Sewing Perfect Plaids

Have you ever walked behind someone who is wearing a really well-made plaid jacket and marveled at the perfect matching of the plaid pattern across the seamlines? If you've ever tried to sew with plaids, you would also know that this isn't so easily achieved!

Unless you know the tricks!

Perfect plaid matching is done at the get-go, when you are laying out your pattern pieces on the fashion fabric. It's not that difficult–you just need to take your time. By carefully layout the pattern pieces, you can get an expensive designer look for much less!

    Boy's Cozy Pullover from
         Stitch Fall 2010 by
           Jil Cappuccio 

Here are some great tips for sewing perfect plaids from Rebecca Kemp Brent in Stitch Fall 2010:

  • Buy extra yardage for flexibility in matching plaids across seamlines. As a rule of thumb, purchase at least 1/4 yd more than the pattern requirements. If the plaid's repeat is large or uneven, purchase an extra 1/2 -1 yd.
  • Even plaids are easier to use than uneven patterns. A plaid is even, or balanced, if the repeat is exactly the same on both sides of the most prominent color band, both crosswise and lengthwise. A plaid is uneven if the pattern is different on the two sides of the main color band, whether lengthwise, crosswise, or both.
  • The larger the plaid, the more difficult it will be to match at the seams. For a first foray into sewing with plaids, choose an even plaid with a repeat no more than 3-4".
  • The best patterns for plaids have few pieces and seams. Match the plaid pattern at the center front and back seams (including button plackets) and at the side seams where the front and back pieces join. Use pattern notches as a guide for matching, and concentrate on the bust and hip when positioning the pattern pieces on the fabric.
  • To facilitate matching the plaid, use a pencil to trace a portion of the plaid repeat onto the first pattern piece. Sketch both lengthwise and crosswise color bars and mark the colors on the pattern tissue. Match the pattern piece that will be joined to the first with right sides together, trace the pencil marks onto the second pattern tissue, and use the pencil marks as a guide for placing the second pattern piece on the fabric.
  • Lay out the garment front first, then match and lay out the back pattern piece(s). Position the sleeves next, and finish with the collar, cuff, and facing pieces.
  • Match the plaid when pinning seams before sewing. Fold back the top fabric's seam allowance to check the match after pinning, or turn the pinned piece over and check that the pin enters and leaves the fabric along the same color bar.
  • A walking foot will keep the layers from shifting as seams are sewn, for better matches across the seamline.

FYI, the Stitch Collection CD is on sale, featuring all the Stitch magazines from 2008-2010. You can find a whole section on plaid, plus dozens more fantastic projects, articles, and tips.

Do you have a favorite plaid trick? Let us know on the Sew Daily blog.

Happy stitching! 


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About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

5 thoughts on “Sewing Perfect Plaids

  1. Great advice, and timely as I was just preparing to sew up a plaid skirt. I especially appreciated the trick about tracing the plaid pattern right onto the pattern piece.

  2. your tips are very helpful. i have found that for fabrics with many thin lines in the plaid that i must hand-baste to get perfect seams. this is also true for stripes. your point about choosing styles with few seams is well taken.

  3. When sewing with a one way plaid laying out the fabirc is much easier that working with a two way plaid… This means the plaid can only be matched up in one direction, the top of the fabric has to be the top of your pattern pieces. Leftover Plaid can make interesting Mitered cushions. ~~ Sandra

  4. There’s nothing like Steam-a-Seam to hold your fabric in place and keep it from shifting when sewing plaids. You make a perfect match before you ever sew, that stays in place while you sew. It’s one of my favorite notions!

  5. When I cut out plaids or stripes I cut out the first front with the fabric pattern hitting where I want it. Then I use that piece as the pattern for the other half. It’s much easier to match like that – you can see everything.