How to Fix Fabric Grain

Life has been super busy lately but thankfully it should slow down by next week. I am finding that time management is a bit of a laugh. I for one refuse to give up sleep just so I can get everything done on my list that there needs to be done. Sometimes something has to give and lately for me that has been blogging and church the last couple of Sundays. Sunday has been my only day off and so it has turned into the day for grocery shopping, laundry and all of that other fun stuff as well as quilting customer quilts.

Last weekend I was working at the Creative Sewing Show in the Cloth Castle booth here in Victoria BC.It was a lot of fun talking to people and doing demonstrations on the Handi Quilter Avante and Simply Sixteen long arm quilting machines. I even had at least one award winning quilter come by and teach me some things which was awesome. The days were long though and my body was complaining a lot by the time I finished my shift Saturday night. No other work got done that day.

The weather here in Victoria is still very winter like, usually the cherry trees are in blossom and there is starting to get some warmth to the sun. Not this year. The picture below shows the difference from our winter last year to what it has been like this year.


Last time I blogged I talked about people not knowing about the straight of grain on fabric. Since that blog post this subject has come up a few more times as well I just recently saw a YouTube video on this very subject.

It seems that something that was taught beginning sewing classes isn’t being taught anymore so there is a whole generation of new sewers out there that don’t know how to find the straight of grain or how to get a piece of fabric back on grain should it go off when pre-washing their fabric.

Maybe quilters don’t think they need to know this stuff or that straight of grain only applies to garment sewists. Well to a certain point that may be true, however that said there are certain quilt patterns that are much easier to create if the fabric is on grain. Understanding and using the different grains helps your piecing go smoother and your finished quilts hang or lay flatter.

fabric grain

The Selvage is the tightly woven end of the fabric. Do not use this in your quilts top piecing or backing. Just cut it off. In fact, when you hear the term ‘usable width of fabric’ that means the width of your fabric minus its selvages.

Lengthwise Grain

The lengthwise grain has the least amount of stretch and it runs parallel to the selvage of your fabric. You can minimize sagging in your quilts by cutting your fabric in ways that take advantage of the stability of lengthwise grain. For the backing cut it out on the lengthwise grain to run from top to bottom on your quilt if you are intending to hang the quilt.

To help prevent borders from sagging you can cut the long left and right borders of your quilt on the lengthwise grain and cut the top and bottom borders on the crosswise grain. The same idea applies to sashing strips and hanging sleeves that are used on your quilts.

Crosswise Grain

The crosswise grain has more stretch than lengthwise but less than the bias. It runs perpendicular to the selvage. Most quilt patterns instruct you to cut cross grain strips and then sub-cut them into patches.


True bias is the grain that runs through your fabric at a 45 degree angle from the selvage and has the most stretch of any grain. If you are using a curved outside edge on your quilt you will want to use a bias binding as apposed to a crosswise grain bias as you will need to be able to stretch the binding around the curves.

Using Fabric Grain in Your Quilts

Ideally, all of the outside edges of a quilt block are on the straight of grain, either a lengthwise or crosswise grain line. This prevents distortion during piecing and pressing, helping to keep the block square.

To keep those bias edges inside the block, certain piecing “units” are cut very specifically.

Cut a square once, diagonally from corner to corner to get units for half square triangles and/or setting triangles. The bias remains on the inside.

Cut a square twice diagonally from corner to corner to get units for quarter square triangles and/or setting triangles. Again, the bias edge will remain on the inside of the block.

How to check your fabric’s grain

You can check to see if your fabric is on-grain by establishing a straight line across, from selvage to selvage, then folding the fabric to see if it squares-up.

To do this, lay out your fabric panel right side up and flat on your work surface.

Near the top cut edge and starting at one side of the selvage, find one thread that goes all the way across (cross-ways). Start pulling it.

Fabric with an Amount Off-grain

Fixing off Grain Fabric

There are two ways to fix off grain fabric. One is to fold your fabric in half (selvages together) so your cut edges are aligned. Pin along the cut line and pin the selvages together and then iron your fabric until flat.

The second way is to stretch the fabric.  Fold your fabric in half (selvages together). When your grain is off, you’ll see that one of your corners is short. Hold the short corner with one hand and with the other hand, grasp the opposite corner. Gently stretch the fabric on the diagonal.

Well that is a brief description of grain and how to fix it. Hopefully this has helped some people.

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Busy week and Something New

Whew, it’s been a busy week or so and it’s going to be busy for the next three weeks so I will have to try to slip a blog post in whenever I can. I have now started a second part-time job as well as the job at the Cloth Castle not to mention having more quilts to quilt as well. It’s all good though and things should slow down again by the end of the month so in the meantime it’s going to be a test of my time-management skills.

I just recently decided to purchase a new camera. Now, one might wonder why since I have a camera I use on my phone as well as a very good DSLR camera. I love my DSLR camera but it is big and bulky and it works well for video and tripod shots but not so much for just a quick photo. The phone camera is OK for that type of thing but has it’s drawbacks so my partner Kevin and I discussed it and decided to bite the bullet and get a really good point and shoot camera that takes great pictures in low light, takes good video and has a super zoom. It’s nice and compact so I can take it on holidays with me (the countdown is on). It’s small enough to just slip in my bag but not so small I will lose it. This is all a good thing as I won’t be taking my phone with me on this trip. Now I just have to find the time to figure out how to use it before Mom and I head out on the high seas.

Nikon COOLPIX A900 Digital Camera (Silver)

One thing that seems to have been coming up recently while working at The Cloth Castle is about ripping vs cutting cotton fabric and the straight of grain. At the Cloth Castle we cut the fabric as opposed to ripping it. Now this is fine except that if you take the fabric home and wash it, sometimes that fabric will go off-grain. I had two customers come into the store last week with pieces of fabric that they wanted to complain about as it was all askew and if they cut it like that they would loose too much fabric. I took a look at it and quickly assessed that there was nothing actually wrong with the piece it simply went off-grain when they washed it and a simple pull corner to corner put everything right.

This got me to thinking, (I know dangerous at the best of times), working with fabric straight of grain was a very basic sewing lesson in first year home EC,  however this doesn’t seem to be taught anymore and both woman I talked to last week didn’t even know what I was talking about when I said that the fabric was simply off grain and I showed them how to fix it. So, how many quilters or other sewists out there these days know about fabric straight of grain and how to fix it?

I think this is important and will follow this post up with another this week (when I have a little more time) explaining how to get fabric back on grain.

Image result for fabric grainline photos

So look for that post soon. Meanwhile I had two client quilt finishes this week.


You can’t really see the quilting in this quilt as the fabrics were very busy and I used Superior Threads Sew Fine 50 in both top and bottom. I did a different design in each of the borders and used a new circle template for one of the borders. It turned out really nice but as mentioned the quilting didn’t show up in the pictures.

Quilters Retreat Quilt-4.jpg

This was another client quilt about a queen size and she just wanted a simple design on it so I chose a simple loop de loop and star all over design done in Aurfil 50 thread in both the top and bobbin. Nothing fancy but it totally works for this particular style of quilt.

Our lives are like quilts – bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love.

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