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Bias Cut Fabric : How to design and sew with it

Learn how to cut fabric on the bias as well as tips on sewing fabric cut on the bias
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What is bias cut ?

Bias cut means cutting the fabric from a 45-degree angle to the straight grain so that the material will drape itself, contouring the body’s shape. Here, you cut the fabric in the diagonal direction when you fold the material’s selvage (finished edge) at a 90-degree angle. 

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The bias grain of the fabric is marked along with straight grain and cross grain

It is figure-flattering; that is what the fuss is all about. It accentuates the curves of the body as the fabric clings and drapes nicely.

French fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet made this cut fashionable with glamorous bias evening gowns, and the fashionistas just lapped it up in the 1930s. The fluidity and drapabilty of garments made in this manner make this the most desirable way to cut when making couture clothes.

Which fabrics should not be cut on the bias?

Very thick fabrics like canvas, duck cannot be cut on the bias for their drape – pretty useless because of their thick nature. Also very slinky fabrics like cheap polyester, rayon, thin knits – you will find it difficult to handle and stitch them, once they are cut. Twill weave fabrics can look odd when cut on the bias.

Which fabrics look best when cut on the bias?

Thin silks, georgette, chiffon, etc look beautiful when cut on bias direction. Medium weight fabrics like cotton, linen can look nice.

Bias Cut Garment

What are the advantages of a garment made with fabric cut on the bias

  • Great drape
  • An attractive fluidity and movement
  • More stretch
  • No fraying of fabric edges
  • Gives a slim silhouette

Checkout the way the bias gown by Alexander McQueen worn by Pippa Middleton for the royal wedding drapes so well and accentuates her curves so nicely.

 

There is a reason why cutting on the bias gives the attractive looks that it does – When you cut the fabric on the bias grain, the air space in between the warp and weft threads of the fabric disappear, and the fabric becomes supple and soft. Have you noticed that a material cut on the bias does not fray?

Just check out the pieces I have cut out for the post How to sew a tie  How to sew a tie here. The big top part is cut on the bias, and the fabric edges are intact; no fraying at all. The other piece in the back is cut on the straight grain and it is unraveling like a mad dog.

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How to cut fabric on the bias grain

The True bias grain forms a 45° angle to the selvage. To find the true bias, fold the lengthwise grain of the fabric (selvage) at a right angle so that the lengthwise grain lies parallel to the crosswise grain.

Bias binding tape, facing, etc., are made on the true bias. Other diagonal folds or cuts at any different angle may also be called bias, but they give less stretch than does a true bias. A true bias is used when making garments with the most drape.

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Bias cut fabric panel added for flare

If done well, cutting on the bias can give you a very flattering garment and make you look leaner.

(Check out other dressing tips that can make you look slimmer).

There are some guidelines you should follow when you cut on the bias grain. Also some rules to adhere to when sewing the fabric which is cut on the bias. Nothing is too much for a well-fitting garment. 

1. You need more fabric on the bias grain when placing and cutting the fabric.  So plan and calculate the yardage accordingly. A simple method is to take twice the typical yardage for cutting on the bias grain.

Checkout the post on fabric yardage on more details. I always add 1 meter extra for a knee length dress. 

2. Choose a simple pattern – Sewing the seams of the bias fabric is a pain because of its stretchiness. The ripples in the fabric, especially if it is super soft and slippery like satin, can make you palpitate, so keeping the seams to the minimum is what I do. Do not unnecessarily add or choose a pattern with extra design details like yokes or darts.

Checkout this cowl top pattern which is cut on the bias. This simple tunic top also works well when cut on the bias. 

3.  After cutting the material, handle it with care. Ensure that you are not stretching the material even more. A little stretchiness is good, but you do not want it to sag out of shape so handle it with care.

4. Seams and seam finishes – Bias seams do not ravel, so you may not have to finish the seam edges. But the seams cut on the bias may need to be stabilized with a stay tape. You can use a fusible stay tape or the selvage of the fabric itself as stay tape. It would help if you also doubled the width of the seam allowance. 

5. Choose fabric with care  – Not all fabric drapes well when cut on the bias grain. For a material to drape nicely on the bias, the weave, weight, and softness should be harmonious. For example, stiff organdy fabric would not look as good as silk when cut on the bias grain. An open weave is also preferred for this cutting.

A very heavy fabric also may not hang well when cut on the bias, so do not choose heavy fabric as well.

Silk, wool crepe, and silk crepe work very well when cut on the bias grain; Wool challis, soft cotton, and linen are also good. Polyesters and rayons may look like the perfect fabric for bias cutting, but sadly, they are not.

Generally, material woven with natural fibers works well when cut on the bias grain.

At the fabric store, I always test out the fabric I intend to buy by folding it diagonally and trying the stretch.

Also, the first time you cut and sew the fabric on the bias grain, decide on a simple material that is easy to handle, like linen.

Do not choose that slippery, slinky satin that will give you real pain, especially when it comes to sewing the seams and finishing the hem and necklines. But a satin bias dress is beautiful if you know what you are doing..

Also, avoid stripes that may have to be matched, especially if there is a center seam.

6. Garments cut on bias grainline needs more ease – When deciding to sew a dress on the bias, alter the pattern so that it has a bit more ease than the pattern for a dress with a straight grain cut. Especially if you are on the curvy side. You usually give something like 6-inch ease in place of a 2-3 inch ease. 

7.  Bias cut needs more seam allowance – give a minimum of 1-inch seam allowance to all seams. You will notice that when you wear the garment, the seam allowance will narrow out because of the stretching.

8. It is better to cut the pattern in a single layer rather than folding. There is a chance of the fabric slipping and distorting when cut. Make a paper pattern and lay it stretched open on the fabric on the true bias grain. Mark around the design. Cut away the traced lines.

9. Hang the garment cut on bias-grain for 24 hours after sewing everything but the hem. This hanging will even out any unwanted stretch. Cut any hanging fabric and proceed to hem.

10. Hemming is a problem at times with fabric cut on the diagonal direction.

A rolled hem works well as does a narrow hem

11. A tight zig-zag stitch is the best for sewing the seams here, as it will give some stretch to the seams. You may need to stretch the seams a little bit as you sew.

12. Press as you sew – this adage is true for bias-cut fabric seams. And ensure that you are in no way ironing. Ironing involves stretching, and that is a strict no-no for bias seams.

Checkout this post on pressing cloth for sewing 

13. To finish the necklines and armholes, you can use a bias facing. A trick I have read about binding a bias-cut edge is to use a bias-binding cut on a different bias than the cut edge. This will prevent sagging bias bound edges.

Checkout this post on cutting fabric on the bias for bias binding

14. A center seam may be necessary when cutting certain fabrics based on bias. When you stretch the material, you may find that it stretches differently in length and crosswise grain.

If this is the case, it will hang unevenly after you have cut and sewn the fabric because a bias cut will get half-half from the lengthwise and crosswise fabric grain. It would help to cut the pattern with a center seam to get the pieces from the exact same grain.

A beautiful chevron effect can be made by cutting striped fabric on the bias and joining it with a center seam.

15. Store bias-cut garments flat – hanging may distort the shape.

Usually just after sewing bias-cut garments are put on a hanger for a day to finish the stretching before hemming. 

Fabrics most suitable for Bias cut garments

Silk is the best when cut on the bias; So does satin. Sheer fabrics like chiffons, gauze, crepe, and georgette are also suitable.

Wool Crepe, silk crepe, silk charmeuse, all these fabrics fall gracefully on the bias; Rayon Challis – Rayon is ok if you do not mind super stretch.

Most natural woven fabrics with open weave drape well. Velvet and lace can also look very well when cut on the bias.

Fabrics not suitable for bias cut

Microfiber, muslins, unwashed Quilting cotton, Irish linen & Organdy; Fabrics with a tight weave are stiff like canvas. Polyester may be hard to handle when cut on the bias.

Related posts: Bias tape – different types; Cutting continous bias tape; Fabric edge binding with bias tapes.

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Author: Sarina Tariq
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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