Three Tips for Sewing Stripes

I have another tip post for you guys today! Love sewing stripes? Thinking of sewing up the Renfrew Top pattern in a striped knit? Here are a few little tips that will help make stripe-sewing easier!

If you missed Monday’s post with A Big List of Tips for Sewing Knits! – here’s the link again. I’m glad that many of you found it helpful! I’m guessing it was helpful based on the number of times it was pinned on Pinterest. Becky asked if it was OK to pin it for future reference so I thought I’d mention Pinterest today. Feel free to pin any of the tips, tutorials and how-to posts from this blog if you want! It’s a great way to find what you’re looking for later on.

Back to the stripe tips!

1. Pin every stripe intersection, on seams that have to match. Or pin every second stripe line. Pin as many times as you need to pin to feel confident about the pinning part. No one will know how many pins you used to sew each seam, once the top is finished!

2. Baste your seam first. This is a step I always skip! But if you’re anything like me, a messy stripe seam will drive you crazy. And you’ll end up ripping it out anyway to fix the un-matched parts. Do yourself a favour and baste it first! It’ll be easier to unpick and fix any slipped stripes. And on that note…

3. Be prepared to un-pick and redo your seam a few times to get it right. If you nail it the first try? Awesome! Run your machine right over the basting stitches, this time using regular-size stitches and you’re done. If you figure you’re bound to have some fixing to do, it doesn’t seem so bad when it inevitably happens. I’ve been sewing for ages and see – I had good stripes on one sleeve seam.. but wayward stripes on the first sleeve seam. No problem, I figured that might happen. And hey, if I fix it, I only have to un-pick half the seam!

Other words of stripe wisdom:

  • Know when enough is enough. If you’ve redone your seam three times, and it’s still only 99% perfect, stop! Pat yourself on the back for getting it pretty darn close and move forward.
  • Not sure if your stripes are ‘good enough?’ Put the project away, come back an hour later, and see how you feel about the stripes. Do they match? Do you care? Make a decision and move on. Life is too short to agonize over possibly-not-matching stripes on a tee shirt.
  • Need validation on your stripes? Take a photo. I was worried about the stripe-matching but after taking a photo, it looks just fine to me. So it stays!

This seems like a lot of thought on stripe matching, something that ready-to-wear manufacturers don’t always bother with! (Or save money and fabric usage, by deciding to not bother with..) The great part about sewing for ourselves is that we get to decide what design details are important to match.

Here are a couple of other posts on stripes and plaids:

Any tips on sewing striped fabric to share? Leave them in the comments!

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25 Responses to Three Tips for Sewing Stripes

  1. Mary April 4, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    I remember struggling with a plaid trying to get it to match…then my friend says, don’t worry about it so much, it will look like you bought it….

    • Tasia April 4, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      Ha! I’m surprised when I see some of the shockingly non-matching plaids on people’s clothing. Didn’t they notice when they bought it? I certainly notice it now! :)

  2. Clare April 4, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    I can’t remember where I read it first, but my top tip for stripe matching on a set in sleeve seam (where it’s impossible to precisely match everything, as the seams are different lengths), is that the most important part is roughly the middle third of the section between shoulder and underarm – hard to describe without a picture, but this is basically the widest part of the body and is the part where the eye is drawn. Having studied lots of stripy tops and made my own, I tend to agree. Get that part right (as well as the straight seams, which are much easier) and the result will look great!

  3. CGCouture April 4, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    I’ve had excellent luck getting stripes to match by pinning the edges where the colors meet. For example, instead of pinning in the middle of your white stripe, pin where the white and black meet that way it doesn’t slip while you sew. I also like to pin parallel to the edge, so that I don’t need to pull the pins out before they’ve done their job of making sure everything is in place.

    I sew a lot of striped shirts for my husband, and that’s the method I’ve found that works the best, especially if you have a walking foot (or IDT like my Pfaff). It takes a bit longer to pin, but it’s still faster than ripping out and redoing. :-)

    • Tasia April 4, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      That is a good point! I’ve tried to center my pins in the middle of the white stripe, but if the stripes are thicker that would be pretty hard to do. Pinning where the colour changes is more exact. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Sigrid April 4, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    Thanks for the stripe matching tips, I love stripes. ANy idea where can I find some fabric like that?

  5. Linda April 4, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    The best tip that I have recently learned is to use Clover “fork pins”. They will hold a match perfectly the first try. They look like a two tine fork, with out the handle, of course. They are curved up at the base of the “u” shape. No one knows why they are so effective, but they are. Quilters use them for precise seam intersection matching. They are finer than most straight pins so no holes.

    • DD April 7, 2012 at 7:53 am #

      I have these and they do work!!! I got mine at Joann’s in the quilting section $9.99.

  6. Lucy April 4, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    I’d also recommend using a walking / even feed foot to minimise the layers shifting about during sewing. Of course, you still need to line up and pin carefully as well.

  7. Sassy T April 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Love your blog. Saving all these tips.

  8. Amy April 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I failed at matching my stripes twice now with my Renfrews. My issue was cutting. I imagine even if I tried to pin the stripes to match, my hem and armhole seams would have ended up being off. I do plan to keep trying though since I just love that pattern. I think now that I’ve made it up several times, I have a better understanding for how the side seams match up during the cutting stage. I have enjoyed all of your tips though. I hope you’re still finding time to sew for yourself these days.

  9. Corinne April 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Just thought I would add this tip to the already great ones posting. Be careful when you are cutting a knit stripe. Believe it or not, it will stretch out during the most innocent cut!

    -only cut one layer at a time
    -make sure the fabric is flat on the cutting surface and nothing is hanging over the edge of the table producing a tension on the fabric
    -secure the fabric with weights or pins
    -a rotary cutter (and mat) work well because you do not need to lift the fabric while cutting
    -if using scissors, keep the bottom blade flat on the table, doing this assures the fabric does not distort while cutting
    -while matching your stripes keep the fabric flat on the table, and pin the stripe at the color match edge

    Hope this makes sense.

  10. Susan - Knitters Delight April 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Oh Tasia – you and your timely posts….lol. I am sewing up my striped Renfrew in the next few days! Score. lol

  11. velosewer April 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    A wallking foot is definitely a must have when you are sewing stripes. My friend Alison swears by it and as she says, “everyone’s entitled to her opinion”.

    • Marie-Christine April 24, 2012 at 6:36 am #

      Absolutely right velosewer. If I had to do all that pinning and stuff I’d never wear stripes :-). But my trusty <$10 walking foot matches everything without a blink, every time.

  12. Inna April 5, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    As Laura suggested, use fork pins. It prevents several layers of fabric from shifting. If it’s a pain in the neck to get those fork pins, just use 2 regular pins but cross the when pinning the fabric. This technique will hols your fabric beautifully.

  13. maddie flanigan April 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    This is great! My favorite tip is that if we try, and try, and try, and are still only 99% perfect, then we need to move on. It’s great to strive for perfection while sewing, but achieving 99% is pretty damn good too :)

  14. Anand Mistry April 15, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    Very good tips. But, I always survive with fabric selection! :) Thanks for sharing.

  15. darlene June 4, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    i didn’t read all the tips, so i’m not sure if anyone mentioned this one: *wonder tape* … it’s sticky on both sides, completely machine washable, won’t gum-up your needle, and it purchase-able at joanns … i’ve used this for years … you can also use this tape to hold your zipper in place as you sew it down ….

  16. Leah June 17, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Ha! This is fantastic. I’ve been avoiding stripes like the plague. Maybe I’m ready to give them a whirl now… Thanks so much :)


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