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March 2016

Hello <<First Name>> 

It's super to be chatting to you again :)  How have you been?

How much do you know about fabric grainlines? If it's not much, then this is the newsletter for you!  

Grain is a tricky term to define but essentially it's the term that describes the direction your fabric has been woven. It's important to know which way the grain is running, because fabric that is off-grain when you are cutting pattern pieces can cause your completed project to stretch out of shape.  It will make sense when you read through what's below.  Scroll down to read all about how to find it, how to use it when sewing and how to straight things up if it's all a little wonky donkey.

This month I've also included a peek behind the scenes on an upcoming order - a baby sleeping bag.  It's one of those items where it's important to get things right, eep!  There's links to patterns and how I'm going to solve the gap between the inspiration image and my sewing skills.  Check it out :)

In other news, thank you to everyone who completed a survey.  I received 35 responses all up full of wonderful ideas, suggestions and ways I can help you to learn more in your sewing journey.  Feel free to send me an email if you've ever got a sewing question.  You might also like to reach out via the Hunting for Ladybugs Helpdesk if you float about on Facebook.

Until next time,
Happy Sewing, ♥ Sarah x

All About Fabric Grain

What is the Grain?

As I mentioned above, the grain is the term used to describe the direction in which the fabric is woven in relation to your pattern pieces.  There's three types of grain - lengthwise, crosswise and bias - as illustrated in the image above.  

Fabric is manufactured by criss-crossing threads over one another on huge round bolts. The warp threads are long ones that run from cut end to cut end down the bolt of fabric (lengthwise) and the weft threads weave in from side to side (crosswise).  For distribution purposes, the finished fabric is then folded in half, lengthwise, and rolled onto those rectangular cardboard “bolts” you see lining the aisles of fabric retailers. 

When you buy fabric off the bolt (in store or online), they unwind however much you want, then either rip it or cut it off with scissors.  The fabric can be on that bolt of fabric for a long time and it can crinkle and crease in odd spots.  Along either side (perpendicular to the cut edge) are the factory-finished edges called the selvage (or selvedge depending on where you are in the world).  Selvedges are formed when the weft threads change direction during the weaving process.  They have a different texture, do not fray and often have a manufacturing stamp on them.  They should be trimmed off when you cut out your final pattern or pieces.

Why Is Grain Important?

The reason finding the grainline is so important is simple: fit. You want your clothes and projects to drape and fit properly without twisting in odd places. 

The bias grain (your fabric is cut at a 45° angle across the threads) also allows woven fabric to stretch and curve.  If you cut patchwork pieces too close to the bias, your quilt will have bubbles and puckers where the fabric pieces have stretched and moved as you've sewn them together but a skirt panel cut on the bias gives a beautiful flowing drape.  Take it slow and steady when working with anything cut on the bias.

How to Find the Grain 

When a fabric is "on-grain," the lengthwise and crosswise threads are at an exact right angle to each other. Fabrics patterns like gingham always follow the grain because the pattern is made using the warp and weft threads. Finding the correct grain can be harder with printed fabrics as the base fabric might not have been square during the printing process.

I use a clear plastic ruler and a rotary cutter to cut almost all of my fabrics but this process would work equally well with a pair of scissors.

Before You Sew:
  • Pre-wash all woven fabrics.  I find it brings on any warping and shrinkage first up rather than the first wash of my finished project.  Pre-washing is just dunking up and down in a bucket of warm soapy water - I wrote about my process here.
  • Iron the fabric flat.  It really depends on the fabric but I try and line up selvedges as closely together as possible while also keeping a flat fold.  If your fabric is warped (or off-grain) then you'll notice little ripples or puckering folds over near the main fold.  See image below as an example.  I move the fabric around and attempt to find middle ground of a nice straight lengthwise fold and 'not too out of alignment' selvedges.
  • Clear the decks and work on a large flat surface.  

1.  I use a clear ruler and match one of the marked lines along the line of the fold.  
2. Trim the cut edge so it's straight.  
3. Once you've got one straight edge, it's easy to work out the others. Align your ruler along the edge you just cut and trim off the selvedges.
4. Repeat the process to cut across the top and other side to complete a rectangular piece.

Ashley over at Make It, Love It has a great tutorial using scissors.  Read More...

Another option to find the crosswise grain is to snip and rip a small section from the cut edge or pull an individual thread abt 1" / 25mm from the cut edge.

What to do about a wonky grainline

I know, insert eye roll here, but it depends on how much it's out.  It it's only just a little wonky then a good press with some shots of steam and you should be able to get things back straight on grain again.

More drastic wobbles might require more drastic measures such as a good tug across the diagonals to get those misbehaving threads back in alignment or even wetting the fabric and re-pressing while still damp.

The process of wetting fabric and pulling it to make it square is called 'blocking' (a similar term is used in knitting projects).  The Craftsy blog has a good tutorial -

Using grainlines for sewing clothes

Unless marked otherwise, most patterns pieces will have a big long double-ended arrow marked on them.  This arrow should run along the lengthwise grain.

Using a a ruler or measuring tape, make sure each end of the arrow is the same distance from either the fold or selvedge (allowing for any wibbly bits as described above).

If there isn't an arrow, your pattern piece might have 'Place on Fold' written on it.  Fold your fabric down the lengthwise grain and place the pattern piece along that fold.  Give yourself lots of room and make sure that the pattern piece can be completely cut out in both layers.    

Collars are usually cut on the bias so they sit and curve nicely.  The grainline arrows are still marked to follow the lengthwise grain so simply follow the process above and you should get it spot on.

Behind the Scenes - Baby Sleeping Bag

This month I thought I'd take you behind the scenes on the development of an upcoming order.  

Jenny contacted me to make her a gift for her sister who is having a baby.  She saw this adorable image online of a knitted sleeping bag and sent it to me as inspiration.

Now I can't knit or crochet so I need to come up with a way of replicating the look and feel but using sewing.  I don't want to make anything with a hood for a sleeping baby and also know that I don't want to use polar fleece after reading this article - The dangers of wrapping babies in polar fleece blankets

There's some great tutorials online for baby sleeping sacks - Abby, Ros and Sarah - so I think I'm going to do something similar for my bag.  Rachel also has this pattern for a knit fabric gown if you're after something more lightweight or if your baby is still swaddled.
I was excited to find a 100% cotton blanket in Ikea over the weekend.  It doesn't have cabelling but I think it will give that knitted feel Jenny was after.  I'm going to cut that up as my outer fabric (being careful not to unravel the weave as I cut or sew with it - my first step might be to whiz it through the overlocker or bind the edges with bias tape) with a cotton flannel lining.  I'm undecided if I put some quilt batting between the layers or keep it to just the fabrics.  Leaving it out might make it more usable by adjusting baby's clothing for less or extra warmth, but I may be over-thinking things :D 

So that's where I'm at right now.  I'll be sure to show you the finished project and what I end up making.  Have you ever made a sleep sack?  Any advice for me?

'Grain' Pinspiration

Create your own wood-grain using this free motion quilting tutorial by Loir Kennedy...
Grainsacks are distinctive in their French-ness of style.  make your own using some linen, rubber bands and a rolling pin.  
I love making my own bias tape.  Buy a set of these snazzy tools on eBay for $11 and make the task a breeze.  Leslie has a great tutorial to show you how.
About Sarah

Hi!  I'm excited that you've subscribed to my newsletter and even more that you've made it all the way to the bottom.  

It's my goal to teach you how to sew, no matter where you live. To inspire others to drag out their sewing machines and make it come to life.  I want you to share that tingly feeling of pride in saying "thank you I made it myself". 

I live on a wheat and sheep farm in the Western Australian Wheatbelt region.  When I finally pull myself out from behind my sewing machine, you’ll find me tending a sadly neglected garden with a G&T in hand while the kids bounce on the trampoline. I may also be found occasionally in the sheep yards helping my farmer husband.
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