Now that we have a better understanding of how fabric grain works, we can apply that to your prep for getting ready to sew. Primarily, in how to lay your pattern out on your fabric for the best results. For some, this is second nature already, but I remember being new to sewing and having no idea how huge an impact this can have on your finished product. So, if you are like the me of the past (or even if you aren’t… you never know what you might learn), please follow along!
Understanding Fabric Grain: Pattern Layout
Fabric Prep: Pre-Shrinking
When preparing to sew a new garment, it’s important to make sure you have all of your prep work properly done to achieve the most successful results. The first step is to pre-shrink your fabric. This is important because if you do not do this and you sew a garment to fit perfectly, it might not fit the same (or at all) after laundering.
For most things, this means running the fabric through a rinse cycle and then the dryer. (It’s also a good idea to finish the raw edges before pre-shrinking!) If your fabric is wool, lay it on a flat surface that fully supports the full piece, hover an iron a few inches above it, and continually release steam onto the fabric. Allow the wool to dry completely before moving or cutting it to make sure it is fully through with the shrinking process. alternatively, you could finish the raw edges and have it dry cleaned. If your fabric is synthetic, you don’t necessarily need to do any pre-shrinking, as these fabrics do not shrink. But if you plan to sew a silk garment that you intend to handwash in the future, you might want to handwash the fabric first.
Fabric Prep: Alignment
Another important step that often gets overlooked is to make sure your fabric is properly aligned. This means that the lengthwise and crosswise grains are perfectly perpendicular (or at right angles) to each other. To tell whether the fabric is properly aligned, fold the selvage edges together and take a good look at it. If the fabric is laying completely flat, you’re good to go! If not, fold the fabric together along the bias grain. Take hold of the opposite corners and tug on it gently a few times. Then repeat the folding the selvages together to check if the fabric lays flat. If not, repeat the above until it does.
Before you plan your pattern layout, look at your fabric. Make sure that when you lay out your pattern that you will not have an upside-down design if your print is directional. Or that you will not have an unfortunate pattern placement. (This is especially important if the design in your fabric includes large flowers or circles). The same applies to napped fabric. You’ll want to make sure the nap lays the same way across the whole garment.
One of the most important rules of pattern layout is to make sure you follow the grain (or stretch) lines. If it’s a woven pattern, your pieces should have a grainline that should be placed exactly parallel to the selvage edges. With a knit pattern, you will more likely see a stretch line, it will run parallel to the cross grain.
The reason following these lines is so important is because the way you lay out your pattern will affect how that garment will hang off of a body when it’s finished.
My next tip is the best advice I was ever given. Make sure you KNOW you have enough fabric before cutting a single piece. The most effective way to check this is to lay out your fabric. Gather all of your pattern pieces. Lay them all out on the fabric with their proper orientation (following grain/stretch lines). This is to make sure it will all fit on the piece of fabric you intend to use.
If you have pieces that need to be cut on a fold, you can fold the fabric up enough to get the piece on a fold in its proper alignment. In the picture above, I laid the top piece down right next to the bottom. I then flipped it up one more time to make sure the whole piece would fit when placed on a fold. Now, to cut this, I will need to unfold the fabric. Then fold it up just enough to fit one piece. And then repeat that for the second piece. Hopefully, that’s clear enough that you get the idea.
That should be all you need to know to get started! I hope you learned something new today because learning is good! And if you ever have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below or join our Facebook group!