When sewing with woven fabrics, it is important to understand the grain of the fabric.
This is something that new sewers often skip and which seasoned sewists sometimes brush up on.
Why is fabric grain important. This is especially important when sewing pants or garments. Do you remember a pair of jeans that had one seam twisted in the back or front? This is because the manufacturer didn’t look at the fabric grain while cutting the fabric.
It is recommended to wash, dry and press your fabric before you start looking for the grain. Waxed, wrinkled fabric is not something you want to work with.
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What is the Fabric Grain Line?
Every woven fabric (like 100% cotton), has a grain line. This happens during the manufacturing of the fabric, when it is being weaved. Imagine a loom with long threads that extend out. These long threads make up the warp or the fabric grain.
The weaving process involves the use of shorter threads that are woven over and underneath long threads to create a woven fabric. The crossgrain, or the weft, is formed by the shorter threads.
The bias will stretch to 45 degrees across the grain. You may need to sew or cut along the bias at times. It will stretch so be aware of that and include it in your project.
The selvage edge runs parallel to the Lengthwise (warps) grain line. This is the factory edge. One edge will bear the manufacturer’s name or other information about fabric.
The strongest threads in a woven fabric are those that run along the lengthwise grain lines. Your pattern should follow these lines in order to make your project strong. Notice: Longer pieces, such as borders and sashing, work best when cut along a lengthwise grain. This will stabilize and square up the quilt.
This experiment is simple: Pull your fabric along its grain line (or selvage). You will notice that there is very little stretch.
The crosswise grain (weft), runs parallel to the selvage edge. This is the edge at which the fabric is cut in the store. It is not always on the straight grain. Not recommended: Do not use the fabric store’s cutting line to square up or true your fabric.
You will see a slight stretch in your fabric if you hold it between the selvages. You can cut things like crosswise grain quilt binding to give your binding a little stretch without making it too stiff.
The Bias is cut at 45o angles from the selvage edge. This is the area where the fabric has the greatest stretch.
When sewing garments, it is important to cut on the bias. This will ensure that your garment drapes well.
When quilting, you should not cut on the bias. This can lead to your quilt blocks stretching and becoming larger than you expected.
You could end up with your fabric cut on a bias if you don’t pay attention to the grain of your fabric. This will cause distortions in your project.
What happens if you use a scrap fabric that does not have a selvage? Or repurpose something? You can still find straight grain.
The fabric can be pulled on to check for stretch, but it won’t give you an exact grain line.
Instead, cut about 1 inch from the edge.
Next, pull and tear the fabric along its frayed edges. Then pull out any excess threads so that the top threads are on the same line.
Note: 100% cotton is the best material for tearing. If you are working with fabric blends, it is best to snip approximately 1″ down. However, instead of tearing the fabric, pull a thread along that snipped line. This will show you the grain line, and you can then square it up.
Square up the Fabric
This is your grain line. You can now square the grain line by placing it on a straight edge such as a cutting mat.
A Note about Quilt Binding
Pay attention to the grain lines when cutting quilt binding. Your binding should have some flexibility so that it can be easily inserted onto the quilt.
You will need to cut binding on the Lengthwise grain. This will prevent any binding from being too stiff and may cause you difficulties when sewing or turning it.
Crosswise grain is the best choice for cutting binding. The fabric has just enough stretch to make turning corners and turning easy.
Sometimes you may want to trim your binding on the Bias. This is a great way to add detail to a quilt, and it’s also great for projects with rounded corners. Avoid over-stretching your binding while sewing. Bias binding should be added with a walking foot.
It is easy to find the fabric grain by simply paying attention where the fabric gives.
This will allow you to take control of any project once you have understood it. This will allow you to avoid stretching fabric in places that aren’t needed and add stretch where it is needed.
This will allow you to take control of your project.