Sewing & Pattern making Terms


In the world of sewing and pattern making, understanding the concept of grainline is essential for creating well-fitting and visually pleasing garments. The grainline serves as a crucial reference point on a pattern, dictating the direction in which fabric threads should align. In this article, we will explore the significance of the grainline from the perspective of a seamstress or pattern maker, and how it influences garment construction.

Introduction to Grainline: Setting the Foundation

The grainline is a designated line on a pattern that indicates the direction of the fabric’s threads. It runs parallel to the selvage edge of the fabric and is often represented by an arrow or a line with arrows at both ends. Understanding and accurately aligning the pattern’s grainline with the fabric’s grain is paramount to achieving a well-fitting garment.

Establishing Proper Alignment: Importance for Fit and Hang

Proper alignment of the pattern’s grainline with the fabric’s grain is essential for various reasons:

  • Fit: Aligning the grainline correctly ensures that the garment conforms to the body’s natural contours, providing a comfortable and flattering fit. It helps maintain the intended dimensions and proportions of the pattern.
  • Hang: The grainline plays a crucial role in how a garment hangs on the body. When the fabric’s threads align with the grainline, the garment drapes smoothly and falls in a pleasing manner.
  • Bias Draping: Understanding the grainline is particularly important when working with bias-cut garments. The bias refers to a 45-degree angle to the straight and cross grains. Utilizing the bias grain can create beautiful draping effects, but it requires careful handling due to its inherent stretchiness.

Pattern Alignment and Cutting: Following the Grainline

When cutting fabric based on a pattern, it is essential to align the grainline accurately. This involves:

  • Selvage Edge: The selvage edge is the finished edge of the fabric, created during the weaving process. It typically runs parallel to the straight grain. Aligning the pattern’s grainline with the selvage edge ensures proper orientation and minimizes the risk of fabric distortion.
  • Pattern Placement: Placing pattern pieces on the fabric in the correct orientation, with the grainline parallel to the selvage edge, ensures consistent alignment across the garment. This is crucial for matching design elements, such as stripes, plaids, or directional prints.

Adjusting Grainline for Design Elements

In some cases, the grainline may need to be adjusted to accommodate specific design elements:

  • Bias-Cut Designs: When working with bias-cut designs, the grainline is intentionally positioned at a 45-degree angle to create fluid draping. Pattern makers carefully mark the bias grainline to ensure accuracy during cutting and construction.
  • Cross-Grain Design Elements: Design features that run perpendicular to the grainline, such as decorative seams or contrasting panels, require precise alignment to maintain the intended aesthetic. Pattern makers mark these elements accordingly on the pattern for accurate placement.

Understanding and respecting the grainline is fundamental for seamstresses and pattern makers. By aligning patterns correctly with the fabric’s grain, they can achieve garments that fit well, hang beautifully, and reflect the intended design. The grainline serves as a guiding principle, ensuring consistent alignment and maximizing the potential of every fabric choice.

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Melissa Villegas
Pattern Maker &


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