How to Cut Fabric By Correct Grainline (Pro Tips)

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It's important to know how to cut fabric grainline correctly, to get the right feel and look of your stitched dress. Choosing incorrect grain line can ruin the look, feel and fitting of a dress drastically.

As a beginner sewing learner, how would you decide the grainline of a fabric, if the design pattern runs in different directions?

And how would you achieve different looks from a fabric when you are not sure if you are cutting on the right grain!

If you know that your finished dress will look perfect only when it is made on the right grainline, but you don't know exactly what all you need to know. Then, this post is for you.

Should You cut fabric on straight or bias grainline

Before laying your fabric for cutting, understand the weave of a fabric to get the desired effect and fitting. As earlier said, use of right grainline can give you excellent results else the dress may be a disaster.

But at the same time, this depends on the garment you are cutting. It becomes easier to understand the basic concepts of fabric making, when we follow a structured system of sewing and dress making.

Straight cutting is at an angle of 90 degree to the selvage, whereas with a true bias, cut the pattern pieces laid at a 45 degree to the selvage.

Some dresses may combine both type of cuttings,for instance a gown dress can have structured  'straight cut' underlining and then a bias cut 'overlay' of fabric which then gives the appearance of fluidity with the body 'shaped' by the underlining. 

How to know grainline of a fabric

Thread direction in woven fabric is called as grain.

What is length wise grain

The lengthwise grain shows the threads that run parallel with selvage or self edge. In weaving, lengthwise grain is called ‘warp’.

grain line

Warp, Lengthwise Grain line

Weft, Crosswise grain line

Weft, Crosswise Grain line

What is crosswise grain

Crosswise grain shows threads that run across the fabric. It is called ‘weft’ or filler thread in weaving.

We know that a fabric is made from fiber. While weaving, warp threads are held under tension on a loom and weft (filler) threads are run back and forth from selvedge to the other side, that made up fabric.

What is bias and true bias

When cloth is neither lengthwise nor crosswise, it is called as bias.

The diagonal line resulting when lengthwise grain exactly falls on cross wise grain is called as true bias.

When you want to have a body wrapping dress, free fall red carpet dress, then bias grainline is the best way to make a dress.

Bias or True Bias Grain line

Bias or True Bias Grain line

Why grainline is important in sewing

In most of the garments, lengthwise grain runs up and down in order to permit crosswise grain.

Crosswise grain has more elasticity to run around the body. It makes a dress comfortable across the shoulders, around the chest, waist and hips, so that the garment is easy to wear and carry.

Lengthwise grain hands or falls more softly than crosswise grain.

A dress cut on the cross grain have a stiff awkward look and it is uncomfortable as well.

Though, market is flooded with such designs, where the design runs crosswise instead of lengthwise. Many a times, it is advantageous for the suppliers as making designs crosswise saves them the fabric cost.

In this situation, when the design of a dress demands it to be made crosswise then you may plan as per the fashion look of a dress.

Know grain of a fabric by looking at it

When we are working with the fabrics, we must train ourselves to know the fabric lengthwise and crosswise grain by just looking at them.

Even when the fabric is cut in such a manner that selvage is not known, we should be able to know the grain line by eye.

Compare the strength

First of all, stretch the fabric and compare the strength of warp and filling threads.Lengthwise fabric tears more easily than crosswise. Crosswise threads can be identified by shading of heavy and light irregular strips. They lack uniformity.

Compare elasticity

Crosswise grain has more elasticity than lengthwise grain. That’s why, a lengthwise grain takes and holds crease or fold better that a crosswise grain.

Generally, cloths are cut on lengthwise grain but sometimes design of a dress demands it to be cut on crosswise,too.

When the look of a dress demands more elasticity and hanging on effect, we use biased line.

I hope, next time when you lay your fabric to cut, you’ll be more careful in understanding the look you want and accordingly you’ll make your dress.

11 Facts about Cutting Fabric on Bias Grainline

1. If you are cutting on the bias, you might find your pattern needs more fabric to accommodate cutting diagonally.  Not only you require more fabric but usually bias cut leaves more waste.

2. Pattern pieces have to be cut singly. More construction time might be needed so you can hang the cut fabric pieces so the seams can settle.

3. More time and skill required for cutting and construction. Because of the diagonal fall of the fabric, bias cut garments are more difficult to sew than normal garments. 

4. Gives a greater fluidity to the garment

5. A bias cut dress Is comfortable to wear and gives dresses a fluidity of being sexier than traditionally cut garments.

6. Requires fewer seam lines (unless wanted)

7. Will 'stretch' before, during and after construction. If the garment is not made a certain way, the seams and hems can bunch and twist, instead of lying smoothly.

8. Unsuitable for some patterns and prints. A bias cut has a lot of stretch. It will move and curve and do as you please. But there are some places that you Do Not want stretch like your tummy.

9. It can be draped on the stand, rather than making a paper pattern.  A bias fabric will stretch differently than fabric that is cut the normal way.

10.Bias cut seams are not inclined to fray. The edges of a perfect bias cut will NOT fray and will not need any finishing.

11. A bias cut dress tend to cling to a woman’s curves more than clothing that is cut normally, which is inclined to show curves on the body in more appealing way.

Since garments are cut diagonally, bias cut garments have a very different look from ordinary garments, even when the same basic pattern or shape is used. While you are making your own sewing pattern at home, you can keep these tips in consideration.

Important Facts About Cutting Fabric On Straight Grainline

1. Requires less fabric and therefore less waste. A garment cut on straight grainline, will fray and requires finishing.

2. Easier construction and fabric cutting. A straight cut will be stiff. It will hold the shape you cut it to. And hold the shape of what its holding too.

3. Makes a more structured garment but draping and fit will need to be checked after the garment is made.

4. More restrictive movement and if you want stretch to the garment you need to make sure you use a stretchable fabric like knits, things with Lycra, spandex etc.

5. Can redefine the body shape.

Sewing Tips to Avoid 3 Ironing and Pressing Mistakes


Why fabrics shrink lengthwise - in straight grainline

Because thread is in tension while weaving, that is the reason why a clothe always shrinks in lengthwise grain. Therefore, cloth should be shrunk before cutting.

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Bias-cut Dressmaking is one of the best easy-to-follow guide to bias-cut clothes. 

It provides step-by-step instructions and diagrams for making over 40 items of clothing that are cut on the bias.

That includes making skirts, dresses, trousers, evening wear and even lingerie. 

You can make a halterneck evening dress, a cowl-necked shift dress, palazzo pants, bias-cut culottes, a cowl camisole, a strapless evening dress or a slightly flared bias skirt.

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