back. I don’t even take custom requests for this fabric or that fabric on the back. I tell all my customers ‘no’. It’s not the same without the muslin. And I take a lot of custom requests for quilts, but when it comes to the back, you are getting muslin. I do dye it, so you can have a pink back or an aqua back, but it’s still muslin (I’ll talk about that in another post).

It’s natural, it’s soft, it comes in a variety of widths.

I do use lot of different fabrics for my regular quilts. I don’t stick with the ‘muslin only’ rule on those. My reasoning is this: On the rag quilts, the muslin peeks out on the front, where you leave it to rag. It rags very well, unlike regular cotton. Regular cotton does rag, but muslin just rags better.

Not all muslins are created equal.

This is unbelievably true. I have bought some pretty awful muslins. Muslins that were thin, see through, yuck. I have scoured the internet in search of the very best muslins. I have bought and tried from SO many different manufacturers. Southern Charm Quilts has been open since 2009, so as you can imagine I’ve tried many.

I make a lot of quilts. A LOT of quilts. If I told you how many, you would think I’m exaggerating or just lying. I promise you I am not. One person can make that many quilts, it is possible. I promise you. But I needed a place where I could get muslin on a regular basis and of a good quality. I buy all items in bulk by the bolt wholesale b/c I make so many and when you are running a business you need to have a regular place to get your supplies and it needs to be cohesive. As in, I don’t want to use this muslin on this quilt and this one on that one. I want to use the same muslin on all the quilts. I wouldn’t want to send someone a quilt made in wonderful muslin and then they order another one and send it to them in cheap muslin.

I landed on Fabric Direct. Fair price, width that I like (I like to work with the 120″ wide muslin”), and the thread count was good. I used this for years.

Then low and behold at the beginning of last year I found Moda muslin. Let me tell you that muslin does not get better than this. It is the highest quality I have ever used. It’s 200 thread count, it’s soft, it even has a silkiness to it that I had never seen in muslin before. I used it, I washed it, and then magic. Unlike a lot of muslins, this is not see through. It doesn’t have those little pickers that some cottons get after being washed a lot. This muslin is perfection. It is also the most expensive I have ever bought. I think it’s something like $8.99 a yard wholesale (that is for 120″). And you have to spend $400 any time you order from Moda. So I know for those of you who are making a quilt here and there, this won’t work for you.

If you are looking to just make a quilt for your bed, you probably do not want to buy a whole bolt of fabric. Go to your craft store. They have muslin, I promise you. It usually is located where the batting is. We have a Hobby Lobby here. Hobby Lobby always has muslin. You are not going to find Moda muslin there. It’s just not going to happen, but they usually have several varieties. The cheapest is always going to be thin and see through, but it should get better from there.

Try not to judge it so much before you wash it. Remember that the magic does not happen until after you wash. On the bolt it might even look a little cheap to you, I promise you it’s not. You want to pay somewhere around $9.99 to $13.99 a yard and that will usually get you 108″ wide muslin so if you are buying narrower the prices get lower. You do not want to buy it if the threads that make up the fabric are spaced out far from each other, you want something with a tighter thread to it. It’s going to be thin, so don’t let that get in your way. 200 thread count is about the best I can ever find and if you look on the top of the bolt there should be a sticker that tells you that info. If it does not tell you, this is how I judge: I hold the fabric arm’s length in front of me, if I can see the threads that make up the fabric, it’s cheap, if I cannot see it, then it’s a good muslin. I know that won’t work for everyone and depends on how good your vision is so look for that thread count sticker.

I ALWAYS buy unbleached. I’ve never used anything else. When I do dye muslin sometimes, I still buy the unbleached.

I don’t wash it before I make the quilt. I make the quilt and then wash.

Also, if you are buying from stores like Hobby Lobby, JoAnns or even Michaels I think, each of these stores offer 40% off coupons every week on one single item. Use them. I keep the Hobby Lobby app on my phone so anytime I run out of my regular muslin at home and have to go substitute with something they have, I just show the coupon on the app and I get 40% off. That is huge when you are buying 15 yards of muslin at $9.99 a yard.

I think I’ve answered most of the questions I usually get on this subject, but if I missed one, please leave a comment below. I always respond to questions directed to me or you can email me directly. I love talking about quilts, so don’t hesitate.

If you have questions about other subjects or supplies, please just ask. It gives me topics to write super long posts like this one about. J If you have made it through this very long post, thank you, and I hope I have not bored you too much.


14 thoughts on “All About The Muslin

    • I don’t prewash fabrics for quilts. The reason is, 100% cotton does tend to shrink and once you’ve finished your quilt and washed it, it becomes crinkly and a little puffy, due to it shrinking a bit, something I LOVE about quilts. If you prewash your fabrics for the quilt, finish the quilt and then wash it, the crinkly effect is not very much.

      I do prewash fabrics if I am making something I’m going to wear though.

      The shrinking on the quilt though as far as actual measurements go is not as much as you would think. Maybe an inch at the most. I wash my quilts in cold water in machine and dry on normal.

      I have never had major shrinking where the quilt didnt fit what is was made for.

      • Awesome response! I’m making a quilt for hubby for Christmas so I figure this is the safe way to experiment! Thank you. Happy Holidays!

      • I know that I am coming in quite late to this conversation but if you don’t pre-wash do you ever have a problem with your colored cottons bleeding on the natural colored muslin?? Thanks!!!

      • I’ve never had a problem with it with fabrics. I have had bleeding when I make memory quilts from clothing such as tie dye or velvets, but those are clothing not fabrics. I hope this helps.

  1. I have just cut 200 squares of broadcloth for a quilt and I am really reluctant to use it. I bought it because recommended it as a good match for my fabric choices, but it does not feel anything like quilting cotton. The White is really thin and frays very easily. I just wanted to know what your experience was. I guess to confirm the gut feeling that I shouldn’t use it!

    • I used broadcloth on a rag quilt when I first started quilting. I did not like it either. I think most are a poly cotton and are regularly used for men’s dress shirts. I only used it the once. I would go with a regular cotton fabric. It cost more than the broadcloth, but you will most likely love it much more.

  2. Hi, Melanie—I’m also coming in late to the conversation, but just wanted to say thank you so much for the very helpful information on muslin. I’m considering starting a dyed fabric business, and am looking for the best wholesale prices on quilting cotton I can find. In your experience, do quilters use muslin for quilt tops? I really love working with it and dyeing it—I love the oatmealy texture too. It’s so beautiful.

    • Hi! I haven’t used it very often for quilt tops. I tend to save it just for backs. But I wouldn’t be against using it on top of a quilt.

      I love the idea of shopping for dyed muslin though. That sounds amazing!

      Please let me know when you open your shop. Best of luck! Melanie

      • Thanks so much, Melanie! I think I will experiment with some nice muslin and see what happens, how people respond to it. And yes, I will let you know when I get as far as opening a shop! Take care, and happy quilting. (:

  3. Pingback: Tutorial – dyeing muslin fabric |

  4. All of this is SO interesting! I am making a memory quilt for a neighbor. I need to put some squares from a bathrobe onto muslin squares (for stabilizing purposes) and I’m wondering if I should wash the muslin first. My quilting “advisor” is currently at work and I want to get this going today, if possible.

    Also, I bought some broadcloth to appliqué my “flower garden squares” on because I’m tired of sewing hexagons together. The squares are already cut out….is this a really bad choice?

    • I’ve never used muslin as a stabilizer and I don’t prewash mine when I use it. I haven’t used broadcloth since my very first days of quilting. I ended up not liking how the material acted. I’m sorry I’m not being more help!

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