Understanding Fabric Grain: Getting to Know Wovens

A question that often comes up with people newer to sewing (and even sometimes from people who have been sewing for a while) is this: What is a grainline and why is it important? Now, with knit fabrics, this is all a bit different. And I'll touch on that next week... But if you're sewing up an Alice or Juliet it is crucial to getting it all right with wovens! So today I'm going to help you out and explain the grain!


Understanding Fabric Grain: Getting to Know Wovens

How Grain Works:

The straight grain of woven fabric will run parallel to the selvage edges. This grain has very little to no give if you tug on it and is quite stable. When making garments, this grain will most often run straight up and down the body.

The cross grain runs perpendicular to the selvage (or from selvage to selvage) and will generally have a little bit of stretch. The cross grain is typically what will go around (or across) the body, as the little bit of stretch will help with some fitted looks.

Bias is what you get when you cut the fabric at a 45-degree angle from the selvage. It is how fabric is cut for making bias tape for binding. And occasionally you'll need to cut fabric on the bias for certain patterns. The bias will stretch more than the cross grain, which is what makes it so perfect for bindings. It will easily stretch and ease around curves because of its elasticity. 

Finding the Grain:

If you find yourself with a piece of fabric with no selvages, there is a fairly simple way to figure it out. Just test the stretch. Remember that fabric has more stretch on the cross grain. Once you have that established, you can just pull out a thread or two along the straight grain to help remember and to help line up your pattern pieces correctly.

Thank you so much for joining us for our post today! Did you learn something new? I hope you did! Is there something you'd like us to explain? If you have any suggestions for future informative posts please either let us know in the comments below or come on over to our Facebook group and make a post! We love getting fresh ideas!
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Melissa, I think this is a good start on getting to know the grain and as someone who has been sewing over 50 years it makes total sense to me. Although it’s clear to those of us with experience I always try to think as a person who knows nothing and is just starting to sew and I think there are some things that might help to make it more clear for those beginners. One of my suggestions would be to include actual photographs of the selvage. I know that the included photo shows the selvage from a distance but perhaps a close-up would be helpful for beginners. Another might show the line that is created in fabric when a couple threads are pulled across the grain. And some information and photos on how to straighten the grain with small tugs on the bias.


GREAT suggestion! We will update with some more info.

Melissa Prendergast

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