What Do You Do with Used Muslins?

Here’s a good question that Melissa M asked in the comments a while back: what do you do with used muslins? I feel like I may have already talked about this, but maybe just in the comments and it never made it to a real post. So let’s talk muslins! Used muslins, that is. What do you do with them?

I do hold onto the muslin until the real project is finished. Sometimes I like to see how the pieces went together the first time around, and see if there’s anything I’d do differently next time. I also like to have it there as a reference. I rarely refer to it, but at least it’s there if I feel like looking at it! So until the wrap coat is finished, I’ll keep this muslin around.

Once the final project is finished though, there’s really no need to hold on to the muslin. So then what? What to do with all that beige cloth?

Here’s what I do:

1. Cut them up into smaller pieces of muslin.

A full skirt uses a lot of muslin! So do coats, and other styles with only a few seams. I don’t unpick the seams, but cut close to the seam allowance so it’s much faster to salvage the fabric.

2. Use these smaller pieces for smaller muslin pieces.

Small panels, collars, and pockets can be cut out of used muslin pieces. I also keep long pieces for ‘patching’ behind seams that have been opened up.

3. Use leftover muslin pieces as sew-in interfacing.

When you’re out of fusible interfacing, use muslin for sew-in interfacing! The key here is to use it on pieces that won’t be washed, or the muslin should be pre-washed first. (And washing small scraps of muslin is likely to make them fray and fall apart.) This is just for my own situation, but I don’t have a washing machine at the office. So I’d have to truck these scraps home in my bike basket, wash them, and then bring them back. It’s a lot of work, but not so bad if you have a washing machine near your sewing space!

I’ve also heard that people cut up their muslins into rags and dusting cloths. If I sewed at home, I’d do that too! Although I suppose it wouldn’t be too hard to cut them up into rags and bring home a load of scrap rags one day.

What do you do with your used muslins?


38 Responses to What Do You Do with Used Muslins?

  1. Marie October 4, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    I use mine for smaller and smaller muslins until they’re done. Rags aren’t a bad idea though.

    This year I got over the idea of saving every little scrap of fabric. My small piece stash had grown ridiculous and I wasn’t using it for cute little quilting type projects. Now I only keep scraps of a certain size if it’s in an interesting fabric. I throw the rest away. It was a very liberating decision and my sewing room is much, much cleaner which keeps me much, much saner.

  2. Alison October 4, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Like you, I keep trying to use them for smaller and smaller pieces. But in addition to rags, I’ve been trying to use old fabric to replace many of the things we use disposable items for. Such as: making handkerchiefs instead of using kleenex. At first I was a little grossed out by this, until someone loaned me one of theirs. It’s much easier on my nose, and doesn’t lead to me throwing away tons of used tissues. Another idea: I cut them up into little squares to use instead of cotton balls. I cut 2″x2″ squares, layer four on top of each other, and zig-zag (then trim) the edges. They’re cute, and perfect for things like applying toner in the morning. And it means I’m not tossing something in the trash each time! :)

    I think the more I look, now that I have reason to, the more uses I will find!

  3. Michelle @ If Toys Could Talk October 4, 2011 at 6:49 am #

    I’ve always wondered what everybody does with their muslins. I haven’t had a chance to ever make any sort of garment for myself (I sew for my kids and do some quilting). It’s great to read about how people are reusing their fabric.

  4. CGCouture October 4, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    If I plan to use the pattern again, I just use the muslin to cut out the pieces next time. I store them in labeled manila envelopes with the pattern name, number, size, suggestions I have for next time, issues I would fix, and whatever else I think I’ll need. Otherwise I reuse it or…if we’re being honest, it sits on my floor in a muslin pile that I occasionally trip over and think “hmmm…I should cut those up into new muslin pieces” or “I should really get those in their envelope”. :-P I usually do something with them when I clean up my sewing room though.

  5. CGCouture October 4, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    If you plan to use them as pattern pieces for making new garments, I suggest serging the edges to keep them from getting ravelly, especially since it’s kind of nice to baste the pieces together to make absolutely sure the pattern still fits when you go to make it again. Or maybe ya’ll just do a more delicate job of ripping out stitches than I do, because sometimes the beginning/end of seams get a bit ragged.

  6. shivani October 4, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    Like you, I reuse the bigger cuts for smaller pieces the next time. And I’m saving the rest/leftovers up to use as stuffing for a home-made tailor’s ham and seam roll :)

  7. monkeysocks October 4, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    If I end up with something that is technically a wearable garment, but not actually something you could wear outside, I often wear it for painting, or scrubbing tiles with bleach, or cutting hair etc. all the stuff you don’t want to ruin your clothes doing. Your coat muslin would be useful for throwing over your clothes to clean windows or gutters or something!

    Small bits are a pain though, I just tend to chuck them now, unless you’ve got something that needs to be stuffed!

  8. Kimberly October 4, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    I’d just like to add that 100% cotton (or other natural fibers) can be placed in the compost and will actually degrade pretty rapidly, so after you’ve used them to the point where they are too small to be used further, throw them in the composter.

  9. Rhonda October 4, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    A little confession. When I was in school and VERY poor, I must admit that I wore some of my muslins. I dyed them, painted on them, did some decorative stitching and just made it work. Oh the good old days. I like the brand new days so much more.

  10. Seraphinalina October 4, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    I often try to go the “wearable muslin” route, using cheaper fabric that if it works out well I’ll wear, but if it doesn’t, I’m okay with that. So far the unwearable have sat in a pile. I’ll use them for smaller pieces at some point.

  11. sallyann October 4, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    I taught a couple of sewing classes in the past and would save muslin scraps so that my students could practice stitching darts and inserting zippers before they worked on their chosen project fabric.

  12. zeddie October 4, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    I do the same as you Tasia – I use the larger pieces to cut out smaller pieces but I am toying with the idea of using the sewn muslins to make tote bag linings. I make reusable totes for family and friends and I usually line them.

  13. emelle October 4, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    I have three dogs and they sleep on dog beds, made by me (just large rectangles of fabric, sewn together as a large pillowcase with a zipper opening). The dog beds are stuffed with muslins and large scraps of inexpensive cloth, left over from sewing projects. (I do save the better scraps for possible future projects).

    Then the dog bed casings and muslin contents get washed each week and can be discarded if there are big messes. HTH

  14. eunny October 4, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    What a great discussion—thanks for the ideas!

    I cut smaller pieces, too, and cut sew-in interfacing from them. And then I cut quilt patches from them (I make really plain, monochromatic quilts).

    I usually go ahead and wash any assembled muslin that I’m not planning to use as pattern pieces‚Äîthe machine basting usually survives a trip through the washer fine. Then I cut off the seam and iron the pieces flat for re-use as interfacing or patches.

  15. Carol October 4, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I recently read on one website (sorry I can’t remember which) that the author uses her muslins as lining for her garments. This sounds like such a perfect solution.

  16. Tanit-Isis October 4, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    I like using flannel for coat muslins—then I can incorporate it as an underlining/interlining into the finished coat. Although it doesn’t help with failed muslins (the ones where you have to make several versions…)

    Mostly they kick around annoying me. I will have to deal with the issue at some point.

  17. Gorgeous Things October 4, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    First I take the muslin apart after all the adjustments are done and use it as the final pattern. If it’s the kind of garment that I will make multiples, then I keep the muslin/pattern in a big ziploc bag for future uses. If it’s not, then I give it to a friend of mine who owns a cleaning company. The local humane society also likes getting muslin for bedding for dogs and cats. I also give the humane society any large-ish fleece scraps I have left over from projects.

  18. Corinne October 4, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I usually cut large pieces down for use in smaller projects or to practice a small detail , rather than the entire garment. I do not care for overly fitted garments anymore and rarely need to do an entire garment. I also cut the larger pieces into squares, serge the edges for cleaning rags. Easy to launder and painless to discard.

  19. Laura October 4, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    I cut down the larger pieces for smaller muslins, then cut down further to use as backings for foundation-pieced quilt blocks. Anything else gets used as a rag or put in the compost. I also use muslin for lining (love it for lining cotton summer skirts) and sometimes interlining/interfacing, but I have to make sure that those pieces have been prewashed so they don’t shrink later.

  20. Carla Colvin October 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    If I know i’ll be using a patterned fabric for the final garment, I often go to my local market and buy very pretty fabrics in a similar pattern for ¬£1 a metre. My clients have commented in the past how much they like the toile and it helps them visualise how the final garment look in their chosen print. Sometimes I finish the toile afterwards and it makes a very wearable garment!

  21. Doortje October 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    I never make full muslins, it is always a bodice with just one sleeve, or the waist to hip piece of a skirt. And then…I just throw it away. There aren’t many places here in the Netherlands where you can buy really cheap fabrics, so I use the cheapest IKEA fabric to make my muslins. I’m really jealous of all those fabulous and super-cheap fabric finds on US blogs!

  22. Katitarian October 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    I frequently use my muslin/cheap cotton as lining. That, or I use it to restuff my dressform.

  23. Stephanie October 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I reuse for smaller pieces when I can, also for lining small quilted projects or pillows; pieces too small for reuse go in the waste-scraps bin for eventual pet-bed use. Although I love the re-usable toner-pad idea, I’m going to make some of those…

  24. Melissa M. October 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Wow! Lots of great ideas. Thank you Tasia for considering my question and posting on it. This really helps me with what I felt was a delima. I never thought to use them as small cotton applicators for toner and such. I did think to use them as liners in bags and as stuffing for an animal bed. Now I have many more ideas jumping around. Thank you!

  25. Bella October 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Thanks Kimberley, for the compost suggestion. I was going to recommend that for the smaller pieces, too…it works pretty well with any natural fabric (like cotton or linen). Haven’t tried it w/ wool.

    I don’t make muslins! I just hope for the best. I have been thinking of it (because I see so much of it on these blogs), but was wondering, And then what am I going to do w/ 2 of everything???

    I think painting/dying/trimming/decorating a muslin so it’s presentable is a great idea…and also for cleaning. Excellent suggestions.

    This is a great topic. Thanks, Tasia!

  26. Carley October 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Hi Tasia,

    They could also be used for any quilting blocks that are sewn onto a foundation, such as crazy quilt blocks!

  27. Mel October 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I find I can always buy dress fabrics on sale at a cheaper price than I can buy calico (muslin) so most prototypes I make can be worn, or altered and worn e.g. dress turned into a skirt or top, adult sizes turned into kids sizes. Small scraps tend to get turned into dolls clothes or dolls blankets for my daughter.

  28. Rachel October 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    I often rip them into strips and use them to tie my tomatoes. Alternatively, I pass on my fabric scraps (both muslin/calico and “real” fabric) to a friend who donates them to his daughter’s childcare.

  29. ladykatza October 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    School art classes can use them as rags. Or you can donate them to an animal shelter if they are all natural fiber. They use them for cleaning/bedding. My mechanic likes to use the larger pieces too. Or, you can dye them, make them into strips and make a rag rug.

  30. Gail October 5, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    I cut small pattern pieces from the larger pieces of my muslin, or if I’ve made a lot of alterations, the muslin becomes my pattern.

  31. Sally October 5, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    I make bias tape and/or seam binding out of them! Its especially great if the bias tape is going to be on the inside of the garment! I use the super small scraps as stuffing/batting for my eventual floor pillow cushion project!

  32. Laurie October 5, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Some really good ideas – thanks everyone. I especially like the “green” ideas of re-using for rags, make up pads etc. Be great Tasia to list them all to keep for future ref.

  33. Louise October 6, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    I never make full muslins either, and I particularly like using the scraps for a rag rug. I could use all my scraps for that!!!! There goes my stash!!!! Yayyyy!!! I was seriously considering doing a clean up of all the small pieces, as well, but now, I am going to do a rag rug….Need to find a great tutorial as that is something I have never done and definitely want to now!!!! Thanks for the idea!!!!! Thanks, also for this post!!!!
    ~Louise–Slave To My Needles

  34. Linda October 9, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    I have recently started actually making muslins becasue i then use them as underlining for the garment! Otherwise i feel like its such a waste of fabric :)

    Also as per some of your recent posts underlining can help the garment to last longer and hold up better x

    ta Linda

  35. alyssa October 23, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Only really relevant at this time of year… but I make scarecrows and ghosts out of mine and decorate the yard for halloween! Combined with a mask or a styrofoam hat/wig holder, it makes a creepy effect!

  36. Rhia October 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    I don’t always make full muslins, sometimes it might even be just collar of the coat or bodice without hem. It depends. When making for customer, I might have to rip seams or cut the muslin while fitting so that the original cut is lost. So I can’t use them as patterns later. And usually when I make muslin for customer, it’s just the basic pattern and the actual final cut is done straight to the actual fabric.

    I quite often use old sheets for muslins, or ugly fabrics that have been donated to me. Most likely my muslins are not suitable for using them as garment anyway, for one reason or another. However, I very rarely throw them away as they are. I use them for smaller muslin pieces, for sew-on interfacing, lining, repairing etc. What ever requires material that doesn’t really matter what it looks like. Sometimes even rags. Sometimes I save them. I have to admit that I still have some muslins that are about 10 years old (and have to say, they don’t fit me anymore).
    Anyway, main thing is that I don’t throw any large pieces away. Small scrap material I throw away because there is so much of it. Even now, after going through my stuff and throwing stuff away, I still have about 10 large boxes of scraps. But I don’t like wasting usable stuff, there is plenty of people doing it anyway.

  37. Lady Mellilah February 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    I reuse them to duplicate the pattern for additional versions of the same garment. Sometimes I reuse wrapping paper for the same purpose…

  38. carolyn boland June 20, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    very resourceful and creative!