Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sewing a Bias Cut Top

Does everyone else's life just seem really busy and insane right now? In between trying new craft projects and attempting to create things, I'm preparing myself for an 821 mile move... which is happening a month from today!! I can't even believe how fast my summer is going by. Then I become a full-time Ph.D. student and who knows if I'll ever have time for blogging or any other kind of fun again... :) but hopefully I do!

Anyway, luckily I have a project to share that was kind of really exciting for me to make. You ready?!

Note: Please forgive the beer bottles that are in some of the pictures. I was using them to hold down my pattern paper and my fabric, cause they're pretty convenient for that purpose.

First, a short explanation of what 'bias' means. For a detailed description, go to this post from Make it & Love it, which is very informative. But basically, the bias of a fabric is at a 45 degree angle to the selvage/selvedge of the fabric. Woven fabric, which normally doesn't have stretch, will stretch slightly when you pull it on the bias. A shirt cut on the bias doesn't need darts, which would normally create a more snug fit. And unless you make it skin-tight, it doesn't need a zipper or whatever in order for you to get it on. Woo!

What you need:
About 2 yards of woven fabric (less if you don't need to line it)
Coordinating thread
Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
Existing, well-fitting top to trace over (not necessary but helpful)

1. Trace an existing top, or a sloper.

If you need to know how to draft a sloper, I highly recommend this set of tutorials. I chose to take the easy way and trace a shirt I already owned which is cut on the bias.

See, here's where the beer comes in... I didn't drink any of it! 
Lay out your pattern paper and put the top/sloper flat on top of it. This is easier if you turn the top inside out, so that you're able to trace right around the seams without ruffles and stuff getting in the way.

You'll want to kind of hold down/pin down (I didn't want to pin cause my existing top is a silky, nice fabric and I didn't want to ruin it) the corners and stuff so you can get a good idea of the actual shape you're tracing. I gave it some seam allowance even though I'm actually tracing the seam, just in case.

This is what it should look like when you're done! If you can't see, it says "Back - CUT ON BIAS" so that I know for next time.

Now do the front.

It's pretty much the same concept. Lay flat, trace.

2. Lay out your fabric and cut.

The important thing here is to remember that we're cutting on the bias! This means you will have to lay out your fabric and pattern a little differently. See in my picture how the top of the pattern is pointed toward a corner of the fabric? That's what you need to do. It felt to me like I was wasting a LOT of fabric. You can see on the top also that there's some sleeve-y things.. ignore those for now, we'll get there. I didn't even cut them out.

Pin the paper down and cut carefully.

The fabric that I'm using is a lightweight white broadcloth that I got for $2/yard at fabric.com. Woo! But because it's so light and mostly see-through, I cut two layers for each side. So my finished shirt is four layers thick. In the above picture, I have cut one layer of the front. I laid down the layer I cut on top of new fabric and cut an exact copy for the lining.

3. Break down and buy a rotary cutter/mat.

This step is not strictly necessary... but dear lord was I sick of trying to cut this with scissors, mangling my pretty fabric that I paid real money for. So I made an 8:30 journey to JoAnn's (they close at 9) and purchased my first rotary cutter and mat. And they've pretty much revolutionized my life. Can we all just take a second to be thankful that JoAnn's exists?!

Using my AWESOME new tools (toys... except a rotary cutter is not a toy!) I cut out two of the back pattern piece, as well. So we now have four pieces of shirt-shaped fabric, two of the front and two of the back. (Each two are pinned together in the below picture.)

4. Trace... or improvise... sleeves.

Here, I had kind of a problem with the sleeves. You can see above that there are no sleeves or straps on this tracing. Well, the sleeve of my existing top looks like this:

It's basically one thin strip of fabric with ruffles sewn to it. I didn't want to try to replicate that for this top, so I decided I would do a really basic tank top strap. I measured the tiny strip there and it was 5", so I went with that measurement. I think if I did it again, I'd make the finished product an inch longer.

Cut out two straight strips of fabric. Mine are 10x2", because I wanted the finished straps to be about 2 inches wide and I folded them in half to get the 5 inch strap length. I don't think it's as important that these strips be sewn on the bias.

Fold them in half so the two short ends are together, right sides facing. Now sew up each of the long sides so it's like a little pouch. Don't sew the short sides. Through the opening of the short side, pull out the fabric so you now have a little tube with the right side out. Then, fold to the inside a little bit (like half an inch) of the edge so the raw edges are no longer sewing. We aren't going to sew that shut yet (cause I don't want to create extra seams/bulk), but it's best to press it with a hot iron so it doesn't come unfolded.

Here's the straps! The one on the right has the ends folded inside and the one on the left doesn't yet.

5. Sew the side seams together.

So here is where I simultaneously forgot to take photos and messed up a little. I pinned on the straps and tried on the top to make sure it fit... and it didn't. Too small. So, before I sewed the side seams together and created a shirt for children, I had to improvise.

In order to add width to the shirt, I created two panels that I would insert between the front and back parts of the shirt. The panels are about 3" wide, so they add approximately 6" of total width to the shirt. This means that my shirt has kind of four side seams, but if you didn't somehow screw up your tracing, you'd only have two, like normal. (Honestly I still have no idea how I messed it up... tracing is like, a kindergarten-level task. And I'm going to be a Ph.D student. Maybe that doesn't bode well.)

All you have to do, though, is sew the sides seams of the shirt together, right sides facing. In my case, that just meant sewing four seams instead of two. No biggie.

6. Hem or add bias tape to the arm holes and neckline.

Still no pictures... oops.

So we need to finish the edges of our top. You can either choose to hem them  or add bias tape. I chose the bias tape method, cause I kind of loathe hemming. I am not super good at it. Since we haven't added the straps on yet, we basically have one giant edge to finish: all the way around the left armhole, neckline, right armhole, and back neckline. If you have enough store-bought bias tape, you're golden. If you love hemming and are a hemming superhero, you're golden. Have at it.

I chose to make my own bias tape, so that the fabric matches exactly. Someday perhaps I will put up a tutorial for that, but for now, you can follow this one: Prudent Baby bias tape tutorial. Although that one says that you shouldn't try to iron it by hand and should instead buy a tool. But if you are cheap or poor, or both, like me, ironing by hand is just fine. Stupid and time consuming, but fine.

So, sew on your bias tape (or hem) all around the top of your shirt. You can also do the bottom, but I hemmed that.

7. Hem the bottom of the shirt.

Look a picture!! Okay so for hemming, it became a little difficult because of the fact that we're folding and then sewing two layers of fabric the whole way around. They can get a little unruly. It's kind of hard to keep the fold at an even width the whole way around, but power through.

Turn the shirt inside out. Fold the bottom edge up a half inch, then up another half inch so that the raw edges are contained inside that fold. Pin and then press to keep in place. Do that all the way around. Then, sew with a straight stitch all the way around.

8. Add the straps.

I chose to sew the straps so that they are on the outside of the top. The edges of them are visible when I'm wearing it. (The picture is a view of the inside, so you can see the top of the little point thing. That's not visible when I have the shirt on.)

Place where you want them, pin, and sew with a zig-zag stitch. I did mine with a fairly low stitch length cause I think it looks better.

Yay you! You've just created a bias-cut top that you will probably cherish for all your days, right? Thought so. 

As always, I'm glad to hear any comments or questions!

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  1. Sweet top! Love the tutorial! Pinning to my style board:) Stop by at http://www.sewsweetvintage.com/2013/07/bicycle-basket-up-cycle.html

  2. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog and for the sweet comments on my peplum skirt. You should join our beginning sewing group here! (https://www.facebook.com/groups/stitchonceriptwice/) We will be starting our third challenge next week, which will be due some time in October. Even if you just stalk the rest of us, it would be great to have you!

    P.S. - I'm Bloglovin' follower #2!

  3. TFS!! This is great. Pretty top. Stopping by from Sew Much Ado and a follower.

    Here is what I shared this week: http://craftybrooklynarmywife.blogspot.com/2013/06/update-and-es-lounge-pants.html