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Thread: why cut on the grain

  1. #26
    Super Member Aurora's Avatar
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    I was at a quilt shop wanting to buy a 2.5" strip which they would not sell under 1/8th of a yard (4.5" pc) and another shopper said that I would be able to get a good pc cut on the grain. Meaning I would pay for 4.5" and only use 2.5" of it but it would be "perfect". Seemed like a waste to me.[/quote]


    I cannot imagine wanting to buy a 2.5" strip. A 1/4 yd is the frequently the limit of the smallest piece cut. A couple of shops around here have a 1/2 yard limit.

  2. #27
    Super Member mimom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aurora
    I was at a quilt shop wanting to buy a 2.5" strip which they would not sell under 1/8th of a yard (4.5" pc) and another shopper said that I would be able to get a good pc cut on the grain. Meaning I would pay for 4.5" and only use 2.5" of it but it would be "perfect". Seemed like a waste to me.

    I cannot imagine wanting to buy a 2.5" strip. A 1/4 yd is the frequently the limit of the smallest piece cut. A couple of shops around here have a 1/2 yard limit.[/quote]

    I was making a scrap quilt and wanted a lot of variety, kinda making my own jelly roll

  3. #28
    Senior Member scrapykate's Avatar
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    I am just finishing a mystery quilt and the final boarders are cut on grain so will be interesting to see if their is a difference. My understanding is that cut on grain keeps the boarder from getting a wave. will see.
    welcome from Virginia

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aurora
    I cannot imagine wanting to buy a 2.5" strip. A 1/4 yd is the frequently the limit of the smallest piece cut. A couple of shops around here have a 1/2 yard limit.
    Not to take the thread OT but:

    Years (and years) ago I was making this quilt. And I was thrilled to find a shop that cut fabrics as small as 3" of a yard . I didn't need a lot of each, but I need a variety of fabrics. So for the cost of 1.25 yards, I got 16 different fabrics, instead of having to buy 16 FQ's of fabric that I really didn't need.

    And, mind you, I have a huge stash, but didn't have enough of these colors in the values I wanted. Even today, buying Jelly Rolls isn't quite my thing as I much prefer to choose my own fabrics.

    In this case, grain was not a big deal.

    Back on-topic:
    Keep in mind, though, that if grain is important for the project, you can lose a lot of a small strip getting it straight.
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  5. #30
    Super Member LindaMRB's Avatar
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    I like against the grain for the look it can create with stripes, gingham or plaids. But then I like the old/antique look of the quilts made from whatever remained of old clothing, etc.
    When I finished a quilt my grandmother had pieced, I found the bias-cut 10" squares were a real problem with stretching and I had to redo the border a few times to get the quilt to lie flat. Still, the finished quilt turned out well.
    If you are piecing shapes other than squares, there will inevitably bias pieces...you just have to watch your stitching.
    So I suggest, go for whatever you like.

  6. #31
    Super Member Central Ohio Quilter's Avatar
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    I ALWAYS straighten the grain on my fabric before cutting... that is unless the print on the fabric (like a stripe) is way off the grain line and would make the quilt look "caddy-wampus." I think it is very important to keep on-grain for the borders especially. It just make everything lie flatter and quilt easier, either by hand or by machine.

    When my mom taught me how to sew, she taught me how to "pull a thread" to get the straight-of-grain line, and then how to pull the corners to square up the fabric.

  7. #32
    Super Member quiltmom04's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mimom
    I have made about 35 quilts and have never worried about cutting on the grain, I have encountered some quilters who insist on the "perfect cut" I didn't ask why because I didn't want to sound stupid. What is the purpose of cutting perfectly on the grain and how many others worry about this.
    Fabric that is not "on grain' will stretch, and depending on what pattern you're using and how much handling the pieces, it might be an issue. And if you're fabric had a prominant design like a stripe or plaid, off- grain cutting may make it look messier. Although a lot of primitive quilts have lots of plaids off grain and it adds to their charm.

  8. #33
    Junior Member Heartwarming quilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kathy
    I have to agree with crashnquilt, when you put a quilt on a frame to quilt it gets stretched in 4 directions at once, if there is a lot of bias cuts, especially on or near the edge, you can't keep it straight and sometimes you will get less than satisfactory quilting.
    I so agree with you. the truth definately comes out when you put it on the longarm for quilting

  9. #34
    Senior Member sgardner's Avatar
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    I really think that it depends on the fabric! I have some fabrics that seem "stretchy" and I see it when I first iron it. If I can't iron it flat the same way twice, then that tells me that no matter how I work with this fabric, it's going to stretch! One argument for prewashing and ironing- it shows the character of that fabric (stable, stretchy, unravels easily, etc.) I have some fabric that this character has made me want to switch fabric before I ever cut it.

    Other fabrics are more stable, and those it doesn't matter how you cut it. I have no idea if cutting on the grain exactly solves the problem with the fabrics that want to distort, because most of mine lately have triangles and you can't get triangles on the grain on all 3 sides. Starch really does help stabilize those fabrics, and I think that heavily starching those fabrics should help on a frame too!
    Cutting on the grain may "help" with fabrics that tend to distort, but in my very limited experience that fabric will be tricky no matter what steps I do to tame it. Cutting on the grain and starching are two things people do to compensate for imperfect fabric.

    The more stable the fabric, the less you need to do to tame it to get good results.

  10. #35
    Senior Member sgardner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kathy
    I have to agree with crashnquilt, when you put a quilt on a frame to quilt it gets stretched in 4 directions at once, if there is a lot of bias cuts, especially on or near the edge, you can't keep it straight and sometimes you will get less than satisfactory quilting.
    To me, this is the argument for floating the top on the mid arm or LA, rather than locking it down which forces that stretch. If you float it, you aren't putting stresses on the fabric. I don't know if you can float the top on a regular frame.

  11. #36
    Super Member IBQUILTIN's Avatar
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    Sometimes if you don't cut with or across the grain, your piece will shrink differently than other pieces in the block and cause a distortion, I've fortunately never had the problem, but that was what I was taught

  12. #37
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    I only worry about cutting on the grain if I am sewing clothes. It doesn't seem to matter in quilting.

  13. #38
    Power Poster sewbizgirl's Avatar
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    As a dressmaker first and quilter way later, I am a stickler for cutting anything on one of the grains. Especially if it's ever going to be machine washed. Yeah, you may be able to finagle the piecing and even quilting without stretching pieces, but once it gets washed it can twist and distort if off-grain. When I shop for clothes or anything else made of fabric, I always look at the grainlines as a scale of quality. Off grain = poor quality control= reject, in my book. It would drive me nuts to look at a quilt cut all helter-skelter, so I am not going to make one! Whatever little bit I might save in $$ just wouldn't be worth it to me. (Stepping off my soapbox now...)

  14. #39
    Super Member Rosyhf's Avatar
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    Here is the long and short of it. Why not do it the correct way to begin with. Cutting a pattern or design and placing it on the correct grain will give you the best quality and good workmanship. That is the difference. If you are satisfied with less, ok for you, different strokes lol. Personally I refuse to fuss and fudge and struggle when cutting it on the straight of grain will do the job for me.

    I look at quilting as a precise method of a work and the work must be done to the best of my ability and I take great joy in that as I know you all do. I know you want that quilt to look great, after you have spent hours on it.

    Take for instance, making a skirt. You would cut on the lenght of grain so the skirt falls nicely down your body. Cut in on the crossgain and will bubble and wave down your body, and look terrible, same difference with quilting. There is a right way and a wrong way.

    For years we have been taught (not me, I am a seamstress lol) to cut accross the grain to save fabric. Well that is so much malarky. Not only is this incorrect and your work suffers for it, but here is the test.

    Talk one yard of fabric 44 inches wide, (we will assume that the selvages have been cut off) now, cut accross the grain in two inch strips. You will end up with 18 strips (two into 36), 44 inches long for a square inch total of 792.

    Now, take that same yard and cut the strips on the straight of grain. You will get (2 into 44), 22 strips by 36 inches long for a total of 792 sq inches.

    There is no saving!! so why do it wrong lol.

    Now, blocks with all bias seams on the outside will make a nightmare out of your quilt, at least try to have two side on the straight of grain and put those on the outside if possible. Cut borders on the straight of grain, cut accross the grain and you will have extra to ease in, so why do it?

    I know the pioneers couldn't care less, they needed blankets and made the quilts out of old clothing or whatever they could find and made them they way they knew how.

    We on the other hand, have so much more knowledge, just like everything else, we have learned the correct way as we are not making quilts out of old clothing anymore or out of necessity, (well most of us). this is our hobby, our creations, our gifts for friends and family, our heirlooms etc, etc, etc, lol. We are paying more than 9.00 per yard and we want our quilt to look it, right?

    Having said all that, it is just the teacher coming out of me and I can't help it lol. I try not to let it pain me too much, when I hear a teacher teaching some eager students how to quilt the wrong way, I can't save the world lol.

  15. #40
    Junior Member jean knapp's Avatar
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    Hum I dont think our great grandma"s worried about the grain I think they were just greatfull to have fabric.

  16. #41
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    I know it is important so you can avoid fabric stretch but I'm not always willing to pay that much attention to this. Shame on me.

  17. #42
    Super Member sewingsuz's Avatar
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    Rosy, Thank you for the cutting a skirt sample. I can go for that and it will help me when I forget which is which. On scraps I have a real problem and some times when there is no salvage left, I pull one way on fabric and then the other to see which stretches and which does not.

  18. #43
    Senior Member sgardner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosyhf
    We are paying more than 9.00 per yard and we want our quilt to look it, right?
    Rosyhf makes a point about the cost of fabric- if you paid $12 or $13 a yard, maybe you should pay more attention to how you cut it. And if you are making a design that really matters to you or the person who will get it, then you will take the time to be precise on the details.

    But, I also hear this other side- if this is a play quilt for our kids, a get to know a new technique quilt with cheap fabric that won't be seen by people outside our home, or a recycle leftovers, then does it really matter? To the picky who knows that it will be wrong in their mind, then by all means, appease your conscience. To those who can live with the quilt as it is, then do so without guilt.

  19. #44
    Super Member jitkaau's Avatar
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    Usually to do with stretching and how well your quilt hangs when you finish it.

  20. #45
    Super Member QultingaddictUK's Avatar
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    I am in total agreement with Roshyf, in fact I am a bit confused by the subject as I have always thought, and read and been taught and told that you should always use the straight thread of the fabric.

    One of my favourite suppliers, and early quilting teacher, used to have a saying, I live to rip and cut. She had an Internet business and she taught me that you rip a piece of fabric, to get the "grain" of the fabric straight, and then cut. I have never had problems with warped blocks or borders, which IMO must be cut from a straight thread fabric.

  21. #46
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    Oh, thank you all for this. I've held my breath, listening for the Quilt Police to come pounding on the door when i cut fabric off the grain so I can have an adequate piece that I need to finish something. It never seemed to matter one way or other, so I've kept on doing it when necessary.

  22. #47
    Super Member JUNEC's Avatar
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    I don't bother with cutting on the grain either - never really had any problems

  23. #48

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    OK a fairly newbie.I have made one memory throw quilt.
    What is grain and bias?I know, Iknow,(silly question) but I really don't know.LOL

  24. #49
    Super Member catmcclure's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mimom
    I have made about 35 quilts and have never worried about cutting on the grain, I have encountered some quilters who insist on the "perfect cut" I didn't ask why because I didn't want to sound stupid. What is the purpose of cutting perfectly on the grain and how many others worry about this.
    Fabric strips cut from selvage to selvage (S/S)have a small amount of elasticity (they stretch). Fabric strips cut "with the grain" don't stretch. Either way is okay - depending on your preference.

    I prefer to cut "with the grain" for my sashing strips. The reason for this is that my block will be square and stay that way. They won't have that quarter-inch stretch going on. You don't get those "wavy" borders if you cut "with the grain" - a 27" strip stays a 27" strip, not a 27-1/2" strip like you sometimes get if you cut S/S.

  25. #50
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