What is a grainline?

by Fatema Ali
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You might have come across the word grainline while reading instructions for or using dressmaking patterns and wondered what that means.

Fabric is made up of up and down (warp) and left to right (weft) threads that weave together. The warp threads are the ones parallel to the selvedge and the weft threads are perpendicular to the selvedge (from selvedge to selvedge).

Warp is also referred as the lengthwise grainline and the weft as the crosswise grainline. As the lengthwise threads are usually stronger the pattern is placed with the centre front/centre back parallel to the lengthwise grainline.

Whilst we are discussing grainlines there are patterns which also use bias cuts. These patterns are placed across the bias of the fabric which is at a 45 degree angle. The weave on the 45 degree angle is loose which allows the fabric to drape.

When you lay your patterns on the fabric you need to match up the grainline on the pattern to the lengthwise grainline of the fabric.

Determining if you fabric is straight

Sometimes you might find that when you fold the fabric selvedge to selvedge the ends don't meet up or the print on the fabric is warped. This can happen if the print has not been printed on the fabric accurately and therefore its off the grainline, but theres nothing you can do about it.

However, it may be that the fabric is just skewed so you could try the following methods to achieve a straight grainline.

  • slightly pull the the fabric diagonally from one ends so that the weaves return to their original 90 degree angle
  • remove one of the threads from the crosswise grain by making a small snip and pulling out a single thread that runs from selvedge to selvedge

Hope this has been a useful insight into grainlines. If you have any questions please contact me.

by Fatema Ali


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