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Conversational Threads

Bias patterns/sewing

opalmom | Posted in Patterns on

So the tube from last year has me completely hooked on bias patterns so now I’m wondering a few things (always dangerous)

a.  Do the pattern companies make “bias only” patterns?  IF so, which ones should I be looking for (didn’t find anything on the last trip to Joanns through the pattern books there)

b. Are there any books out there about sewing bias garments? 

c. I’ve used linen and cotton so far and I love them both, can the same principles be applied to silk or is it a bad idea being silk has seam issues on the grain?

Thank you in advance.



  1. SEWSERIOU1 | | #1

    Pattern companies do make bias only and partial bias garment patterns.  I have a few of them myself.  New Look 6040 and 6244 are 2 of them that come to mind.  You cannot always tell by the description on the back if a garment is bias cut or not.  Sometimes you have to look at the instruction sheet to see the grainlines in order to tell.

    1. opalmom | | #2

      Well....isn't that interesting now...guess I have to invade the shops without kids so I can rifle through pattern envelopes (and hope they don't get made at me!)

      Thank you

  2. carolfresia | | #3

    Nancy, I know that there are plenty of bias skirt patterns out there, and at least one easy, attractive summer dress pattern from Kwik Sew intended for the bias. The dress in the bias tube article was made from, I think, a Butterick pattern, which I believe was meant for the bias. I've actually used that pattern myself on the bias, and it's a pretty good one. Often, a pattern intended for the bias will be illustrated on the envelope in a stripe or plaid, so you can see right off that it's bias, but this isn't always the case.


  3. Elisabeth | | #4

    I'm hooked on bias now too. There was some rayon in my stash that I have had for so long that is was starting to bug me so I decided to move it out by trying out a bias skirt with a pattern my daughter had picked out. I used a poly georgette as lining, another old bothersome fabric...and it was magic! I made two more in different rayons.

    There are quite a few bias patterns out there. I used butterick 5431, a two seam A line skirt. It didn't have any advice on sewing seams on the bias which could ruin the project for someone. Have you seen the "sewing lesson" at this website?


    The big designers show silk graments on the bias in the magazines all the time, let's try it!

    1. Iris_Colo | | #5

      The bias black faille skirt (with lace/satin top) is great!  Do you suppose it's the 45 degree bias?  There are so many degrees of bias.  It would be nice if there were some standardized rules for common fabrics to achieve certain amounts of cling or drape.

      Anyone know if rules exist?

    2. opalmom | | #6

      THAT is an awesome site...thank you for sharing that.  I have to wonder along with Iris about degrees of bias as well.


      (thinking again, dangerous as usual.....LOL)

  4. Barbaran8 | | #7

    I believe Folkwear has a bias slip pattern, and isn't the Bombshell dress on the bias? look through the non-big four patterns and see what you can find on the internet while the kids are napping - goto patternreview.com and search on the word bias... And if you want to see some of the most amazing bias designer garments from the twentieth century, get the book "Vionnet" (it's only $75! But worth every penny) and it has some patterns in the back that you can size up.....

    1. opalmom | | #8

      See, thats the thing....and I thank you for sharing that.  The big companies don't have much without serious research (do I look like a research librarian?  Wait, do NOT answer that LOL)

      Bombshell?  Would you explain that (cos I'm missing it).  My first visual was MM over the tube grate in that movie!  LOL

      Vionnet?  Is that in French?  Cos my French is beyond rusty at this point....but I guess in reality, it wouldn't matter, the markings, etc are pretty much standard.

      Thank YOU! :-)

      1. FitnessNut | | #9

        The Vionnet book is in English....and it is wonderful, both as a coffee table book and as inspiration. Technically, it is a biography, but it gets very detailed with respect to the garment designs. The patterns could be sized up, but plan to spend significant time (and muslin) if you want to do that. They are very complex and the schematics are sometimes tricky to understand. The author wrote at least one article for Threads while she was researching the book....it was eons ago, but I have it in my collection. Everytime I need a bit of inspiration, it is my favourite book to browse. IMHO, Madeleine Vionnet was the most innovative designer of her time, perhaps of the century!


        Edited 5/5/2004 10:54 pm ET by Sandy

        1. opalmom | | #10

          I went looking for it and WOW, is all I can say.   I did find one on ebay and with luck, I'll win the auction.  My library DOES NOT have it (its not even in the countywide system) so its definitely a rarity.

          Thank you all again! :-)

          1. sueb | | #11

            a couple of tips about how to win an ebay auction - DON'T bid until the last 10 seconds !  Bidding before just drives the price up and you end up paying way more than you should.  I've been using a sniper service that a friend of mine uses and have had good luck wining by using it.  If you sign up with this snipe service you get 3 free snipes so even if you just use it a few times it won't cost you anything.  http://www.auctionsniper.com/

            Good luck !


          2. FitnessNut | | #12

            Good luck....if you are seriously interested in design, then this book is a must-have! Hope you get it!


          3. TERISEW | | #13

            I do love the Vionnet Book too. It is incredibly inspiring and all that. I bet I've looked that thing over a hundred times and cannot see where the actual scale is defined. So I got so tired of that I just made my own scale. I took my tape measure and measured the length on one of the garment patterns the author has in the book, like a side for a bodice, and compared it to the length on my body for that same place and fractioned it out and multiplied so I could put it on one inch scale pattern making paper.

          4. FitnessNut | | #14

            Did you make a full sized pattern from the schematics in the book? And if you did, did you follow through and make a garment? I'd be interested in hearing how you fared. It's on my "list of things I'd like to do someday when I have the time", if you know what I mean ;-)

          5. TERISEW | | #15

            Know about that 'time' thing. All day I do alterations for others and still can't wait at the end of the day to get down to some serious recreational sewing! I'm using Pattern 2 as the jumping off place, no it is not complete, I've gotten off on a Barbie doll scale- up pattern  project. I go from too many moving parts to simply combining everything together to get sleeves, front and back cut out of one piece. The doll patterns have to be pieced  in some areas,where the fabric is not wide enough. I thought this might be good training for me prior to launching into the Vionnet further. I need to get some clothes made to wear this summer, so then I will get back on the Vionnet project. :) It was a good thing to 'crack the code' sort of, thanks to Bette Kirke's hard work. It is a fabulous book.

          6. FitnessNut | | #16

            I'll have a look at Pattern 2.....now you have me intrigued. Doll patterns, or even half-size, isn't a bad way to figure it out. I read somewhere about someone (Bobbie Carr?) using a half-size mannequin to work out complicated designs. And Vionnet, after all, did work on an artists' mannequin!

          7. TERISEW | | #17

            I have several half-size torso mannies but don't use them except for playing with scarves. At first glance, Pattern 2 looks complicated, but notice the mostly rectangle shapes involved and basically only the bodice is shaped. Can you see this is soft gray- blue 4-ply silk, funky shoes and fishnet hose, those bigger scale fishnets like on the runway last fall.? When this fantasy is complete Pattern 32 is going to be my fur coat! I got faux fur in brown mink at Hancocks on sale about two months ago.

          8. Barbaran8 | | #18

            When I was in college taking history of costume - one of the other students made one of the patterns up in half scale - it was the dress that was layers of squares in darkening shades of chiffon... Came out looking lovely - she regretted not making it to full scale for herself.

      2. MarshaK | | #24

        A less expensive and easily found alternative to the Vionnet book mentioned is called Bias Cut: Dressmaking Made Easy, by Gillian Holman. I have seen it in the Chapters bookstore, and it has been reviewed in one of the sewing mags, but I can't think which one it was. This book may not show designer garments, but I think it has good basic instructions for sewing bias.


        Edited 6/2/2004 12:29 pm ET by MarshaK

        1. FitnessNut | | #25

          I bought this book a couple of months ago and have found it to be handy for several projects I am working on, but it would be a mistake to think that it has anything to do with actually sewing. It is, rather, a book on the patternmaking aspect of bias-cut clothing. It covers making patterns for a variety of basic blocks which can then be used for lingerie, skirts, trousers and dresses. Fairly detailed instructions for these are given. The author briefly mentions sewing bias in her introduction, but only in a superficial way. There are also no photographs, only rather amateurish line drawings.

          1. Desiderata | | #26

            I too have recently purchased the Bias-cutting book and am disappointed. I was expecting more information about actual bias techniques and working with various fabrics.  The Author barely mentions a couple of pointers with regards to bias sewing in her introduction and then that was it!  I am glad it was purchased at a discounted rate and not the full price. That is the only way I can justify the purchase.  It deals mainly with slips and lingerie, some simple evening wear.

            The best book for lingerie IMO is Pattern Cutting for Lingerie, Beachwear and Leisurewear by Ann Haggar.  While this book doesn't deal with bias-cutting per se,  If  you are interested in sewing Lingerie then this is the book to have. The pieces can be placed on the bias. I suspect Ann Haggar's book is based on patternmaking techniques by Winifred Aldrich and Natalie Bray. If that is the case then it is among the best.

            Otherwise, I would suggest you read all the articles published by Threads and especially by Marcy Tilton. That is where I have found the best information on bias-cutting. I think in this respect we are left to practise by trial and error. There really is not much information out there on the subject!

          2. FitnessNut | | #27

            I've learned everything I know about bias by trial and error - and I don't know a heck of a lot, despite making several bias dresses! Every fabric has its own personality and will require some adjustments in how you deal with it.

            How nice to know that the Ann Haggar book is worth purchasing. Because I make patterns for my clients, it is always worth having another good patternmaking book in my reference library. Thanks for mentioning it.

    2. HeartFire | | #19

      <<< get the book "Vionnet" (it's only $75! But worth every penny) and it has some patterns in the back that you can size up.....>>>

      Where did you find this book for $75.00??? the cheapest I've seen it is $500.00, and it is a wonderful book, I would love to have a copy of it!


      1. FitnessNut | | #20

        It certainly is a fabulous book, but $500???? DH bought it for me when it was first published and it was under $100 Canadian, through Chapters/Indigo. Check Amazon or one of the other online stores. I'm sure you can find a decent price. BTW, it is definitely worth what we paid for it, and more.

        Edited 5/30/2004 12:50 pm ET by Sandy

        1. Desiderata | | #21

          I am wary of Amazon's practices. I have one which I bought when they were newly published it was under $100.00US. BUT, Amazon has a Marketplace &ZShop stores where you can resell your books or your used articles. They usually make a 'suggested'  resale price. Their price to me was US$6.99! What a joke.  The rest you can imagine for yourself. I am not accusing them of malpractice but I have had to deal with them in the past in searching for hard-to-find used books and have my suspicions.

          1. FitnessNut | | #22

            I've wondered about Amazon's practices, mostly when looking up a book and seeing "buy it new or used from $xxx" in addition to the regular purchase price. I have never dealt with them.....I was only suggesting Amazon because I am in Canada and am not knowlegable regarding other online book sellers. I usually purchase from http://www.chaptersindigo.ca which is a Canadian company with "brick and mortar" bookstores across the country in addition to their online service. I have been purchasing from them for probably 7 or 8 years now, are very reputable, and I'm sure they ship to the US as well, if that interests you. The problem is that they don't have the same wide range of stock that Amazon has.

          2. Desiderata | | #23

            Hi Sandy, I am not in the USA either but do shop extensively on Amazon (probably used to be their best customer) LOL..... Thanks for the Canadian link I have bookmarked it.  One has to be just so AWARE of what is going on when doing any kind of business involving money.

            I am sure though that there are many other discounted sources for the Vionnet book and not from those sellers with their ridiculous prices.

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