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Thread: Let's talk about grain and off-grain.

  1. #1
    Power Poster joyce888's Avatar
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    Let's talk about grain and off-grain.

    I was just reading about someone's bad experience with fabric shrinking and it got me thinking about the grain of fabric and how I haven't seen a topic on straightening fabric with the grain. I know some of you tear fabric to straighten but I'm not comfortable doing that. I try to match selvage to selvage and see if my fold is flat and if not straighten it from there. But as I do this sometimes I can see the design run crooked. Do I straighten by design or the fold? Batiks when straightened by fold are almost always very wavy at the selvages. How do you know when the grain is straight?
    Joyce

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    Super Member chairjogger's Avatar
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    Not comfortable with tearing either...but..have to admit...nearly the only way to know for sure...i find stamped fabric off, at times, also...great post! Will watch the opinions ! Thanks!
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  3. #3
    Super Member nanna-up-north's Avatar
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    There is no way to tell if the fabric is 'on grain' unless it is torn. Tearing always goes along one thread.... all the way across. You can cut all you want but the 'one' thread won't happen. And you can't tell if that 'one' thread lines up when you have cut lines going across lots of different threads. Why would anyone be afraid of tearing their fabric? It's a good thing if having 'true grain' is the desire.

    Prints aren't always printed 'on grain'. So, even if your fabric is truely 'on grain', the print might not be. I really suspect the grain if the print is off because that usually means that the fabric is stretched crooked when it goes through the printing process.

    So, 'true grain' is super important when you are making clothes because you want the skirt to be even, etc., but when I cut small pieces for quilts, it's not that important. You will have lots of small pieces with the threads going all directions, especially with paper piecing, etc. I'll watch to see what others think about grain..... when I taught sewing years ago I always had students get their fabric in grain..... for clothes..... but I don't think it's important for pieced tops.

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    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I agree that the fabric grain is most important in garment and some home dec projects, like curtains. The sewn item needs to be on grain or it will not hang right. It's a bit less important with a pieced quilt because of all the small pieces. The only way to get the grain is to tear it or pull one or two threads, which is hard with cottons. I tear to get the straight of grain, but as I've read in numerous quilting books, pattern rules all. So if the pattern is printed off grain, and the quilting patches are big enough where the 'off' print will br noticeable, I ignore the grain and cut the pieces aligned with the print.
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    The system recommended by those using the cutting machines is to hold the selvedges together and move right and lift until the fold is even. This appears to work in most cases. However, if pattern is important in cutting your pieces then the fabric should be lined up with the pattern even if it is slightly off grain. When I cut strips on the cutting machine I always tare the fabric, line the edges up with selvedge and use the steam iron to gradually work the grain in line. As indicated above, grain is not necessarily that important in cutting some patchwork shapes. Off grain is usually made when the fabric is refolded in manufacturer's folding machines and is especially caused when long lengths of fabric are stitched together. If that cut is not reasonably straight then all the fabric folded after that point is crooked. I have seen this at the manufacturers. I think it is better to grit your teeth (so to speak) and tare the fabric to make sure it is on grain.

  6. #6
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    When cutting out pieces for a quilt, I try to get them on grain as much as I can. I don't worry if they are out a little because sometimes it's more important to me that the pattern is straight. When paper piecing the grain lines end up different and the blocks still turn out fine.

  7. #7
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    I have an old quilt - probably 1940's or so that is a nine patch with triangles on each side. It was obviously made from left over garment making. Some of the squares are made by piecing fabric together to make the base fabric large enough for the square. Some squares are made of strips and plaids and the piecing is off grain, wonky and mismatched......I love the quilt and it has certainly held up all these years.....

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    I will pull a couple of threads, cut with scissors along the pulled line, then if the fold line is not straight to the weave of the fabric, I will stretch along both bias until I am satisfied. I have spent more than an hour getting a piece of fabric straighten up along the grain when it has been stretched and put on the bolt crooked. If patterns have straight lines in their designs that are printed off grain you've pretty well lost the game and might just as well give up getting cuts along the SOG. Use that pattern for a fussy cut.

  9. #9
    Super Member mpspeedy's Avatar
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    I worked for almost two years in a shop that did custom dressmaking and alterations. I saw first hand how important grain was in sewing. I was a quilter before that job and have been for at least 25 years since. I tear any strips I need and most of the fabric I use in my many Linus quilts. It is obvious that stores like Joanns must wind their bolts with the fabric either still damp or deliberately crooked. It helps to straighten up the fabric if you remove the selvages and steam press it. It is true that many prints are stamped off grain. Since I am not willing to pay $14.95 a yard for Linus quilts I will just have to cope. Cutting fabric straight even with the best rotory cutter and mat is almost impossible if the fabric is wider than your total reach in one sweep.
    Trying to sew, quilt or read everyday.

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    Last Sunday, I pulled my shoulder trying to straighten a designed squarish print from Kaufman's new oriental line. It was only a half yard cut but it took over 2 hours of pulling on the bias in both directions and twisting, steaming and pressing to get the grain and pattern lined up enough to do the strips for Eleanor Burns Quick Trip around the World Quilt. Since there were rectangles cut of each of the 9 fabrics, it was very important for the designs to line up correctly. I should have thought about that before I purchased the fabric. We wer suppose to have all our strips cut before class last Monday. But I hurt my shoulder so badly on fabric 2 strips I couldn't cut anymore. We had a certified Eleanor Burns instructor, I just went Monday and told her I would just observe and help anybody that needed it since I hurt my shoulder and couldn't cut my strips. That instructor volunteered to cut my strips and sent me home to get the ones I had cut and my machine. I live less than 3 miles from the class. I could sew, I just couldn't bear down and cut with the rotary cutter.

  11. #11
    Super Member Neesie's Avatar
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    I've done A LOT of garment sewing and have never had any major problems with grain. The main reason for this is PRE-WASHING and drying, before cutting. With the initial wash/dry, most fabrics will fall into their natural shape, which usually makes the cut ends totally uneven, sometimes as much as a few inches, on each end! :-(

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    Super Member crafty pat's Avatar
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    Like Neesie I made garments before I started quilting. I always pre-wash and dry my fabrics before using them and have had very little trouble lining up the grain. If I have a doubt I will pull one thread to make sure it is lined right.

  13. #13
    Super Member Lori S's Avatar
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    One of the problem I see new quilters have .. is they try to use the manufactures fold to guide the folding before cutting. Often this leads to the dreaded V or W cut in the fabric. If you don't prewash its important to at least ress out the bolt fold and restablish the fold going selvege to selvage or the dreaded V will most likely be an issue.
    I do know a few quilters the dreaded V is something they just can't over come so they cut all their fabric into smaller units so they can cut without having to fold.
    Getting the straight of grain is so important in cutting strips.
    Tearing is always my first step before cutting. I used to pull threads.. now I am just to impatient for that method.
    Last edited by Lori S; 05-28-2012 at 08:27 AM.

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    Super Member Krisb's Avatar
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    Still old fashioned and pull one thread. Lori is so right in saying that the manufacturer's fold, even with higher quality fabric, is seldom on grain, which is one more good reason to prewash and re-iron. Often the selvedges don't even match.
    I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

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    My Mom was the best seamstress I have ever seen...she would make a very slight cut in the edge of the fabric, carefully separate out one thread, and cut along that thread over the width of the fabric. Her seams were always as straight as an arrow and her quilts were lovely as well. So I'm guessing that her way (as usual!) WAS the best way...at least I can't argue with success. And no, I don't do it that way unless I'm making an heirloom quilt!
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by momto5 View Post
    My Mom was the best seamstress I have ever seen...she would make a very slight cut in the edge of the fabric, carefully separate out one thread, and cut along that thread over the width of the fabric. Her seams were always as straight as an arrow and her quilts were lovely as well. So I'm guessing that her way (as usual!) WAS the best way...at least I can't argue with success. And no, I don't do it that way unless I'm making an heirloom quilt!
    I have done this all too often, as 90% of my quilts are heirloom. Nothing irks me more than receiving expensive fabric ordered only to find the fabric was cut all wrong. Local retailers are infamous for this here. My LQS can be almost perfect to the nth of an inch. Frustrating to make a slit, cut along the thread (I cannot pull threads for the life of me) line to find that one end selvedge to selvedge is 3-4" longer than the other end. So, I also line up the patterns if there is one. To me it makes sense the printed pattern lines up. I find an exact pattern along the edge that I can use as a guide, then I straight cut along all 4 sides lining up the pattern, match up the pattern from front to back after folding, hold it up and move a smidgeon to create a straight fold. This I do after washing. Then I iron the fabric. Works for me.

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