Straightening the fabric grain or why is my fabric so crooked?

Some woven fabrics, especially those of looser weave, may be rolled on the bolt with uneven tension.   This is particularly true of the Nani Iro double gauzes and other printed Japanese double gauzes.

Why is this important to pay attention to?

Cutting your fabric before straightening the grain will result in a garment that may hang or twist in an odd way.  It is important to correct this before cutting.

Align the lengthwise and crosswise grains to be perpendicular.

off grain diagram

To make sure that the lengthwise and crosswise threads are at right angles, and that the fabric is “on-grain,” it’s necessary to straighten one of the cut ends. If there is a prominent design line, such as a woven stripe or plaid, cut along the design. Double gauzes are woven with tiny “tie-downs” between the two layers of fabric.  On the reverse side you should see a series of small dots in a grid pattern - use these dots as your guide to correct the grain.

Do not use a printed line as a reference; the print may not match up with the grain. If there is not a design line to follow, you need to pull a crosswise thread.

Pulling a thread.

pulling a thread diagram

Snip through the selvedge, find one crosswise thread and pull it, like a gathering thread, until you reach the opposite selvedge. If the fabric is loosely woven, you might be able to pull the thread completely out of the fabric. If it is tightly woven, you will need to pull the threads every few inches or pull it slightly so it puckers;  then slide the thread and push the fabric repeatedly until you reach the opposite selvedge. Cut the fabric along the pulled thread.

Correcting the distorted grain.

pulling a thread diagram

After you've achieved an "on grain" edge, pull the fabric on the bias in the direction that it needs to be straightened.  Match the selvedges and pull gently until the fabric cut edge is perpendicular to the selvedges. Mist or steam press to "fix" the fabric.

Knit Fabrics.

knit fabric grain diagram

You can’t pull a thread on a knit fabric, and you can’t steam or pull it to straighten the grain. Many knit fabrics appear permanently slanted; this is known as "torque." The best way to use these fabrics is by hanging the fabric vertically and allowing it to drape as it will.

Use the naturally folded edge as your "straight of grain" line. With extreme torque, you may have to compensate by modifying your pattern layout.



Want more in-depth information on why on-grain sewing is important?

Check out this quick Youtube video by Threads Magazine: