Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Straight of Grain - what's up with that?

One of the things I found interesting in the fabric cutting for the Shakespeare in the Park project was that the measurements were broken into 18" widths -- fat quarter size! I had not thought much about it until I realized how much easier it is to find the grain line in a piece this size! On page 25 of The Creative Pattern Book, there's some good information on why she cuts lengthwise on the grain, and I thought it might be helpful to have a little lesson on grain lines in fabric.

For all you old hands at sewing, none of this is going to be news :) but I think some of our newer quilters might not have a clear idea of how to use the grain of the fabric to improve their blocks!

The grain refers to the crosswise and lengthwise threads that make up your fabric. On the printed side it might be a little harder to determine where the threads run, so turn it to the wrong side and give a look ... from selvedge edge to edge is called the crosswise grain and
the length of the fabric is the ... right! lengthwise grain! Any cut off those two grain lines will have a bias edge to some degree.

The crosswise grain generally has a little more "give" in it than the lengthwise. If you cut a small square of your fabric and pull on the top and bottom you will see a bit of stretch, where if you pull on it side to side it is less "wiggly". The lengthwise grain is more stable and that's why it is often called for when cutting borders and sashing -- where you want the most stable pieces to frame and square-up your work.

In cutting your fabric, you want to make sure you are cutting with the grain. How?

You can eyeball it by following the threads (easier to do with a fat quarter in front of you!),
Take one ruler and line it up to a crosswise thread and one ruler perpendicular to it on a lengthwise thread and square up that end. Or you can actually pull a thread on many fabrics ... if you get hold of a thread and inch it along to pull it out, much like you were gathering
something, you will have a perfect line to follow when cutting strips.

Why is the grain so important?

Cutting your fabric squares with edges along the straight grain will minimize stretching during measuring, marking, cutting and sewing. Straight grain edges helps to ensure that your blocks don't stretch or become distorted. Triangles, without exception, are going to have at least one bias edge to them. If you make sure that the straight edge is the outside edge of the block, you will find a nicely pieced block. The method of cutting a square and then making two diagonal cuts will put the straight edge on the outside edge of the block.

That's all I have to say about the straight grain of fabric :)


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