Heather Thomas

Understanding the Importance of Fabric Grain in Quilting

Heather Thomas
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Duration:   3  mins

Learn when and why fabric grain matters in your quilting projects. Heather Thomas explains what pieces need to be cut on a straight of grain, what pieces don’t, and how fabric grain can affect the outcome of your quilt.

Understanding Fabric Grain

When it comes to cutting out pieces for your next quilt, there are different fabric grains that the pieces can be cut out on, making them either on the straight of grain or on the bias. Straight of grain is either parallel or perpendicular to the selvage edge of a fabric and is where the fabric has the least amount of stretch. The bias is on a 45 degree angle to the selvage edge and is where the fabric has the most amount of stretch. Typically, quilters cut fabric strips on the bias when they are intending to have a piece stretch slightly, for example when learning how to make a bias binding.

Heather demonstrates how much stretch a piece of fabric can have on each of the grains. Heather then explains that when it comes to piecing a quilt, whether the pieces were cut on a straight fabric grain or not doesn’t really matter. However, if your quilt is made up of many very tiny pieces, having them cut on the straight of grain can make them easier to work with.

Quilt Borders and Fabric Grain

After explaining why all quilt pieces do not need to be cut on a straight fabric grain, Heather explains several areas where making sure your fabric isn’t cut on the bias is important. The first of these areas is the quilt border. Heather explains that quilt borders are meant to provide some stability to a quilt and therefore you do not want that fabric to stretch at all. The second area where having pieces cut on a straight fabric grain is important is when you are piecing a quilt with blocks set on point where set in triangles will be needed.

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9 Responses to “Understanding the Importance of Fabric Grain in Quilting”

  1. Sandy

    Doesn’t straight-of-grain matter when used for backing (eg, 42-44” pieced together or 108”)? Nothing mentioned in video about it.

    • Customer Service

      Hi Sandy. Thanks for contacting the National Quilters Circle with your question. When creating a quilt backing the “straight of grain” becomes less vital. As a longarm quilter, with quite a few years of experience, I have loaded quilts in both directions. The question may become more an issue when a quilter has created a quilt with an obviously designated “top” and “bottom” that has a directional print fabric for the backing or if they have a preference on the nap of a plush fabric being used as the backing. Attention to detail is required to properly layer this typ0e of quilt. Since a quilt will be used in various ways the grainline isn’t usually considered something of concern.

      That being said, we do appreciate that the fabric be “squared” up so that the piece is easily loaded on a longarm or layered for quilting on the domestic machine. I have always encouraged clients to rip the ends of any fabric that falls into the extra wides category since squaring those pieces is very difficult. This ensures a proper laying of the patchwork top, batting and backing.

      I hope this answers your questions about backing and grainline.
      Happy Quilting
      National Quilters Circle

  2. Kathleen Percy

    When sewing a bias edge with a straight of grain edge, which piece should be on top as you drive it through the machine?

    • Customer Service


      As long as your fabrics are properly pinned together it should not matter which fabric is on top of the other. If you are worried about the bias fabric getting distorted as it is fed through the machine I would recommend having it on top so you can watch and make sure the fabric is being fed evenly.

      Happy Quilting!
      NQC Video Membership

  3. sharon2665

    I understand you reasoning behind wanting your borders the strongest they can be. Doesn’t that mean tho that you have to buy a whole lot extra material because you want the length or you borders running the length of your material? So wouldn’t that be something that you would want the same strength in your binding?

    • Lisa Mojica

      I am making a simple quilt as you go strip quilt. Unfortunately, one piece of quilting fabric is printed on the straight grain. Will this affect the stretch and become distorted. I am mainly a sewist, this is my 2nd quilt. I am using an 80/20 needled cotton batting and a walking foot. Wish me luck😂

      • Customer Service

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