Chances are that you’re interested in making your own clothes. There gets to a point that every sewer will run out of commercial sewing patterns in the styles that they like. The solution, make something that’s uniquely you, designed specifically for your own measurements! I would classify Fashion Draping: Bias Design as Paul Gallo’s second class in the Fashion Draping series – the first being Fashion Draping: Dressmaking Basics (read my review), after all it’s important to know the basics…
Lesson 1 – Draping on the Bias
What’s better than starting off this course with a very basic example of why use bias design? Paul simply holds a portion of fabric to the mannequin, showing how on the straight grain the fabric will buckle and have angular lines from the shoulders. He then compares the same draping on a bias grain, showing how the fabric drapes nicely, and curls rather than buckles. In the introduction Paul also advertises his own product, called Getta Grip Sewing Clips. They sell for about $20, and do look quite useful. Just like in my review of Fashion Draping: Dressmaking Basics, I mentioned that they were somewhat expensive, given that they are used to hold bits of material in place; in fact I can go down to the stationery store and buy fold-back clips for a lot cheaper that will do the same basic job. Benefit with the fold-back clips, is you can get them all different sizes, beneficial for working in tight spaces of thin fabric.
History of Bias-Design
If you are interested in how bias design “began”, Paul gives you a brief description of Madame Vionnet’s life – she is often considered the primary creator of bias design used in the modern age.
Lesson 2 – Bias Draping Basics: Fabrics
Both sleeky fabric such as rayon or crepe backed satin and stiff fabric such as taffeta can be used for bias design, each providing a different effect. Sleeky fabric will follow the body’s curves, whilst a stiff fabric will stand away from the body to create an all together different look. It’s important to know that you will need a tight, balanced weave. Don’t buy fabric that has stretch on the bias grain; the warp and weft must have the same amount of stretch. Also, don’t forget that you should be draping with a fabric similar to your planned fashion garment; don’t use denim when you want to create a silk dress for example!
You will need a mannequin in order to drape. Paul will be using a professional mannequin, however he also shows the commonly available adjustable mannequin which is aimed at home sewing studios. Since the adjustable mannequin has holes at the centre front and side seams, you can create a muslin cover for it in exactly your size, and to hide the holes by stuffing it with batting. This can be done without a mannequin internally (as long as you stuff it fairly solidly). Finally, feel free to make a duct tape mannequin; it’s a task that has proven to be a fun-filled weekend.
Mark your bias grain line; it’s easier to mark each side of the fabric by thread tracing. Pin your fabric at the mannequin’s neck (or higher) and allow your marked bias line to fall down the centre front. Then, keeping your draped garment loose, manipulate the fabric a bit to get a hang of what draping on the bias feels like. As Paul says, “I don’t care if you like it [your fashion design], it’s the act of doing it. The more you drape, the better you will get at it.” Benefit of bias draping is that your ease it already built-in – no need to remember to add (or check) it during the drafting process.
Lesson 3 – Draping Cowls
Traditionally a cowl is a long hooded, loose-fitting garment – differentiated from a cloak or cape by being an enclosed garment. It is commonly believed that the cowl actually referred to the hoods of these garments; think the hoods of a priest’s vestment or the academic dress of university graduations. Having said all this, a cowl can actually be used on many parts of the body in today’s fashionable garments as Paul demonstrates;
- under the arms,
- Back of the neck,
- Front of the neck,
- the waist/bum/butt.
If you want to hide an area of the body, consider adding a cowl. If you don’t like the shape, it’s the best camouflage ever. If you want to show an area of the body, consider adding a cowl…
Anytime you hang fabric on the bias, it automatically cowls. Well that makes it a bit easier for us. Cowls can be either small, or quite deep (such as at the centre front or centre back). Fold a corner of your fabric over – this bit will end up making your facing (if you want it). Bring these two new corners together, allowing the material to fall and drape between these points. You have just made your cowl! Of course you will then need to go ahead and pin it to your mannequin, bringing further points together to create those draped cowls. The seams will eventually be made gathered or pleated.
It will be much easier to cut your fabric whilst it’s on your mannequin; it will make the step of drafting your fabric to a pattern so much easier. If you’re using your final fashion fabric to drape, use chalk or washable pen to mark the location of each pleat and all your seams. If you’re using muslin however, feel free to draw all over it in pen (even make notes directly on the fabric if it will help you).
Unpin your design from your mannequin. Using a spiked pattern wheel you will then trace all your markings onto the paper, adding your seam allowances where necessary. If your pattern is asymmetrical, crease along the centre front or centre back seam, and trace the second half of your pattern. You should also make sure to note which direction that your cowl pleats fall; if you pin them the wrong direction the fabric just won’t make a nice cowl.
Lesson 4 – Checking the Pattern
Stay stitch around the edge of your fabric pattern; the bias is very stretchy, and prone to changing size (or distorting out of shape).
To be honest this whole lesson doesn’t really cover anything. Just lay out your fabric piece on top of your paper pattern and check that its shape is still there… You could very easily skip this lesson, saving you eight minutes.
Lesson 5 – Gathering Techniques
Gathering a Halter Neck
Wrapping the fabric around the front of the mannequin and pinning two sections at the neck, you can quite literally gather material behind the neck to create cowls at the front.
Gathering a Built Up Neckline
Again drape the bit of material across the mannequins front, specifically the neck. You will be pinning on the neck side seams. By pinching excess bits of material between the pins that you normally would place, you can create a gathered neckline.
Stitch and Release Pleats
These are kind of like a dart, only you don’t stitch all the way to the very end point; it’s not quite as fitted. Similar to draping darts, gather sections of material.
Paul immediately starts to drape a dolman sleeve, explaining the importance of pinning horizontally from the shoulder seam in order to allow movement space. The higher the arc is under the arm, the more range of movement you will also have. A curve, rather than a straight line, not only looks nicer but will take any stress placed upon the stitching much more evenly, meaning it will be less likely to rip.
Folding and pinning tiny portions of material – such as only 1/8th of an inch – can create an almost gathered look.
Refining and Marking
Trim your material in the general shape of your pins, just leave enough material to mark on and to eventually trim down to 5/8″ seam allowances (i.e try cutting at a 1″ allowance for now). Mark your blouse’s hem point, and trace any pins that you have added. If you have pinned any pleats or darts, or want to make a notch, make sure you mark both sides for reference.
Preparing the Pattern
Square off your corners, such as the neck and hems at the centre front or where two seams will join. Neaten your lines a bit as necessary.
Lesson 6 – The Butterfly Twist
I’ve never sewn a butterfly twist, so I had no idea how to actually make them. My impression was that it was just twisted material… It’s not that simple.
Find your bias line by folding the material on itself, and do this again to leave you with a right angle to your butterfly. All the selvages should be along one edge now. Cut the fold line, leaving approximately 3″ of material uncut. This will create two bias triangles that are still joined together (double the amount of uncut material in the last step). Depending upon the need, you will probably have to deal with those raw edges you just cut…
The butterfly twist can be placed on several areas of the body:
- Over the shoulder,
- At the stomach,
- At the bust…
Twist once, twist twice, so that the right side of the material is showing for both halves. Of course if your fabric doesn’t have a right and wrong side, this doesn’t really matter.
The edges of your fabric can either be joined or left open, depending upon how much skin you want to expose.
Lesson 7 – Cascade Ruffles
A cascade ruffle is when you take a circle and sew it in a straight line.
Since you are making it on the bias, you should not clip the curve; there should already be enough stretch in the fabric to lay flat.
This lesson is really, really short. However it does teach you what you need to know in order to make a cascade ruffle (with the exception of measuring your circles out).
Lesson 8 – Creating a Flared Skirt
Enormous fullness with no gathers. So many times I have made a beautiful dress, and then been disappointed by having to seriously gather material at the waist – sometimes ruining the sleek or stylish look.
For the demonstration Paul uses about twice as much fabric as he expects to need. His fabric is also quite stiff, in contrast to the very sleek gently draping fabric from the other lessons.
Pin your side seam on the straight of grain. Start pinning across your waistline. Each time you make a pin trim a bit of fabric horizontally above the pin, curving gently towards the pin itself. You will need to pivot the fabric ever so slightly at the waist, letting the fabric above the pin fall slightly more towards the floor. Keep smoothing your waistline, pinning and then pivoting each time. This pivoting will be what creates the flare.
Lesson 9 – Putting It All Together
Sleeveless, bias cut dress. “It basically feels like you’re wearing a nightgown.” I agree. I think this dress is absolutely perfect as a slip for under other clothing; an essential wardrobe garment that every lovely lady out there needs! In fact, Paul calls it a slip dress and mentions how to cut and add the spaghetti straps that most slips have by default…
If this is one of your first drafting projects – or even first time drafting on the bias – then this is the perfect project to start you off; it’s simple, doesn’t take too much time,
I laughed when Paul so casually mentioned the mannequin’s “butt” – referring to how much ease is added in the area. I have gotten so used to people trying to appear professional and polite, using terms such as “derrière”. Admitted I might have been a bit distracted at that moment, but it was still a humorous shock.
Paul goes with the flow; in the cascade ruffles lesson he drops the material, and so states “if I actually hold the fabric up…”. In Lesson 8: “You can call this a flared skirt, all a fighting skirt since I am fighting with the fabric so much.”
You will need a mannequin to drape. Not everyone can afford to buy one, nor do they have the assistance of a trusted girl friend to tape themselves up to make a duct tape mannequin.
If you are interested in draping, or making your own clothes, then Fashion Draping: Bias Design is a great class for you.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend for beginning sewers, the class was clearly aimed at individuals with an intermediate to advanced skill set. Not only will you need to be able to sew basic garments without instructions, but you will need to be fairly familiar with altering patterns. In fact, if you haven’t done much draping before I would suggest you check out Fashion Draping: Fashion Making Basics (read my review) first; as the name suggests the class covers all the basics.