May 25, 2011

Bonus Post - Sewing on the Bias

This post is especially geared towards version 3 of the Ginger skirt pattern, however these tips can easily apply to any bias cut sewing project. These are tips and tricks I've gathered from here and there that really help my bias sewing experience to be much more successful. I remember my very first bias cut garment sewing experience - it did not turn out well. To be honest, it was disastrous and I thought I would never sew on the bias again! So for those of you tackling version 3, I hope you try out these techniques and I really really hope they help you. The Ginger skirt is a very good first bias sewing project. Here we go:

Like I've stated in previous posts on this skirt, it is very important to pick a fabric that works for this version and for your first bias cut sewing project. If you have a fabric that's stiffer - doesn't have a lot of drape - and has a tight weave, you'll have a much more successful experience the first time around. Later on when you feel more comfortable you can tackle different sorts of fabric for your bias cut sewing projects. Deal? Good.

So, when you get to this point, you should have your fabric cut and you should be ready to sew the bias cut skirt pieces together. First let's tackle matching the stripes up in the front of the skirt. Let me state that you will not need to match the stripes along the side seams. They will not match up, just so you know, and that's OK. If some know-it-all asks you why the stripes don't match along your side seams you can tell them that "this is a bias cut skirt and if I had tried to line up the stripes along the side seams, the skirt pieces would not have been cut on the true bias which would have resulted in a warped looking skirt." And that's the truth! OK, so along the front skirt seam you need to match your stripes. Not hard, if you cut everything out correctly. For added security you can hand baste them together before sewing the seam too.

To sew, you'll need some tissue paper or freezer paper cut in strips the length of your skirt pieces. I use vintage sewing pattern pieces that have lost pieces or that I never plan to use for this. When you are ready to sew at the machine, place the tissue paper along the bottom (against the feed dogs) and worked the fabric on the top of the tissue paper. Set your machine stitch to a 2.5 - 3mm setting. You can use a straight stitch or a narrow zigzag stitch (by narrow, I mean not wide). This is most likely a longer stitch length than you are used to, but believe me it makes a difference. No tiny stitch lengths for bias cut sewing. Now, as you sew, slightly stretch the fabric as it goes through the machine. Slightly stretch, don't try to warp it.

Here's what the tissue paper side will end up looking like. After you've sewn a seam, tear away the tissue paper and press the seam flat and then press the seam open. You'll find that on the side with the tissue paper the stitching looks raised - like you have bad tension - but this is OK. This allows the bias cut to stretch out and shrink up the way it does but still remain stitched and intact without causing rippling in the seam. Make sense?

If you've ever worked with bias before (even bias tape making) you might have noticed that interestingly enough bias cut seam allowances don't fray. It's kind of magical, but for added security I pink my seam allowances. You can also zigzag the seam allowances - after you've stitched the seam too. I don't recommend serging the seam though because this warps the bias and causes it to ripple out of control.

One last thing. For bias cut anythings you'll need to let them hang for 24 hours or longer before hemming. After you've let it hang you'll probably have to trim off a few areas as the bias will stretch out in certain places. OK? Ok. These are my best bias secrets - but they sure are great to share with friends so make sure you do.

Later today I'll be showing you how to insert an invisible zipper into a bias cut garment. This is a little different than the invisible zipper post that I've already posted, so stay tuned.

Let me know if you have questions or need help.




  1. I've never sewn on the bias, so I really had no idea the additional techniques I would have to apply. If you didn't make this post, I would have tried to sew regularly (small stitch length, no tissue, no gentle stretching, etc.)!

    Thanks so much!!!

  2. Really helpful tips, can't wait to try out! thanks!

  3. Great tips! I'm not doing the sew along but am about to make a bias dress, so this is a timely post for me. I didn't know about the longer stitch secret and will definitely be giving that a try. Can't wait for the zipper post!

  4. Wow, I never knew about using a different stitch length for bias-cut garments. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Oh this is great, thank you so much…the secrets of bias sewing!

  6. What is the purpose of the tissue paper? That we don't stretch the fabric too much, or something else?

  7. It acts as a stabilizer for the fabric while you are sewing. You can also use it when sewing other types of hard to use fabrics like silk that easily slip around.


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