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Tips & Techniques > Off grain fabric

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Posted by: Debbie Lancaster
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About Debbie Lancaster star
CA United States
Member since: 9/18/02
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Posted on: 11/7/10 2:23 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 5 people   Very Helpful by 14 people   
This has come up in the message boards a lot lately, so I thought I'd put in my two cents here.

Woven fabric such as broadcloth and muslin that is off grain can sometimes be returned to the correct grain by tearing off both cut ends, and pulling the fabric along the diagonal until the ends and selvages line up. Sometimes you need to dampen the fabric, straighten it, and then iron it into submission. Sometimes it takes a bit more work, such as steaming it, straightening it, and pinning it into the straight grain, then ironing it.

Sometimes, however, the fabric is forever set in its off-grain-ness, and nothing--but nothing--will get it to be on-grain in both the warp (lengthwise grain) and weft (crosswise grain). It seems to be something to do with how the fabric was treated at the factory, and no power on earth will return the fabric to the way it should be.

In that case you can do a couple of things:

1. Throw it out. This is the only answer for fabric that has a plaid or a crosswise stripe, or a regularly-patterned fabric like a toile, where everyone would notice that the print is not symmetrical.

2. Fold it with selvages matching on the lengthwise grain so that there are no wrinkles along the fold and use it. This can apply to vertical stripes or plain colored fabric. Some twills, I have found will simply refuse to lie on the perfect crosswise grain (this is possibly due to the weave), and I've never had any luck tearing them across the crosswise grain anyway, so for this kind of fabric, it may be more or less "normal."

One more important point: If you have gone to the trouble to work your fabric to its correct grain, before you cut it out it's worth the extra step to lay it flat on a table and vigorously steam it, then allow it to cool and dry without any manipulation overnight. You may find that your meticulously reworked fabric has returned to its horrible off-grain self. In that case, go back to points 1 and 2 above and decide what to do with it.

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clumsyFingers said... (3/1/14 4:23 PM) Reply
I usually fold the fabric match matching selvedges and ends. Then grab it along the wrinkly fold line, pick it up so it's off the table and manipulate the fold along one end so the fold wrinkles are gone. Then I shake it out, lay it back down, and use it like that. The selvedges don't match, the ends don't match, but the resulting garment acts like it's on grain. It's very frustrating because I sometimes lose a lot of inches of fabric and I am never quite sure the resulting garment will hang well, but I've gotten the best results this way. It seems to be worse with cheap fabrics.
Annie- oh said... (11/11/10 12:55 PM) Reply
Thanks for this information - and for listing this first: "Throw it out."
petro said... (11/10/10 2:25 AM) Reply
Definitely worth checking the fabric for correct grain alignment if you buy from a store. Thanks for pointing out how some fabric insists on returning to its wonky state.
MaryLynn in Long Beach said... (11/9/10 2:37 PM) Reply
You are so right in that some fabrics won't return to or hold a straight grain. I have also had the problem be the worst with a twill.
MaryLynn in Long Beach said... (11/9/10 2:36 PM) Reply
You are so right in that some fabrics won't return to or hold a straight grain. I have also had the problem be the worst with a twill.
Brine said... (11/8/10 5:00 PM) Reply
Thanks for pointing out that the "straightening" may not be permanent! It would be a shame to find out that the fabric returns to its previous off-grain state when you wash your garment
Jane Jane said... (11/8/10 4:40 PM) Reply
Thanks for the information!!! I needed it!
RLL said... (11/8/10 11:31 AM) Reply
I had a plaid cotton that was so off grain and could not be 'beat' into submission (oh so irritating) so I just changed what I used it for. Instead of the shirt I was going to make, I used it to make a purse and tote bag. I interfaced with stiff iron on and cut with the plaid straight. As I was never going to wash these worked great. I was determined to used it somehow since I really liked the plaid/colors....even if it became crooked plaid boxer undies for my son :).
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