Bias cut failure

Friends, it’s only right on this blog to show you some of the things that don’t work out, lest you think I’m some sort of patternmaking genius who nails everything first time every time.

Last week I started working on the September instalment of A Year of Zero Waste Sewing, which will discuss bias cut. I thought to include a pattern in this one, maybe a camisole or full slip that could also be a sundress or top.

The aim is for something zero waste, bias cut (preferably with the seams sewn on the straight grain and hanging on the bias), potential to create 20 sizes, and with instructions that will fit into 5 x A5 pages in a zine.

I had as inspiration this picture from a 1920s magazine:

Yep, it’s not zero waste, but it shows some interesting ideas for using a square as a starting point.

A few years ago I tried making a version of this, but put it aside for another day. I dug it out, but I could only find the sample I sewed, not the sketchbook which had the cutting details in it. It should have been in the bookcase with the others but I simply couldn’t find it.

No matter (although I hope the book turns up). I unpicked the sample and reverse-engineered it.

Another hitch: I’ve gone up at least a size since making the sample (which was pre-pandemic) and it clearly wouldn’t fit anymore. I summoned my grading powers and the mightiness of Pythagoras, and with much hard thinking made it a bigger size.

It’s cut from a single square of 112cm wide fabric. This is what it looks like:

For anyone interested in how I got this out of a square, below are my construction notes. I folded the square into a triangle first, then cut.

I ran up a new sample and tried it on. Given the chilly weather, I was reluctant to take off too many layers.

It has issues (can you tell by the look on my face?). For a start, it’s waaay too long. Who wears ankle length full slips these days? As well, it would get longer as the sizes get bigger, so by the time we arrive at a 72″ hips it’s going to be flowing on the floor. Even if it were cut into a camisole + half slip set, the slip would still be below knee length.

I showed it to my pattern editor/mentor, Anthea, who said the bust gathers were a bad idea (not her exact words) and she was right. Full slips need smooth lines.

It’s not a complete failure though, just another step in getting it right if I decide to go in this direction. If not, I have three other ideas to try.



  1. Laurinda on July 13, 2023 at 4:37 am

    It might be a failure as a slip, but from here in the northern hemisphere, it looks like a very cute summer dress

    • lizhaywood on July 13, 2023 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks for your kind comment! I’ve been thinking about how I can use this in other ways but the length is the big sticking point, as it will be flowing on the ground for larger sizes.

      • Laurinda on July 13, 2023 at 10:41 pm

        Think of the excess hem as yardage to make a headband, shawl, or other accessory, rather than call it a failure

    • Emily on July 14, 2023 at 2:37 pm

      For someone who is basically living in strappy maxi dresses right now this looks amazing! I’m wondering if the 1920s version could be made zero-waste by using the extra bits as straps and pockets?

      • lizhaywood on July 15, 2023 at 8:58 am

        It could do – there are 4 triangles and 4 skinny triangle-y strips to use up, and it has side seams that pockets could be inserted into.

  2. Adele Fletcher on July 13, 2023 at 3:47 pm

    Yay! A 1920s inspired pattern. Can’t wait til you finalise this one!

    I confess that I use a cut down strappy version of the much-abused 1920s one-hour dress for slips and nighdresses. It’s very economical but not zero waste.

    The magic bias slip from Fashion Service magazine (August 1931, pg. 14) blows my mind. Again not zero waste but a lot of Pythagaros.

    • lizhaywood on July 13, 2023 at 10:51 pm

      I came across that magic bias slip in my online travels – it’s pretty clever!

  3. Mary E Warner on July 14, 2023 at 7:36 am

    Hi, Liz – Thanks so much for showing us something that didn’t quite work out as planned. It helps me feel better about my own sewing projects that don’t quite work out.

    On a different topic, do you happen to have a pattern for a zero- or low-waste tunic top? I looked in your Etsy shop and did a search on your website, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for.


    • lizhaywood on July 14, 2023 at 12:28 pm

      Cheers, Mary – it’s way more common than anyone sees!
      Tunic top ideas: the tessellated dress in the Zero Waste Sewing book could be adapted. Goldfinch Textile studio’s Eddie smock might be suitable (on Instagram here). Zero Waste Design Collective’s pattern library might have something.

      • Mary E Warner on July 15, 2023 at 5:45 am

        Thanks for the tunic top resources, Liz! I’ve recently become a little obsessed with them and I was pretty sure you’d have some ideas for zero-waste patterns for them. 🙂

  4. jane a butters on July 31, 2023 at 7:25 am

    dear liz
    just bought your book,many thanks,I collect vintage sewing mags and books…over two thousand now,but I am saving them from being pulped…anyway I do have a tiny tiny pattern on graph paper on how to make a cami knicker,it will be a very small size as it is in a war time magazine,but I could send it to you if you would like,please dont over do stuff, no doubt you have seen the slip that is around that has lots of squares and such,sorry am tired and memory fails me
    love jane

    • lizhaywood on July 31, 2023 at 6:11 pm

      Hi Jane, thanks very much for getting my book, and thanks for rescuing vintage books and patterns and being their custodian. You’re right about overdoing stuff – I think I tried too hard with this one. Since writing this post I’ve put it aside and made a very successful bias cut top (without overthinking it). Cheers! Liz x

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