loving the bias...


No season could possibly exist without bias skirts and dresses!   Here are a few simple rules that make the bias work...

  •  Shape your dress form, matching every curve where  your fabric will fall.
  •  Choose a natural woven medium or lightweight fabric with obvious grainlines, like linen; until you get the hang of it.
  • Cut single layers only.
  • Follow grain lines to meet in opposite directions when laying out the pattern, (SEE BELOW)  (Bias intersects the cross and vertical grainlines).
  • Sew seams with a slight zig zag for movement
  • Use a light hand in pressing
  • Stay stitch each edge of the seams at 1/8" before sewing; for stability.
  • Hang overnight before finishing.

That being said, it really is NOT difficult to create the most elegant dress to show off the curves.  Just plan, and you will love it.

Before you start...All the boring parts must work...get your pattern right once...really get that "I could clean the house in this" kind of comfortable and you will have clothes that you will wear into rags...I know.

How many times will I change this pattern?

lengthen the hem, extending the tails...

or scoop out the neckline...and add a few tucks?

cut the top and add the circles?

one pattern...the beauty of the bias!


The bias is all about the grainlines.   Perfecting the first pattern is easy and necessary.  Starting with the shoulder slant, or upper bust anchor, if your blouse/dress stops above the bust. Follow the fitting sequence to keep the grainline straight while falling over the curves.  HERE'S HOW...


Using your dress form as your body,

  • carefully pin the shoulder slant, (or upper bust anchor), so that the grainlines fall straight; front and back; always matching your shoulder line.
  • Check the armhole/ across back position and sleeve placement.  
  • Add a front dart to accommodate the bust line.  Then straighten the side seams.  
  • Ease the curve of the bust with a dart or with a princess seam; or even just a 5/8 inch ease, in the front pattern, at the side seam front.
  • Follow the curve of the blouse to the lowest upper hip line accommodating the curve and width of the upper hip and stomach.  From here, or course, you can extend the fabric right into the hem line of a dress, in whatever length you choose.
  • Re-Check every curve on your blouse, front and back.

You can extend the blouse tails for a short dress, a tunic, a long dress, or gowns; shaping side seams to your curves.

Just as easy as the three pictures above.  Create the blouse, extend the blouse (dress), cut the top at the armhole (strapless) cut the top at the waist (skirt)...add a ruffle, add a pinwheel...the possibilities are endless!



A full circle skirt is all about the bias...

  •  Cut the circle to match the width of gathers that you will want on your skirt, (it: 2 to 1, etc)
  •  Finish and gather the hole
  • Put the unfinished skirt on your dress form and let it fall overnight
  • Add two inch elastic at the waist and cover the elastic with fabric

  • Use a light hand in pressing

  • Finish the hems with a beautiful stitch, or rolled over baby hem.

Creating a circle skirt is a huge lesson in seeing how the bias will fall over the curves of the body on the dress form.  From here you can pinch fabric into seams, remove fabric, 

understanding grainlines...


The straight grain is the strong weave (red lines above) as in the vertical threads of a loom.

BLUE MATCHES THE CROSSGRAIN CALLED WEFT (or weaker threads, as they weave in and out of the straight, warp, threads.)

The WEFT  threads are perpendicular To the selvage.


cutting the bias...

When the front and back pieces are side by side, the straight grain looks like this; with pattern pieces facing opposite directions.

Since the bias is neither as strong nor as stable as the vertical and cross grains of the fabric, the bias will naturally fall closely to your body.  The simple straight dress that you cut on the vertical grain may seem way too small when cut on the delicate bias.  An easy way to start is with one size larger and then shape the fabric as it falls over the curves of your body on the dress form.  Cutting single layers is the only way...if your pattern is designed to cut on the fold, flip it over, making one single layer.

Cutting the bias through "1 to 5" marking paper is a sure way to get your very straight cuts.

When the side seams are matched side by side, the straight grain lines will meet at the diagonal.  You will be able to see this easily when choosing a light to medium weight woven fabric, where grain lines are visible.  Keep it simple until you own the techniques and understand the fabric.  Cutting the bias at opposite directions will give you equal stability on both sides of the body.  If your pattern was drafted to cut on the fold, flip it over and cut one single layer.

Even with best laid plans, when cutting on the true bias, you still might see a pull or a pucker somewhere.  If, for example, the curves of the body cause one side seam to pull, or ripple...GO TO THE PROBLEM.  If the pucker is on the side bust or upper hip, ease the fabric at the point of the pull, ever so slightly, until the pull, which is causing the ripple, disappears. 

With only slight alterations, you can change your basic pattern from the straight grain to the bias.  Be sure to check the fabric!   Silk, for example, will fall much closer to the body, and therefore fall smaller in size, (cut bias), than linen.  The bust position can be higher or lower according to the dart, or ease on the side seam.

By releasing the fabric of ANY pull, the fabric will fall naturally over the curves of the body on the dress form.   EASY FITTINGS!     

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by Jill Ralston

Fabulous Fit®  Models photos by katemoorephoto.com

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