One of my goals for 2020 was to experiment a little with more advanced techniques, and working with bias is one that I’ve been interested in for a little while. When I saw that one of the classes at Sew Expo this year was “Making a Bias Tee”, I made sure to sign up as quick as possible when booking opened! I’ve also wrapped the rest of my Sew Expo trip in at the bottom as I forgot, as usual, to take many photos, but wanted to document it again this year. This was pretty much the last time I was out as the Covid 19 situation ramped up right after this, but I was glad to attend something before everything shut down.
Before I get into details though – a little intro to what I mean by experimenting with bias. I’ve flicked through the odd fashion history and famous designer book since I started sewing and was rather captivated by the work of Madeleine Vionnet (amongst others).
I’m sure many of you know all about her, but for those who may not, Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975) was the pioneer of bias cut clothing (if not the inventor) who became notable in the world of fashion in the 1920s when she attracted the world’s gaze for her stunningly draped dresses. She was obsessed with ancient Greece and abhorred the idea of “fashion”, in the whimsical, seasonal sense of being fashionable.
For Vionnet, the ideal dress was one which lived in symbiosis with a woman’s own body shape, which flattered her curves by skimming over them, and it was this that led her to create the most beautiful gowns based on bias cut fabric, which, at 45 degrees to the grainline, has the stretch to drape gracefully and flow softly around the natural curves of the body, with a (hopefully) flattering effect.
My own understanding is that bias cut fabric is rather tricky to work with and requires a totally different approach, particularly if you’re using it in a non-linear way, with draping, triangular inserts, circular pieces or diagonal seams. Like me, you’ll have dealt with it already in a small way, when cutting necklines or circle skirt pieces and stay-stitching to avoid them stretching, as any decent curve will end up being cut at least partly on the bias. Perhaps I’ll go more into detail about Vionnet later as I uncover more about her techniques and try some pieces out (I know there’s plenty of good info around), but suffice it to say I was sufficiently intrigued to investigate further.
As far as my own sewing goes, the first thing I did was to watch a Bluprint class on Bias Draping, presented by Paul Gallo. This was a really interesting peek into the world of bias draping on a form and I was fascinated at the method – both of achieving the shape, but also of transferring it to paper. I was all geared up to try the class project and had requisitioned a willing
victim model, but unfortunately… well, you know what happened next, so my draping project will have to wait a while longer.
As an aside, did you know that all Bluprint classes are free until April 9th? I’m actually a subscriber, but if you’re not, it’s a great opportunity to try some out while we’re all stuck at home. There are some great classes on there! I can particularly recommend the Cashmerette FBA video (and I’d done many before I watched it), Adjust the Bust and all of the Beverly Johnson classes. I’ve also heard great things about the Suzy Furrer classes, but have yet to take those.
Anyway, in the end, my first real bias experience was indeed the bias tee class at Sew Expo. Now, there are several ways of approaching bias clothing. You could of course use a regular pattern, but cut your pieces on the bias. I have definitely done this before to create some visual interest and any piece with a curve is going to be at least partially cut on the bias in any case. However, the pattern we worked on in class was a pattern designed entirely for bias, which was super interesting!
What this means is that all the seams are on the diagonal and in rather strange places, when compared to a standard tee or top. You can see the crazy shape of the pattern pieces above. This picture shows the front piece I believe, and there are only two pieces to the pattern anyway. I’ve been trying to find a source for the bias tee pattern, but haven’t been successful. The teachers were from Dragonfly Dyeworks, but I don’t see anything on their website, so I’m afraid I can’t direct you anywhere.
The idea is that the top pretty much wraps around you and you sew the seams on the diagonal, which then magically form two sleeve pieces and the relevant tee shape. It’s very simple construction (of course we staystitched the neckline before doing anything) and the effect is interesting. I was rather dubious as to how well this would fit me (if at all), but was pleasantly surprised when I tried it on back at my hotel.
It feels quite unlike a normal tee to wear. I think you just don’t realise how much you are used to the regular straight seams and weighting of your average tee/top. This bias cut tee feels entirely different to wear, but not unpleasantly so. Not at all, actually. You immediately understand what is meant by the effect of a bias cut garment draping (but not clinging) to your body. It feels very natural actually – almost as if you’re being hugged gently. I’m quite pleased with this aspect from the side. Forget the funky stuff happening at the armhole/shoulders – that’s partly the style, but also the result of me eating my way through lockdown so far, hah. It didn’t look like that when I made it. I do, however, like the gentle cling over the tummy. It’s more flattering than the sudden drop off from my bust in a regular woven top and makes me think I’d like to go further down this road…
I finished the neckline with bias tape and actually left the sleeve and body hems raw. I’ve been informed (and have read) that fabric cut on the bias doesn’t fray, so I’m going to test that theory! Another important note is that I left the top to hang for several days before I cut the hem, which is always advisable for a bias-cut garment, as I’m sure you know if you’re made any sort of circle skirt or dress before. I then cut the hem and made rather a bad job of it, lol. Oh well. Overall: my first dip into the world of bias cut garments is achieved, and I’m keen to try more.
I’ll just finish off with a few more pics from Sew Expo. I didn’t take many as always, so sorry about that, but here are the few I have:
I took a class called “Knock-Offs and Adaptions”, which was about copying your favourite ready-to-wear garments, mostly. I have one dress that I’ve had for yeeeaarrrss that I love and I picked up quite a few tips on how to get a faithful reproduction of it, so I was pleased with that.
I also went to a class where we made Baby Moccasins, which are sooo cute! It was taught by two lovely ladies from the Colville Reservation here in Washington and I really enjoyed their intro, learning more about the history of the moccasin and, of course, giving it a go. This one is naturally completely unadorned, but they gave us ideas on beading, embroidery and many other lovely things. Great class!
Finally, I took a class with the wonderful Cheryl of Paradiso Designs, where we learnt about painting fabric with watercolours. I mostly learnt that you don’t need much water to paint fabric as my lovely design flooded the fabric before my eyes, but it was so much fun to let loose and let the creative juices do their thing. Cheryl is such a great lady and I recommend checking out her blog for tons of great info on sewing, and, in particular, bag-making.
Otherwise I met up with sewing friends and perused the wares on sale, which takes some time. I’m kicking myself because I didn’t take a picture of my purchases, but they were partly from Drygoods Design, which gets my vote for booth of Sew Expo 2020 for fabric. Keli really knocked it out of the park this year and I bought several pieces: a beautifully soft lightweight canvas for a test I’ve been working on and the craziest soft jersey, which I’m going to fashion into a sweater, most likely. Oh, I also bought a paper version of the Cuff Top from Assembly Line, which I’ve been wanting for a while, so watch this space. I could have bought the whole booth though – seriously.
I also bought quite a few pieces from Pendleton because they had yardage for $10/yard on the last day (!!), so I got some denim chambray, gabardine and striped blanket fabric for a song. I got to spend time with my friends Crissy, who is the brainchild behind label company Stitch Collective (check her labels out – they’re amazing) and Jodie, who has the best IG name @mystashislegal. Hah. I also want to say hello to Jill, a lovely lady who stopped me with her friend to say she recognised me from the blog and enjoyed reading it. We were both on our way to classes, so didn’t have much time to chat, but I wanted to say thank you – it really made my day!!
And that’s it for another year! Wow – this turned out longer than I planned. If you’re still reading this far, well done – you win a chance to try Bluprint’s classes free for the next week! Woooo! Sorry – it’s late here. I hope you’re still all keeping well and busy and hope to talk to you soon!