Today I’m going to share with you an easy way to match stripes or plaids on your shirts. There are some very sophisticated methods but this is a simple approach which works in most cases!
When it comes to stripe & plaid matching, the key things you’re trying to achieve are:
- Continuous horizontal stripes/plaids across the vertical seams around the body (front or back seams and side seams)
- Symmetrical vertical stripes/plaids on the left and right hand side of the shirt
One thing to bear in mind is that depending on the type of shirt, you may not be able to perfectly match everything, simply due to geometry.
- With princess seams, you won’t be able to perfectly match up horizontal stripes at the top of the curve. That’s OK! Most of your shirt will be matched up and let’s face it, only sewists are ever going to notice.
- Darts will disrupt stripes, especially at the side seams. Again, don’t worry – if you match at the front center, it’s not terribly noticeable.
How to use lengthen/shorten lines to match
The easiest way to match stripes or plaids is to use the lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern. I’m using my own Cashmerette Harrison Shirt pattern which has shorten/lengthen lines on each front piece at exactly the same height.
If you are using a pattern that doesn’t have these lines, you can alternatively see if there are matching notches – if so, draw your own horizontal line across the pattern pieces at the height of the notch. No notches? You can measure your pieces to again mark the same line.
Here are the three pieces for the Harrison Shirt (it has double princess seams for a great fit, which is why there’s one more piece than you’re probably used to!). You can see the lengthen/shorten lines across each piece.
I’m using a simple windowpane check fabric here. I placed each pattern piece with the lengthen/shorten line directly on top of a horizontal yellow line. For the purpose of having perfectly mirrored front pieces, I placed the grainline on each piece on a vertical yellow line.
This fabric is very simple and also symmetrical so this is easy – if you’re using a plaid which has multiple horizontal lines, just pick one to use and go for it!
Then, for the second side, I flipped the pieces over, and again used the same yellow line.
Due to the nature of the princess seams on this shirt, I just focused on having the vertical lines symmetrical across the front of the shirt, rather than “matching” them between pieces. However, if you have a simpler pattern that doesn’t have so many vertical seams, you can also match vertical lines between the pattern pieces.
Cutting your pieces accurately is the most important step in getting great stripe matching. However, if you don’t sew them together perfectly all that effort will be for naught! Here are my best tips for sewing stripes/plaids very accurately:
- Use a walking foot on your machine. This feeds the top and bottom fabric through the machine at the same rate, rather than stretching one slightly out.
- Use Wonder Tape. This stuff really is wonderful! By basting your seams together with tape you get a continuous bond along it (rather than pins which are intermittent) and you can re-stick until it’s exactly right.
- Use pins in addition, pushing them through the stripes on one side and making sure they’re exactly matching the stripes on the other side. Remember that you need to match at the stitching line rather than the cutting line.
I hope these tips help! Do you have any other approaches for great stripe matching?