Monday, February 04, 2008

Grainline (Things to know - part 9)

As I was saying... I made this dress in early 1995... and while I preserved its length and shape, mine was a whole different animal. I made the top (above the empire waist) of a camoflauge fabric, and the lower portion of a flowing, army-green rayon challis. I wore it with combat-inspired boots. Since I worked in the garment district at the time, it was appropriate for work. I considered it to be my "bad mood" dress, which I wore on the days I knew would require courage.

Anyway, one rainy, miserable night in November of that year, I had a cold, and a commitment to babysit a friend's child, and an invitation to a dinner party thrown by a friend. Feeling tired and overcommited, I wore that dress.

I entered the party, which was actually a "set-up" I didn't know about. Three guys, three women. Directly across the room, sat a man with what seemed to be a golden halo... Is that even possible? He was sitting next to a lamp that cast a heavenly glow around his head... or maybe there was a cosmic arrow pointing to him... who knows which?

He had on a pair of really interesting, Pilgrim-inspired shoes, with big buckles, just days before Thansgiving... and a big, nubby, beige knit sweater hugged his wonderfully broad physique. We made a bee-line for each other, attracted to the quirkiness of our clothing, and the positive energy we felt. We introduced ourselves, and were married nine months later. Twelve years later, I'm still smitten.

Maybe I exaggerate the importance of the dress... maybe not. However you want to look at it, it was exactly "me" that day, and that's who he met.

I bring up this dress specifically, because it was only shortly before making this dress, that I really learned the importance of grainline in the construction of a garment. I had already been sewing a long time, but adjusted my layouts to accommodate whatever quantity of fabric I was using. Among the fundamental, practical rules of sewing garments, in my opinion, this is where sewing approaches carpentry. Grainline REALLY matters. It matters for fit, durability, breathing and movement, symmetry, and visual effect. This was by far, one of the most comfortable dresses I have ever owned, and in this "mixed-message" dress, the soft fabric of the skirt fell into gentle cones at the bottom, that danced when I moved. That is because the side seams of that skirt were on the "bias", or diagonal grain.

The effect that using the proper grainline where the designer intended has on the finished garment is significant. It may not always be obvious when you shift your pattern pieces somewhat to accommodate a fabric shortage, alterations you've made to a pattern, or a less than strict adherence to the directions... but just wait till you wash it... and your fabric bumps, twists, and wrinkles in ways that betray all of your hard work. Then you will know the pain...

I have tried to make a video for this entry, but after viewing my attempts, I decided that the Threads site probably explains it much better. And they do... so you will find the information at


  1. Do you have a picture of that dress? I can totally see that working in New York. Now I need a bad mood dress!

    I can remember the very first instant I met my husband, too. He was wearing a dobby weave suit from the 80's. I remember the suit b/c we had just studied about dobby weave in fibers class.

    (argh. I can't post comments on blogger from my wordpress account.)

  2. I wish I had a picture, but I don't! People who know me well from those days have seen that dress more times than I care to count...

  3. Great post and I just love the story! It is interesting how the things we make are woven into the fabric of our lives.

  4. What a great story! As I was reading I was hoping it was DH!!