Gill’s Q&A Session at Dressmakers Social on Monday 22 June 2015

On Monday 22nd June Gill, owner of Ditto Fabrics, shared her wealth of fabric knowledge with the Dressmakers Social Meetup group. Members of the group sent in fabric and dressmaking questions. Gill’s answers will be appearing here as a mini series of fabric and dressmaking advice…


Question number one was from Kerry Wallis

“How do you get a straight edge once you’ve washed a fabric? It’d be handy as I have tried a few times but end up cutting the edge over and over wasting precious cms of fabric”

Gill’s Answer

Firstly you need to check whether the fabric has been cut or torn with the grain line or whether it has just been cut badly by the shop.

The only time we at Ditto Fabrics will cut off grain is when a fabric has a regular print which runs from selvedge to selvedge as it’s very rare for a print to be exactly at 90 degrees with the selvedge.

If it has been torn with the grain one thread will pull off in a continuous length.

Certain fabrics can only be torn with the grain if you want to guarantee that they are straight. Fabrics that fall into this category are most fine and sheer fabrics such as chiffons, lightweight polyesters and silks (without a slub) and viscose fabrics.

The above fabrics must have the torn edge. When cutting out the torn edge must be at an exact 90 degree angle with the selvedge because if it isn’t the garment will not hang properly, be a nightmare to sew and it is nigh impossible to get the hem straight.

Some fabrics can not be torn such as jersey fabrics and fabrics with any type of woven design. 

If it has been cut with the grain let your eyes follow the weft thread at the cut edge and see if it the fabric has been cut following it.

These photographs show that the fabric on the left has not been cut on the grain, the right has.

Unless the fabrics has a definite grain line such as heavier linens it can be very difficult to see and you may need to pull a weft thread out which will create a small gap and therefore indicate how accurately the fabric has been cut.

If checks & woven design fabrics have been cut with the check or design the fabric has been cut with the grain line.

When buying fabric from a bale hopefully a shop will cut each layer singly as if both sides are cut together the underside could be totally off grain or design.

If you find the fabric has just been cut badly you can straighten the fabric yourself by either tearing it with the grain or cutting with the grain but be prepared that if this is the case you may very well loose quite a few centimetres off your length and then not have enough fabric for your garment.

Alternatively return the fabric to the shop and say it has been cut off grain and ask for a new length.

Depending on the shop they might not know what you are talking about and say it doesn’t matter.

Once you know that your fabric is cut or torn to grain and if the fabric has been folded you will need to press the fold line out and refold it accurately selvedge to selvedge.

If the fabric won’t lay straight it means the grain line needs to be straighten which is done

by pulling the fabric on the bias the whole length of the fabric.


This may need to be done several times especially on heavier tightly woven cottons.

If you over straighten you can always pull the fabric on the bias the other way.

Take a look at this link for more details on straightening the grain. This youtube video is also worth watching. 

Thank you for your question Kerry!