How To Cut Fabric On The Bias

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 than 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 fully, so be sure to read all of it.

Key Takeaways

  • A bias cut involves slicing fabric at a 45-degree angle to the grain, enhancing softness and elasticity.
    • This method alters the fabric’s tension, allowing for greater fluidity and stretch.
  • Bias cuts gained popularity in the 1920s through French designer Madeleine Vionnet, revolutionizing women’s fashion.
    • It is primarily used for dresses, skirts, and nightgowns and offers draping and contouring benefits.
  • Tips for effective bias cutting include choosing simple fabrics and patterns, minding seam allowances, using suitable surfaces, and handling the material carefully.
    • Recommended fabrics include cotton, linen, silk, and wool challis. Rayon and certain silks should be avoided due to difficulty.
    • Extra seam allowance and fabric yardage are necessary to accommodate the cut’s nature.
    • Cutting should be done flat to prevent stretching, with tissue paper to stabilize the fabric.
  • The bias-cutting process requires precise grain finding, time, consideration of both fabric sides, and cutting in a single layer to avoid stretching and ensure evenness.
    • Ensuring angle and pattern placement accuracy is critical for fit and symmetry.

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 start 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). We cut the same pattern on the straight grain and then on the bias to see the impact of cutting on the bias. Bias-cut versions hug curves more subtly, and fabrics are a bit drapery.

Then why aren’t all garments cut on the bias if it is more figure-flattering? Because the pieces are cut on the diagonal, cutting on the bias requires a lot more fabric since finding a placement that doesn’t waste any material is challenging.

The fabric can also stretch while cutting on the bias, making it more difficult than cutting 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?

Following 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 grain line 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. Once you have marked one, you have two bias lines to work with. 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 and cut each half separately, with the grain going in different directions. If your pattern says so, don’t cut your front or back bodices or skirts on the fold. 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.

Ensuring each half’s straight grain runs in a different direction is essential. Cross-grain hangs differently than straight grain – 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 the pattern is placed on the fabric’s true bias, measure from your hem to the marked bias line.

Ensure 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 fabric stretch 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 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 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. We often use the lightning stitch, a narrow zigzag stitch, as an alternative to straight stitches.
  • 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 to different lengths at different hem parts, 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:

  1. A simple slip dress by Angelia Lin. Due to its lack of darts and few seams, this pattern is great for beginners to bias. This pattern is designed to be cut on a straight grain, perfect for learning how to adapt sewing patterns for bias cuts.
  2. Marigold camisole from Mood Fabrics. With the abovementioned techniques, it is straightforward to adapt this sewing pattern to cut the camisole on the bias instead of straight grain.
  3. Pattern Scissors Cloth – Ruby slip. Despite its existing bias-cut design, this pattern for a slinky negligee does not need to be adapted.
  4. Midi skirt by Grasser. Designed to be cut on the bias, this sensual, curve-hugging midi skirt pattern is free to download and print.

How To Cut Fabric On The Bias FAQs

What is a bias cut in fabric?

A bias cut refers to a technique in clothing construction where fabric is cut at a 45-degree angle to the weave. This diagonal cut crosses the warp and weft threads, giving the fabric more stretch and fluidity, enhancing its drape and fit around the body. This method is especially beneficial for creating garments that are sleek and form-fitting.

Bias cuts gained popularity in the 1920s, thanks to the French fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet. She revolutionized women’s fashion by utilizing bias cuts to create flattering and comfortable garments. This technique allowed for more elegant and flowing silhouettes, significantly departing from the more rigid styles of the past.

What are the best types of fabric for making a bias cut?

Ideal bias-cut fabrics include cotton, linen, silk, and wool challis. These materials are recommended because they offer the right balance of flexibility and stability for bias-cut garments. It’s advisable to avoid overly stretchy fabrics like rayon or complex patterns on your first attempt, as they can pose additional challenges.

How do I prepare my fabric for a bias cut?

To prepare your fabric for a bias cut, find the actual bias, a 45-degree angle to the fabric’s selvage. Folding the hem at a right angle to align the straight grain with the crosswise grain helps identify this angle. It’s crucial to cut the fabric in a single layer to avoid distortion and to ensure precision. Using pattern weights and pins can enhance control and accuracy during this process.

What are some tips for successfully making a bias cut?

Successful bias cutting involves choosing a simple pattern and fabric, calculating the correct fabric and seam allowance amount, and using a suitable cutting surface. Handling the fabric with care to avoid stretching is crucial. Additionally, sewing by hand or with a machine requires gentle handling to prevent pulling or distortion. Taking time and ensuring accurate measurements can lead to a beautifully finished garment.

How can I learn more about fashion design and bias cutting?

For those looking to deepen their understanding of fashion design and master the art of bias cutting, exploring educational resources like MasterClass can be invaluable. These platforms offer exclusive video lessons taught by industry experts, covering various topics from basic techniques to advanced design concepts. Engaging with these resources can significantly enhance your skills and knowledge in fashion design.

Can bias cuts be used for any garment?

While bias cuts are trendy for dresses, skirts, and nightgowns due to their flattering drape and contouring qualities, they can also be applied to simpler garments like T-shirts. The key is understanding how the bias cut interacts with the fabric’s drape and elasticity to enhance the garment’s overall appearance and fit.


Learning to cut fabric on the bias is a great way to add a new dimension to your sewing projects. You can create bias tape, bindings, and trims that add a beautiful finishing touch to your projects by cutting fabric on the bias. Bias-cut fabric can also create gathered fabrics with a softer drape.

Related Posts