Chances are that as you progress in your sewing adventure you will move from sewing on the straight of grain to the bias. Sewing on the Bias, taught by Sandra Betzina, is a Craftsy class that is designed to assist you from making that process; after all bias fabric can be difficult to manipulate due to it’s stretchy nature.
Lesson 1 – Fabric Bias
You will see the example garment of what we will be making, although if you see my points under cons, Sandra really didn’t show it long enough for my liking.
Sandra advertises her own book More Fabric Savvy that contains information about fabric and what tools you will probably need with them. I’m often on the fence about people advertising extra paid products in paid courses; it is there right but still… Having not been able to get my hands on the book I can’t comment on it.
Cut a size larger when converting knit patterns for bias wovens to keep the original design shape.
What is Bias?
The selvage is the lengthwise grain. Your crosswise grain is where you would normally cut. The bias is on the diagonal.
Sandra suggests the following fabrics: rayon, silk, cotton and linen (that’s not too thick). Rayon can stretch like crazy out of shape, so if you do choose to use it make sure when you’re washing it that you do it alone in warm water and gentle wash. Most fabrics can be washed by hand…
You should avoid: lightweight, sheer fabrics like chiffon. You can use a knit as long as it’s stable, i.e. not something that is very stretchy. I’m not sure about her suggestion of avoiding chiffon; I very recently made a bias cut chiffon dress and it turned out lovely.
If you want to line a garment: nylon tricot (only good for cooler environments), wicking fabric, stretch mesh or PowerNet. Sandra says you should avoid acetate as it can stain, stretch and tear easily.
- Shears or Scissors,
- Safety pins,
- Sewing foot guide (optional) – attachable or magnetic,
- extra fine silk pins (required if working with silk),
- Heat soluble Pen,
- Anything dependant upon your fabric.
Sandra shows you three other garments, on mannequins, that she has made in the past; two on the bias and one that isn’t. She mentions that if you want a more structure garment appearance, then you should avoid using the bias.
Lesson 2 – Adjusting Your Pattern
All About Ease
Sandra shows two examples, both the same garment, that shows how adding a bit of extra ease can change the garment appearance; this is helpful if you don’t want the garment to follow your curves as much.
If you don’t know how to pick your pattern size, Sandra walks you through it. In fact, she shows you how to highlight your pattern pieces on a multi-sized pattern to avoid confusing the different sizes.
Measure your abdomen size as you don’t want your skirt showing insightful bulges from being too tight. Sandra shows you how to basically adjust the pattern to have 3″ of ease. She will also cover the difference of having a zipper or a elasticized waistband.
Since you can’t cut your skirt on the straight of grain, it’ll be hard to cut it on the fold. Cut your pattern onto a double piece of paper, just as if it was fabric on the fold; you have now created your full front pattern.
Also the skirt back is 1/2″ lower than the skirt front. She also covers a quick way to adjust the height of the of the skirt hem.
Since you are sewing with the bias, you will need wider side seam allowances. Sandra adds a whole extra inch for her cutting lines. Note that its only on the side seams…
To make it a real bias skirt pattern however you will need to mark your bias grain lines to reference when cutting.
Lesson 3 – Cutting Out Your Fabric
I found it a little surprising that Sandra didn’t teach you how to straighten the cut lines to get a perfectly straight grain line. The easiest way to find your bias is to fold or measure equal distances at 45 degrees; all of which depends upon having a straight cut in the first place…
Lay out your fabric, and pin one end of your pattern down. Measure the distance between the line and then measure the same distance out between the edges to the fabric to the grain line.
Sandra lays out slippery fabric between the pattern and tissue paper, cutting both; the tissue paper essentially acts as a non-slip surface.
In the case of cutting your fabric only to discover that you don’t have enough fabric for each of your pattern pieces, Sandra shows you how to join two bias pieces (such as two scrap pieces) to make a suitably sized piece of material.
Lesson 4 – Sewing Your Skirt
Setting Up Your Machine
Change your needle so it’s fresh and sharp, including what kind of needle. Know whether you should use cotton or silk thread, or more.
Again Sandra advertises her book.
Sandra suggests presser feet that come with sewing machine guides.
For material that you want to allow to stretch, or might naturally stretch with use, use a zigzag stitch at 2.5mm (or thereabouts) stitch length and 1mm stitch width. It’ll look like a wobbly straight stitch. Difference from a straight stitch is that the zig zag allows the stitches to spread just ever so slightly, allowing for a more natural drape.
Preventing Puckering and Stretch
Sandra stitches an elastic strip, preferable one that matches the colour of your fabric, into the seam. Supposedly this elastic strip will allow the fabric to stretch whilst still bringing it back to the ideal tautness. I am just concerned that without proper treatment could the elastic fall apart, or even create a sticky residue over time that could destroy the fabric?
Stitching the Side Seams
Since Sandra is using a slippery fabric, she uses WonderTape to help stabilise the material together so that it’s easier to sew.
Pressing and Finishing Your Seams
Press as stitched first. Then, press your seams open. You should use a press cloth when pressing on the front side of the fabrics, as some fabrics can change appearance when heat and/or steam is applied. The favourite press cloth for all sewers seem to be silk organza as it is semi-transparent and you can see what exactly you are pressing.
Sandra suggests that whilst ironing your fabric you should stretch it lengthwise, it will stretch the fabric out as if it had been worn several times. This should essentially allow you to hem the skirt straight away rather than letting it hang overnight or longer for the fabric to drop.
Lesson 5 – Waistbands for Unlined Skirts
Preparing Your Elastic
Sandra prefers non-woven elastic with ridges. You should measure your elastic either 2″ (for a looser fit) or 4″ (for a more secure fit) off your waist measurement. Keep in mind that if your fabric is heavier you should use the tighter fit.
When sewing elastic you should use a stretch needle.
To minimise bulk, sew your elastic on to a piece of sturdy fabric such as ribbon. Don’t overlap the elastic, merely butt them up against each other. Then fold your fabric around the elastic like a little casing and sew close.
Attaching the Elastic
Pin the right side of the elastic to the right side of the skirt. Sew the edge of the elastic and the skirt with a zig zag stitch. The stitch should catch the elastic, and then catch the slightly overlapping fabric. Since the elastic is smaller than the skirt, stretch the elastic as you sew. Flip your elastic to the inside. Stitch the bottom of the elastic to the skirt, again pulling the elastic taut.
Wide Elastic Waistbands
If your sewing a wide elastic waistband, you want to sew the fabric at the halfway mark of the elastic rather than the bottom edge. By sewing on the bottom edge, you will get a firm straight silhouette of the elastic, followed by a bit of the muffin top look of the skirt’s fabric flaring out drastically. By sewing at the halfway mark, the fabric will actually gently curve outwards.
Lesson 6 – Optional Lining and Waistband
Some fabric grows and stretches over time, especially when cut on the bias. It’s a good idea to check your waistband’s length, or any other location where fitting is important. Just trim where necessary and resew new seam lines.
Sandra gives a great example of what can happen if you use the wrong kind of needle with certain types of fabric.
Put your skirt and lining right sides together. Your lining should encase your fashion fabric. Sew the two fabrics together, and then flip your fashion fabric to the outside; your seam is now hidden. Topstitch the very edge of the skirt favouring the fashion fabric, this helps to stabilise the two fabrics so that the lining is hidden and makes it much easier to insert a waistband. Using a topstitching or edge stitching presser foot can really help you create smooth top stitching lines. Consider using that 1mm zigzag stitch for your topstitch, allowing that stitching line to stretch a little bit so that it doesn’t break when pulling the skirt on or off.
Attaching the Elastic
Such as in the last lesson, cut your fabric 2″ or 4″ smaller than your waist length. Stitch the elastic cut edge to cut edge, zigzagging across a piece of ribbon or stable fabric. Wrap your ribbon around as a nice casing, and sew it closed again.
Place your elastic between the lining and the fashion fabric. Use pins to hold it in place. Stitch the fashion fabric and the lining together underneath the elastic, but not on the elastic.
Now to stop the elastic from rolling and twisting in its casing, stitch along the side seam ditches to secure the elastic
Sewing the Overlay
Sew the right side of the overlay to the wrong side of the skirt. Again use the same process to attach the elastic, this time sandwiching the elastic between the overlay and the fashion fabric.
Lesson 7 – Marking and Hemming
Sandra uses a nifty little tool called a Hem Marker which is essentially a ruler attached to a square box. It allows her to measure an equal distance from the ground up and very easily mark the bottom of the skirt.
For those of us without a partner or friend to mark our hems, you can get hem markers that are designed for solo use. Great for making your own clothes, as fabric drapes different on different bodies; so no you can’t hem on someone else and wear for you… I kind of want one…
Even out the lines between your pins, if necessary. Then mark 5/8″ down from the pinned line, and this will be your cut line. You want to trim the excess fabric to remove any bulk.
Sandra uses Steam-a-Seam tape to make a rolled hem easier, however the Steam-a-Seam tape isn’t absolutely necessary. After applying the Steam-a-Seam tape, she irons it on (as the name suggests).
Baby Rolled Hem
A name apparently termed by Vogue. Sew 1/4″ to 3/8″ from the edge. Trim 1/8″ from the stitching line off the edge. Roll it once again on itself, and the hem will be much finer than a standard rolled hem.
I do this all with my 4mm or 6mm rolled hem presser feet. I love them.
A polyester can be sealed by fire. Definitely try on a test piece of fabric first. Using a match, just hold the fabric near the heat, and it should stiffen enough that no threads can be pulled loose.
Double-Fold Bias Hem
How to describe this… It’s sort of like a bias bound hem, only the double-fold bias tape has already been pre-pressed to enclose the bias’ raw edges.
Ideally hand-stitching is invisible from the right side. In the first example, Sandra does an invisible back stitch. The second example is a running stitch. Sandra does suggest a great tip; after several stitches make a not in your thread, that way if you happen to kick out the hem only a small portion of thread will be ripped.
This is an absolutely perfect hem to do when you have accidentally cut your skirt too short (oops).
We are going to create a hem with two right sides – one facing your body and one facing the world. Think a bias hem in a sense. Decide how much extra length you want on your skirt. Double this length to make the front and back facings of the fabric, then add 1″ extra for seam allowances. So if you want to add an extra 2″ section to your skirt, you will need to cut a fabric piece thats 5″ in width. Cut extra length. Fold one edge at a diagonal angle, and cut diagonally.
Right sides together, sew your fashion fabric and the extension fabric together, leaving a couple of inches around that diagonal cut that we made. What you want to do is slide that extra length of extension fabric inside that diagonal hole that you made. You want to just get past that diagonal fold; you can trim any extra unneeded fabric. Pin and then sew the remaining extension to the skirt. You may also want to hand stitch the very fold of the diagonal pieces.
Serge or zigzag the raw seam inside the skirt, and then fold and top stitch.
Lesson 8 – Beyond Bias Basics
Sandra shows us the finished skirts, including a couple of blouses that she has sewn.
If you can’t sew buttons, or are worried about sewing into a specific material, sew the buttons on the outside and stick snaps underneath. It will look like there is button there, but none of the fuss.
Installing an Invisible Zipper
If your invisible zipper is too long, you can zigzag at the length you want it to end at. You are creating a new zipper stop with a bar tack. Then just go ahead and cut off the excess.
Sandra shows you the difference between a standard zipper foot and an invisible zipper foot. It would have been nice for the camera to zoom in more for those of you who don’t know the difference. If you don’t have an invisible zipper foot you can use a pin tuck or pearls and piping foot instead.
Cut a 1″ wide strip of interfacing in the non-stretch direction. Cut it 1.5″ or so longer than the zipper; this will beef up the zipper weight so that it won’t stick out at the bottom. It doesn’t need to be a heavy interfacing, just enough to stabilise the fabric.
Attach the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric where you will be inserting the zipper. You don’t need the seams to be sewn.
Unzip the zipper and lay it open so that you can see the teeth. Press it, rolling the teeth under. To tell if you have pressed it enough, zip it closed. It should be able to stand up on it’s own.
On the front side, where you can see the tab, lay some WonderTape. Position your zipper on the seam allowance, with the skirt and zipper’s right sides together.
Using a straight stitch on your sewing machine, slide the zipper under one of the grooves in the zipper foot. If you can move the needle position, place it as close as possible to the zipper teeth – unless you are using a thick fabric. Sew until the zipper foot bumps into the zipper stop.
Line up the other side of the skirt’s material. Attach the WonderTape, if you have it, and sew the other side.
Finally, sew the bottom of the zipper to the seam allowance to secure it.
Bias Across a Princess Seam
In this lesson Sandra attaches a bias strip between two princess seams; there is no way to line up the pattern on the fashion fabric so she creates an interesting effect that separates the pattern.
Bias Strip Binding
Sanda shows you how to find the bias of material by folding the corner over. Then measure out 2″ of width, and then cut your strip. You will need to press in your seam allowance on the bias tape. You will also need to cut the seam allowance off the fashion fabric. Sew the right side of the bias tape to the right side of the fabric, so that once its sewn you can flip it over nicely and all the seams should be hidden.
“Don’t be impatient, you get better every day. Don’t be a perfectionist either; look at ready to wear, they aren’t perfect either”.
Sandra doesn’t seem as organised as other Craftsy tutors; there are often mass amounts of materials on her table in jumbled messes. Compare this to other tutors who have material and garments in neat piles until they show them, and once shown they are usually hidden from our view.
Sandra doesn’t really give a good example of the skirt you are going to make, she holds it up quite briefly and then puts it down. In the same lesson she shows three inspiration garments on mannequins, so I question as to why she didn’t put the class garment on a mannequin too; after all that’s more important than the inspirational garments…
It really bugged me when Sandra will be trying to show us an example when part of her material – the sections she is working on – is hanging off the end of table. I think that a better joint effort between Sandra and the filmers as to the best viewing angles would have solved some of the problems.
Given the number of extra commercial products that Sandra uses – Steam-a-Seam, WonderTape, branded needles, branded pens… – I ask if it’s necessary to advertise them as much as she did. It makes me suspect some sort of affiliation there? In general I don’t have anything against affiliates – I use them after all – however when you’re paying for content I don’t think that extra advertising should be pushed upon you. My affiliates are used to help cover the costs of running this website, allowing me to provide you with free material. Another gripe that I had with the use of so many commercial products is that this class is designed for beginners, and they are products that a beginner most likely doesn’t have in their possession and potentially don’t want to spend extra money on.
Watching Sandra try and match the stripes on the skirt she is sewing the zipper into is a bit of a pain. Clip the fabric, no that doesn’t work; clip the zipper, no that doesn’t work either; mark with chalk… This is all things she should have tested first before filming.
She points out a problem with the invisible zipper, showing where it bulges. “Why did it do that?” Don’t hold your breath… “Who knows!”
- Vogue Pattern No 1333 is provided with the class, shipping and shipping costs may or may not apply to you.
- Metric Conversion Chart, as provided with every Craftsy class.
- Supplies and Resources PDF which recommends fabric, notion and tools that you will need for the class.
So did Sewing on the Bias live up to it’s expectations? It’s easy to assume that this class was designed for a beginner to intermediate; someone who has experience with sewing but no experience with sewing on the bias.
I personally found several flaws with the class that just did not live up to my expectation of quality; especially when charging $50 per person to potentially thousands of people. I also think that much of the content taught isn’t immediately helpful for the average home sewer; to really benefit from most of Sandra’s techniques they need to buy commercial products like Steam-A-Seam and WonderTape.
The class may be helpful for someone who has never worked with bias at all, however I find myself hesitant to recommend this class to anyone beyond a beginner.