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Thread: Does tearing fabric weaken it.

  1. #1

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    I'm making cafe curtains for a great grandchild's nursery and the only way that I know to get exactly 6 panels the same length is to tear the fabric, which I did. This was expensive fabric from my LQS but when you finish a bolt she will discount it by 30 % so I bought it. When I tore it I cold see where some of it snaged and it frayed quite a bit. Any thoughts on this?

  2. #2
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    I used to think that tearing was the best way to get it straight, but I think it distorts the fabric and that part needs to be trimmed off, so there may be a little more waste.

  3. #3
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    Sometimes it is worth it if I am dealing with lots of yardage. Just plan for some waste.

  4. #4
    Moderator littlehud's Avatar
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    I don't tear mine. I think it does distort the fabric.

  5. #5
    Super Member mpspeedy's Avatar
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    I usually tear my fabric. If I am making a lot of strips or have to cut long pieces for borders etc it is the only way I can keep them straight. The stings are a pain but keeping the grain straight is very important. Some LQS in my state only tear their fabrics. It is also a dead giveaway if the print is not straight.

  6. #6
    Power Poster dkabasketlady's Avatar
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    I also tear mine if I'm using it for borders. I don't like to cut long lengths of fabric.

  7. #7
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Almost all fabric used to be torn when you bought it. The stores had a measuring thing they pulled the fabric thru and when it was the amount you wanted they'd push on it and it would cut a notch and then the clerk would tear the fabric.

  8. #8
    skpkatydid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Almost all fabric used to be torn when you bought it. The stores had a measuring thing they pulled the fabric thru and when it was the amount you wanted they'd push on it and it would cut a notch and then the clerk would tear the fabric.
    I remember that.

  9. #9
    Moderator Jim's Gem's Avatar
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    I tear mine when getting strips for my backing. I then will use a 3/4" seam allowance to avoid the part that is stretched a little. I find it is much easier to get 2 or 3 panels around the same size, there's a tiny bit of waste but sure work the time savings.

  10. #10
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I saw an article about this many years ago. A quilter compared torn fabric edges to cut fabric edges under a microscope. She was horrified to find damage to the torn fabric that extended at least 1-inch, often 2-inches, and occasionally 3-inches in from the edge. These areas would be the first to weaken and give way in a quilt, and she wanted her quilts to last for many decades, so she went to her stash and cut off all the torn edges of her fabrics 3-inches in.

    Does anyone here have a microscope? I'd be very interested in checking this out myself if I had a microscope!

  11. #11
    Super Member Boston1954's Avatar
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    I had heard from someone here, that it can stress the fabric as much as two inches away from the tear.

  12. #12
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Almost all fabric used to be torn when you bought it. The stores had a measuring thing they pulled the fabric thru and when it was the amount you wanted they'd push on it and it would cut a notch and then the clerk would tear the fabric.
    Oh, Queen!!! I had forgotten all about that little tool in the fabric shops....it had a dial on the top that moved like a clock as they pulled the fabric through, and then the little cutter mechanism that made the notch to tear the fabric. WOW!! I would never have remembered that!!! I recently was at a quilt show where a vendor was tearing the fabric she sold. I was fascinated, and she said that's the only way she knows the fabric is straight on grain, and she would never do it another way.

  13. #13
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    OK, here's a very interesting discussion on this topic. The clerks at a BERNINA store tear their fabric.

    http://potlikker.typepad.com/bekka/2...ng-fabric.html

  14. #14
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jljack
    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Almost all fabric used to be torn when you bought it. The stores had a measuring thing they pulled the fabric thru and when it was the amount you wanted they'd push on it and it would cut a notch and then the clerk would tear the fabric.
    Oh, Queen!!! I had forgotten all about that little tool in the fabric shops....it had a dial on the top that moved like a clock as they pulled the fabric through, and then the little cutter mechanism that made the notch to tear the fabric.
    WOW!! I would never have remembered that!!! I recently was at a quilt show where a vendor was tearing the fabric she sold. I was fascinated, and she said that's the only way she knows the fabric is straight on grain, and she would never do it another way.
    My mom made most of our dresses when we were young and she shopped at Ben Franklin's most of the time for fabric and they used that thing. I'll always remember the way it sounded when the clerk pulled the fabric thru it and then tearing the fabric.

    I have lost as much as 4 inches off a piece of fabric because it was so off grain on the bolt.

  15. #15
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    Yes, I have had two yards of fabric turn into 1.75 yards due to bad wrapping on the bolt and bad cutting!!! It ends up so crooked, I had to cut off both ends to straighten the middle....BOO!!!

  16. #16

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    Just a note/comment. fabrics are wet printed today and are NOT printed straight on the grain of fabric. I don't tear as I found years ago that in the process of tearing it does distort"damage" the grain for several inches from tear. With Rotary cutters we can use our wonderful runlers and get very accurate cuts. I too remember having fabric measured and torn, but then took it home and had to straighten it out before cutting. Annette Annettesews

  17. #17
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annettesews
    Just a note/comment. fabrics are wet printed today and are NOT printed straight on the grain of fabric. I don't tear as I found years ago that in the process of tearing it does distort"damage" the grain for several inches from tear. With Rotary cutters we can use our wonderful runlers and get very accurate cuts. I too remember having fabric measured and torn, but then took it home and had to straighten it out before cutting. Annette Annettesews
    Yes, with rotary cutters you can get a very straight cut. It may or may not be on grain though. Fabric is wound on full width tubes after being processed. Then a person loads the tube on to a machine and takes the fabric end and folds it in half and starts it on the bolt. If that person doesn't get the ends exactly straight it'll wind on the bolt crooked.

  18. #18
    Baywatch quilter's Avatar
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    I always tear my borders... I like my borders to come from the length of fabric so there is absolutely no stretch and it keeps my quilts flat. It's important to tear and sew immediately, however, because it is easy to ravel a torn piece... since I learned this trick, I no longer have 90 inch long borders that aren't perfectly straight.

  19. #19
    Super Member shaverg's Avatar
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    No absolutely not, it does not weaken the fabric. This is from someone that has been tearing for 28 years it is great. I still tear all my large pieces for my quilts, my borders my backs and sometimes large blocks, no stretching, nor distortion, yes a little fraying, but It is always an exact measurment. I have found quilters that have only known cutting cannot stand the thought of tearing. The first thing I do when I get a piece of fabric home is straighten by tearing. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten a piece of fabric home where they have used a rotary cutter or scissors and it so off I lose over 6 inches., especially if it has a pattern. And the stores because they use rulers and rotary cutters think they are so exact, you are lucky if they give you 2 inches extra.

    Just don't rippppppppppp, tear gently and slowly.

  20. #20
    Junior Member Minnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    Almost all fabric used to be torn when you bought it. The stores had a measuring thing they pulled the fabric thru and when it was the amount you wanted they'd push on it and it would cut a notch and then the clerk would tear the fabric.
    I remember that....LOL

  21. #21

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    Thank you ladies, it sounds like we're almost split down the middle as to tear or not to tear. Busy Lizzy

  22. #22

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    This was a topic that came up years ago.Everyone used to tear their fabric but I was informed that tearing fabric ment breaking the thread and you can't always tell if you have weaked it in other spots.I started only cutting my fabric from then on.When you cut fabric, it affects just that one spot but when you tear it you affect the fabric for a few inches in both directions. Most fabric shops only cut their fabric now days.Some fabric is not woven straight and that is why it is hard to find the grain.

  23. #23
    Super Member peaceandjoy's Avatar
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    The thing is, while I find that a little bit of fabric is skewed (less than 1/4"), when I tear, I know that it is on the straight-of-grain. Then there is no raveling. Often although fabric is "squared up," little pieces are constantly raveling - which annoys me to no end. So whatever I tear off, then trim, not only ensures that I my edge is definitely on the grain, I don't get any raveling.

    I'm going to take some to school tomorrow and see what they look like under the microscope!

  24. #24
    Super Member shaverg's Avatar
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    I agree.

    If you cut and you try to pull a thread, good luck. It will take a while before you will be able to pull one thread the whole length. I don't think there is anyone out there that can rotary cut along a thread line. When you tear and straighten you can pull one thread the length of the fabric, making sure you have the straight grain of the fabric.

    As far as the microscope goes, I think the thread is probably compromised some, but it is when you sew a seam too. Have you ever notice how fabri wears at the stitch or seam line on clothes. The needle doesn't always hit between the thread, sometimes it actually breaks the thread, it is just reinforced by the sewing thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by peaceandjoy
    The thing is, while I find that a little bit of fabric is skewed (less than 1/4"), when I tear, I know that it is on the straight-of-grain. Then there is no raveling. Often although fabric is "squared up," little pieces are constantly raveling - which annoys me to no end. So whatever I tear off, then trim, not only ensures that I my edge is definitely on the grain, I don't get any raveling.




    I'm going to take some to school tomorrow and see what they look like under the microscope!

  25. #25
    Senior Member Loretta's Avatar
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    I very seldom tear my fabric but do occasionally. Have not had any problem but to dumb to have thought it might cause a problem.

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