We’re switching topics for the day, from blouses to tartan plaid capes, with a post on matching plaids! Matching plaid is all about the cutting. The good news is that once the cutting is done, the sewing part is very easy! The bad news is that laying out your fabric and matching the plaids is a very tedious process. It’s so worth it though!
For the Tartan Cape, I’m going to match the plaids along the sideseams and side front seams. I’m also going to match the plaids on the facings and the collar.
Matching plaids are a mark of good quality. Isn’t it just the worst when you see un-matched plaids on ready-to-wear clothing? So lazy! (Like this shirt I purchased here – $55 for a shirt with cheap-looking buttons and unmatching plaids!) I’m lucky that this cape doesn’t have too many pieces to match. It will be well worth the time to get it right! (My ‘walk in the autumn leaves’ fantasy doesn’t include mismatched plaids.)
Some tips for better plaid-matching:
- Buy a little extra fabric. You know how they say ‘Allow extra fabric to match stripes or plaids?’ Make sure you do! I’d ballpark about 25% more than the pattern calls for, more if you have a very large plaid.
- Pick a pattern with not too many pieces. Even matching the plaid on this cape took a long time! If you pick a coat with a lot of seaming and panels, you’re creating a lot of work for yourself. And either the seaming will be lost in the plaid, if the plaid is perfectly matched – or there will be plenty of opportunities for less-than-perfect matching to be seen!
- Think about where you want the plaid lines to be placed – at the hemline, on the collar, over certain areas of your body. I’d never want a wide band of plaid around my hips! (But I would over my bustline for extra oomph.) Think about which lines you want at the hemline, especially if it’s curved. I aim to have the dark navy at the hem as much as possible.
You’ll need a few things:
- Your plaid fabric
- Your pattern pieces
- A pencil and ruler
- A lot of pins!
Here’s how to match your plaids:
First, lay out your fabric on your table or floor, folding in half as shown. See how quickly the stripes become un-aligned? It has to match both up-and-down, and side-to-side. (Right now it kind of matches side to side but vertically, the plaid intersections are off.)
What we’re going to do here is line up every plaid intersection and pin them together. Tedious and time-consuming? You bet. But it’s the best way to ensure perfectly-matching plaids through both layers.
Alternately, you could cut the fabric open and cut each pattern piece twice. That would mean less matching of plaid intersections, but more marking plaid lines on pattern pieces. You’ll see!
Ok, so how are we going to line up the intersections? One by one! Likely you will run out of pins, so we’ll pin a section, cut a piece, and then pin another section.
Start at one end of the fold edge. Stick a pin through one of the intersections – this will be easiest if you always use the same place on the pattern. I’ve chosen the outer edge of the turquoise lines.
Now, flip over your fabric and look at where the pin went through on the other side. Our goal is to get the pin poking through the exact same place on the plaid pattern.
Uh oh, this pin is not in the right spot!
We’ll need to shuffle the fabric around so that the pin can line up. What I do is reposition the pin so it’s through the right spot, and then smooth the fabric around the pin.
Next, secure the pin through both layers of fabric. I find it helps to always pin in the same direction.
Now repeat with the next intersection. Stick the pin through the intersection, check and re-position the other side, and secure the pin.
And that’s it! Repeat, repeat, repeat. Continue until your matched sections are large enough to place your first pattern piece. I’m going to place my back along the fold line, so I will continue matching along the fold first.
Once the fold has been matched, work your way towards the selvages.
So much matching! Now that there’s enough of a matched section to lay our first piece, that’s what we’re going to do.
If you wanted to, you could continue pinning intersections until your whole piece of fabric is pinned. That works too! I didn’t, because I don’t have that many pins, and I get bored of pinning. If you get into a groove, by all means pin the entire length!
At the very least, you should have an area of fabric pinned and matched large enough to fit your first pattern piece.
I’m going to cut out the cape back piece first. This piece is supposed to have a centre back seam. Do you remember my post a while back about centre back seams, and why you need them? I’ve checked and I can safely eliminate this centre back seam. It’s not needed for shaping, this piece doesn’t have to be cut on the bias, and there’s no zipper or closure. So I’ll be lining up the seamline (not the edge of the pattern piece) along the fold.
It helps if you already know where you want your plaid lines to fall! For the back, I’m mostly concerned about the hemline. The cape hem is slightly curved, so I want to have a mostly-navy hem so the lines aren’t obvious along the curve.
See how I’m lining up the hem just above the turquoise stripe? This way, there won’t be an awkward stripe of blue that disappears as the hemline curves.
Line up the hemline first, and then continue pinning along the centre back. I’m folding back the seam allowance, and placing the centre back seamline on the fold instead.
Pin all around the cape back, smoothing out the tissue.
Now you’re almost ready to cut! Before we cut, we’re going to mark the main plaid lines onto the pattern piece. Use a ruler to continue the main plaid lines on your pattern piece. I’m doing this on the sideseams, so I can match the front sideseam plaid to the back sideseam plaid lines.
Draw the lines approximately 2″ onto the pattern piece. That’s all you need, as the lines may not meet in a straight line. We’ll have a slight V where the plaids meet on the sideseam. The important part is to know where the plaid lines cross the seamline. I hope this makes sense!
Repeat the markings for each wide or dominant plaid stripe, all along the seamline.
Now you can cut out the back piece.
Remove the tissue carefully. We’ll remark the plaid lines so they’re slightly darker, now that we can write on the table and not a layer of soft fabric.
Now, we’ll transfer these markings to the front pattern piece. In my case, I have a Side Front and a Front. So we’ll take just the Side Front and lie it on top of the Cape Back, matching sideseams.
We’ll be able to see our markings through the tissue, so we can just trace them onto the front piece! Using a ruler, trace the plaid line markings to the front, all along the sideseam.Now our side front piece is ready to cut! Pin another section of plaid intersections like we did earlier, covering enough space to cut out the side front.Now place the front piece on the fabric, matching the sideseam markings to the main plaid stripes.
While the pattern piece is on the fabric, we’re going to draw straight lines across the pattern piece along the plaid lines.
I have a Front to match to this Side Front, this will give me plaid lines to match along the seamline. Is it starting to make sense now? There’s a lot of mark, pin, cut – mark, pin, cut – repeat! Patience is definitely necessary. Patience, and lots of time!
Finish pinning around the pattern piece, and cut it out. You can see I’ve ignored the grainline on this one so that the plaids would match. If I had followed the grainline, the plaid would have gone up and down along the side front seamlines. (It should all makes sense when the cutting is complete!)Next, we’ll cut out the undercollar. No matching required! It’s completely hidden. I did make sure that the plaid intersections were pinned so both halves were the same. This one’s important to keep on grain according to the marked grainline, so it rolls nicely.Here’s what the undercollar looks like, all cut out:
And here’s what the side fronts look like, cut out:
Are you still with me? This is a good post to bookmark for later, because if you’re not sewing and cutting plaids right now this might look a bit intense!
Next, we’ll mark the plaids on the Cape Front. Take your Side Front pattern piece, and pin it to the Front along the seamline.
Make sure to overlap the pieces like they will be sewn, and line up any circles, dots or notches. I’ve pinned through the large circles to be sure the pieces match.
Continue the plaid-marking lines from side front to front piece. You’ll repeat this method across all of your seamlines – which is why it’s good if you pick simple styles for plaid projects!
Un-pin the front pieces, and your front piece will be marked and ready to use!
I bet you can guess our next step – pin another section of plaid intersections!
You’ll get really good at this by the time we’re done cutting. (I hope I haven’t scared anyone away from plaid fabrics! Trust me, the sewing will be a piece of cake once the cutting is done.)
Now line up your front piece with the dominant plaid lines, just as we did before:
Pin around the edges. Before you cut, let’s place the facing piece as well. We’re only going to line up the horizontal plaid lines, so they continue around the opening nicely. When my cape flies open in the wind, you’ll see that the plaid lines wrap around centre front from cape to facing!
Use a ruler to make sure the bottom edges are in line, and ensure that notches fall on the same part of the plaid. (You can see my notches fall on a turquoise stripe on both the facing and front!)
Cut out these pieces as well. Let’s lie out our cut pieces as if we’re about to sew and see how well we did matching!
Pretty nice, don’t you think? Here’s a look from the front. You can see what I was explaining about the facing and centre front, how the plaid wraps around the edge.
One last piece – the top collar! This one is a matter of personal preference. I like to match it to the centre back, which is really easy to do. Simply place the collar pattern piece along the same foldline!
The last thing we’ll do is make sure the dominant plaid stripe is centered along the collar. Mark the centre of the collar with a small pencil mark, and then centre the marking along the dominant plaid stripe.
Check it out! Our collar matches the centre back plaid, and will look really nice when the cape is finished. Very professional!
So there you go – a very intense step-by-step guide to matching plaids!
Do plaids scare you, because of all the matching? Personally, I love plaids, so I deal with the matching part because I love the end results. Do you follow this method, or do you do something different? Any tips or tricks?
I’ll be back with another Sew-Along post tomorrow! Plus, I’ll catch up on responding to questions and comments. So if you’ve asked a question in the last day or two, don’t worry, I will get you the answers you need. Thanks to the readers who’ve jumped in and responded to questions in the meantime, I really appreciate it!