How to Find the Grainline of Fabric


How can you line up a pattern piece to the grainline if you can’t find it? Maybe it has been cut off or the grain is not straight. I am going to show you How to Find the Grainline in Fabric. If you don’t know what grainline is check out What is Grainline in Sewing, this should help you get started.

Photo of two pieces of folded plaid fabric. Title reads How to Find the Grainline

Woven Fabric Grainline

We are going to start with woven fabric or fabric that does not stretch. Woven fabric is weaved with the warp and the weft. The grainline can be determined from the salvage. Sometimes, however, we do not have the salvage and have to find the grainline other ways. First, we can look at the fabric.  Since the warp and weft are weaved together and run perpendicular to each other, we can find a straight thread and place the pattern.

Drawing of threads woven together showing the warp and weft.

However, if we do not have the salvage we can find the grainline other ways.  A string test which can be done to give you a better visible line. We can take a piece of the warp or weft from the edge and pull it completely out. As we do so we will create a line in the fabric. The space where the thread was removed, can be used to cut a straight line, thus giving you an edge to line up your pattern pieces. It can sometimes be hard depending on the quality of the fabric.

Woven: Jean Material

One of my favorite sewing projects was making my own jeans.  Which can be tricky because, for me, the hardest fabric to determine the grainline is jean material. It can look as if the grainline is going in a diagonal direction, which can make it hard to focus on the warp and weft. Why is this? Most of the jean material is weaved in the same process as other woven material, except for the pattern of the weave changes to something called a twill. Twill is very durable and is used a lot for the construction of apparel.

A plain weave, which is the weave for most woven fabrics the warp and weft are aligned so that they form a simple criss-cross pattern.  The pattern for a twill weave is changed, instead of weaving through every other thread the warp skips some of the wefts. The change in pattern and the contrast in the white warp thread and blue weft thread gives the material a diagonal appearance.

Drawing of warp and weft of denim.

For this, I like to make markings along the entire width of the fabric. I use my chalk, pins can be used as well, and I make lines that are parallel to my salvage. If I have a scrap piece, I actually turn my fabric over. The white weft is in a diagonal so I will line my pattern to that, remembering to have it at a 45-degree angle.

Knit Fabric Grainline

Knits are constructed differently than woven fabric. Knit fabric is actually knitted with interlacing loops, hence the name. This is what gives knit clothing its comfortable stretch. The thread, which is one continuous strand, follows a path that creates valleys and hills.

Photo of a knit fabric with a close up of the grain.

This construction makes the knit fabric very stretchy. The stretch runs perpendicular to the grainline, which is important to know when placing and cutting your pattern pieces. Knit fabric grainline is still parallel to the salvage, similar to woven.  But finding the grainline is a little different.

You have to determine the wrong and right side. For instance, when looking at the fabric one side will have little v’s, this is the right side. This is created as the yarn goes up and down to create the loops. The top and bottom of the loops can be seen as the lines on the back of the fabric. Also, a little test you can do is to stretch the fabric, more than likely the right side will curl onto itself.

Close up of red knit fabric.

Interlock or double-knit fabric is a little different. These fabrics are knitted differently and do not have a right or wrong side, in other words, you can use either side. Which essentially makes your job easier.

As you look closely at the fabric, you will be able to find the Grainline. The little v’s we talked about earlier, will create a little channel. This channel is the grainline. In some cases, this channel is very small and hard to see. A little tip I like to do when I find the channel I like to pin it so I know where to place my pattern.

How to Find the Grainline in Sewing can be difficult but as you look closely at the fabric it will become easier. As gain confidence in the grainline,  your garments and projects will turn out better.

Check out An Introduction to Knit Fabric to see more examples of great knit fabric. The Beginners Guide to Sewing Knit Apparel, a free ebook, has some great tools for learning all about knit fabrics as well!

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