Pattern grainline notation

Consumed with minutiae as I am, I can’t believe I’ve never written a post about marking grain line notation. Those arrows or absence thereof do mean something.

As reluctant as I am to nag, I have to tell you that if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it is an imperative to read (or re-read) pages 114-120 and 176-180 of my book because I can’t regurgitate all that content as much as I wish I could. Likewise, as it is very likely you’ll have residual questions, I strongly suggest reading the content I’ve linked to because your questions are probably addressed there.

What is a grainline?
A grainline is a marking on a pattern piece to indicate how the pattern piece should be lain on the goods. Only rarely is it an optional item.

grainline_weft_warpMost of the time, pieces are laid on the straight of grain or warp (knits are covered separately below). The warp is the long end; the side to side measure is fixed and is called the weft. At this point, many readers will nod knowingly and say you must lay pattern pieces on the straight of grain because it is the most stable grain but that’s not necessarily true (no, it’s not). You lay pieces depending on desired effects.

Grainline Notation:
Now we can discuss grainline notation as it applies to hard patterns. I have to limit discussion or we’ll be here all day. [If you need to know about pattern grainlines on CAD pattern pieces or CAD markers, see pages 114-120 of my book.] A lot of people don’t realize there is such a thing as grainline notation -did you?

Line length: On hard patterns, it is preferable that the grainline extend through the length of the pattern piece. This is especially important if your patterns will be graded manually or used manually. If you don’t, your stuff isn’t going to come out right unless somebody comes along after you to fix the job.

The arrows on grainlines have meaning. Your choices are no arrows, arrows on both ends, or an arrow on only one end. Not having a grainline at all means something else.

  1. Two arrows and no arrows at all means the same thing. Either way is correct.
  2. One arrow indicates nap or a one-way print. If you’re using suede, a piled fabric (velvet etc) or a one way print, the grain line must have an arrow indicating the direction you want each piece laid.
  3. No grainline at all means that whoever is using the piece can lay it out as they see fit. Many times non-woven interfacing pieces don’t need a grainline; it’s a matter of policy depending on the company (and I really don’t want to argue about it but you’re welcome to post a dissenting opinion in comments).

Note: If the piece can only be cut one way, this must be marked as “RSU” (Right Side Up) or “Face Up”. More.

types of grainlines

It rarely matters where the grainline appears on the piece (with one caveat). Do not fret about having X distance from CF or making sure it runs aligned with the shoulder notch of the sleeve etc. It only needs to be long enough to work with. It could even be aligned along the sleeve side seam and be very short (this would technically be correct albeit annoying). Indeed, it doesn’t even need to be a complete line top to bottom (see the example far right in the image below). I like my patterns to be pretty. I write the information block first and then start and stop the grainline off of either end. It’s a signature of sorts.

where grainline lie

The one caveat for placement is when the grainline really isn’t a grainline as much as it is a match stripe. By way of example is Trish’s comment below (edited for brevity):

The company taught me that each grain line should go from top to bottom of the entire pattern piece and that the grainlines should align for pieces that are attached during sewing.

match stripeIn the above example, the grainline is actually a match point for a (presumably) vertical stripe. This is a whole other type of notation that also requires color coding. Again, this is covered in detail in my book (pgs 176-180) but the image at right is a visual for you.

Grainlines on knits:
Technically, knits don’t have a grain in the same context wovens do but knit pattern pieces are marked identically as wovens are with one caveat. If you’re making a product of which only a few parts are knits (say a knit ribbing cuff for a jacket sleeve) you want to be sure to mark a cross (grain) line that shows the direction of greatest desired stretch. See image at right. knit cuff

Hopefully this covers 99% of possible questions. If not do let me know.

Below are other topics worth exploring related to grain and grainlines.

How to find the grainline on a sleeve
Sewing with leather pt.2
Checking a pattern pt.1
Bias match-stripe
Pattern Puzzle: Kate Rawlinson’s stupid stripey dress
Pattern Puzzle: Kate Rawlinson & stupid stripey pt.2
Cutting trims and shrinkage
Yet another pet peeve: Waistbands
Pop Quiz: Why do knits get larger?
Pop Quiz: Why do knits get larger? pt.2
Poll of the day: grainline stability (most people got it wrong)
Poll of the day: grainline stability 2

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  1. Reader says:

    Uh, not to be picayune, but isn’t it “minutiae”? :-) Thanks for the post. I was taught to extend the pattern grainline on long pieces.

    I came up with the “weft to wight” completely independently. I must be a sewing genius in the making!

  2. Kathleen says:

    Reader: apparently my spelling is correct IF my usage is plural and I don’t know if I should be using a singular or plural form there. I suppose I can correct it to the singular form -and at the same time, fix the “we we” in the fifth paragraph- the next time I log in.

    I tell you, it’s been a heckuva week. I had a guy working in my shop 4 days this week doing repairs and if that wasn’t enough, he could scarcely work without seeking constant positive reinforcement. I haven’t been able to concentrate at all…

  3. Lisa Blank says:

    I like these types of blog entries. Sometimes they confirm I’m doing things right, and sometimes they remind me of things I still need to improve.

  4. dosfashionistas says:

    A young patternmaker (who, thankfully, was planning to leave the industry) once told me that she had learned everything she needed to know about patternmaking in the first year or two. I am still learning new things, usually from Kathleen. (40 years, slow learner I guess….)

  5. Laurie T says:

    Oh good heavens! I’ve been teaching my students the weft-to-wight for years! Tickled pink to see someone else using it too! Of course, the warp yarns are warping away from you, like the Starship Enterprise.

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