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Bias Basics
By Pauline Richards, Total Embellishment Newsletter

Most sewers know that they can cut any garment on the bias or cut any "bias only" design on the straight of the grain; however when planning a bias-cut garment you’ll face fewer potential problems if you choose patterns designed specifically for bias use. Styles designed specifically for placement on the straight of grain, will generally have less built in ease than do styles developed specifically for placement on the bias. Avoid possible frustration by selecting a pattern designed specifically for a bias layout.

Choose fabric for bias-cut designs carefully. Wool challis makes up beautifully. Soft cotton, linen and silk also work well. Most rayons are less stable and stretch easily, making hemming a challenge, in fact an even hem may only be a dream in garments made from rayon. Other fabrics to avoid are silkie polyesters because they are so hard to handle and heavy stiff fabrics that don’t drape.

Arrange potential fabrics on the true bias (45-degree angle to the cross-wise and length-wise threads) and observe the drape, amount of stretch and the overall look. Fabrics take on a different look/texture/color when positioned on the bias.

Because the lengthwise yarns are more stable than those used in the crosswise direction, the lengthwise grain can dominate one side of the garment, causing the two sides of the garment hang differently. A center seam will solve the problem because it allows you to create a chevron effect by placing one side on the right-angle bias and the other side on the left-angle bias. To make cutting easy, follow the "With Nap" layout to avoid problems like cutting two left fronts! The final result: both sides will hang the same! Layouts for bias cut garment require more fabric than similar styles cut on the straight-of-grain so plan to purchase extra fabric if you are converting a non-bias design.

It’s a good idea to tissue-fit the pattern. Pin the pattern pieces together and try on the pattern to get a general idea of the fit and any alterations needed.

Bias edges don’t ravel but the garment will need extra ease to fit properly. To ensure a good fit, allow for extra ease by cutting 1 1/2" side and center front/back seam allowances. The wider seam allowance provides "insurance" and helps ensure an accurate fit.

Sewing Bias:

Bias-cut garments often continue to stretch, becoming longer and narrower as they’re worn. Minimize excess stretching by gently pulling each individual cut section and pressing it from the top to the bottom. Compare the pattern to the pressed fabric and mark the seamlines for accurate stitching. A tracing wheel and Mark Be GoneŽ  air-soluble tracing paper or chalk wheel both make marking easy.

The secret to achieving a smooth straight seam that won't pop when the garment is worn is to stretch the seams as you sew. Seams will ripple after stitching but don't worry, the ripples will provide the stretch and press out beautifully. Seam allowances will also become narrow as the fabric is stretched. If you stretch the fabric and take a 5/8" seam, the actual finished seam allowance will be about 1" wide once the fabric is stretched and relaxes.

Finished garments should be given a final press and then hung at least 24 hours before hemming. Bias-cut sleeves should also be allowed to hang before the finished sleeve length is determined and a cuff added or sleeve edge finished.

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