The reason finding the grainline is so important is simple: fit. If you want your clothes to drape properly and fit your body without twisting in odd places, each pattern piece must be cut on the lengthwise grain, unless your pattern specifies otherwise. If cut on the crosswise grain, the garment will have a different drape than if cut lengthwise. Of course, you’ll need to make fitting changes to the pattern to fit your body just right. When you do this, the grainline sometimes must be moved to ensure the correct fit. But that’s a whole ‘nother subject!
Woven gingham is one of the best fabrics for finding the grainline because the the stripes are woven in the crosswise and lengthwise direction. This makes gingham an excellent fabric for making muslins and fitting. If you purchase gingham for this purpose, be sure that it’s woven and not printed. Printed stripes and plaids can sometimes be printed slightly off grain.
This method best works on plain woven fabrics, and it definitely won’t work on all fabric. You shouldn’t tear linens or thin fabrics because the lengthwise grains might pull. Before cutting fabric, you must make sure that your fabric is folded on grain. So fold your fabric along the lengthwise grain as usual, matching up the selvage edges. If there is twisting when you match up the crossgrain (the part of fabric cut at the store), then the crosswise grain may have been cut unevenly. An uneven grain looks like the above photo. There are a few ways to put your fabric back to the correct grain or simply find the grain. Here are two ways:
1. Snip the selvage.
2a. Tear across the fabric. This will create a somewhat wavy edge that can be ironed flat. Don’t worry, this will only tear along the crossgrain. If you’re tearing a printed pattern, stripe or plaid, and the alignment is off, it’s not your fault! There was a problem with the printing which caused the pattern to be off grain.
Some fabrics won’t tear neatly along the crosswise grain, so test out this method at the corner before tearing all the way across.
2b. Instead of tearing the fabric, pull out a thread from the snipped area. Tug on it gently and pull the thread away from the fabric. This will cause some gathering as you push the fabric. Once you’ve removed the thread, cut along the line that’s left by the space where the thread used to be.
3. Here you can see the pulled line denoting the correct crossgrain and the wavy torn edge. They are even just as they should be.
Once you have established the crosswise grain, fold the fabric along the lengthwise grain. Match up the selvages. The crosswise grain should match easily and the fold won’t have any odd twisting.
Watch for the last post on grain where we show you how to cut your fabric on grain!