How To Match Patterned Fabric When Sewing
This week's post on how to match patterned fabric is going to be a little different than our regularly scheduled programming. Why's that, you may ask? Well. You may have noticed: I don't wear prints.
Like at all. (Unless it's stripes, of course. Like, the Dany Sheath. Or the Mauve Shirt Dress.) Stripes are my JAM. And I've actually already done a sewing tutorial on how to sew with stripes. Because I seriously love them so much.
Probably half the clothing in my closet is filled with stripes. And maybe 5 pieces with some sort of printed fabric. I don't know why, I've just never been a huge fan of printed patterns.
Knowing how to match patterned fabric is a completely different process than that of sewing with stripes. I personally find matching & sewing stripes to be MUCH easier than figuring out how to match patterned fabric. So. If I don't really like prints, and I find them difficult to sew..
Well. Last month when I was at the fabric store picking out the materials for the Mauve Shirt Dress (stripes, you guessed it) my husband tagged along. I love/hate when Paul goes to the fabric store with me.
I love that he gets SO excited about picking out fabric for projects. But then I need to make said projects, and it takes almost everything I have just to keep up with The Flora Modiste as it is.
So. I decided to combine one of his projects with a post this week. And it works out perfectly, because I don't wear prints. But he does!
Paul has been wanting to up his Hawaiian shirt game for a while now. (Via inspiration of Mac from It's Always Sunny.) So when we were at the fabric store and he saw this pineapple slice print, we were sold.
It's actually a pretty cool print--Just repeating pineapple slices in all different types of variations. So. While this is the first post EVER on The Flora Modiste that uses a mens' pattern rather than a womens' pattern, the process is exactly the same.
Why make myself a printed piece, when I won't wear it? But I could make Paul a badass Hawaiian shirt that he will wear ALL THE TIME. Who says multitasking isn't possible?
How to match patterned fabric: Why does it matter?
As I mentioned above, a few months back I did a post on how to sew with stripes. And I mentioned in that post that it is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves when I see stripes that don't match.
Seriously. It drives me MF nuts.
And it's not a thing that you really notice until you are told about it. I still remember the first time I noticed when a set of stripes didn't match, while I was at FIDM.
The same thing goes for prints. While it's definitely not as obvious when prints don't match (because it's NOT always possible) it still drives me crazy when it IS possible and they don't match.
It particularly drives me batshit when pockets don't match the print of the shirt underneath.
It is SUCH an easy thing to match. Even if the rest of the prints on a shirt (or whatever) doesn't match, if there's a damn patch pocket, THAT SHOULD MATCH.
Please don't ever wear (or buy/make) a printed shirt where the patch pocket doesn't match the print of the shirt. It's lazy pattern making & lazy sewing.
ANYWAYS. As I said above, it really isn't always possible to match the prints at every seam. Think: Curved seams, crossgrain pattern pieces, collars, etc.
But when it is possible, we want those prints to match.
How to match patterned fabric: The cutting process
As with pretty much all sewing projects, cutting is just as important as sewing when it comes to knowing how to match patterned fabric. If not MORE important, really. Because if the pattern isn't cut right, then it can't be sewed right.
To start, decide what pattern pieces need to be matched up.
For example: With the pineapple slice Hawaiian shirt, I wanted to match up the prints on the front button closure & the front patch pocket. I had also wanted to match the back yoke to the back shirt..
(Also, yokes are often cut on the opposite grain line, to allow for more movement.)
There are a few ways prints can be matched during the cutting process:
- Cut out one side of the pattern. Fold & press the seam allowance, then physically match it up on the laid out fabric. Once the fabric is aligned properly so that the prints match on both sides, lay out the paper pattern and cut out the other side. NOTE: Make sure to account for the seam allowance when cutting! I cannot stress how important this is.
- Draw the print on the paper pattern. I did this for the patch pocket of the Hawaiian shirt by marking where the pocket would be placed on the front of the shirt, and tracing the pineapple slice patterns onto the paper pattern. Then I aligned up the paper pattern with a matching spot on the laid out fabric, pinned, and cut the pocket out.
The process of matching, pinning, and cutting printed fabric definitely takes more time than when using a solid, non printed fabric.
Go slow and double check all prints that need to be matched up before finalizing any cutting.
How to match patterned fabric: The sewing process
The process of sewing patterned fabric isn't really THAT much more difficult than sewing solid fabric.
However, there are a few key points that you should keep in mind during the sewing process:
- Sewing the correct seam allowance is IMPERATIVE. I always struggle with sewing a consistently even seam allowance, and normally it doesn't really matter that much. But when sewing with prints, it 100% matters. Sew slowly, and follow a consistent seam allowance measurement.
- Press all seams accurately. Utilizing pressing when learning how to match patterned fabric is SO important. It is such an easy way to ensure the prints match, it's really a no brainer. Get in the habit of pressing when working with printed fabrics, and you will be a happy girl! (Or boy.)
- Sew slowly. I may be a bit neurotic, but before I sewed ANY seam, I would check to see if it changed the print that needed to be matched in the end. It is so much easier to double check that the patterns still match as you sew. Rather than having it all be wrong at the end, trying to figure out what happened and why nothing matches as it should. Not a good feeling.
But really. Knowing how to match patterned fabric doesn't call for any special skills or equipment.
And patience. Lots and lots of patience. I think that if I was sewing up this same exact Hawaiian shirt in a solid fabric, I could have had it done in a single afternoon.
But because I went slowly when cutting & sewing, it took me 2-3 times longer. (Hence this week's extremely late post, and me essentially being MIA all week long.)
But it looks SO GOOD. Am I right?
How to match patterned fabric: What print will you choose?
As I said above, you don't need to be sewing a mens' Hawaiian shirt for these tips to work for you.
The same steps apply, no matter what type of print or project you may be sewing up: A dress, a womens' blouse, a skirt. Prints of horses, bunnies, beer. Anything, really.
When working with a patterned fabric, I would suggest picking up a little more fabric (at least 1/2 yard more) than the pattern calls for. This allows you to move the pattern pieces around, ensuring you can match up as many seams as possible.
I made the mistake of not getting any extra fabric for Paul's Hawaiian shirts. If I had, I probably would have been able to match up that back yoke.
But hindsight is always 20/20, am I right? Any questions on how to match patterned fabric? Let me know below!