One reader asked if I could feature some more crafty tutorials. I am not surprised as many of you are good at a number of crafts, not just jewelry making. So your wish is my command!

Getting hot where you are?  There is nothing better than wearing lightweight cotton. Shown here are some excellent sewing patterns featuring muslin, a plain weave cotton. You can make these for yourself or for someone else like a little baby or toddler as shown in the adorable sun hat pattern above. The German designer is Anja of Kid5patternShop.

Tunics are a great way to "slim down". The long style suits a wide range of body shapes.  Just check out this blouse/dress pattern from German designer, ebsuende. 

I am not a fan of fast fashion. It's not only the environmental concerns but often the cheap fashions are so badly made, they don't last. So making your own easy tops out of good fabrics not only endure but the classic design will not be outdated. This summery top pattern for women is by Finnish designer, Satu of MeAndKiddPatterns. You can reuse the pattern to make many tops. Perhaps embellish it with embroidery?

Matching headbands to summer outfits is an easy project for gift making. This headband sewing pattern is by the UK designer, SewStitcheryshop

The patterns by Canadian designer, Sue Kim, of IThinkSewDesign are my favorites. They are stylish and look so comfortable as cotton tops.  This is the first pattern below has bottom ruffles.  

I also picked this Peter Pan collared top as another favorite. It's a youthful design which will look good with pants or skirts.

This summer pattern is for a baby dress or romper with snaps. The designer is Californian, Monica, of OhMeOhMySewing.  

I also liked this easy girls' top pattern. The tops will be cool for summer play.  The Californian designer is Dana of TheFreckledPear

I don't know about you, but my sewing skills are definitely not up to tailor standards for men's collared shirts. So I really appreciated finding this relaxed fit collarless men's shirt pattern from Maria of SewPatternsMart

But having said that about collars, I think this men's shirt pattern is doable. Think what fun and unique shirts you can make with this pattern, also by Maria. Not just with cotton fabrics either.

The Lost Art of an Ancient Fabric More Expensive than Silk

Two centuries ago, in the late 1700's and early 1800's, the most valuable fabric was not silk but Dhaka muslin. This muslin is not like the kind we know today. Dhaka muslin was made in British held Bengal, India  - now modern  Bangladesh - using a rare cotton species found only there. 

This cloth was prized in many places for thousands of years The word muslin may have come from Mosul, Iraq, based on Marco Polo's (1254-1324) description of the cotton trade there. 

Dhaka muslin were used to make beautiful lightweight clothing and accessories with an ethereal quality. The finest and sheerest were poetically called "baft-hawa", literally "woven air". According to travellers, the cloth was so fine that a bolt, some 300 ft (91m), could be pulled through a ring or 60 ft (18m) could be folded into a pocket snuff box.

Dhaka muslin used in Eastern attire were typically worn over tunics or multiple layered saris or as headwear. Those who could afford it, flaunted Dhaka cotton. 

A woman in fine Bengali Muslin painted by Francesco Renaldi (1789)

Dhaka muslin became all the rage in Europe. Shawls were hugely popular in the late 18th and 19th century. This Dhaka muslin shawl can be seen at the Jane Austen House. The author was known to be an expert needlewoman and the shawl may have been embroidered by her. But that in doubt as there were Dhaka muslin woven patterns like this. It's made from two panels so it may be that she sewed them togetherl This shawl was clearly treasured as all the repairs were carefully done.

Jane Austen's Muslin Shawl (picture source)

But something so sheer and transparent became scandalous in Europe as the dresses were so revealing. The "fashionably impure" could for instance, have the underdress shorter thus revealing (gasp!) ankles!

V& A Collection : 18th century Muslin Dress 

Marie Antoinette of France was highly criticised for wearing her "chemise" dress made from Dhaka cotton. A chemise is an undergarment. Already an unpopular queen, despised for her lavish spending, her attempt at wearing a "simple" downmarket style backfired. 

Marie Antoinette in a Muslin/Chemise Dress by √Člisabeth Vig√©e Le Brun (1783)
Picture Source

Then, by the end of the 19th century Dhaka muslin vanished, along with the many artisans who knew how to make it via a convoluted 16 step process. The production involved entire communities.  The type of short fibre cotton plant, Gossypium arboreum var. neglecta (locally called Phuti karpas) also became extinct. 

What happened? Colonialism, the British East India Company and commercial greed, put such a stranglehold on Dhaka production and its artisans. The workers were forced to work at a loss and  the whole enterprise eventually collapsed. Impoverished workers sought other employment and the knowledge of how to make Dhaka cotton was lost. 

Our fashion demands today still echoes the story of Dhaka muslin.The manufacture of the clothes today are often made by the poorest workers in some parts of the world. Manufacturers seek the lowest wages to make the biggest profits as buyers like us are looking for "deals".

Dr Ahmed Zaidi, a former University of Cambridge academic, now entrepreneur, tells the story of Dhaka cotton in this video

He also shows how one man is leading the effort to resurrect the Dhaka muslin by first finding descendants of the original plant and also working with local weavers to figure out how to make such incredibly fine material. The British East India company did take notes of the process (and just about everything else they were involved in) but actually making and weaving such fine material is another thing. 

Before You Go :

jewelry making supplies


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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM