Fabric Grainline – Why & How to Find it

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What is a fabric grainline? Finding the fabric grainline of a dressmaker’s pattern puts your skill as a sewer on the line! The grainline is there to guide the direction of the pattern placement, making sure the final garment conforms to the shape and drape intended by the designer. Every pattern needs to follow the fabric grainline without any distortion that could change the way a garment turns out. 


What is Fabric Grainline?Types of Fabric GrainlineFabric Grainline Across the Straight GrainFabric Grainline on Sewing PatternsFabric Grainline Questions AnsweredWhy Must Fabric Grainlines be Straight?How to Find the Fabric Grainline?What is The Fabric Grainline Symbol on a Pattern?Is There a Fabric Grainline on Stretch Fabric?What is Fabric Grainline – In ConclusionRelated Articles

What is Fabric Grainline?

The fabric grainline of a pattern follows the straight grain or threads of the fabric weave. The straight grain is the lengthwise grain or the threads that run parallel with the selvage of the fabric. 

Types of Fabric Grainline

In fabric terms, there is a cross grain (warp and weft) where the threads go across the fabric from side to side and the bias grain. 

These follow the fabric grain in three different directions. :

STRAIGHT – From top to bottom, along the warp is the straight grain. This is parallel to the selvage. The straight grain is the most important grain to know and recognize as it runs down the length of the fabric, and this is what sewing pattern pieces need to be aligned with.CROSS – The cross-grain runs from side to side along the weft. This is perpendicular to the selvage.BIAS – The bias grain runs diagonally across the fabric. The bias grain creates the elasticity attributed to bias tape or cutting on the bias for stretch.  Fabric GrainlineFabric GrainlinePinFabric Grainline

Fabric Grainline Across the Straight Grain

The directional arrow on a sewing pattern determines the way the pattern piece is going to lie on the fabric. When the patternmaker designs the pattern, the fabric grainline is there to direct the sewer and show how to lay the pattern on the fabric.

The fabric grainline shows the direction of the pattern piece according to the weave of the fabric. It also guides the sewer to get the best out of the fabric and minimize fabric consumption. Placing the pattern pieces and recognizing the fabric grainline is part of the pattern instructions.

These are some typical symbols used to indicate the direction of the fabric grainline on your paper pattern.

Fabric Grainline Symbols on Sewing PatternsFabric Grainline Symbols on Sewing PatternsPinFabric Grainline Symbols on Sewing Patterns

Fabric Grainline on Sewing Patterns

Finding the fabric grainline on the sewing pattern and matching it to the woven fabric grainline is the essence of a properly fitted garment. It is the starting point of dressmaking and is very important.

Fabric Grainline Markings

When you open up your pattern pieces you will recognize the markings of the straight grainline arrow. Most patterns are printed on tissue paper and this makes them easier to see through to discern the direction of the fabric. When you lay out your pattern before pinning and cutting, you need to check for the different grainlines. The fabric grainline is usually a straight line on the pattern piece looking like an arrow. Along the arrow, it may say to place on the straight grain of the fabric or this may just be understood. 

Here are some examples of what the fabric grainline arrows will look like on your pattern pieces. The arrows may be long or short.

Fabric Grainlines on a Sewing PatternFabric Grainlines on a Sewing PatternPinFabric Grainline on a Sewing Pattern

On the Fold Fabric Grainline

Another indicator of the straight grainline is the arrow pointing to the edge of the pattern and the instruction to place the fabric on the fold. The properly folded fabric creates a naturally straight grain if the selvages are laid out to meet each other when they are folded in half. Before cutting, make sure the fold is following the straight grain of the fabric. As long as the selvages meet accurately, this is normally very easy to do without having to measure.

How to Check the Fabric Grainline is Correct

If you are not sure that you have followed the fabric grainline exactly, here is a tip to help you check the grain is straight. 

With a tape measure, calculate the distance from the arrow to the selvage or edge of the fabric.  An accurate straight grain will be exactly the same from any point along the arrow to the edge of the fabric. This makes the arrow parallel to the edge of the fabric.

Fabric Grainline and Pattern PlacementFabric Grainline and Pattern PlacementPinFabric Grainline and Pattern Placement

Fabric Grainline Questions Answered

Why Must Fabric Grainlines be Straight?

The importance of fabric grainline and following it when sewing is because this is the pattern designer`s way of making sure the fabric drapes well. Areas of the pattern set into darts or gathers will fall naturally when the lengthwise fabric grainline is accurate. Dressmaking is like a form of sculpture, and the pattern is designed to fit the body. The correct grain ensures the fabric drapes and molds to the model`s body who wears the garment. Following these lines makes the garment fit well and look professional.

How to Find the Fabric Grainline?

This is a good question. You may find some fabrics have a clear line of threads you can work from. Others may not be straight from when you bought them in the fabric shop. The best thing to do is pull a cross-grain thread out from the fabric and see the path created by the missing thread. The fabric may look crooked, but the thread you have pulled will be straight. At this point, you can gently pull the fabric across the bias and straighten the threads to get a straight cross-grain and then a straight lengthwise grain too. Press your cloth according to this pulled grain line.

What is The Fabric Grainline Symbol on a Pattern?

Pattern pieces will have an arrow with a point top and bottom to indicate the lengthwise grain of the fabric. It is this arrow that gets laid along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. 

The accuracy of laying this arrow is vital to the drape and the fit of the pattern. Ignoring this arrow will set the seamstress up for failure because of how the garment hangs and fits in different areas. The grainline is the central guide to all the pattern pieces and creates a uniformity of the design following the grainline through each piece of the pattern. This means the front and back and sleeves, collar, cuffs, and everything, cut out from the fabric, will follow the same straight grain of the fabric.

Is There a Fabric Grainline on Stretch Fabric?

There is a grainline on knit fabrics, but it is known as ‘direction’. Knit fabrics are a series of loops and are not woven like other fabrics. In knit fabrics, the loops are placed lengthwise and called courses. The crosswise rows are known as wales. The interlocking loops make the fabric stretch, but it does still have a direction or a grainline. Following the direction of the knit makes a difference to the drape.

The best approach is to take out all your pattern pieces and check for the grain of the fabric. Provisionally lay the pieces out, taking the arrows indicating the grain into account. Make a note to yourself that this is not a time to go across the grain and challenge the pattern and the designer. Going across the grain could end with an ill-fitting garment and a disappointed sewer.

What is Fabric Grainline – In Conclusion

In summary, the fabric grainline is the straight line that is parallel to the selvages of your fabric. When you are laying out patterns it is best to stick to the straight and narrow! Don’t try to cross the grain and be disappointed in your end results.

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