This blog will turn three years old in just a couple months, and I haven’t yet written a post about the sewing term after which this site is named — trueing up. For shame! Well, let’s make up for lost time.
“True up” means means to make balanced, straight, square. In sewing, it means to make a piece of fabric true to grain with a cut or rip. (You might want to (re)visit the Know Your Weaves post if you’re not familiar with lengthwise and crosswise grain, and the three basic weaves: plain, twill, and satin.)
Why True Up? Unless you’re intentionally bias-cutting your fabric to make trim or a drapey, bias-cut garment, un-true pieces don’t behave well — they can stretch and get distorted with just normal handling. Misbehaving fabrics mean hard-to-align pieces, can make even seams difficult to achieve, and makes the fabric hang oddly. If you’re working with directional prints, the lines will end up slightly off-kilter.
How Do You Know a Fabric is True? With plain weave fabrics (most quilting cottons are plain weave), a thread pulled from one corner will come off cleanly across the entire cut edge.
How to True Up? That depends on the fabric and your personal preferences. It seems like most books recommend the “fold fabric selvage to selvage, smooth, and cut” method. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong (I’d love to hear your thoughts!), but that still often results in a somewhat off-grain cut.
So, I’m a ripper. That means: snip through the selvage, and rip through the width of the fabric. You can also rip lengthwise. That usually means you lose a 1/4-1/2 inch or so of fabric along the ripped edge, which gets kind of distorted and wavy, but if your fabric HAS to be true, that’s the best way, in my opinion.
Another method is the thread-pulling method, as shown in the picture above. You snip through the selvage, find a crosswise thread sticking out to grab hold of, and pull it. (This works well for lengthwise cuts too.) In most cases, this will create a noticeable (and true) line that serves as a cutting guide. However, it can be very tedious!
Some fabrics don’t rip, or won’t rip both crosswise and lengthwise — plain-weave linen, satin weave fabrics, and twill weave fabrics, to name a few — so you have to choose one of the other methods.
And oh yeah. Sometimes you’ll never get a piece of fabric trued up because it’s poorly manufactured. The print is skewed off-grain, or the grain itself is messed up (e.g. the cross grain won’t be perfectly perpendicular to the lengthwise grain). If you get one edge true and notice the print is skewed relative to it, or if you true both edges but the edges won’t match up when the piece is folded selvage to selvage and smoothed, you’ve got some problem fabric on your hands. Take it back!
Just thinking. Maybe this is more a question for shop owners — do you make sure your cuts are true? Buyers, would you notice/care if the fabrics you buy are cut perfectly on grain? I think that might be a nice selling point, and one I haven’t seen used before. “Guaranteed True.” Maybe I could make a logo for that. I imagine that there’s just not enough demand, or that the demand doesn’t justify the added time and potential waste fabric for the retailer. But I’m still curious …
Because I haven’t done one in ages, a little poll (RSS subscribers, you might need to jump over to the site to answer the questions) …