Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tip of the Week

The other day a sewing enthusiast dropped by the sewing center looking for answers. She had recently retired and was finally enjoying her sewing machine that had spent many a long year in a dark closet of her home. This lady was making doll clothes for her granddaughters.  She just wasn't happy with the results. She blamed the less than optimal results on herself and her rusty sewing skills.

After listening to the reasons the clothes were not quite right we started researching the potential problems. One stood out among the rest---fabric. Whether you quilt, decorate your home, or sew fashions, one thing you need to watch out for is fabric grain.

Fabric grain that is off will result in crooked garments, garments that start out relatively straight but then become disheveled upon washing, home furnishings, and, yes, even doll clothes that don't hang or drape correctly.

Woven fabrics have a lengthwise grain running along the selvage edge. And fabrics have crosswise grain running along the cut edge of the fabric as it comes off of the bolt. Then there's a bias----that's crosswise across both the grains.

So what does this all have to do with the crooked clothes? Well, fabric has the least stretch along the lengthwise grain, a little more stretch on the crosswise grain, and along the bias---well unless you want a curvature effect you want to stay away from the super stretch of the bias.

In addition, the grain on fabrics aren't always straight right off the bolt. You'll know if you have a crooked grain if you join the selvages and the fold doesn't lay straight. Sometimes you can fix the grain---sometimes you can't. Grains that are crooked on fabrics with printed on stripes or plaids can't usually be fixed. You'll know if your fabric is printed if the wrong side of the fabric doesn't match the rightside---if it does, the fabric was woven with colored threads instead of printed after weaving.

So how do you fix?

  •   Wash and press your fabric. Fold so that selvages are together and stretch on the bias. If that does the trick the fold will become straight and neat when the selvages are together.
  • Cut through the selvage and pull a crosswise thread all the way through from selvage to selvage adjusting the fabric as you pull the thread. You can then cut along the trail that your missing thread has made in the fabric and you will have a squared, crosswise grain. (I've had the best luck with this method.)
  • You can simply cut through the selvage and rip tear the fabric. The fabric will tear along the crossgrain, giving you a nice squared grain.
Again, nothing much will help a fabric that has printed on stripes or clear diagonal lines---you'll have to catch this type of problem at point of purchase and not purchase faulty fabric no matter how much you fall in love with it.

So before you start your next project take a look at that fabric and make sure its grain is straight and your masterpiece will be a masterpiece.

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