Threads run horizontally and vertically through the fabric. These lengthwise and crosswise threads are supposed
to form right angles to one another. However sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, the fabric is
considered to be “off-grain."

If you were to cut your pattern pieces from fabric that’s off-grain, you’d be cutting them out slightly crooked.
This would be most noticeable with a striped or plaid fabric. But even with a solid fabric, cutting pieces from off-
grain fabric can result in a finished item that may not hang quite right on the body. Also, any topstitching you do
may look “off” even if your stitching is perfectly straight.

So before cutting your pattern pieces from your fabric, it’s important to make sure the grain of your fabric is
straight, and if it’s not, to straighten it.


How to straighten fabric grain

    Preshrink your fabric (if necessary), then press it.


    Identify the crosswise grain of your fabric

    The crosswise grain runs perpendicular to your fabric’s selvedges (the selvedge is the factory-finished
    edge of your fabric). You can find the crosswise grain of your fabric in one of three ways:


    Method One: Tear your fabric

    This method is appropriate for tightly woven fabrics. Loosely woven fabrics may stretch out of
    shape with this method.

    Clip into the selvedge close to the cut edge of your fabric. Tear the fabric all the way down to
    the opposite selvedge.


    Method Two: Pull a thread

    This method is appropriate for loosely woven fabrics.

    Clip into the selvedge close to the cut edge of your fabric. Find a crosswise thread and pull it so
    that the fabric puckers. Continue to pucker your fabric all the way to the opposite selvedge. Cut
    your fabric along this pulled thread.


    Method Three: Cut your fabric along a print line

    Use this method for a striped or plaid fabric with lines that run along the crosswise grain. The
    stripe or plaid must be woven into the fabric, not printed on for this method to work. Cut along
    one of these lines from one selvedge to the other, close to the cut edge of your fabric.


    Check your fabric's grain

    Now, fold your fabric in half lengthwise, bringing together the selvedges. If the edge you just cut or
    tore doesn’t align, then your fabric is off-grain and must be corrected. If the edges do align, then
    your fabric is on-grain and you can proceed with your layout.


    Straighten your fabric’s grain

    If your fabric’s grain is just slightly off, you can straighten it by pressing the fabric. Fold your fabric in
    half lengthwise. Align the freshly cut or torn edges and pin. Then pin your fabric’s selvedges together.
    Press the entire length of your fabric, pressing out any wrinkles you find.

    If your fabric’s grain is way off, gently pull the fabric on the bias (the diagonal) in the direction it
    needs to be straightened. Then refold your fabric lengthwise, matching the selvedges, and check that
    the freshly cut or torn edge aligns.

    You may want to dampen your fabric first (if it can be dampened without causing damage) to make it
    easier to stretch. You can dampen your fabric by folding it lengthwise and rolling it inside a damp
    sheet, letting it sit for a few hours, or you can dampen it by spraying it with water. After stretching
    your fabric, lay it on a flat surface to dry.


Note that sometimes a fabric’s design is actually printed on crookedly. In this case, it’s possible to straighten
the fabric’s grain, but the design itself will still be crooked. To avoid this, closely inspect any print fabric before
purchasing.
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How to Straighten Fabric Grain