Using The Grainline

I’ve started work on my Minoru Jacket! I bet you were all wondering when that was going to happen, after my November claim that I would make not one but two coats. (Was it really that long ago? Eek!) But I’m as good as my word, here at Didyoumakethat Towers – eventually.

Whilst cutting out, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a little tip I learned during the Gertie Bombshell course. For some of my readers, this will be like teaching a grandma to suck eggs. I’m sure Gertie won’t mind me sharing this technique as I think it is probably way out of anyone’s intellectual property, being the type of thing most people could and should be able to work out for themselves – unless they’re an idiot like me.

I’m going to show you how to make a printed grainline help you keep pattern pieces on grain when cutting out on the fold. In case you’re not familiar with a grainline, it looks like this printed on a pattern:

It’s a long arrow that usually runs down a large section of the pattern piece and is there to show you how to place your pattern piece on your fabric.

The printed grain line should run along the grain of the fabric. That’s the theory, anyway. But if you’re eyeballing placement, things can be off by millimetres or even centimetres – which can affect the drape of fabric in the finished item.

Here’s how to avoid that particular issue. Please note that in these photos I am working with the pattern piece furthest away from us, not the one placed on the fold.

1. Place your pattern piece on your fabric and at the top of the arrow measure how far the arrow is from the edge of the fabric. You can measure to the selvedge or to the fold. (My selvedge was a bit rough, so I measured to the crisply pressed fold on my fabric.) This is how you place your measuring tape against the grainline arrow:

2. Once you’ve noted the distance between arrow and edge of fabric, pop a pin in at this part of the pattern piece.

3. Before doing any other pinning, move down to the other end of the arrow and measure that distance between the arrow and the edge of the fabric.

4. On this example I found out that there was an inch difference in the placement of the pattern piece! I swivelled the bottom part of the pattern piece until the measurements from both ends of the arrow were the same.

5. Pop a pin in at this end of the pattern piece, also. Now you can pin the rest of your fabric piece and cut, confident that you’re on grain.

Simple, eh? By the way, I am now totally loving my camel wool, but I grin broadly whenever I remember the stall holder’s claim that this is a wool/cashmere mix. Yeah, right. At £6 a metre? I think he forgot to mention a man-made element and that the cashmere percentage is probably about 0.01. Not that I’m bothered – this is meant to be a practical make, after all. And who am I to deny a man his salesman patter?

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17 Responses to Using The Grainline

  1. Laura says:

    Nice tip. I don’t think you need to worry about copyright, as I remember it’s present in the Colette Sewing Handbook as well. 🙂

  2. Kirsty says:

    An additional tip is to extend the grain line on the pattern if it isn’t very long, the longer the line the more accurate you can be as a measurement that’s 1mm out in a short grain line will show up to be much further out on a longer grain line.

  3. Jenn-NY says:

    No worries – techniques are not usually copyrightable (in the U.S., where Gertie is). On the other hand, actual text in a book or a photo of someone performing the technique would tend to be copyrighted – by the person that took the photo or wrote the book. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the method is “public domain.” I was taught this by my grandmother and also in home-ec class, back when those existed. For those who weren’t forced to take home-ec back in the stone age, that’s a good little tip about rotating the pin. A plastic triangle (or whatever else those things are called) is also handy for squaring things up.

  4. Lisa says:

    I always used to eye ball the grain line to my shame. I know do this as you have described – I didn’t even realise it was that important. ….Hangs head in shame.

  5. janine says:

    thanks for the tip – I saw this also in a You tube video – a little sewing demo back from the 50s. She made sewing a perfectly fitting sheath dress look so easy! however I also hang my head in shame as I don`t always do this. Sherry from pattern-scissors-cloth had a great post about what if a printed fabric doesn`t match the grainline and how to tell and when to follow the pattern and when to follow the grainline if they don`t match. it was just very recent.

  6. Camilla says:

    I think this is a common technique. My sewing tutor taught us to place a pin at one end of the grain line, measure to the selvedge or fold and then swivel non pinned end of the grainline arrow to match the measurements of the pinned end. To double check, measure along the grain line to check that the grainline is parallel to the selvedge or fold.

    • MrsC says:

      Yes! Karen it is best to pin the actual grainline, as then the measurement a tthe other end is going to be accurate. If you pin away from it you run the risk of it swivelling, and then you have to keep checking both ends. Once the grainline is pinned, you can smooth the pattern out from them.

  7. MrsC says:

    I blogged this one last year, for free! 🙂 I really do intend to write more tutorials this year as most of this 35 years of knowledge is more use out than in so to speak 🙂 Good spotting too, it can make a huge difference to the way a coat hangs. 🙂

  8. Pearl says:

    My highschool sewing teacher DRILLED this into our heads! We were only allowed to pin the corners and the grainlines, then she’d come around and check the grainlines – even on the folds! If we passed muster, we could pin the rest of the pattern in place. If it wasn’t to her satisfaction, pin it again!

    On something really long, like a longer skirt, or a sleeve, I’ll even measure halfway between the arrows on the line, just to be sure the fabric hasn’t scooted one way or the other in the middle (make sense?)

  9. Alessa says:

    I did know about that… but never actually bother to do so. I’m so lazy! I fold and re-fold my fabric while cutting out, though, to save time and fabric, so I’d need to change my whole way of cutting… Maybe for a special project. 😉

  10. Lectrice says:

    No copyright concerns. This is a BASIC technique found in every halfway competent sewing book, not the formula for Coca Cola. (I’m not a grandma, but I do have a taste of eggs in my mouth.)

    It also helps to extend the grain line on the pattern with a ruler and pencil. More reference points. I usually use a clear ruler.

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  12. nothy lane says:

    Thanks for the reminder on grainlines. I find it interesting that you measure from the fold line or the selvedge. Thanks for the tip. I referenced this pictoral tutorial on my blog too!

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