How to Match Plaids and Stripes

Hello! Stephanie from Stephie B’s Designs here again today to teach you all about how to match plaids and stripes when cutting and sewing your garments. I think taking the time (and sometimes extra fabric) to ensure plaids and stripes match at the seams gives your garment that extra special look – and shouldn’t all our handmade items look extra special?!

Call me a perfectionist, but one of my son’s store bought shirts has non-matching side seams and it drives me batty! This is the look I try to avoid…

The patterns you’ll see in the pictures throughout this tutorial are the Altitude Pullover, the Youth Hoodie Add-On Pack, and the Classic Ringer Tee, all from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. I absolutely love all of these patterns and use them all the time. Check them out!

Enough chit chat… let’s get started!

Step 1: Align the plaids and stripes

This step may take time… and some finagling… to align the plaids/stripes just right, but it will be well worth it in the end, trust me.

Fold over the fabric with wrong sides together as you would normally do, folding as much as you need to place your pattern piece, then begin your alignment.

The seam you will be sewing should be closest to the unfolded raw edge of the fabric, and therefore is where we are focusing on aligning the plaids/stripes. I recommend folding over just enough fabric so the seam is close to the aligned edge of the fabric. That way you can be confident that you’ve aligned the area that will be sewn together. I’ll talk more about this down below in Step 2.

The goal in this step is to match the folded-over top piece (right side facing up) with the plaids/stripes on the underneath portion (right side facing down). If your fabric can be seen through… great! It makes life much easier. However, if you cannot see through the fabric, you may have to flip the bottom up several times to get the perfect alignment.

In the first photo below, you can see through the fabric just enough to see that the stripes are not aligned. A few of the stripes on the underside have been highlighted by dashed lines so you can see what I’m referring to.

If you were to cut out your pattern piece with the stripes un-matched, it would look something like the photo below once the seam was sewn together. It reminds me of my son’s shirt from above… Eek! No good!

In the next photo, the stripes on the top and bottom pieces have been aligned so are exactly where they should be. This is where I want them to be when I lay out my pattern pieces to cut.

Here is another example of a properly aligned print, this time with a plaid.

Step 2: Lay out the pattern pieces and cut them out

Once you’ve aligned your plaids/stripes, lay out the pattern piece(s) and pin or weigh them down to hold in place. As mentioned in Step 1, place the seam you will ultimately sew as close to the aligned plaids/stripes as possible. In the image below, the back portion of the hood will be sewn together, so is where I need my stripes to align.

(In this next image, I could have folded over the fabric a little less so the seam of the Altitude Pullover sleeve was closer to the edge of the fabric, but you get the point!)

When sewing a shirt or bodice, in which you have to cut out two separate pieces along the fold, you’ll have to not only align the plaids/stripes, but also where the pattern pieces themselves are cut out.

In the example below, I aligned the plaids/stripes as indicated in Step 1, then, because there are two pieces being sewn together (the front and back of the shirt), I also aligned the bottom edge of my pattern piece along a stripe in the print so when I lay it out a second time to cut out the back of the shirt, I have a reference point.

As I previously mentioned, you may need additional fabric when matching plaids/stripes in these instances, especially if your plaids/stripes have multiple colors or spaces between them, as with the blue, black, and white plaid print in these pictures.

After cutting out the front piece of my shirt pattern – having aligned it with the stripe along the bottom edge as I just mentioned – I need to ensure the back piece is also on that line so the side seams match up when sewn together.

Normally, to avoid wasting fabric, I would cut out the second piece as close to the edge that I’d just cut as possible. In the image below, you can see where I would typically lay out the next pattern piece, close to the ‘top’ edge where I’d just cut another piece. With solids and repeating prints, that doesn’t matter, however, with plaids/stripes, it may.

If I were to do that in this instance, as seen in the image below, the bottom of my pattern piece would not align with the stripe I’d previously aligned my first piece to, causing the side seams to be mis-matched once sewn together. Again… reminds me of the shirt from the beginning of this post!

In order to align the plaids/stripes along the side seams, the pattern piece must move down and be placed on the same line as the piece I’d just cut out. You can see in the image below that the pattern piece has been moved down to the stripe.

Another thing to remember when working with plaids/stripes is when the pattern is not repeated at regular intervals resulting in a ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ to the print. For consistency, make sure the pattern is the same direction when you cut out all the pattern pieces.

See how with the blue, black, and white plaid print in the recent pictures the blue stripes cross close to one corner of the black squares but not the other? If I cut out the sleeve piece as is in the next image, the stripes are ‘upside-down.’ This is just a small detail in this example, but small details make all the difference!

Switch the fabric around or flip the pattern piece upside-down as I’ve done below so the plaid is in the right direction.

Cut out the pieces when you’re ready.

The image below shows both the front and back of the shirt example laying side by side. As you can see before its even sewn up, the side seams are properly aligned and will match up when it’s all said and done.

Step 3: Pin and sew!

Pinning is another very important part of this process. In this step, you’ll be pinning your pieces with right sides together (RST) as you normally would, but you’ll also be aligning plaids/stripes as you pin. I tend to use more pins when matching plaids/stripes than I normally would just to make the fabric doesn’t slip too much as I work.

As you can see in the next three images, I carefully align the plaids/stripes as I pinned.

Sew the pieces together, then stand back and admire your work! The average person won’t really notice the difference between matching and unmatching plaids/stripes, but you will, and you’ll be glad that you took a few minutes to improve the look of your garment.

My finished seams:

The Youth Hoodie Add-On, which will be added to an Altitude Pullover…

And an Altitude Pullover sleeve…

And the side seam of a Classic Ringer Tee…

Aren’t those seams beautiful??!!

As always, I hope you learned something new today, and have a better understanding of how to match up those plaids and stripes in your stash..

Here are the finished products in case you were wondering what they look like. Again, GREAT patterns, and I recommend they all be a part of everyone’s pattern collection. (The first Altitude Pullover is paired with Peek-a-Boo Pattern’s Lollipop Leggings – another awesome staple in my repertoire).

All of the fabrics used throughout this tutorial are from Peek-a-Boo Fabric Shop. I absolutely love their knits, and almost exclusively buy from their shop. They add new prints and fabrics all the time, so check them out and come back over and over again (as I tend to do!)

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