The Perfect Match: Techniques for Matching Plaids

For the beginning sewer, dealing with plaids can seem intimidating. The idea of matching plaids can appear to be too difficult, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, working with plaid fabric requires a bit more planning and some careful attention when sewing them, but with the right prep work before any pattern pieces are cut, matching plaids is relatively easy.


How to match plaid fabric when sewing

And when It all starts with the layout. Matching the plaids as pattern pieces are laid out is an essential step and will ensure plaids come together perfectly when the time comes to sew seams. Proper pinning or basting seams to ensure a good match are other important steps to getting the plaids just right.

But, why sew with plaids?

Plaids are one of the hottest fashion trends this season and a popular fabric choice for just about every category of clothing and accessories. Of course, plaids are hardly an original trend for fall — they appear every autumn. But, this time the trend is more pronounced. Mixing different plaids in one outfit is the new standard and the newest renditions of plaids are both striking and colorful.

Plaid jacket

Here are my eight tips to ensure plaids match up perfectly!

Tip #1: Pay attention to whether the plaid you are working with is an even or uneven plaid. If it is an uneven plaid (plaid pattern only works in one direction), you must place all pattern pieces in the same direction.

Tip #2: Study the lines of the plaid and its center point and/or where you want the plaid to fall along the center front/back of your garment. Ideally, the plaid should be balanced on both sides of the garment front and/or back. So, start the pattern layout with those central pieces.

Tip #3: Determine which seam lines need to be matched both vertically and horizontally. For side seams, the plaid must match horizontally. When connecting bodice to skirt pieces a vertical match is necessary.

Tip #4: For the very best results always cut patterns only one layer at a time. This will avoid the risk of the two layers shifting and the lines of the plaid becoming misaligned. But don’t forget, when cutting out the corresponding pattern pieces you must turn them in the opposite orientation — very important!

Tip #5: Use the notches on your pattern pieces as your guides to matching the lines of the plaid to corresponding pattern pieces. Using the side seam notches as an example, draw a line on the pattern pieces at the notch points so it is perpendicular to the grainline. Set corresponding, or joining, notch points on the same line of the plaid pattern.

Since most tissue pattern pieces are relatively transparent, these lines should be fairly visible, which will help to ensure good vertical or horizontal matches.

Tip #6: When joining pattern pieces to get them ready to sew there are two methods that can be employed — careful pinning or slip hand basting. If the pattern pieces were properly aligned when laid out, the plaids should come together easily for sewing.

Tip #7: When pinning seams for sewing place a pin at each major plaid line or every 2 inches. The pins should enter and exit at the exact point (or plaid line) on both layers of the fabric. Leave the pins in place as you machine sew the seams; this will prevent the fabrics from shifting and the plaids becoming misaligned. Sew slowly and carefully, so as not to break any needles or pins.

Pinning to match seams
stitched seam
Tip #8: For fabrics that are a bit on the slippery side or to ensure a perfectly matched plaid, you may want to slip baste the matched plaids in place along seamlines. This is a form of hand basting.

To do this, turn under the seam allowance of one seam edge and press or crease in place. Working from the right side of the pieces, place the folded edge onto the corresponding piece matching the seam allowance edges underneath. Match up the plaid pattern on the top layer and pin in place along the seam line.

Now slip baste the folded edge to the corresponding piece. To slip baste, slip the needle through the upper fold and then through the lower layer of the fabric using a long single stitch. Repeat this stitch for the entire length of the seam.  If done properly, a stitched line will appear on the underside which indicates where the seam should be sewn.

slip basting
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