The Use of Lining Garments with Muslin Fabric

What should you do if you forgot to buy lining fabric for your sewing project? You might consider whether you can use muslin fabric to line the garment. Luckily, some garments can indeed be lined with muslin. Cotton or linen dresses and skirts are suitable for muslin lining. However, suit jackets and pants should not be lined with muslin. For garment linings, ensure you use muslin (such as mull fabric) that is soft, light- to medium-weight, and prewash it before cutting to prevent shrinkage.

Please keep reading to learn more about muslin and lining and their pros and cons. I will answer your questions.

Key Takeaways

  • Affordability and Practicality: Muslin is a cost-effective, easy-to-maintain lining choice.
  • Comfort and Versatility: Suitable for various garment types, muslin enhances wearability and adaptability.
  • Preparation is Key: Pre-shrinking and selecting the right weight are essential for optimal results.
  • Creative Applications: Beyond lining, muslin can be used for mock-ups, interfacing, and customization through dyeing.
  • Maintenance Tips: Regular ironing and choosing the appropriate muslin weight can mitigate wrinkle issues.

What is muslin?

What is muslin?

The fabric muslin is made of cotton and has a plain weave. Various weights are available, ranging from delicate sheers to coarse sheeting. First manufactured in the Iraqi city of Mosul, it is named after that city. The most delicate muslins were produced in Bengal in the 17th and 18th centuries.

If you are interested in the history of sewing machines, we have already written about it in another post.

Pros and cons of lining with muslin

In addition to its many benefits, muslin fabric can also be used to line garments. Among them are:

  • Relatively inexpensive – Typically, lightweight muslin costs $3-7 per yard, making it one of the cheapest natural fiber fabrics. The lining fabric is free to sewists since they already have a bolt of muslin in their stash.
  • Machine-washable – Using muslin fabric to line a cotton garment lets you simultaneously wash it. You will likely have to dry clean your garment if you line it with silk.
  • Soft and breathable – This loose-weave cotton fabric is very breathable because of its loose weave.
  • Easy to sew – Sewing, cutting, and pressing muslin fabric are easy tasks. On the other hand, silk lining fabrics will shift during cutting and sewing, making construction more challenging.
  • Dyes well—Muslin fabric is no exception to the rule that cotton fabrics take dye well. It can then be dyed to match the fashion fabric color.

However, lining a garment with muslin fabric has a few downsides, including:

  • Not slippery—Besides its slightly rough texture, muslin fabric clings to other clothes. However, silk and polyester’s smooth hands allow them to glide more smoothly over the body.
  • Wrinkles easily – Be prepared to iron your final lined garment frequently, as cotton muslin is a natural fiber that wrinkles relatively easily.
  • Shrinkage – Wash cotton muslin fabric before cutting and sewing the lining, as it shrinks when washed.

In comparing muslin fabric to other lining fabrics like silk, polyester, and rayon, these properties should be considered when lining a garment.

What types of clothes can you line with muslin?

Cotton or linen dresses lined with muslin make excellent casual summer dresses. Even in hot weather, the muslin’s breathability keeps the wearer cool, and its softness is good against the skin. Adding the muslin to a dress’s bodice, which is typically quite structured and close-fitting, may also add some needed stiffness. This is particularly important in strapless dresses with stiff bodices held up by channels stitched into the dress’s lining or interlining.

Consider lining only the bodice with muslin and lining the skirt with silk crepe de Chine or polyester lining fabric rather than leaving it unlined. In many cases, people find wearing a skirt lined with a slippery fabric more comfortable so that it glides over their legs.

The lining of tailored jackets, pants, and coats should not be made of muslin. Most people want tailored garments to glide smoothly over their bodies, which can only be achieved by using a slippery lining like silk crepe de Chine or charmeuse (instead of muslin, which has a rough texture that clings to undergarments). Silk fabrics are more appropriate for workwear and evening wear since they give a more luxurious look and feel.

Also, muslin fabric should not be used to line stretch garments. T-shirts and jersey dresses fall into this category, as do any garments made of knit fabric (such as lycra or spandex, typically used in activewear). Due to its lack of stretch, muslin should not be used to line stretch garments.

Following is a table listing the types of garments that can be lined with muslin:

GarmentLine with muslin?Notes
Casual dress with a full skirtYesSo the skirt glides smoothly over the legs, line the bodice with muslin, and line the skirt with silk crepe de chine.
Casual shift or sheath dressYesEnsure the entire dress is lined with muslin (bodice and skirt).
Strapless dressYesLine the bodice with muslin.
Suit jackets and pantsNoThe lining should be made of a slippery fabric such as Bemberg lining, silk crepe de Chine, or silk charmeuse.
Tailored wool coatsNoThe lining should be made of a slippery fabric such as Bemberg lining, silk crepe de Chine, or silk charmeuse.
Garments made out of stretchy fabricNoEnsure the entire dress is lined with muslin (both the bodice and skirt).

You can read our post for all the different sewing terms we face daily.

The Appeal of Muslin for Lining

Key Benefits

Muslin, characterized by its breathability and softness, presents numerous advantages as a lining material:

  • Economical Choice: It offers an affordable lining solution without sacrificing quality.
  • Low Maintenance: Garments lined with muslin are easy to wash and care for.
  • Comfortable Wear: Its breathability ensures a comfortable layer against the skin.
  • Adaptable: With weights ranging from light to medium, muslin can accommodate various garment types.
  • Ease of Use: The fabric’s stability enhances the sewing process, promoting a superior finish to the garment.

Points to Consider

Though muslin has many strengths, there are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Texture Consideration: Compared to silk or polyester linings, muslin’s texture may not be as smooth.
  • Wrinkling: Being cotton, it’s prone to wrinkles and requires frequent ironing.
  • Shrinkage: Pre-shrinking is vital to ensure the garment retains shape after laundering.

Implementing Muslin in Your Sewing Endeavors

Choosing the Right Muslin

  • Weight Selection: Pick a muslin weight that complements the garment, balancing structure and comfort.
  • Shrinkage Management: Pre-shrink muslin to ensure consistent sizing and fit.

Muslin’s Versatility in Garments

  • Light and Airy Dresses: Ideal for linings that require breathability and comfort.
  • Pattern Testing: Perfect for creating mock-ups to refine designs before using more costly fabrics.
  • Soft Interfacing: Muslin can offer support without rigidity as a gentle interfacing alternative.

Beyond Lining: Creative Uses

  • Wide-Ranging Applications: From mock-ups and underlining for extra body to seamless pocket bags, muslin has extensive uses.
  • Personalization: Dyeing muslin to match or accentuate the main fabric elevates the garment’s visual harmony.

Expert Insights

Dyeing Muslin

Muslin accepts dye well, making customization easy to match or accent your main fabric.

Garment Suitability

Muslin is best suited for casual and non-stretch garments. Due to its texture and lack of elasticity, it is less ideal for formal or stretchy fabrics.

Wrinkle Management

Regular ironing is recommended to minimize wrinkles. Opting for a heavier muslin may also help.

Muslin fabric is a standout choice for lining, offering a blend of breathability, comfort, affordability, and flexibility. Whether crafting a breezy summer dress or seeking a cost-effective lining solution, muslin provides a functional and satisfying option. By understanding and leveraging muslin’s properties, you can achieve expertly finished, comfortable, and enduring garments.

Lining Garments with Muslin Fabric FAQs

Can muslin fabric be used to line any garment?

Muslin fabric is versatile for lining but is best suited for casual dresses, skirts made of cotton or linen, and strapless dress bodices. It’s not recommended for lining formal wear like suit jackets, pants, or garments made from stretch fabrics. In contrast, a smoother, more slippery fabric like silk crepe de Chine or charmeuse is preferable for a seamless glide over the body.

What are the benefits of using muslin as a lining fabric?

Lining garments with muslin offers several advantages: it’s relatively inexpensive, machine washable, soft, breathable, doesn’t create static, is easy to sew, and dyes well. These properties make muslin an excellent choice for casual and comfortable clothing, especially in warm climates.

Are there any drawbacks to lining with muslin fabric?

While muslin is beneficial in many ways, it does have some limitations. Muslin fabric can be slightly rough, making it cling to other garments; it wrinkles easily, and it will shrink if not pre-washed before cutting and sewing. When choosing muslin for a lining, these factors should be considered to ensure the final garment meets your expectations.

What type of muslin is best for lining garments?

A soft, light- to medium-weight muslin, such as mull fabric, is ideal for garment lining. It’s essential to choose muslin with a nice drape to complement the main fabric. Depending on the desired finish and appearance, both bleached and unbleached muslin can be used. Avoid stiff, heavyweight muslin, which makes the garment feel scratchy and affects its drape.

How should muslin fabric be prepared before using it as a lining?

Always pre-wash muslin fabric before cutting and sewing it into a lining. This step is crucial to prevent shrinkage after the garment is made. Pre-washing ensures that the muslin will maintain its size and shape, aligning with the outer fabric throughout the garment’s life.

Beyond lining, what other uses does muslin have in garment construction?

Muslin is not only for lining; it’s also excellent for interfacing to add structure to garments, underlining to provide additional support to fabrics, and creating pocket bags with more structure. Its versatility extends to making test garments, or “muslins,” to adjust patterns before cutting into more expensive fabric, showcasing its invaluable role in sewing and garment construction.


While there are many benefits of using muslin fabric to line garments, there are also a few drawbacks. Muslin is a reasonably delicate fabric that can tear easily, so it’s not ideal for garments with a lot of wear and tear. It’s also not as absorbent as some other fabrics, so it’s not the best choice for lining garments that are likely to get sweaty or wet. Overall, muslin is an excellent choice for lining garments that you want to look extra polished and professional, but it’s not the most durable fabric out there.

When you finish this article, check out our other article on free sewing patterns for pants and trousers.

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