Sewing with Bias Grain Fabric

Cutting patterns on the bias grain of fabric adds a ton of visual interest as well as great shape. But first of all, what the heck is the bias?

When you are using a woven fabric such as quilting-weight cotton, the threads run left and right and are woven with other threads going from top to bottom. When you pull the fabric from right to left OR from top to bottom, there really is not a whole lot of stretch to them. However, if you pull along the diagonal between those woven threads, you get a GREAT stretch!

Many folks love to work with quilting-weight cottons due to their fabulous prints. However, they don’t have a whole lot of drape to them due to the fabric content and the fact that they are woven together. So, enter a bias cut!

photo 1In this video, Kari Bjordahl shows us how to find the bias grain on any woven fabric. Another way you can find this bias is by taking your fabric and folding it at an angle along the selvedge edge like in this picture.

photo 2I like to press this with an iron, and then mark it with a pen so I can remember where it is.

photo 3If you are making bias strips for bias tape, you can simply cut right down the line that you drew and then measure over however many inches you need to make strips for the correct width of bias tape, like pictured here.

Once you find the bias on your fabric, you can turn the fabric so the bias line is going vertically and they lay your pattern out to cut. Remember, cutting a pattern on the bias uses much more fabric than the pattern may call for, so be sure and buy extra fabric to account for this.

In the case of something cut on the bias grain, gravity is your greatest friend! Because the fabric is hanging on the grain of the fabric that has the MOST stretch, gravity will pull the fabric slightly and will give it a great drape to hug your curves.

Kari mentions a great tip: Before finishing a garment, hang it up to let gravity do some work, and then make sure the fit is still good before finishing the seams. Basting the pieces together and then hanging them for a few days is a great way to ensure the perfect fit before the final stitching.

Happy sewing!

Related Video: Using Bias Fabric Grain

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16 Responses to “Sewing with Bias Grain Fabric”

  1. Catherine Schmid Murphy

    Thank you for this. I was just wondering this very thing and here you are with the answer. I believe this will help give a nice ease on fitted garments made of woven fabrics. I WILL be trying this.
    Thanks, again!

  2. Karen

    How do you make a narrow straight stitched hem on a bias cut skirt without making it look stretched out?

    • National Sewing Circle

      Hi Karen,

      You would stitch the narrow straight hem just like you would on any other fabric. The key is not stretching the fabric at all when running it through the machine. Extra pins can help keep the fabric from stretching as well as using a walking foot to help feed the fabric through the machine.

      • Karen

        Thanks for your advice. I have tried many things but narrow straight stitched bias hems are pretty difficult for me to do and especially on thin fabrics like gorgette where even lowering the pressure on my presser foot doesn’t work. I may give it one last shot with a walking foot as you suggest but I just try to avoid bias cut skirts if I can possibly help it. Lol

        • Shari

          I’ve set my machine to a very narrow zigzag or used a stretch stitch when sewing on the bias. Thought I’d share

    • Joan

      Another way to help stop your hem stretching as you sew is to first tack your hem to some tissue paper leaving yourself plenty of hem allowance.Then sew a holding stitch a fraction below your finished length . Tear of your tissue paper being careful not to damage your stitch line. Then turn up your hem allowance just above your stichline The first stitch line will make this easier to follow. You can do one of two things here. Either stitch with a small straight stitch or for a shell effect stitch over the fold with a zig zag stich . Play about with this on some scrap as different size and width zig zag with produce different effects. Then with small pointed scissors trim the seam allowance away close to the stichline. I hope this makes sense. Enjoy

  3. Danita

    Thank you for the tip about basting the seams and hangings so “gravity” can help! I didn’t know that and my curves needed to learn that! Thanks again for the awesome information!