craft, fabric, sewing

Sewing problems 01: fabric grain

Last night, I found something very interesting: the consequences of cutting and sewing strips across the lengthwise fabric grain, instead of with the lengthwise grain. I now have to scrap eight face-mask ties (or use tear-away stabilizer; even then, I’ve basically ruined one tie because holes are all punched in it) because they weren’t aligned correctly with the grain when I cut them. Because of that, the ties stretch and don’t sew correctly, getting pushed into the hole below the sewing needle, by the needle, itself.

M helped me troubleshoot last night, and this is what we discovered. I had thought I was sewing over a selvage (the edge of the weave) or something, and that this was why I was initially having such difficulty with the needle going through the fabric (the motor was stalling)…but I was also having difficulties with the feed and the flow of thread. The answer turned out to be the orientation of the grain of the fabric (which I didn’t know to watch out for, when I cut the pieces).

I did learn something from this.

It’s extremely similar to what happened with the good batik I tried to sew, causing me to wonder whether the problem was actually the fabric itself, or because I might have cut the ties cross-grain (across the bolt), instead of along the length of material. The symptoms are a noise the sewing machine makes (“pok pok pok” every time the needle drops), a tie that stretches and curves along its length, possible loops of thread above the sewing line, and the fabric puckering next to the needle (under the presser foot) every time the needle drops.

The trouble goes away (quiet, smooth sewing) when sewing other fabrics in other orientations, so we know it’s not the bobbin. (I earlier had to troubleshoot a bobbin: it was wound too loosely because I didn’t feed the thread in correctly, which resulted in weird noises and giant loops of thread on the back of the fabric. Reminisces of childhood. Solution: get another bobbin, use the poorly-wound one as a spool, and re-wind the new bobbin at the correct tension.)

It’s possible the effects aren’t so magnified when sewing garments, but these are ties, which are 3/4″ wide, at the most. (I’ve been eyeballing a width of about 6-7mm when I’ve turned in the edges…so they’re 1″ wide minus about 6mm to 7mm [a bit over 1/4″].)

If I’m correct, the grain of the fabric runs lengthwise down the bolt. Cutting across the grain is cutting across the shorter side of the fabric: the side which is scissored off of the bolt. Because I was using Fat Quarters especially, sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the selvage is…though I’ll be watching for it, now. At least one side should have a different edge, and that will be the selvage, and parallel to the lengthwise grain.

I should also be able to tell what grain to cut along by testing the fabric for stretch. M showed me the difference in stretchiness between the crosswise and lengthwise grain…lengthwise, the fabric doesn’t stretch. Widthwise (that is, crosswise: across the bolt), it does. Along the bias (at a 45° angle to both grains), stretch is maximum. When making ties, I want to cut and sew in the direction in which the fabric doesn’t stretch.

That might solve all of this. I’m not sure.

Knowing this, however, means that when I’m cutting ties out of the fabric I just obtained — which are not Fat Quarters, they’re 0.5 yard to 1.5 yard segments — I’ll likely need to cut the ties along the selvage, that is, along the length of the bolt. That should prevent these problems, but it also means that I may not be able to make 45″ long ties out of one length of fabric. That’s okay, so long as I don’t waste it…

I had been questioning, as well, whether the fabric folds more easily in one direction, than the other. I guess there’s no better way to answer that directly, than just trying it…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.