Plaid and patterned fabrics are all the rage once again. This means that if you are going to sew with either plaid or a patterned fabric then you need to learn how to match-up the fabric so your resulting project looks the best it possibly can. While matching up fabrics can take a bit more time, and a larger piece of fabric, you can easily learn to deal with it and sew wonderful looking items.
Marking and Matching
When you are sewing with a plaid or pattern it is important that you match at the seams. Plaid comes in two basic forms; balanced or unbalanced. Balanced plaid is one which has a symmetrical repeat of the stripes and colors. Unbalanced plaid is one which has an asymmetrical repeat of the stripes and colors.
When you are working with balanced plaid you want to make sure that you have some extra fabric to work with. However, when you are working with an unbalanced plaid you will need much more fabric available for matching. Similarly, a balanced or unbalanced plaid with a smaller design requires less extra fabric; one with a larger design requires more. Also, if your pattern has a lot of pieces you will use more fabric in the process of matching things up. A good rule of thumb is to purchase at least two extra repeats of the fabric design.
If you are relatively new to sewing, you should choose a pattern without too many seams. This will keep you from having to match up a ton of seams. Also, if your pattern is cut on the bias, this will result in a chevron seam. For a chevron seam you need to be working with a balanced plaid as an unbalanced plaid will not work.
Single Layer Layout and Cutting
When you are trying to match up plaids or patterns, you will want to always lay out and cut out your patterns in a single layer. Single layer cutting will insure that you have just the right design in the right place on the fabric. You will need to remember to flip over your pattern pieces to get matching seams on balanced plaids; and to cut with the nap on an unbalanced plaid (i.e. the top of all pattern pieces should be facing the same direction).
To match up your fabric to your pattern, the first thing you want to do is place you main pattern piece on the fabric. This will generally be the bodice front or skirt front if you are making clothing.) Once this piece is in place, you will then want to pin in place the other pattern pieces. As you are matching up your pattern pieces you will want to take special notice to make sure that the pattern at the top, bottom and sides all look like you want them to on your finished project.
If your project has pockets you can cut those on the bias for an attractive look, or you can match them up to the rest of your project.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
You will need to lay out all of your separate pattern pieces and lightly pin them into place. Once you have done this, you will want to look everything over to make sure the plaid or design is all matched and you are happy with the placement of the design on your project. Once you have done this step, then you can pin down your pieces and cut out your pattern.
By using these tips you will be sewing with plaids and patterns like a professional in no time.