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Selvage, Grain, and Bias Oh My!

The terms of the selvage, grain, and bias of fabric is especially important in the sewing world. It can be confusing and sometime scary to people in the sewing world, especially beginners. In this post we will summarize the difference of all three.

What is a selvage?

The selvage is the tightly woven edge of the fabric that prevents raveling. It sometimes will indicate the color-coding of the fabric, designer and factory where it was made. Some fabrics will have frayed finished edges, but don't worry! The frayed selvage will not affect the fabric.

When you are using patterns it is import to lay your patterns parallel to the selvage unless the instructions say otherwise.


Oh the grain!

We have two types of grains: crosswise and lengthwise.

  • The lengthwise grainline are the threads that run parallel to the selvage. This is also known as the warp of the fabric.

  • The crosswise grainline are the threads that move from right to left of the fabric; also known as the weft

Depending on your project cutting on the grain is essential. A couple examples are:

  • Cutting straight grain strips for quilting. The fabric doesn't stretch and adds stability to the blocks

  • Clothes will lay correctly and not twist when wearing them. Seam lines will connect easier and make your sewing projects more enjoyable!

Did you say Bias?

The bias is when you cut the fabric at a 45 degree diagonal from the selvage. Cutting on the bias give the fabric more stretch.

Cutting on the bias also gives the fabric more fluidity. It allows the fabric to drape more easily contouring to its subject, this is especially useful in dressmaking; however, it does require more fabric.


The most essential thing is to have fun with your projects and continue to learn and experiment with different type of fabrics. You will soon find what will work with the project you are creating!

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