Fabric types and Grainline

While we cannot cover every type of fabric there is in this course, we can learn a few basics.

Woven vs Knit

Woven fabrics are made with threads that are both horizontal and vertical. They are generally static with not a lot of stretch. Think of a cotton dress shirt. However, the looser the weave, the more stretch or give the fabric will have. Think of a gauzy linen dress. Both are woven fabrics.

Knit fabrics are made with looped threads. They are generally very stretchy. Think of your favorite t-shirt. Knits come with a variety of amounts of stretch and "recovery" (how well it returns to original shape after being stretched out). Think of leggings and if the knees stay puffed out after wearing.

Woven with Spandex or Elastine

The best example of a woven that acts like a knit is stretch denim. Many jeans are made with a stretch in order to produce a closer fit. This is still a woven fabric. The difference is that one of the fibers that it is woven with is elastic in nature which gives the final weave more stretch than usual.


This is the Length of the fabric. It is generally less stretchy. It is important to cut your project on the grain. This is indicated with arrows on the pattern pieces. This effects how the garment will wear. You want it to stretch around your body not up and down. So the less stretchy-grainline-is vertical.


Cross-grain is side-to-side on the width of the fabric. There will be some stretch or give to the fabric in this direction. Generally, this goes around the body for movement. Think also about a tote bag. If you fill up the bag with heavy things, you don't want it to sag. This means the vertical is on the grainline, and the horizontal around the bag is cross-grain.


This is the diagonal of the fabric. This is the most stretchy. Cuts on the bias are used for curves. Think about necklines and armholes. Bias strips of fabric are commonly used to finish curved edges in many projects.

Below are some charts about different fabrics from "The Fashion Designer's Textile Directory" by Gail Baugh.

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