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Changing straight skirt to bias?

Ckbklady | Posted in Patterns on

Hi all!

I thought that buying and making a “quick/simple/one hour” skirt pattern (New Look by Simplicity #6843, View A) would be a nice change from complicated projects, but I fear I suffer from the “curse of the intermediate sewer”. Could I just pick a size, cut it out and throw it together? Sure. Am I doing that? Of course not.

I have a glorious piece of designer silk charmeuse that I bought at Fabric Depot in Portland, OR in flusher days, and I really don’t don’t want to mess it up. It would be lovely for the skirt. I want to add a lining too and have a nice piece of coordinating Bemberg for that.

I have enough silk and lining to sew the skirt as the pattern shows (straight of grain, with the front piece on the fold, and the back piece cut twice) but I’m not sure I want to do so. I have a 30″ waist and a 38″ hip. The waist measurement directs me to cut a size 16, which I’m fine with, but on the front pattern piece it tells me that if I do so, the finished garment measurement at the hips for size 16 would be 49″ – a full eleven inches more than my hip size. Eeeesh. I fear that the straight-of-grain cut would emphasize my burgeoning hips more than they already are (oh, the joys of middle-age spread – I used to be a size 4 in RTW….alas).

So Option #1 – Grading: I’ve graded across pattern lines before, and don’t really want to do that here either, as I suspect that “pulling in” the seamline from the waist down to the hips would still emphasize my hips because in trimming as much as I would want to, I would end up making a wavy tulip-shaped skirt instead of the soft a-line promised by the pattern picture.

Option #2 (preferred)- Bias: If I were to flip the pattern pieces on the bias (silk and lining for maximum swishiness) I expect that the skirt would cling softly, drape better and not “pad out” my hips.

I’m so leery of wrecking this lovely silk that I thought I should pause, think through it and then ask you all what you think. Would you all vote for the bias approach? I’m no stranger to bias sewing – I’ve made several gowns over the years. I guess I’m just nervous of messing up this yardage. I know I’m really overthinking this 3-piece $3.00 pattern (!!), I know. I’d so appreciate some suggestions, and yes, giggling is encouraged.

Thanks everyone!




  1. Kbrane | | #1

    Ckbklady,Personally, I love the look of bias draping skirts--emphasizing curves, but hiding "bulge." I have no idea whether this would "mess up" your fabric though--except silk cut on the bias is lovely, so I'm not sure how it could go wrong.I'm probably not helping much, but I think your solution is a good one....Kari

    1. Ckbklady | | #2

      Hiya! Thanks for the speedy reply! Yeah, bias is gorgeous, eh? Momma always said, "err on the side of caution," but I've gotten so good at that that my friends joke that my middle name should be "Nothing Left To Chance"!! Giggle.


  2. woodruff | | #3

    A bias skirt, properly sized, would be lovely. Two things to consider:1. Read Marcy Tilton's bias tips here:https://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3745/bias-101and at least the excerpt from Sandra Betzina's book here:http://books.google.com/books?id=hikmNdn-ZXMC&pg=PA91lpg=PA91&dq=sew+bias+skirt&source=bl&ots=3mkmuGO47m&sig=z90TdpxoKnNC_QyO4BrdV5wfNBM&hl=enei=gw2PStHfHImuMMuztK8K&sa=Xoi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8#v=onepage&q=sew%20bias%20skirt&f=false2. Once you have decided on a pattern, measured yourself correctly, made the pattern alterations you need, then to make sure you don't louse up your beautiful silk, sew a bias 'muslin' first to check the fit.

    1. Ckbklady | | #4

      Oh, wow - thanks so much! That really is proof that I'm overthinking it. I have both the Power Sewing book and that issue of Threads, but where did I look first for bias advice? Couture Sewing Techniques (Schaeffer) and a host of Fairchild patternmaking and draping books I've bought over the years - oh, brother. Of course - why didn't I think of them? Of course the team of Betzina and Tilton would know! I see them together every February presenting their latest Vogue patterns together in runway shows at Sew Expo in Puyallup, WA. They do bias so simply and make the idea of doing a muslin a pleasure - and I used to say, "yeccch, who bothers?" to muslins.

      I've pulled out the book and magazine and now feel bold enough to jump in. Thank you for the links!


  3. jjgg | | #5

    before you do anything, take a tape measure, put it around the fullest part of your hips (while standing - this is where you get your 38inch measure), now, sit down and see what that number grows to - when you sit, the flesh moves into different dimensions, if the hip measure of the skirt is 38 inches there is no 'squish' factor. Now, if the skirt were only that number, (the measure of when you are sitting) the skirt would be too tight on you when you are sitting, so you need to add a few inches of ease to your sitting measurement.Changing a straight skirt to bias will only make it a lot tighter,
    What I call the 'drip' factor of bias will make it a lot more narrow as the bias grows. If you want a bias skirt, get a bias pattern.A silk charmeuse skirt with a rayon lining, will be a clingy skirt, and will emphasize your figure, if you are embarrassed about your hips, I would either not make the skirt this way, or wear a shirt not tucked in to skim over the difference between the waist and hip.

    1. Ckbklady | | #6

      Ooooph! As they say, "the proof is in the pudding," eh? Or in this case, in the hips that are big due to a love of pudding, lol! I measured as you suggested and my goodness, how did I forget about "hip bloom"? You're right - the 49" inch finished hip measurement is not only nice but necessary! Yoikes!

      I dug out a Great Copy Patterns bias skirt pattern (#1240) to compare it to the New Look pattern or possibly to replace it. I may just go ahead with the New Look on the straight of grain - charmeuse should be drapey enough without risking the bias "drip" you describe.

      Thank you so much for your note - I've learned a lot from everyone today and know you've saved me from making a "wadder" (Author Gale Grigg Hazen's term for a failed project that gets wadded up and pitched).




      1. jjgg | | #7

        you're welcome. Please post pictures when you are done

        1. Ckbklady | | #8

          Oooh, well, I'll try - I don't have a camera or the tech know-how to do so. I'll see if I can finagle a neighbor to help.

          Thanks, JJGG!


  4. Ckbklady | | #9

    To anyone who wanted to hear the outcome, here it is. I finished the skirt this morning - cut as a size 16 on the straight of grain, from silk charmeuse fashion fabric and polyester lining. The finished skirt waist proved to be quite loose, and the A-line of the skirt added pounds to my appearance at my sides and hips - the silk was denser than I'd really noticed, and while drapey, is still substantial. You could believe that since I didn't do a muslin (Bad Ckbklady! Bad Ckbklady!) which would have taught me this from the outset, or pin fit the skirt that I was fearful of leaving pin marks or that I was being careful, but the truth is that I was just being lazy! The skirt is loose, but that's ok - I'll save it for nights I wanna eat a lotta cookies.

    So mixed reviews - a nice pattern but one I now feel bold enough to try on the bias to slim me back down (or to go buy again and cut in a 14, giggle). But - with a muslin this time!!

    Thank you all for your advice and encouragement!


    1. sewfar | | #10

      I know I am late and your skirt is finished.  I am on vacation and the library in town is far far away but wasn't there something in the Power Sewing book about laying an aline skirt out without the center front being on the center fold that gives it a much better drape.  I remember doing it and being pleased.  But you do get a center front seam .  I think I did both front and back and added a side zip or more likely elastic as my waist and hip seem to be nearly equal nowdays.

      1. Ckbklady | | #11


        Thanks for thinking of me while on vacation! I'm touched!

        I had such fun making the skirt that I've dug a couple more silk lengths out of my stash to make two more skirts this coming week. I decided to give the bias a whirl on one, and now you've given me a great idea for the other! I'll look through the Betzina book and see what's there.

        I've been in a creative slump for some time, and it sure is a pleasure to take a simple 3-piece pattern that requires only a little fabric, lining and zipper, but kick it up a bit by choosing challenging fabric and playing with techniques. It's a low-risk, ease-back-into-it project that fires me right back up. Your enthusiasm and encouragement is a huge part of it too. Thank you so much!


        1. sewfar | | #12

          I had the same idea as you and I have gone back to sewing and wearing skirts.  I too have gotten so much satisfaction in making myself something that fits and adds so much for a little investment in time and money.  In fact, my skirt "muslins " have all turned out to be wearable and fun even if I have to ask myself what was I thinking of when I originally bought some of those prints.   

          1. Ckbklady | | #13

            WOW- what an idea!!! It never DAWNED on me to make muslins out of something potentially wearable thereafter! Brilliant! Once again, you've inspired me!

            I never used to want to "waste" muslin fabric, although I did go through a brief phase of liking and using them that netted lots of rags for hubby's woodworking (for rubbing on stains and finishes). But wow - to make a "test" and then keep and use it? I'm sure fired up now!



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