Would you like your dress to glide sinuously over your curves and appear effortless and elegant? In this case, it’s probably best to cut the dress on the bias, i.e., diagonally to the straight grain line (more on that later). In the 1970s, Halston popularized the slinky, glamorous, body-conscious dress style thanks to his slinky, glamorous, body-conscious gowns. Madeleine Vionnet pioneered the technique in the early 1990s.
It is easier to stretch and drape clothing cut on the bias compared to clothing cut on the straight grain. Cutting garments on the bias will glide smoothly over the body’s curves and drape gracefully. A garment with enough stretch can also be pulled over the wearer’s head without zippers or other closures due to its fabric’s ability to stretch.
We at SewingWithEase tried to complete the topic to the fullest, so be sure to read all of it.
What Is The Bias Of The Fabric?
When a garment is cut on bias, what exactly does that mean? Fabrics with a straight grain run parallel to their selvage, and fabrics with a cross-grain run perpendicular to them. As the diagonal line between the straight and cross grain, bias can be defined as the difference between them.
When Should I Cut Garments On The Bias?
Camisoles, skirts, slip dresses, and slinky evening gowns work particularly well when cut on the bias because the bias allows the garment to skim over curves.
Choose a pattern with minimal seams and no darts if you’re just getting started with sewing on the bias. Choose a lightweight, drapey fabric, such as crepe, crepe de chine, satin-back crepe, charmeuse, georgette, or chiffon.
What Difference Does Cutting On The Bias Make?
Below you can see how the final garments are impacted by cutting on the bias. Originally designed to be cut on the straight grain, this pattern was developed by Angelia Lin (link is at the end of this post). To see the impact of cutting on the bias, we cut the exact same pattern on the straight grain, then on the bias. Bias-cut versions hug curves in a more subtle way, and fabrics are a bit drapeier.
Then why aren’t all garments cut on the bias if cutting them on the bias is more figure flattering? Because the pieces are cut on the diagonal, cutting on the bias requires a lot more fabric since it’s difficult to find a placement that doesn’t waste any material.
The fabric can also stretch while you are cutting on the bias, making it more difficult than cutting on the straight grain. A few tips and tricks below will help you adapt patterns for bias cutting, so don’t let that put you off.
How Do I Cut Garments On The Bias?
If you follow the steps listed below, adapting sewing patterns to cut on the bias is very simple. The process can also be viewed in this video.
The pattern should be marked with bias. A perpendicular link should be drawn to the grainline on the pattern. You have a cross-grain there. The next step is to mark a 45-degree angle between the straight and cross grain. Folding the paper is the easiest to get the straight grain line to meet the cross grain line. You can draw a bias line along that line. You now have two bias lines to work with once you have marked one. In a few minutes, you’ll understand why both lines are necessary.
If your pattern specifies that the front or back should be cut as one piece, ignore it. Instead, divide each piece in half and cut each half separately, with the grain going in different directions. Don’t cut your front or back bodices or skirts on the fold if your pattern says so. In order to have a center seam down the middle of the front and back, cut out each half separately (from a single layer of fabric) and add a seam allowance.
It is essential to make sure the straight grain of each half runs in a different direction. Compared to straight grain, cross-grain hangs differently – it is less twisted and hangs longer than straight grain. This causes the garment to be thrown off balance and spiral around the body. Cut one half with the straight grain running down one direction and the other half with the straight grain running down the other direction to prevent that from happening:
Position the pattern on the bias using the marked bias line. To ensure that the pattern is placed on the fabric’s true bias, measure from your selvage to the marked bias line.
Make sure the fabric’s grain line does not shift as you cut the pieces. Using a rotary cutter and mat will help prevent your fabric from shifting. Place a layer of tissue paper underneath to keep the fabric from shifting while you cut.
Sewing On The Bias
It is crucial to control the stretch of fabric when sewing on the bias. As a result, there are several factors to consider:
- Your cut pieces should stay stitched along their edges. As a result, you’ll avoid rippling seams and distorting seams by not stretching the fabric while sewing. Keep your stitching line slightly inside (e.g., 1/8 inch to the right) of the stitching line to prevent this.
- Cut pieces should be stored flat and handled as little as possible. Ensure the cut pieces of fabric are carried flat to the sewing machine to prevent stretching. The fabric should be kept as much as possible on the sewing table instead of dangling off the edge.
- Sewing shouldn’t involve pulling the fabric. The fabric should be fed into the machine naturally by the feed dogs. As we find our walking foot helps feed slippery fabrics much more smoothly into the machine, we prefer to use it.
- A zigzag stitch or another stretch stitch can be used. Considering bias cut fabrics stretch, you’ll need stitches that can also stretch with them. Otherwise, the stitches may break. As an alternative to straight stitches, we often use the lightning stitch, which is a narrow zigzag stitch.
- Hemming should be done before hanging. You want to allow the bias-cut fabric to stretch out and settle for 24 hours before hemming the dress. Bias-cut fabrics stretch out over time. Alternatively, the fabric will stretch out to different lengths at different parts of the hem, resulting in an uneven hem.
Suggested Beginner Bias-cut Patterns
You’re ready to sew on the bias, aren’t you? Make a simple (and free!) pattern with one of these:
- A simple slip dress by Angelia Lin. Due to its lack of darts and few seams, this pattern is great for beginners to bias. Designed to be cut on the straight grain, this pattern is perfect for learning how to adapt sewing patterns for bias cuts.
- Marigold camisole from Mood Fabrics. With the techniques discussed above, it is very easy to adapt this sewing pattern to cut the camisole on the bias instead of straight grain.
- Pattern Scissors Cloth – Ruby slip. Despite its existing bias-cut design, this pattern for a slinky negligee does not need to be adapted.
- Midi skirt by Grasser. Designed to be cut on the bias, this sensual, curve-hugging midi skirt pattern is free to download and print.
Learning how to cut fabric on the bias is a great way to add a new dimension to your sewing projects. By cutting fabric on the bias, you can create bias tape, bindings, and trims that add a beautiful finishing touch to your projects. Bias-cut fabric can also be used to create gathered fabrics with a softer drape.