Saturday 11 January 2014

What is grain, selvage, warp, weft

When I started to sew 4 months back I was struggling to find what is
- From selvage to selvage?
- Cut on grain?
- Cut on bias?

What is grain, selvage, warp, weft
What is grain, bias, selvage, warp, weft
Online tutorials mentioned these words and I couldn't understand. I tried looking but didn't understand what it meant and so I cut the fabric the way it suited me to lay out. It was alright because I was sewing clothes for my little one which was forgiving but was difficult to sew in many places. It would have been disastrous if I were sewing for myself or sewing any fitted clothes.
Now that I understand, I thought why not share my understanding.
I've made this little diagram. I've compared everything to warp and weft on handloom (woven) because that is what I understand.
This is self explanatory in itself.  This does not apply for knit fabric though.

Warp (Length wise grain) :It is long strands of threads that run lengthwise on the loom. In the below you can see the red threads that is tightly tied. Since they are tightly tied, they do not have any stretch (give) and are highly stable to handle.
Handloom photos from Paramakudi explaining warp and weft

Generally fabric cut on lengthwise grain is perpendicular floor.

Weft (Crosswise grain): They are perpendicular to the lengthwise grain. Since the thread goes over and below the lengthwise grain they have some stretch.
Fabric cut on crosswise grain is parallel to floor.

what is grain
Example - Trousers - Cut lengthwise on grain, they stretch horizontally as the crosswise grain is horizontal. So, when you sit they stretch comfortably.  If they were cut on cross grain with horizontal as lengthwise grain it would be very unconformable with no stretch in it.
Here you can see clearly the warp and weft with weft going over and under warp. If you view your fabric towards light you can see the warp and weft clearly.

Selvage: The weft thread goes over and under the warp thread and at the edges it does the same. Hence the edges don't fray.

what is selvage
Picture here shows selvage. The white printed fabric running lengthwise on both ends of fabric (folded here and shown on right)
Do not cut your fabric selvage. The selvages helps to determine the way a fabric needs to be cut.

Bias: This is not actually a grain. Fabric cut at angles to selvage is called bias. Any fabric cut at angles will have stretch and more stretch than crosswise grain. True bias is cut at 45 degrees to selvage and has most stretch. Also this fabric is difficult to handle since it is not stable. A neckline or armhole has certain areas that are cut on bias. They very easily lose shape. It is therefore always advisable to stay stitch the neckline or armhole or any bias cuts immediately after it is cut.

I leave with you some of my pictures. I'm quite proud of them if I can say so myself. :). They are all taken at Paramakudi - my husband's home town.
handloom photos from Paramakudi explaining warp weft

handloom photos from Paramakudi explaining warp weft grain selvage
handloom photos from Paramakudi explaining warp weft grain selvage

handloom photos from Paramakudi explaining warp weft

handloom photos from Paramakudi explaining warp weft grain selvage
handloom photos from Paramakudi explaining warp weft grain selvage

I hope this was helpful?

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  1. Amazing Post, Preethi. Great explanation, that too straight from the loom. Appreciate the effort. Nice work!

    1. Thanks Swetha. I'm happy you liked my post. It is wonderful to see and experience handloom. I tried doing it myself and it was hard work. But the end result is just awesome.

  2. Good post however , I was wondering if you could write a
    litte more on this topic? I'd be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.

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  3. Superb pictures! And you did an excellent job of explaining the concepts. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.


    i think you may find this helpful


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