Muslin

muslin

In the history of textiles, there is no name more famous than that of Bengal Muslin. It is a finely woven light cotton fabric in plain weave without a pattern. Though it is said that the word 'Muslin' was derived from the name of the city of its origin, Mosul in Iraq. An Arab merchant named Sulaiman in the 9th century AD makes note of the material's origin in Bengal.

The weave was so fine that Pliny, the famous Roman historian refers to one type of Indian muslin known as Jhuna, worn by Roman women of high rank to show off the contours of their bodies.

Despite producing the costliest fabric in the world, the weavers of Bengal suffered in various ways. By 1817, English mill-made thread was introduced in Dhaka at one-fourth the price of the Indian yarn. English machine-made yarn ruined the muslin trade. But as Dr Taylor, a British textile expert wrote, "Even in the present day, notwithstanding the great perfection which the mills have attained, the Dhaka fabrics are unrivalled in transparency, beauty and delicacy of texture." The count in the best variety of muslin was 1800 threads per inch, while the lower varieties had about 1400 threads per inch. Also during the medieval times, the finest muslin of Dhaka was reserved for the imperial court. The most famous of the weavers were registered as though in royal employment and were not allowed to make muslin for others. In the 17th century, a traveller Abbe Rynal had this to say about the weavers, "It was a misfortune to appear very dexterous, because they were then forced to work only for the Government which paid them ill and kept them in sort of captivity."

West Bengal produces nearly 55% of the Muslin produced in India. Though big efforts were made to revive the fine muslin that was known worldwide, it has so far been possible to create only the 500 count muslin. The entire process of spinning and weaving needs immense skill and patience, and only a very small quantity of the 500 count is produced in some areas of West Bengal. Cotton khadi yarn beyond 100 threads is considered to be Muslin Khadi which can be produced up to 500 count or more.

Biswa Bangla presents this fine cloth as apparel and fabric for the connoisseur.