Match Perfect Plaids: A Stitch Tutorial

Okay, so have you ever found a beautiful, gorgeous, perfect plaid fabric, but then shied away from using it because you’ll have to match the pattern? I know that this can seem intimidating, but it’s not difficult if you take the time to follow a few simple steps… I promise!

In this tutorial, I’ll illustrate how I recently matched a plaid for a ¾-circle skirt. I chose a simple silhouette that would only require matching the plaid on the side seams. It’s a good idea to choose a simple garment like this when you’re starting out with matching and sewing plaid so you can practice before moving onto more complex patterns. Give yourself a chance to get comfortable with this process so you’ll be less frustrated and more willing to try it again.

Steps for matching plaid:

Step 1.     Lay your fabric out flat (not doubled) and make sure that the bars on the plaid are lying straight. Find a prominent bar on the plaid for matching to the center of the garment (in this case, to the center front and center back of the skirt). Because my pattern is so large, I had to place the prominent bar of my plaid slightly off center to fit the pattern piece onto the fabric. In Figure 1 you can see that I placed the Front Skirt onto the plaid and then lined up the exact center (marked by the grainline) along one vertical bar of the plaid. I placed a piece of yarn on top of the pattern to illustrate how I lined up the center of the pattern piece along the same bar from top to bottom.


Figure 1


Step 2.     After pinning the pattern piece in place, I used purple and black colored pencils (to match the plaid colors) and a clear gridded ruler to draw a portion of the plaid onto the pattern piece at each side seam. I used the ruler to help me keep my drawn lines straight and lined up with the bars on the plaid (Figure 2).


Figure 2


Step 3.     After tracing and cutting the Front Skirt, I transferred the drawn plaid onto the Back Skirt pattern piece. You can do this by placing the pattern pieces right sides together (as they will be sewn) and matching up the adjoining edges. Use a window or light table to trace the plaid onto the new pattern piece (if you are using pattern tissue, the lines will probably show through without a light source).

Step 4.     I repeated Step 1 to place the Back Skirt pattern piece on the paid, but this time, I also used the drawn plaid at the side seams to match up the bars on the plaid where the front and back of the skirt will be sewn together (Figure 3).


Figure 3


Step 5.     After tracing the Back Skirt, I placed the Front Skirt piece on top (in this case, with wrong sides together) to check that the plaid matches at the side seams. If adjustments need to be made, now is the time to make them­­ — before cutting! I checked again after cutting the Back Skirt (just to make sure) by placing the Front and Back right sides together. Figure 4 shows one piece peeled back at the side seam to illustrate that the plaid does indeed match up.


Figure 4


Step 6.     I pinned the Front and Back pieces, right sides together, along the side seams, checking that the bars matched up as I went. It was especially important to check on this skirt because the shape of the skirt means that the side seams are on the bias and therefore prone to stretching. Figure 5 shows one side seam that has been sewn — and the plaid matches! Now that I have successfully matched a plaid, I think my next plaid skirt will be on the bias. Wish me luck!


Figure 5


For more tips on working with plaid, see Sewing Perfect Plaids on page 59 of the Fall 2010 issue of Stitch. Then, try your hand at one of the Modern Plaid projects (photos page 52 through 58 in the magazine).


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