Grainline Options

Do you understand fabric grainlines? Have you used the cross grain or the bias to cut out a garment that was designed for the length grain before?

Let’s look at the 3 different options: Length Grain, Cross Grain and Bias, and the positives and negatives of each option.

Length Grain
The lengthwise grainline is parallel to the selvedge edge of the fabric. This is the most stable grainline and has the least amount of ‘give’. The length wise or vertical grainline is often just called the ‘grainline’ or ‘straight grain’ simply because you match the grainline (long line with arrows) on a dressmaking pattern to the length grain.

The length grain is stable and hangs well, so it is usually used up and down the body of a garment, parallel to the Centre Front and Centre Back. This stable nature makes the grainline and garments cut on this grain long wearing.

If a garment is cut on the cross grain and the length grain travels around the body, garments can end up tighter as there is no give.


Cross Grain
The cross grain is 90 degrees to the selvedge on the fabric and is created by yarns travelling over and under the lengthwise yarns. This direction is the Weft of the fabric, I remember this with WEFT = LEFT to right!

The cross grain has more give than the lengthwise grain and in most garments this travels around the body.

Cutting garments using the cross grain up and down the body (parallel to the Centre Front and Centre Back) is ok. This can be a great method to use pattern placement in a certain way on your finished garment, or to use up fabric where the pattern won’t fit on the length grain. The cross grain may not hang quite as well as the lengthwise grain and take into consideration that the lengthwise grain around the body can make garments fit snugger.


Bias Grain
Although we are talking about grainlines, the bias isn’t really a grain. The true bias is 45 degrees to the selvedge. The bias has the most stretch ‘give’ (compared to the other grainlines) and a beautiful drape.

Garments cut on the bias hang well due to the fabric drape and are comfortable to wear. However cutting and working with fabric on the bias is tricker, as the fabric can easily be distorted and stretched. Remember to stabilise the fabric if required.


Have a go!
The biggest piece of advice I have is to give it a go! Change up the grainline you use on your garments. Use different grainlines as design details; on a pocket, waistband, trim, shirt cuffs or collar. The ideas are endless just give it go and learn how fabric works when it is cut on a different grain.

Here are three garments I have made, all cut using the cross grain; due to the fabric that I had available and/or placement of the fabric design I wanted on the garment. The garment on the left is a great example of cutting something on the cross grain that is a little snug as the length grain is travelling around the body with no give. Luckily it fits better now, I had put on weight at the time and the bodice pattern was already more fitting than usual, cutting it on the cross grain only made the issue worse!