Saturday, February 1, 2014

What's the fabric for those popular "Muslin Swaddling Blankets"? Not Muslin in the US!

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As my own friends are starting to have babies and I've been browsing gift ideas, I keep coming across the same thing over and over again: a gauze swaddling blanket, like those made popular by Aden+Anais. Unfortunately, Aden+Anais calls their blankets "muslin swaddling blankets," confusing a country full of DIYers who desperately want to make their own creations.

Why do they call their fabric muslin, when it's not at all what we call muslin in the US? Well, apparently muslin means two very different things in the United States and in other countries, and the founder of Aden+Anais is from Australia. 

What Europeans call MUSLIN, Americans call GAUZE. What Americans call GAUZE, Europeans call CHEESECLOTH. What Americans call MUSLIN, Europeans call CALICO. Not surprisingly, "Muslin (American English)" redirects to Calico on Wikipedia. However, what we call Calico in the US is a different beast entirely! 

Here's some clarification to help you make your fabric selection for your own "muslin swaddling blankets" or other sewing projects that require a fabric by one of these names!
United States - "bubble gauze" or "crinkle cotton" or "gauze"   
UK/New Zealand/Australia - "muslin"
This fabric is fairly soft, very thin, and wrinkly. You see it most often in flowy skirts or in the oh so popular swaddling blankets. It comes in a variety of colors and sometimes prints.
United States - "muslin"   
Elsewhere - "calico"
This fabric is scratchy and firm but inexpensive. It usually comes in white or off-white. It's most often used to make practice garments for pattern fitting ("make a muslin"), for a distressed/rustic look, or for utility purposes.

United States - "calico" or "printed quilting fabric"
Elsewhere - no special name
This fabric is very stiff, generally used for quilting. It does not flow well, and it's also not very strong. Technically, calico in the US has a floral print, but I think any quilting fabric with a small repeating print can fall into the calico category.
United States - "cheesecloth" 
Elsewhere - "gauze"
This fabric is not really used in apparel or much sewing at all. Instead, it's used in the kitchen or for cleaning.
So, you want to make your own swaddling blankets? Or anything else out of that desirable fabric? If you're in the US, you want to order "bubble gauze" or "crinkle cotton," sometimes listed as simply "gauze." If you order muslin, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you're in Europe, though, then muslin is what you want!

If you're in the US, here are some sources: sells gauze - click here for their selection. I've used it for my own clothing. It starts off a little scratchy, but a few washes (especially with fabric softener - I use unscented/free of dyes fabric softener) will soften it right up. I've made a blouse with this fabric that pre-dates the blog. I'll do a retroactive post on it soon! I also made a dress a LONG time ago.

Michael Levine also sells "cotton gauze - crinkle cotton" - click here for their selection. I haven't purchased fabric from them before, so I can't speak to the quality. I did get a few swatches, and it seems good.

Joann Fabrics sells gauze as well - click here for their selection. I've heard that they rarely have a large color selection in store, but they have more colors online, and you can always dye white gauze to the color of your choice!


  1. THANK YOU, good lord this was making me insane. I was about to just go to the dollar store for some cheesecloth and I imagine that would have had interesting results.

  2. oh thank-you! been looking desperately for 'gauze' in the UK.. thought it seemed like our muslin- phew!!!

  3. Perfect! Just what I needed! Thank you for your detailed information!

  4. Thank you so much!! I'm in America and was asking for Muslin but the girls kept pointing me to this scratchy stuff. Now I know I need bubble gauze!! You're a life saver!! Thank you so much :)

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  6. THANK YOU!!! I've been trying to figure this out. Turns out I'm a Euro-American mix so far as vocabulary goes.

  7. Oh Em Gee! I've been in the sewing world for about a year now and I had NO IDEA muslin meant calico in the US! This has made the term "make a muslin" make so much more sense! I'm from NZ and living in the UK and I could never for the life of me work out why people would want to make a test garment in muslin/gauze! Now I don't feel like an weirdo anymore when I go to make my test garments in calico.