I’m steadily making progress with my dress for the Weaving Destination Fashion Show. I decided to cut the pattern pieces on the bias to create a flow and shape to the garment. Of course, this makes construction all that more trickier (hey I like a challenge!)
I’d been using the book Bias-Cut Dressmaking for realising my design. One of the criticisms levelled at the book in the amazon reviews, was that it didn’t contain any tips for sewing on the bias, rather it was just a manual for pattern cutting. There are some tips, they are just a bit buried in the text. One that I picked up is that it is extremely tricky to sew zips into bias-cut pattern pieces. The book recommended hand sewing in a zip. I’ve never attempted that before and decided that the back panels would be cut on the grain instead (to make my life easier!). I felt it was more important that the skirt and front bodice was cut on the bias. After all, these are areas of the garment that need to shape and flow, whereas this is less important across the bodice back.
There are some great articles on the web about sewing on the bias. If you haven’t seen it yet, the seamwork magazine is pretty handy.
I like the descriptions of what should be attempted as your first bias project – “when working on the bias for the first time, you should avoid ….. super slinky fabrics, like silk charmeuse or chiffon.” Hah! I laugh in the face of recommendations like this! I love sewing with silk, and I knew that I’d given myself a really tricky, but with some care I thought I could make this work.
Below are some things I found particularly useful for this project:
- I cut the pattern pieces on the bias through a single layer. When fabric is on the bias it tends to shift and stretch. This made sure that I was accurately cutting out my pattern pieces.
- When pinning I made sure that fabric wasn’t stretched but “relaxed” as I pinned.
Stabilising the fabric
- I stay-stitched along bias edges at the neck and the arm holes to prevent them stretching using a longer stitch length. This was quite difficult as I found the fabric weave quite loose and it had a tendency to pucker up. I had to apply fusible stabilizer on these edges to prevent this from happening. But this did have the desired effect as it certainly made it harder for the bias edge of the pattern piece to stretch when I later came to sew the neckline and armholes.
- I like to use French seams on lightweight silk garments. Not only does it make the garment look pretty, even on the inside, but I found that it stabilizes the seams, and helps keep them from warping.
- There were a couple of areas where I decided not to use a French seam. These included below the zip. I finished this by folding over the raw edges and making a mini-hem. The armholes as well were finished differently, this time with bias-binding.
- The fabric must be taken through the machine carefully, making sure not to stretch it as it’s sewn.
- Tacking is my friend; if I repeat this enough then I’ll believe it! It takes time, but I knew that unpicking this fabric would just ruin it, it does have a tendency to fray. So time spent preparing each seam before machine-stitching, was time well spent.
- It’s recommended to hang the garment for 24 hours before finishing it. This will be the very last thing that I do, so I haven’t done this yet. This apparently helps to ensure an even hem.
A final thought, there’s always something new to learn in sewing. Before I started sewing this garment I’d never heard about opposite bias grainlines. This is described well (with diagrams) in the seamwork article:
“Every fabric has two true biases, each perpendicular to the other. When the front and back of a dress are cut on parallel biases, the dress has a tendency to twist around the body. Instead, cut the front and back biases perpendicular to each other. This results in a balanced garment.”