Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pants Grainline Musings, part 1

There's been an interesting discussion of grainlines on pants on the Sewing World SIPP Thread. It's got me thinking about grainlines, but I haven't got time right now to go dig out some pants patterns and compare them.

I've heard some instructors over the last few years that have said the grainline needs to be shifted on pants; but the way they describe shifting the grainline involve drawing a line parallel to the grainline somewhere other than where it was originally stamped on the pattern...usually moving the line to the center of the leg. Ok, sure, you've drawn a new line, but you haven't changed the grain of the pants. If the grainline drawn on the pattern is parallel to the center of the leg, the center was on grain before the 'new' line was drawn.

The specific discussion is how grainline relates to the seams; Loes Hinse's Oxford Pants are the main topic of discussion; it just so happens that the first pair of Oxfords I made I made from a plaid fabric,so the grainline is easy to see. (Click on the photo icon on the review, wait forever for Photoworks to bring up the whole album front page, click on 'launch slideshow' and then 'view pictures larger' to see it the best). You can see in the photo that both the side seam and the center front seam are on-grain...which means both those seams were cut parallel to the grainline. The grainline just determines how the pattern is placed on the fabric; the seams are products of pattern drafting and can be drawn parallel to the grain if the designer so chooses. In other words, the grainline shouldn't determine the seam line. But consensus is that, if the outseam is on grain (cut parallel to the grainline) the pants will hang very nicely.

At least, that's what I think...when I've got time, I'll pull some patterns out and do some comparision. Meantime, I'm still sewing costumes...gotta have 'em done tomorrow.


  1. Lisa, I got the dress done. Please take a look at it. I posted pics...Talk soon

  2. Lisa, I've lately been experimenting with different pants drafting methods. I've learned that there is reason for the position of the grainline in pants. In every method I've tested so far, the grainline is to fall midway between the full hip and the center front. This grainline marking also acts as a midpoint for any shaping that takes place on the leg of the pant later.
    The position of the grainline is intended not only for the fabric orientation, but also as a balance point for the pants. Much the same as a bodice must hang properly from the shoulders, a pant leg needs to be balanced along the leg.
    The likely reason that the Oxford pant hangs nicely is a combination of the straight grain at the side seam, the care you have taken in fitting the pants properly, and the shape of the wearer. Other pant patterns with the same straight grain at the side seams include the Kenenbi from Sewing Workshop and any one-seam pant.
    If a pant leg is tapered toward the leg or flares away from the leg, that straight of grain line will be ended at some point near the knee.
    I'm still experimenting....and learning a lot more about pants than I thought was possible to know:)

  3. Yeah, I agree that the center of the leg needs to be on grain; and marking the C would certainly be the starting point for shaping, but that line is getting used for two things there...the 'balance point', if you will, of being the center, and the grain placement. It has to stay there in terms of balance point, but for the purposes of determining the grain of the pants, it doesn't matter where it's drawn so long as it's parallel to the center line. What I'm puzzled over is the instructions that I've seen (it was an Expert Chat on PR, but it's been a while and I don't remember who the Expert was) that, if the grainline is not drawn down the center of the leg, to redraw it by drawing a line parallel to the grainline drawn on the pattern. This was supposed to make the pants drape better. But in terms of how the grain relates to the center of the leg...that doesn't change anything....

  4. Ok, I edited my original post to hopefully be a little clearer about what originially triggered my 'but you're not changing anything!' response. The PR chat was the first and most noteable place I encountered the 'redraw the grainline' instruction, but there have been others here and there. If the instruction had been to fold the leg in half, so there is a vertical crease down the center of the leg, and use that as the grainline I could see that that could change the grain placement. But that wasn't how the instructions to move the grainline were was just 'draw a line parallel to the grainline'. If folding the pattern results in a line that is NOT parallel to the grainline printed on the pattern, then, yes, by all means redraw it. Parallel to the fold line.