To get your sewn clothes to hang straight, they need to be cut on the straight of grain of the fabric (here are some notes on how to do this).

But before you can do that, you need the fabric itself to be straight on grain.
Sadly many fabrics are pulled wonky in manufacture, as they’re pressed and rolled onto the bolt.

If you’re buying a fabric with a regular print, I hope you’re able to check it before buying. Sometimes the pattern is printed onto fabric that isn’t straight, so the lines of the print don’t match up with the threads of the weave.
When you cut this fabric, you have to choose whether to go for aligning everything with the print and ignoring the grain, or aligning everything with the grain and ignoring the print. Neither gives the best result.

Getting fabric straight on grain is a 3-step process :
– Find the line of the cross-fabric grain.
– Check whether the cross grain is at right angles to the lengthwise grain (selvedge).
– If not, straighten the fabric.

Most of the points are covered in this written tutorial from Wee Folk Art.

Here are some other useful links.

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Find the accurate cross grain

It’s easy to tell the direction of the lengthwise grain of fabric – it’s the direction of the uncut edges (the selvedges), probably thicker than the main fabric.

More difficult to check where the cross fabric threads are.
You need to get the cut end of the fabric to be along the cross grain of the weave.

Some frequently used methods :

1. Pull a thread

Here’s a video from Fashion Sewing Blog TV.
She makes it easy by using a fabric woven with thick threads.

Some people can do this with fabric woven from fine threads.
Detailed example about one fourth of the way down the tutorial from Wee Folk Art

I confess I haven’t got the patience and dexterity to do this, but it does give a high quality result.

2. Tearing

Tearing across is easy to do with many fabrics, but you have to accept that it may ruin at least inch of fabric. Here’s a video tutorial from Koumori No Hime Cosplay.

3. Careful cutting

With some woven fabrics, I assess the straightness by eye, and if necessary cut across as close as I can to the same thread.
I can tell if my cutting has drifted away from the straight grain, as it’s possible to pull frayed strands from the edge.

This is the method to use if you need to straighten knit fabrics.
Even on fine knits, it’s relatively easy to see the line of stitches across the fabric.
Though most knits won’t fray.

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Check the cross grain is square to the lengthwise grain

So you’ve got the cut end of the fabric ‘on grain’.
Now you want to check whether this cross grain is square with the lengthwise grain of the fabric.
Two easy signs of this.

1. Fold the fabric so the selvedges are aligned and the fabric lies flat

If it looks like this

it’s clear that the ends of the fabric aren’t aligned too.

If you’d prefer a photo of what this looks like in fabric, there’s one a bit more than half way through the tutorial from Wee Folk Art.

2. Align both the selvedges and the ends of the fabric

If the fabric bubbles in the area of the fold, that shows the grain isn’t properly aligned.

Photo from a former free written tutorial at Craftsy.

Either of those symptoms tells you the cross grain is not at right angles to the lengthwise threads.

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Straighten the grain

So how do you straighten the grain ?
Several methods.

1. Pull/ Stretch

The simple but rough method is to pull on it.

This written tutorial from Sew Easy Windows describes several pulling methods.

I do it this way. This needs to be done with care. Keep checking whether you’ve pulled enough. And that you’re not pulling odd bulges into the fabric.

2. Wash and re-press
Washing usually relaxes the wrong pressing.
Tedious, but not an extra step if you’re pre-treating the fabric by washing it anyway.
Do it before trimming to straight of grain along the cut edge, and it will be easy to see if the fabric was not on grain when cut off the bolt, and to assess whether that matters to you.
I find this happens often with quilting cottons. So I now buy 40+” wide fabric at least 4″/10cm more than the instructions, to allow for quite a bit of fabric which is wasted when using a 24″ ruler to cut across the fabric. I recently washed some wide backing fabric, after which the sides didn’t match up by about 6″/15cm. I would have been very upset if I’d bought exactly the same fabric length as my quilt !

3. Blocking
The ‘proper’ method for non-washable fabric is to steam it into shape.
Here’s a written tutorial from The Messy Method.

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Buying quality fabric does make this problem less likely, but it’s impossible to avoid the problem altogether !

Another of those necessary but not very entertaining preparation steps, if you want to get a good result.

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First written October 2014, links checked June 2021

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