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Fabrics for Bias Cut

Why is drape important when choosing fabric for a bias cut garment?
The act of placing a garment’s pattern pieces on a 45 degree angle to the straight of grain (called the “bias” grain) allows certain woven fabrics to collapse and shape to the body. Garments designed to be cut on the bias grain require fabric that will collapse or “stretch” on the bias grain. This is just as important for bias cut garments as stretch is for patterns designed for knit fabrics. 
 
If you would like more inforation about fabrics for bias-cut garments, you can download a poriton of our book, Bias Cut Blueprints, here: Fabrics for Bias-Cut
 
We know it can be difficult to purchase fabric on the internet because you can not assess the fabric’s hand and drape. We decided to help out by inventing a scale of how much drape a fabric has and relating it to our fabrics and our patterns. We called this scale the “Drape Factor”.
 
What do we mean by Drape Factor?
The scale we designed is from one to ten with one being the least drapey – as in almost as stiff as paper, and ten being the most drippy, luscious, drapey fabric in existence. Below is a quick diagram of our scale. See below for more examples:
 
Drape Factor 1
 
Drape Factor 10
Muslin or Quilting Cotton
4-Ply Silk Crepe or Heavy Silk Charmeuse
 
What factors affect drape in woven fabrics?
Drape is what allows woven fabric to hang straight down to the floor – gravity has lots of pull on it. We at Fashion in Harmony are interested in how well a fabric drapes on the bias grain. For a fabric to drape well on the bias it must have the right weave, weight, and softness. 
 
Weave: An open weave is best for bias garments. Is the weave open enough that when turned on a 45 degree angle, the fabric can collapse and form to the body?
 
Weight: How much does gravity pull on the fabric? 
 
Softness: This property describes how the fabric feels in the hand. Does it retain its’ shape when held in different orientations? If it does, it is likely too stiff to drape well on the bias. The fabric may have a stiffening finish on it.   Quilting cottons, Irish linens, and organdy all have properties that make the fabric stiff. Sometimes these properties can be removed or lessened with washing.
 
Fabric with good drape on the bias is often made with natural fibers, is woven in either a plain weave or a crepe weave (crepe yarns), and has a soft hand. Some fabrics are heavy and soft, but they are so tightly woven the spaces between the threads don’t open up when the fabric is hung on the bias. 
 
Here are some common examples of each point on the Drape Factor scale:
Drape Factor
Example Fabric
Explanation
1
Muslins (Toiles)
 
Quite stiff. Despite open weave, it does not open up and drape when hung on bias.
Microfibers
Weighty and soft, but the weave is too tight to open on the bias.
2
Bed Sheets
Minimum acceptable drape for bias garments is represented by 100% cotton bed sheets that have been washed a few times. 
3
Some Rayon Challis
Drape well after washing. The weave is open and allows the fabric to open along the bias grain and do its magic. Doesn’t cling to or hug the body at all; creates a casual look.
4
Some Heavier Rayon Fabrics
Those with texture in the weave open on the bias.
5
Sandwashed Silks & Rayons
Enzyme washed to soften the fibers, create a soft hand, and open beautifully on the bias. Relatively tight weave prevents a higher drape factor.
6
Heavier Weight Sandwashed Silks & Rayons
Soft, with an open weave, but light weight prevents strong drape.
7
Single & Double Ply Rayon, Silk, & Wool Crepes
An elegant, sophisticated look and a soft hand.
8
Heavy Crepes
Extra weight gives more drape on the bias.
9
Heavy Silk Charmeuse
Hard to find today. 1930’s stars wore this in their glorious, drippy, delicious, bias-cut evening gowns. It looks like liquid metal.
10
4-ply Silk Crepe
Amazing fabric. Looks alive! Weight, weave, & softness in spades.


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