There seems to be quite a variety of muslin out there – and at a variety of prices. How do I know which are good bargains, yet without sacrificing quality? What should I look for? What should I avoid?
– a Quilter’s Review reader
You are very observant! There is indeed a wide variety of muslin fabrics in terms of quality, which usually determines price.
Comparison is probably the best method to use when determining quality of muslin, or any fabric. Find a piece of good quality muslin, at least 9″ x 9″, and carry it with you to the shops.
Your swatch should be smooth, not coarse or rough, which will indicate that good quality threads have been used –not too fat or too thin. It should not be stiff, with too much sizing and fabric finish.
The size of the threads, and the additions or omissions of sizing, create a “hand,” or feel, to the cloth. You want a fabric that has a good hand.
The fabric swatch should also not show too much light through it when held up to the light — this helps you get an approximation of the thread count.
Thread count refers to the number of threads in both directions per inch. For example, a high quality quiltmaking fabric will be approximately 66 x 66 threads per inch, or 68 x 68. Fabrics that have a lower thread count do not wear well, may shrink more, and generally speaking, appear to be more loosely woven.
Practice feeling fabrics when shopping — both good quality and poor quality. Soon you will be able to feel if the fabric has a good hand, and be able to determine a fabric with a good quality thread count.
If you are shopping online or mail order, check the thread count if it is available. If you are interested in purchasing a sizable quantity of muslin, ask for a small sample. You might have to pay for it, but it would be worth it in the long run.
Generally speaking, good quality fabrics will cost more than others. Remember, you usually get what you pay for. Watch for specials — most shops offer discounts and sales during the year.
Once you find a fabric you like, find the name of the fabric company and the name or number of the specific fabric found on the end of the bolt and note it for future reference.
However, you need to keep in mind that sometimes when a run of a particular fabric is gone, substitutions in the original greige (pronounced “gray”) goods can be made. “Greige goods” refers to the original fabric that comes from the mill where it is first prepared and then woven.
Don’t always assume that once a fabric is one type of quality, that it will always be the same. It usually is, but occasionally there is a difference.
There are a couple that I have purchased that were really nice: