Friday, June 15, 2012

Directional sewing to eliminate distortion

Do you ignore grain direction when stitching? You will probably get away with it if you are working with medium and heavy weight wovens. But if you work, like me this month, with delicate fabrics, you will want to take full advantage of this sewing method as it will help you avoid distortion and puckers. This applies to any fabric edges that are cut off-grain.


It took me a while to understand and to actually use directional sewing with all my projects. Here are two easy ways to know which direction to sew:

  • Sew from wide to narrow: the wide part of your garment piece is the strongest, because it has more thread intersections and is less likely to distort out of shape, or
  • Run your finger along the edge of the garment piece. If the threads stand out you are moving your finger against the grain; if they lie smoothly – that’s the direction you want to sew. 


...should always be done ‘directionally’. On the neckline, collar, or sleeve cap, resist stitching around the piece.

On the photograph below, I staystitched the neckline from the V-point to the shoulder, repeating the same for the other side.


A finicky fabric would also require that you follow the grain when cutting and, especially, pressing!

I am using a light-weight muslin for my flapper dress top, so I am extremely careful not to stretch out neckline and armholes when pressing. In fact, after the muslin piece was cut, I staystitched those off-grain parts and then pressed, and then checked against the paper pattern again to make sure that I haven’t accidentally stretched out any of those edges.

Do you use directional stitching in your sewing?


  1. I am so glad you posted this. I have just made a dress which turned out to be ruined. I followed the pattern instructions and they didn't include stay stitching. You can guess the end result !

  2. I saw, I learned, thank you. All the best. Mema

  3. Ahha! you are making the flapper dress from June Burda, I just finished the overlay piece. I do have some fabric distortion, but I wasn't sure how to avoid it given that the fashion fabric is big lace with lots and lots of holes in it. I'm going to do a better job with the dress part I hope.
    Looking forward to seeing yours,

  4. Yes, I use it. Nice redesign.

  5. Very useful information. I do staystitch, however, I am guilty of not following directional sewing. I will now pay closer attention to this detail. Thanks!

  6. This is a good reminder of something that always confuses me. What if you must choose between the 2 guidelines you list? That is, what if wide-to-narrow is actually against the grain? It sort-of looks that way in your picture above. Also how did you manage the armholes which change grain multiple times? Cynthia Guffey recommends starting and stopping at each grainline change. Thanks!

    1. Martha, this confused me at the beginning too, and I guess you refer to the change of the angle to the lengthwise grain, as well as the cutting direction on all those sections (some point to the right, other to the left). Just ignore it. The important thing is to decide where the fabric is stronger.

      Now, what I would recommend is cut a sample similar to the one on my picture. Then, rub with your nail at every edge towards top, and then, towards bottom part of your sample. You will see that threads will mostly stand out when you move from the top to the bottom, that is against grain. It's just a test. So, the easiest rule is from wide to narrow. On this example, it is from the bottom to the top.

      One thing I should add, that this rule doesn't apply to nap and pile fabrics, there you will have to compromise and stitch in the direction of the nap...

  7. I've only just become aware of this!, when i remember I do try to sew directionally.

  8. Thank you for this information - always not sure which way to sew, will definitely be using this method now.

  9. Please stay us informed like this.
    Thank you for sharing.

  10. wow- that is so interesting, I haven't heard about it and actually this is such an important tip!!!! I have saved this page to my desktop's important sewing tips folder and reposting it EVERYWHERE, thank you!!!!!!

  11. Thanks for the reminder, Marina. I was taught to do this a zillion years ago, but confess that I often omit this important step.

  12. Thank you for the helpful reminder. I read recently on another blog a debate about the importance of staystitching vs not staystitching. I have to say that for ME, staystitching has made a world of difference in the look of my finished garments and the ease of construction.

  13. Even though I sew quickly, I sew directionally. Lately I've also been staystitching to avoid 'sewing with tears'.

  14. Thank you for this tip. I staystitch a lot, and I always sew in the same direction on both sides of a garment to keep any movement symmetrical but I didn't know about this - sounds very logical!

  15. very interesting indeed! I can see why couture garments are often hand sewed, because if one is changing sewing direction often, it would almost be more time savvy to do it by hand :)

  16. Thanks so much for posting this Marina (and all the other helpful tips you post)...this is the first I've heard of directional sewing; I can't wait to try it out on my next project. I've just started using stay-stitching more often as well (to "avoid sewing with tears" as velosewer said), after taking Susan Khalje's Couture Dress course on Craftsy.

  17. Did you finish this neckline with self-bias facing? Trying to figure out how to get a perfect "V" on a similar neckline for a crepe de chine wedding dress that I am making. Any tutorials or advice you could offer would be wonderful. :) Thank you.

  18. Nevermind! I found it here... :)

  19. I'm losing my mind with some stretch satin. I've never really understood directional sewing...I figured it was one of those details for old ladies. fabric is all puckered and it's because of the lack of direcitona sewing.

    However, I can't figure out which direction the grain is going. I'm making a skirt but at this point, it's just blocks of fabric about the same size. (so I don't know about the wider part) When I look at the cut edge, some of the loose threads run in one direction, some in the other. Or so it seems. Unfortunately, I was being cheap with the fabric and though I cut it on the grain line, I don't know if I cut the pieces all going in the same direction. (because I didn't follow the layout)

    Can you elaborate on the running your finger on the edge part?



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...