Sewing Article by
When you sew a new garment, you must prepare
the fabric before you lay out and cut the pattern pieces. If you do not
take the little extra bit of time to do this, you may find that your
finished garment does not hang properly. It may ride up, pull and twist
when you wear it. You can iron it, tug on it but no matter what you do, it
will never fit right. You should always take a moment to test the fabric
for the grain.
All fabric has a grain which simply means
the threads that make up the fabric run in two directions, horizontal and
vertical. When you lay your pattern pieces, there is always a line in the
pattern piece which says to place that line on the straight grain of the
To understand the grain, you need to
understand these basic terms.
Think of a bolt of fabric. When you purchase
a yard or metre, the material is pulled from the roll and laid out for
Selvage: This is the side edge on the
bolt. These edges have a different texture, do not fray and often have a
manufacturing stamp on them. You should not lay pattern pieces to include
Cut Edge or Fabric End: This is the
end of the fabric which has been cut off the bolt and may or may not fray
depending on the type of fabric.
Lengthwise Grain: runs parallel to
the selvages and does not stretch.
Crosswise Grain: runs perpendicular
to the selvages and has a slight amount of stretch.
Bias: runs at a 45 degree angle to
the selvage and is very stretchy
The Fold: Wide fabric is often folded
in half down the middle to fit the roll; the two selvage edges are
So you have a length of fabric with two
selvage edges and two cut edges and it may or may not have a fold.
Consider two front pieces on a dress or
blouse. If you lay the left front piece on the lengthwise grain of fabric
and the right front piece at an angle to the first, one will have a slight
stretch and one will not. When you wear the finished garment, there will
be a noticeable difference in the way the two front pieces hang. One front
piece will have stretch one way and the other piece will have stretch a
different way. This is why it is so important to lay the fabric pieces
exactly where the arrows on the pattern pieces indicate.
Preshrink Fabric: Before you begin
sewing or pinning pattern pieces, always wash or dry clean your fabric. It
may shrink and, of course, it is better to shrink the fabric before you
sew than to have it shrink after you have made your garment. Once this has
been done, proceed with the next step and check the fabric grain.
Check the Fabric Grain: An easy way to
test the fabric grain is to fold a piece of fabric in half lengthwise and
pin the selvage edges together. If the fabric
lies perfectly flat, the grain is perfect. When you purchase fabric, it is
important to lay it out and be sure that it is perfectly flat. Adjust
the cut ends, not the selvage ends.
To Straighten the Fabric Grain: If
the selvage edges are perfectly aligned and the fabric still does not lie
flat, you can try two methods to straighten:
A. With the selvage edges pinned together, use
a steam iron and starting at the selvage edges, push the iron toward the
fold. (use this method on the wrong side of the fabric
B. If there is a noticeable pucker, you can
pull the fabric on the bias in the direction it needs to be straightened.
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