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PatternReview Blog > Matching Plaids: A Tutorial - Part 1
Matching Plaids: A Tutorial - Part 1By DianeSev on 7/11/13 11:11 AM

by mportuesisf 

It’s unfortunate that I like plaids. I spent all of a Saturday cutting out the fabric for my Springtime Seersucker Shirt.

Some Other Ways To Do Plaid Matching

It seems like there are several methods for matching plaid patterns, so that the pieces nicely match each other at the seams in the finished garment. No matter the approach, all of them have to work at the cutting stage. Once the pieces are cut, the way they will match each other in the finished garment has already been determined.

Tasia at the Sewaholic Blog offers this tutorial for matching plaids, which is well worth reading. Her approach has two major steps: first, you fold the fabric, then align and pin the two sides together at each repeat point of the pattern. Secondly, you mark the pattern piece, with pencil, where the pattern lines fall on a pattern piece. You extend those lines onto the adjoining pattern piece, then use that as a guide for cutting out the subsequent pieces.

I kind of like this approach – it’s pretty simple to follow. But it’s also a lot of pinning, since you end up pinning the fabric everywhere, then pinning the pattern piece to the fabric. And I’m not sure what you do when the fabric anchoring pins fall on the cut lines of your pattern pieces. I guess you have to carefully remove them so you don’t cut over them, and it’s even more work.

The Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide To Sewing offers a really thorough discussion of this topic. Also, I found some really helpful hints in the book How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns by Lee Hollahan, which I checked out from the library. My method for handling patch pockets came from this book.

How I Do Plaid Matching

I sort of invented this plaid-matching approach after looking at the references I listed above, and making things up. It’s a work in progress.

Mark Seam Lines

Because garment pieces join each other at the seam lines, that’s where you should focus on matching them. This is vitally important if you want to continue a plaid pattern across the parallel of a seam, as the seam allowance doesn’t show up in the final garment:

Image 1

To match vertical features across a seam, you must do it at the seam lines.

To match stripes which lie perpendicular to the seam, you don’t necessarily need to do it right at the seam line:

Image 2

Matching features which run horizontal to a seam are less critical to being matched at the seam line. 

Multi-sized Patterns

I use mostly multi-size patterns, which have cutting lines for the various sizes, but omit seam lines. So I marked the seam lines on the cut pattern pieces, using the seam gauge to measure the 5/8 inch seam allowance. It’s not really necessary to mark the seam lines across the entire pattern. I marked it along straightedges, and where one seam line intersects another.

Matching Plaids Image 3

Matching Plaids Image 4

Intersection Points

For the shirt, I marked the intersection of seam lines on following pieces:

  • Front: Along front band, intersection of armscye at shoulder and armscye at front side seam, shoulder at neckline, side seam at bottom hem.
  • Back: At the intersection of armscye with shoulders and side seam, and side seam at bottom hem. (The straight edge is not marked because the center back has no seam; the edge is normally placed along a fold during cutting).
  • Sleeve: Intersection of sleeve seam at armscye seam.
  • Pocket, collars, collar stand: I’ll cover these shortly.

Straighten the Fabric

Next, I laid the fabric out flat on the cutting surface, and straightened it to ensure the plaid lines were as straight as possible. I did not fold the fabric. Instead, I cut out two separate copies of pieces like sleeves, flipping the pattern piece so the second copy was a reflection of the first. This way, I never had to spend time pinning the raw fabric to itself.

I used my transparent quilting ruler to make sure the fabric was lying on the board free of distortion.

Matching Plaids Image 5

I spot-checked with the ruler at various places on the cutting table. Most important is the area where you will position and cut the next pattern piece.

After straightening the fabric, you could pin it to a pattern board, to help preserve the straightness while cutting. I didn’t need to do this, but you might find it helpful.

Position the Pattern Pieces

To position the pattern pieces, I first picked out a distinctive feature on the fabric – say, a colored stripe or rectangle – and decided where that should appear relative to the design features of the shirt. I chose both horizontal and vertical fabric features, to align both horizontally and vertically.

For my shirt, I began with the left front piece. I decided a long, dark pink stripe should run just on the edge of the front band (placket), and another dark pink strip should just touch the top of the shoulder at the neckline. I positioned the pattern piece so the seam lines ran just next to these features.

Matching Plaids Image 6

On the shirt front band, a large pink stripe is positioned just along the seam line (in green) and outside the seam allowance, so it will be visible on the finished shirt.

Another (horizontal) large pink stripe is positioned to hit the top of the shoulder at the neckline.

Matching Plaids Image 7

I also ensured the grain lines of the pattern and fabric lined up with one another, and double-checked that the plaid lines on the fabric were still straight.

Next Installment: Part 2 - Record Matching Points During Cutting and Other Topics


3 Comments      Login to Add a Comment
Stitcher75 said...
Thank you for this. I look forward to your next installment. I LOVE plaid; I love to sew. I hate to cut (it's so final!) and I HATE to cut plaid. I was given a lot of uneven plaid fabrics. I guess the only thing I hate worse than cutting is seeing a beautiful piece of fabric and not knowing how to make it into something beautiful.
7/17/13 8:14 PM
Nujoi1908 said...
Thank you for this!
7/17/13 8:43 AM
lakaribane said...
This is very interesting and, as for the swimsuit tutorial, I would really love it if you made this available as a PDF for download. Thanks in advance!
7/11/13 9:17 PM

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