I was first introduced to muslin as a child. Growing up in Australia, we adopted many traditions from England, one being the ritual of making the Christmas plum pudding each year. Centuries ago the pudding would be formed using skins made from animal intestines. With the arrival of muslin, this new pudding cloth was now reusable. Plum pudding time was just around the bend when it was time for my mother to visit the fabric store and purchase a meter of muslin. The muslin would first be boiled in a large pot of water. It's then floured and placed into a round colander or basin, ready to receive the pudding mix with all its glorious spices (Another tradition with the plum pudding is tossing old coins into the mixture. Us grandkids would vie to find a piece with the most coins as each coin found meant Nana and Papa would give us new money. No fears of breaking teeth, we wanted those coins!). Sometimes a two person job, the edges of the muslin are then gathered at the top and wrapped tightly with a piece of twine. A long loop is always left on the knot so that when you boil the pudding for hours in hot water, you can easily lift it up when the boiling time is finished. This also allows you to hang it from a broom stick between two chairs or some other hook, so the pudding can dry out a good solid month until Christmas. On Christmas Day, the pot is fired back up to boil the pudding, which is then carefully unwrapped and placed on a plate, topped with a sprig of holly and doused with brandy to be lit on fire. Served with creamy hot custard on the side, there is no flavor that says 'Christmas' to me than the taste of a plum pud!
Muslin has a history of its own. It is reportedly from Mosul, Iraq, where European traders are said to have first encountered it. Ancient Greeks from the Indian port town Machilipatnam traded in muslin and Marco Polo described the cloth in his book The Travels in 1298. Used in medicine as gauze, in theater and photography productions, for a range of culinary uses and of course in dress making, muslin has become one of my favorite fabric choices to quilt with.
As I embark upon learning to work with natural dyes, this is my fabric of choice. I love its durability and will in time love its malleability. How do you incorporate muslin into your quilt making?