The Ruby Slip #2 – Cutting the Bias Skirt

Let’s move on to cutting the skirt portion of the Ruby Slip.  If we want the bias skirt to hang nicely, accuracy is paramount here!  In this tutorial I am cutting my black Ruby Slip, which I thought I ironed especially for the photo…..

The best way to cut the skirt is in a single layer right side up, and I’ve provided full pattern pieces so it is easy to do this accurately.  By the way, if you don’t have your free Ruby Slip pattern downloaded yet, all the details are here.

You will need a cutting area the size of your fabric – if you don’t have a large cutting table then use the floor (I do!)  If you do use a table, it is important that there is no cloth hanging off the end – this will drag the grain out of alignment and cause distortion in the hang of the skirt.

I’ve read all sorts of things about tissue underlays and tissue overlays, but I get the best cutting results the old-fashioned way – by chalking around the pattern piece with tailors chalk, so this is the method I will describe.

When you spread your fabric, it is imperative that the horizontal and vertical grainlines of the fabric are square across the whole piece.

  • The selvedges and lengthwise grain should be parallel for the full length of the cloth – my floorboards came with a handy grainline!  They are nice and slippery too which makes the cloth ‘float’ into position.
  • The horizontal crossgrain must be perpendicular to the selvedge across the piece, examine the grain closely.  If you have plenty of cloth you can tear it into two blocks, one for each skirt piece, to assist in squaring the crossgrain.
  • There should be no ‘bubbles’ – gently smooth them out so the grain remains square.
  • At this point the cat usually comes along and has a lie down!
  • Place some weights on the fabric so it stays in place as you work, you could tape the selvedges in a few spots too if that helps (use Magic Tape), removing them when you start to cut.

Lay your pattern pieces on top Right Side Up, taking care not to disturb the grain.  The grainline arrows need to be parallel to the selvedge, so measure from each end of the arrow to the selvedge, and adjust until the distances are equal:

Lay a couple of weights on top and start chalking around the pattern piece. Chalking takes a bit of practice to become skilled at – and to be honest doing it on the bias isn’t the easiest place to start – but once you have the knack it is really proficient.  No more pinning and unpinning, and no more little wavers where the pins created a bump!   Here are some random tips:

  • Chalking is easiest with card patterns. It is possible with copy paper, almost impossible with tissue!
  • Place some pressure with your fingers near the edge of the pattern, and the fabric will be held firm by the paper as you sweep with your (sharpened) chalk. Use a ruler on long straight edges.
  • Press in towards the pattern piece as you chalk to form an accurate outline.
  • If the cloth starts moving, press more lightly, you don’t need a bold line.
  • Sweeping in some directions is easier than others because of the grain – changing direction can help, as can shorter strokes.
  • You can see brief glimpses of the real thing here in this video to give you the idea.

Don’t forget to chalk the notches at this stage – once the panel is cut and lifted it is hard to remark them accurately, and they are really important for attaching the bodice correctly and sewing a nice side seam.

Also remember to chalk the strap pattern piece now – the measurements for this are provided in the sewing instructions, and a metre rule will be helpful for this.

The great thing about chalking, is that the cutting lines are marked directly on the fabric so you know exactly where to cut, even if the fabric subsequently moves – and lets face it, if you are cutting a single layer of slippery fabric it is going to move the moment you slip the blade of your shears under it!

You can remove the weights for cutting out, it doesn’t really matter if the fabric moves a bit once it is marked – in fact you could pick the whole piece up and turn it around and your chalk marks will still be in the right place!

For the record, you cut the inside line of the chalk, where the edge of the pattern was.  Clip the notches 3-4mm into the seam allowance with the tip of your shears.

Once you have cut a piece, fold it in half right side in and place a small chalk cross on the reverse so it is easy to tell right from wrong sides.  Try not to overhandle the pieces and distort the grain, and don’t hang them up either, just leave them lightly folded for now – ok, you can quickly hold the front up against yourself to admire how your new slip is going to look for a moment!

A few miscellaneous notes:

  • Quite a few of you are asking about an FBA, and yes I will show how this is done.  If you are forging ahead yourself, keep in mind that the underbust region needs to remain large enough to slip over the bustline, so the skirt will need altering also.
  • I don’t recommend using this pattern for a stretch fabric if you plan to cut the CF/CB on the lengthwise grain, the skirt is designed for a bias cut and will not hang correctly.  However you could try a lightweight blouse fabric with 2% lycra in it and cut it on the bias.
  • You could make adjustable lingerie straps using bra rings and sliders, or you could use purchased ribbon for straps.  

Tomorrow we get stuck into the lace – Happy Cutting!

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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

19 thoughts on “The Ruby Slip #2 – Cutting the Bias Skirt

  1. Thank you Sherry, for providing this pattern! I'm intrigued that cutting the “skirt” part of the slip on the straight grain will result in it not hanging correctly. I'll will tape the pattern up and see if I can answer my own question! Sar's p.s Can I come back here for an answer if I can't figure it out?


  2. Wow ! Thanks for all the tips. I've never used before the chalk, but I'll give it a try this time (thanks for telling us to cut inside the line…details, details, details!)
    I'll wait till the FBA to cut my fabric (I'm between C and D cup!)
    Thanks again!


  3. Thanks for the key info – I like the idea of chaulking the lines — but how do you sharpen the chaulk? I can't find any info on that.
    also, wish the pattern was graded for a larger size. I would love to do the sew along, but I am a very ample sized person and your pattern is much too small.. : { but I am enjoying reading the sewalong. Lynn in Virgina


  4. Lynn – I sharpen my chalk by scraping the edges with a blade. I designed the pattern sheet so it is really easy to grade up or down a size if you wish – give it a go!


  5. Aloha Sherry! When I print the first page of your pattern, the box measures 9.25 cm instead of 10 cm. Should I just make a size that is a bit larger, or do you know of a way to get the box to be 10 cm when you print it out? Thanks.


  6. I had the same printing problem as MushyWear. What you do is when the printer's dialog box pops up, you need to make sure that the page scaling is set on “none”, otherwise the printer “shrinks the page to fit” and you end up with the 9.25 cm.


  7. I started chalking because pinning and cutting took too long and didn't seem very accurate. My chalk tracing is nowhere near as detailed as your method, but now I know I'm not being lazy. Chalking is a “real” technique.


  8. Sherry, this is a nice description of chalking (and I love that tailoring video with him using those ginormous scissors to clip!). Thanks for taking the time to explain. I started doing this two years ago and it has really helped my cutting especially on slippery silks or knits. I finally bought a cheap little chalk sharpener which also helps (it starts to drag when it's not sharp!). I'm still hunting down lace…


  9. Hi Sherry. Looks great!! A handy tip I picked up in a tailoring class… was to use soap instead of chalk. It always glides on in one smooth motion and washes off easily too. You have to use the old fashioned bar of soap and use the small whittled down pieces that usually gets thrown away. You'll never look back :). Kylie


  10. Hi Sherry – I know it's been awhile but would you happen to remember the name of that beautiful white with black cherry fabric posted above? I am so in love with it and and dying to get my hands on some. Please let me know, you can reach me at

    Thank you so much – I also can't wait to sew up your Ruby Slip, I will post a pic in your flickr group when it's done!


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