Learn how to cut fabric straight with scissors in this step by step tutorial. Cutting fabric straight is not as scary as you might think – and I know it can feel terrifying when you have a gorgeous piece of woven fabric in front of you that cost a small fortune! – but by the end of this tutorial you WILL feel confident and ready to cut perfectly straight fabric. Promise!
But first, lets talk about WHY it’s important to cut your fabric straight!
When fabric is created – either as woven or knitted fabric – it has what we call grain-lines:
- Straight grain
- Cross grain
- Bias grain
On woven fabrics, the straight grain line is referred to as the warp. It is the threads that move from top to bottom creating the length of fabric. There is usually very minimal stretch in the straight grain.
Knit fabric also has a straight grain, despite being created in one continuous yarn!
The grain line going from side to side of the fabric is called the cross grain. This is created by the weft threads, being woven over and under the warp threads, and it has more stretch than the warp / straight grain.
Knit fabric doesn’t really have a ‘cross grain’, because it is knitted with one continuous thread, but it still has ‘stretch’ on the cross grain, and this is the most important thing to be aware of with knit fabrics! I cover this more in my article on knit fabrics!
There’s also the bias grain, which is when fabric is cut at a 45º angle. This is the most ‘stretchy’ grain on woven fabrics, and fabric can stretch out beyond recognition when cut on the bias without control!
So, when you cut straight pieces of fabric that will be attached, it is important to cut them on the right grain, usually the straight grain. This is because there is very little stretch.
When you cut a straight line in fabric that is even just a little bit off-grain, you create a twisty seam when sewing it to another straight edge. This is often done in fast fashion as a way of cutting fabric costs – how often have you bought a super cheap top, washed it, and then seen that the side seams are twisted round? That is a case of cutting off-grain and it happens so much with knit garments!
This applies to fabric that is woven or knitted!
Learn more about grainlines in the accompanying YouTube video – you’ll find it at the bottom of this tutorial!
I also have a tutorial for you if you need help sewing straight!
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a fee at no extra cost to you if you purchase a recommended product. I only recommend items I have had experience with.
How To Cut Fabric In A Straight Line With Scissors
Cutting a straight line on fabric requires some basic tools for practising with:
- Fabric marking tool (chalk, pencil or marker)
- Metal ruler / yard stick
- Fabric scissors
- Tape measure (not necessary, but you may feel more at ease with a trusty tape measure to hand!)
Step 1: Preparing The Fabric For Cutting
Make sure that the fabric you want to cut straight is ‘on grain’. There are two ways that you can check fabric is on-grain and not-skewy!
1. Pull A Thread
This is the easiest method for finding the straight grain. Literally snip into the selvedge of your fabric to cause it to fray, them pick up a weft (cross grain) thread and gently pull it. This thread will gather up your fabric slightly, so you’ll need to ease it along. You can also use a fine crochet hook to pull the thread up a little, snip it, and then continue pulling the new end.
2. Rip The Fabric
This is the second method, but I usually avoid it because it can distort the fabric slightly, which means you then need to ‘straighten’ the fabric! Ripping the fabric from the woven selvedge will give you a straight starting line though, so worth considering!
This is what the fabric looks like when it has been ripped all the way along the grain.
Notice how the raw edge of each piece is ‘rumpled’ where the pressure has been exerted along the rip line and distorted the threads?
Step 2: Marking The Fabric
Next you’ll want to mark the fabric. This will help you to create a straight on-grain line that you can then cut straight.
- Lay one straight selvedge edge of your fabric along the straight edge of your table.
- Measure up from the bottom of the table to the uppermost part of the fabric.
- Take that measurement and measure up the same amount from the nearside of the table.
- Place your metal ruler or yardstick on the table, connecting the two lines and mark with chalk.
Here I have placed a mark and below I used the marks as a guide to rule a straight line with a fabric chalk pencil.
Step 3: Cutting The Fabric Straight With Scissors
Now that you have a straight line to follow, take up your scissors.
- Open them, and move them underneath the cloth.
- Keeping the blade in line with the line you marked in on the fabric, close the scissors all the way so that they cut the cloth.
- Open the fabric scissors back up, move them further along the line, and again, close them slowly, cutting along the marked line.
- It is important to keep the scissors in an upright position compared to the fabric when cutting straight – if you tilt them, you can often start seeing a slight curve or bend when cutting your fabric.
- Continue along the line you marked, slow and steady, until you reach the opposite side of the piece of fabric.
You have now cut a lovely straight line using fabric scissors!
Step 4: Cutting A Length Of Fabric
Now that you have cleaned up the lower end of your fabric piece, you’re ready to cut a length of fabric with a straight edge!
- Measure up from the bottom the amount you need. Patterns will often tell you the length of fabric needed. Mark in this amount on both sides of the fabric selvedges as you did before.
- Again, take the metal ruler or yard stick and mark in a straight line for you to follow.
- Take your scissors and repeat step 3, cutting slowly and carefully with the fabric scissors in an upright position.
When finished you’ll have a lovely piece of fabric with straight edges on all four sides!
Step 5: Cutting A Square Piece Of Fabric
This is an easy task now that you have nailed cutting fabric straight with scissors!
Take the lower corner of your fabric, and bring it over diagonally to meet the opposite selvedge side and create a double triangle of sorts.
Grab some pins – just a couple will be fine! – and pin the lower edge to the selvedge edge to stop the fabric from shifting.
You can also pop a pin or two along the upper straight edge.
Because of the straight fabric edge that you previously cut, we don’t need to make another line with the ruler – we can simply (and very carefully!) cut along the bottom fabric in line with the upper fabric.
When done, remove all the pins and open up – you now have a perfectly cut square of fabric!
Notice how that I have two slightly ragged edges from tearing the fabric and two neatly cut edges from cutting the fabric straight with scissors!
How To Cut Straight Fabric – Video!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.
Tuesday 5th of January 2021
Eve- all this is exactly what I was taught, but I learned to never, ever, ever ever lift the scissors off the table. Meaning cut your line but slide the scissors along the table/cutting surface as you go up, never letting the bottom scissor blade leave the table. Once you lift up the scissors they become much more difficult to control. Personally, I have a more difficult time than most in cutting straight lines: I am sight impaired, and part of the impairment is total lack of depth perception. Everything I see is "flat".