More Renfrew sewing progress! I started my assembly-line cutting with the solid knits, because they’re easier than stripes. The fabric I’m using is a 95% cotton, 5% spandex jersey knit in a medium weight. It’s heavier than a standard tee shirt but not anywhere near as thick as yoga pants. (It sure is hard to describe fabric weight in words!)
A jersey knit like this has a wrong side, and a right side. The right side has tiny little vertical lines almost like ‘ribs’ on the surface, while the wrong side has no vertical lines and might look like there’s a horizontal texture to it. I hope it’s somewhat visible in this photo!
Can you see the slight vertical ‘stripe’ texture on the right side? The right side is on the bottom of the photo, the wrong side is on the top.
Another way to tell the right side of the cotton is the selvedges curl towards the wrong side. If you turn over the edge, the wrong side has the curled edge that can be unrolled. In the photo below, the wrong sides are on the inside.
Have you ever had a knit tee shirt where the sideseams twisted on you? Fresh from the laundry (or the store), the shirt would be well-behaved with sideseams at the side. Then as you wear it, one of the sideseams starts working its way towards the centre of your shirt. Why does that happen?
Most likely, if it’s not an intentional design detail, it means the fabric was cut off-grain. Remember those little vertical stripes we saw on the right side of the fabric? If your garment is cut with those ribs not completely straight, the sideseams will twist. That’s the wonderful thing about sewing our own clothing – we can fix these things!
Here’s how to ensure your knit fabric is cut on the grain:
First, figure out how we need to be folding out fabric to cut it out. We’re about to spend a bit of time folding our fabric, it’s a real pain if you find out it was supposed to be folded differently after all that work!
Look at the fabric cutting diagram and find the one for the view you’re making. Sometimes there will be one fold, sometimes there will be two folds with the selvedges folded into the middle. Or sometimes, there’s both types of cutting layouts for a single view.
Now, we’ll fold the fabric. This is going to be tedious but I feel it’s worth it to ensure your shirt is cut on-grain.
Fold your fabric according to the diagram. I’m folding two folds with the selvedges in the centre, like the left diagram in the photo above. Fold it loosely, this is just a guide to start correcting the foldline. (I hope you can see where the edge is, the dark purple is hard to photograph!)
Now, we’ll work on that fold. This next step was again, pretty hard to photograph. In fact, here is what happened when I tried to get fancy with the camera…
Yeah. Not very useful, right?
What we want to do is line up those little, vertical striped rib lines along the fold. Here, this photo turned out much better!
You can see that I’m pinching the fold along the ribbed, vertical lines, making sure that one or two lines are along the fold line.
Pin along the fold line to keep the ribs on the fold.
Keep on pinning along the fold line until the entire fold line is pinned. Now when you smooth out the fabric away from the fold, the fabric will stay on grain. If you have two folds in your fabric, repeat with the second fold. (Don’t forget to remove the fold pins as you cut your pattern pieces!)
This is a very thorough method (and perhaps a little fiddly) to keeping your knit fabric aligned and on-grain when you cut it. It might seem like an awful lot of work for such a simple project! I’m a particular person and I’d rather spend the extra time now, than end up with a garment that frustrates me later by twisting. You might not want to spend the time fiddling with the fold and pinning it along the ribbed lines. Do you have to? Of course not! Depending on your fabric, you may be able to fold it and have the straight of grain line up perfectly, no pinning required.
This is actually one thing that makes cutting striped fabric easier – if the stripes are knit into the fabric and not printed, the extra work that it takes to line up the stripes also takes care of the grain at the same time.
Here are more blog posts about the Renfrew Top. (Get the pattern here.)
- A Big List of Tips for Sewing Knits!
- Three Tips for Sewing Stripes
- Introducing the Renfrew Top
- Sewing the Renfrew Top: What Would You Like to See?
- What’s a Stable Knit Fabric?
- Assembly-Line Cutting and Sewing
You tell me: is there an easier way? How do you cut knit fabric to ensure it’s cut on-grain? I’d love to hear your feedback!