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Bias cut skirt front, on-grain back?

nmog | Posted in General Discussion on

I am currently cutting out Butterick 4859 (sorry, I don’t know how to link it), and I’m stumped. The pattern envelope didn’t mention that it was a ‘bias’ skirt. No problem. However, I can’t get my head around the fact that the front of the skirt is to be cut on the bias while everything else is to be cut on-grain. I realize that there is quite a bit of fitting detail on the back, but I would think that the back and front should both be cut out the same way. Of course, that would make the detail on the back virtually impossible!

Is it necessary to cut the front out on the bias? Given that the fabric I’m using is shiny, would the bias affect the sheen of the fabric from front to back?

Thanks for the help!


  1. samsmomma | | #1

    http://www.northbreeze.com/Patterns/DiscontinuedButterickPatterns/ButterickPattern4859-Skirt.htm Is that the one? I'm not the seller, it's just what came up on a search.

    Looks to me like the front is cut on the bias in two pieces but the back doesn't have to be cut the same way. It may drape better with the back cut on the bias too, but I have made skirts in the past that have the back cut differently than the front. It's been so many years ago I don't remember how they felt tho. Haven't been much of a skirt wearer since I gained weight.

    1. nmog | | #2

      Thanks for the quick reply. It looks like they must have recycled the pattern number. On the butterick website it's B4859, but I don't think that (should) make a difference. The envelope has a pic of a red skirt, longer in the back, with a black stripe running through it.
      Thanks again!

      1. samsmomma | | #3

        http://store.sewingtoday.com/cgi-bin/butterick/shop.cgi?s.item.B4859Ah, totally different skirt. Yes, they do recycle the numbers quite a bit, so it's easy to get confused.

        that would be a hard skirt to do bias on the back, with that set in area.. you'd have the fabric doing odd things, I think.. but I'm not super qualified in that area. I will bow to someone else's expertise.

        1. nmog | | #4

          Yes, I was hoping to not even do the bias in the front of the skirt, either. Although my front isn't as flat as it used to be, I don't really want anything hugging those curves!
          Thank youNicole

          1. samsmomma | | #5

            Auntie, have you seen this pattern? You have lots more experience than I do.. what do you recommend?

          2. aunt | | #7

            I would definately cut the front on the bias this first time.   The designer probably had a reason and its most likely the drape of the bottom of the skirt.   If you have some fabric you aren't especially fond of or was inexpensive you could try it the other way once (not on bias front) just to see if it would work.   Also, it would be good to make sure you are using fabrics that are of the same ilk as what is listed as suggestions on the pattern back.     That is a great looking skirt...I altered one similar by Armani last year.

          3. nmog | | #8

            Yes, I think that everyone is right. There must have been a reason! However, the front pattern does call for darts, just where they would traditionally be on 'on-grain' patterns. I don't know what it would be like to sew the darts on the bias. It seems odd, but there's so much I don't know!

          4. mem | | #14

            do the bias front if you dont you will have a very different skirt. You are actually getting some bias in the hem at the bottom of the back because you have the flare out at the base of each panel.You can sew bias to straight grain and this was done alot in the 30s and 40s to get that fluid drape which we commonly associate with that era.

          5. nmog | | #15

            Yes, I sewed the on-grain front and it was loads too big. I then cut out the front on the bias and it was huge, too! I am wondering if the fabric was too tightly woven (or too cheap) for the bias to really have had an effect. I let everything hang for 48 hours and there was no difference in length. It's a learning experience, I guess!I think that I'll try this pattern again in a different fabric, and make a smaller size as well.Thank you everyone for your help!

          6. mem | | #16

            The weave may be very too tight . The front is cut bigger because as it moves into its bias position it narrowes.I have found this out the hard way by using a normal size pattern and cutting it on the bias and finding it was too small. Try hanging the front with weight ie. pegs along the hem and then see how you go . I would hang it for at least a week.

            Edited 10/3/2006 7:15 pm ET by mem

          7. HeartFire2 | | #17

            you need to hang the front piece by itself before its sewn to the back. Pin it to a hanger or dress form, and put some sort of clips or weights at the bottom to help 'pull' the grain down. it has to be streched before its attached to the back

          8. dreaming | | #18

            This has been really interesting, and the skirt shape sounds really  pretty. I usually use vintage and vintage-looking patterns. Also, have a costume book (no patterns), of costumes in Hollywood (and designers), in the earlier years. I love the drapeyness, uneven (on purpose) hems, asymetrical details, and hems, gores, and godets. For more tips, try costume sites linked to Sewing and Quilting. I found a pattern something like yours in a second-hand store at a church in a small city, off in the Eastern Townships (mtns. and lake region). This pattern is on top of my favourites pile. Happy sewing.

          9. lovestosew | | #19

            If you don't mind my asking, which costume book do you have? It sounds like something I could put on my Christmas wish list. Thank you for any help you can give on this.

          10. dreaming | | #20

            I thought some of you would be interested. However, I had a job (?) retrieving the book, as I have some fabric stored in from of the cabinet (whew!, now, I will check thru my winter fabrics, and cut out skirts). Well, a lot of my books are older, but can be found, no doubt. It is "Hollywood Costume Design", by David Chierichetti. I got it at a church Xmas sale, for about $1., and, even stranger, Norma Shearer was my maternal grandmother's cousin. Hope you find it!!!!! Happy sewing!!!!

          11. SewNancy | | #21

            Anything I have seen on sewing bias says to mark the seam lines and cut larger than usual sas because the bias will stretch and narrow. I have done this and this is a big help. I wonder if they drafted it with larger sas. I also would not cut this front on the straight grain. It needs the bias to mold into the flow and shape of this skirt. Looking at the back panels, they defitely need to be on the straight grain, but as someone else menthioned those back panels probably are on the bias by the time you get to the curve depending on how curved they are.

          12. nmog | | #22

            Yes, everyone was right about the front needing to be on the bias. However, I've now sewn it both ways (on grain and bias) and they are literally exactly the same in terms of measurements and how the skirt is fitting. I let the front hang for over a week now and the length hasn't changed at all. The skirt also doesn't 'hug' either. I'm sure that if I had picked a looser weave fabric, the bias front would have made for a better fit!Skirt number 2 being considered....Thanks for everyone's help!Nicole

          13. ctirish | | #23

            Nicole, I had written a long note and then decided I would look at the pattern and not assume it met the "old" rules for a bias skirt. This is not a typical bias skirt.  I can't imagine why they listed lightweight tweed as a fabric.  If you decide to make this pattern again, I would either take the pattern with you to a good fabric store to pick out fabric or send the pattern number to a reputable fabric site and then ask them what they recommend to use with this design.  You can't use a knit with this design for the same reason - you can't cut a knit on the bias and expect it to hang well.   jane

            This would have been good for Project Runway - just give them a picture of the pattern and then see what they do after they have picked out fabric and discover it should be cut on a bias....

          14. HeartFire2 | | #24

            What type of fabric are you using for the skirt? depending on how tight the weave is and the fiber content (poly vs. natural) will affect the 'hang' of the bias.

          15. nmog | | #25

            I wish I knew!! It was clearance fabric, and I suspect the weave was too tight. I imagine that it is a tight poly satin. Had I known that the pattern called for bias I would have bought something else.Nicole

      2. User avater
        Thimblefingers | | #6

        I just bought that pattern but haven't sewn it up yet.  I would definitely cut it on the bias if that's wha the pattern says.  Bias has stretch to it so will fit over female curves.  If you cut this on straight of grain, it will fit flat and tight as there are no darts for fitting over the tummy.  Also, bias acts differently than on-grain with the fabric becoming narrower when it hangs.  I'm assuming that this was taken into account in the drafting of the pattern so cutting on the straight would adversely affect the fit.

        After you cut the bias pieces, pin them to a hanger and let them hang out at least overnight before sewing.

  2. sherryv | | #9

    Oh, what a gorgeous, nifty project!  Please post pics of this when you finish it!  And about that grain business, usually there is a phone number to call with questions - or at least an email - listed on the pattern instruction sheets for questions just such as this.  Why don't you give them a call?  I know it would put my mind at ease before starting :)


    1. nmog | | #10

      I just got off the phone with Butterick, and while I would like to say the were helpful, they actually weren't. She yelled at me (really) because she was confused as to which view I was doing. She said that this wasn't and easy pattern (implying that I couldn't do it), and told me to sew the garment differently than the instructions said because the instructions didn't tell you everything. Hmmm. Just like the last time I called when they told me to tissue fit a pattern on my newborn.It was a good idea! I will now begin to cut out the skirt....
      Thanks for your help.

      1. sherryv | | #11

        Good grief, what horrible customer service!!!  I'm so sorry you had such trouble.  There is simply no excuse for their behavior.  And tissue fit a pattern on a newborn?  How dumb can they be?  Unfortunately, it sounds as though you are on your own with this skirt.  Hope you keep us posted with your progess - and don't use any expensive fabric the first time through, I don't trust these folks! ;)



      2. jjgg | | #12

        I just bought this pattern too - after you posted this message, I decided I really like the skirt too, the back at least. I'm not sure I like the front but it may look ok when cut on the bias. I may change up the front, what sort of problem are you having (besides cutting it on the bias?) which view are you going to do? I like A better because of the added gores in the back. Mine will also be a little bit longer in the front as I like my skirts longer. Maybe a little added flair in the front would improve the look.

        1. nmog | | #13

          I think I'm over my problems (sewing ones at least!). I just couldn't get my head around a front that hugged 'curves' that I didn't want it to. I've started sewing the back and it's easy. I've actually cut out the front on grain (not on bias) beacuse my fabric is extremely heavy. The added pull would really make the skirt tighter than I wanted anyway. However, I've still got enough fabric to cut it out on the bias as well, so if I don't like the first version it will be an easy enough switch! I've also decided to make a shrug jacket (Simplicity 4270) to go with it, as it's for a holiday party.
          I added length to the skirt too so that it wuold be longer.
          All in all, I'm pleased with how easy it is to sew. I was just frustrated with the pattern envelope and the bias front. I think I would have used different fabric had I known it was bias, but I like the pattern enough to try again with less formal fabric!Good luck with yours!

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