If you’ve ever tried to read a pattern before, you may know that, on most pieces, There will be an arrow showing you the grain line of the fabric. The pattern that we’re going to draft tomorrow is no different. However, I’m going to be the first to admit that I really didn’t understand what the grain of the fabric was until recently. It took a fair amount of research before I found out what that really meant.
So, for those of you who are just starting out, or even those who have been sewing but never found out what a grain line is, here’s a basic explanation.
Fabric’s grain, like wood’s is the direction the fabric naturally wants to go. To really understand how that works, we should start with how fabric is made.
Fabric is nothing more than many threads woven together in a design. These threads go in two different directions, the warp and the weft:
As the latter is more easily answered, I’ll start there. You should care because your fabric stretches and shrinks differently depending on whether it’s cut on the grain or not. Fabric that’s not cut on the grain can twist and warp much more than pieces that are. Though this is more important when constructing clothing, I suggest getting into the habit sooner rather than later, especially since our next project will actually be starting on clothing. For the purposes of the messenger bag, cutting your fabric out along the grain lines we’ll mark on the pattern will make it stronger and able to last longer.
So, how do you know where your grain line is? Well, if you’re using a new piece of fabric, it’s actually pretty easy. You’re going to look for the Selvedge. The selvedge is the edge of the fabric where the weft thread turns to go back into the the warp.
I realize that picture isn’t very helpful because your fabric won’t show you the threads unless you get really close, and even then it can be confusing. So, here’s what selvedge looks like on your typical piece of printed fabric.
That white edge that runs down either side of the fabric is the selvage. It looks vastly different than anything else about the fabric. Now, here’s what it looks like on a piece of solid-coloured fabric.
This time, the selvage is pretty similar to the rest of the fabric except that it has a very different texture. The threads that run parallel to the selvedge are the warp and are what your patterns are referring to as the grain. So, if you have a pattern piece that looks like this:
It should be placed on your fabric like this:
Those are the basics of fabric grains. There’s more to it when you start working with fabrics with patterns and naps, but we’ll talk about that when we get there.
On most fabrics, the warp is your grain line, but how do you know if you’re cutting along it or not? Furthermore, should you care?