Preparing Fabric

Although you may be eager to cut out the pattern, fabric preparation steps should not be overlooked. These steps help fabric pieces go together more easily and promote a proper fit when the completed garment is worn and laundered.

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Fgr. 1 • Fabric Terms

Selvages. Two, finished, lengthwise edges on fabric; usually stiffer than the rest of the fabric. Avoid placing pattern pieces over the selvage when laying out the pattern.

Lengthwise grain. Grain that runs in the same direction as the selvage; usually the strongest and sturdiest direction of the fabric. Most garments are cut with the lengthwise grain running vertically, or up and down, for more strength and durability during wear. Directions referring to straight grain or grain line mean the lengthwise grain.

Crosswise grain. Grain that runs across the fabric from one selvage to the other; usually has a slight amount of give or stretch.

Bias grain. Grain that runs diagonally across the fabric; any direction other than lengthwise or crosswise. Fabric cut on the bias has more stretchability than fabric cut on the straight grain. Folding the fabric at a 45-degree angle so the crosswise grain is parallel to the selvage creates true bias, which has the most stretch.

Wales or ribs. Lengthwise chains of loops in knitted fabric. They correspond to the lengthwise grain of woven fabrics.

Courses. Crosswise rows of loops in knitted fabrics. In most knits, the crosswise loops have the most stretch.

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Fgr. 2 Cutting along Pulled Yarn

Fgr. 3 Basting Knit Fabric

Fgr. 4 When you fold your fabric in half lengthwise, it will look like one of these. Which one needs to be straightened? Why?

When fabric is cut from a bolt, the cut may not be straight. Uneven edges make it hard to check the straightness of the grain.

If you can clearly see the individual crosswise yarns, cut along a single yarn from one selvage to the other. See Fgr. 1 to learn about selvages and other fabric terms. If you can't see the crosswise yarns, clip the selvage and pull one crosswise yarn, gently pushing the fabric along the yarn.

The pulled yarn leaves a mark you can use as a cutting line. See Fgr. 2. If the yarn breaks in the middle of the fabric, cut up to the broken point, pick up the end of the yarn, and continue pulling.

Knitted fabrics don't have a thread that can be pulled. Straighten the ends by cutting along one crosswise row of loops. First, baste across the fabric, following one row of loops. Then use the basting as a cutting line. See Fgr. 3.


By preshrinking, you wash or dry-clean the fabric to prevent or minimize later shrinkage.

Preshrinking also helps remove some fabric finishes that cause stitching problems on lighter weight, woven, and knitted fabrics. The method you choose depends on how the finished garment will be cleaned. Check the fabric care instructions.

Washable fabrics. Simply wash the fabric in the machine with other clothes. For fabrics that ravel easily, first machine zigzag the raw edges. Dry either in a tumble dryer or lay flat, keeping the edges square.

Hand-washable fabrics. Fold the fabric and place in hot or warm water for 30 minutes. If the fabric can't be tumble-dried, lay flat to dry.

Fabrics to be dry-cleaned. Take the fabric to a professional dry cleaner or a self-service dry cleaner for preshrinking.


Underhanded Uniquizing Effort Sub-Series:

Wiki Sewing

Getting Ready to Sew

Having the correct tools will help you achieve professional looking results. Collecting the basics doesn't have to break the bank. As your experience grows, you'll always find new tools and techniques that will make any sewing job easier.

  1. Basic Sewing Box
  2. Rotary Cutting Tools
  3. Scissors
  4. Marking Fabric
  5. Pinning
  6. Basting
  7. Thread

A sewing box can be as simple as a plastic container or as fancy as an expensive sewing box.

Having a place to keep your sewing tools keeps the tools at hand for sewing and prevents them from being picked up and used impulsively for tasks that may dull sewing tools.

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Basic Sewing Box

• Cutting tools: Your sewing box should include sharp dress maker shears or scissors, nippers, and /or embroidery scissors, which are dedicated to sewing.

They must be sharp and reserved for only cutting fabric and thread.

• Pins and needles:

You should have different sizes on hand that are sturdy enough to not bend through heavy fabric and small enough to not leave holes in fine, lightweight fabric.

• Marking tools: Dress maker's carbon, marking pencils, and vanishing pens can be used as needed.

• Seam ripper: No one is perfect, and stitches sometimes need to be removed.

A seam ripper is used to cut one stitch at a time. The thread is removed by lifting the thread from the fabric.

• Needle threader: This inexpensive gadget has a wire that easily passes through the eye of the needle. The thread then goes through the wire, and the needle threader is pulled back out of the eye of the needle, bringing the thread through the eye at the same time.

Rotary cutting tools were designed for quilters but are great tools for many other sewing tasks. Rotary tools allow you to cut long straight lengths for things like ruffles and bias tape as well as quilting squares. The rulers provide an accurate way to measure the grain-line markings on patterns across a wider area than a gauge or tape measure. This increases your accuracy in evenly placing a pattern piece from the selvedge or fold of the fabric.



Fabric is off-grain when the crosswise and lengthwise yarns are not at right angles. This may happen during the finishing process or when the fabric is rolled onto the bolt. If the fabric isn't straightened before cutting, the finished garment may pull or twist to one side of your body or the hemline may hang unevenly.

Check to see whether your fabric needs straightening. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and match the selvages accurately. If the crosswise ends match exactly and are at right angles to the selvage, the fabric is straight. The fold should be smooth and wrinkle-free. If the edges don't match or the fabric puckers when you try to line up the edges, the fabric isn't straight. See Fgr. 4.

To straighten the fabric, pull it on the true bias.

Open up the fabric and pull the two opposite corners that are too short. See If necessary, ask someone to help you. Refold the fabric to check whether you have pulled enough.

Most fabrics can be realigned by pulling. If the yarns became off-grain during the finishing process, however, the grain may be locked in position permanently. The fabric must be used as is.


Press your fabric to remove all wrinkles.

Wrinkled fabric can't be cut accurately. Check to be sure the center fold can be pressed out of the fabric. If the fold doesn't press out with a steam iron and a damp press cloth, it won't come out with washing or dry cleaning. This sometimes occurs with knits and permanently finished fabrics. Plan a special cutting layout to avoid the fold line.

Fgr. 5 To straighten fabric grain, pull the fabric on the true bias between the corners that are closer together.

Can you straighten the grain correctly if you haven't straightened the ends first?

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Laying Out a Pattern


Friday, 2016-12-30 7:34