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A Guide to Pattern Matching with Vicki

I am an absolute sucker for a patterned fabric, I’m forever meaning to add more plain fabrics to my wardrobe but I just can’t help getting sucked in by a fun design, and there is one thing I find even more satisfying….pattern matching.

So I thought I’d pop on and share with you my tips and tricks for my love of pattern matching and also how I personally like to go about my pattern placement.

PATTERN PLACEMENT 

First off let’s talk about pattern placement. I feel like this is something often underrated, and I’m sure you will have also seen the classic funny pattern placement meme’s doing the rounds. I try to be mindful of certain areas when I’m placing a pattern - for me it’s my crotch and bust - I would be mindful of placing a key feature of the pattern over these areas, wherever you place a key detail you are going to draw attention to that area. Particularly if I am sewing fabric with people or animals I try not to split them up across the seams if I can help it. 

I find the placement is quite a personal opinion, but I like to prioritise my pattern placement in the following order - Centre front, centre back and outer arm - I just find these areas the most visually pleasing. 

When using stripes and plaids I like to have a line running down with centre front and back. When using a design like the Epic Spectacle cotton lawn I picked the face that stood out the most to me and centred this on the fronts and backs of my shirt. I also like to try and make sure faces are pointing into my body rather than away - a tip I’ve picked up from watching too many tattoo shows. 

PATTERN MATCHING

POCKETS

Pockets are a perfect starting point for practicing lining up patterns. 

First off I cut out my main garment piece for what I’m going to be attaching the pocket to, in this example it is the front bodice of a jacket.

I mark on the jacket where I want my pockets to go. I like to use Frixion Pens for marking my fabrics as they are precise and vanish with heat.

I then take my pocket pattern piece which I trace onto semi opaque pattern paper/tracing paper/white baking paper. I mark my seam allowances onto my pattern piece and then place the traced pattern piece over the bodice fabric lining up where the pocket is going to go.

Next trace key parts of your pattern onto your pocket pattern piece.

Line up your pattern markings on your main fabric and cut out your pocket. 

The beauty of pattern matching a pocket is that you have some wiggle room when it comes to sewing it onto your garment, so if you haven’t quite got it cut out perfectly you can just move the pocket placement a fraction so it lines up. Use lots of pins so there isn’t any movement and then top stitch your pocket down.

BUTTON PLACKETS

To demonstrate pattern matching on a button placket I chose this beautiful kaleidoscope viscose, I love the autumnal colour palette and the details of the design, the photos don’t quite give justice to the richness of the colours. 

If you are newer to sewing and/or pattern matching then you may prefer to pick a cotton or cotton lawn over a viscose, they don’t have drape and press well which does make for a simpler sew.

For this tutorial I have used my favourite shirt pattern which is a combination of the Tilly and The Buttons Lyra dress, the Nina Lee Bakerloo Blouse and the Anna Allen Anthea. But the same method applies to your favourite shirt patterns.

First of all to make the process of pattern matching more manageable I like to use a grown on button placket. This is something that the Anthea blouse and also the Kallee shirt already comes with, but some patterns you would need to add it to, for example the Lyra dress.  To make the alteration you need to take your front bodice piece and your button placket piece. Mark on the seam allowance for your front bodice piece as well as the left side of your button placket, you then need to remove these seam allowances from both pattern pieces. Line up the edge of your new button placket and front bodice and stick the two pieces together. 

Next mark on the centre front of your shirt, if this isn’t already marked on your pattern pieces then it will be the centre of your button placket, as demonstrated in the image below. 

Decide what you would like to use as your centre front and line up your first pattern piece, this is going to be your right front. Draw key parts of the design onto the pattern piece up to the centre front, also mark the centre front onto your fabric. Cut out the right front bodice.

Find roughly where you are going to need your second bodice piece to be cut out from, then with the right side of the button placket folded underneath the pattern piece line up the markings you have just drawn onto your pattern piece. 

Mark the centre front onto your fabric and draw little lines for the top and bottom of the button placket. Now very carefully flip your pattern piece over to the right of the fabric so you can cut out your left front bodice. 

Make sure that your centre front is still lined up with the centre front marking on the bodice, also make sure your markings for the top and bottom of the shirt line up, then cut out your second bodice piece. 

When it comes to sewing your button placket I like to sew the side that will sit on the outer of my shirt first, for me this is usually my right bodice front, try to be as precise as possible with your measurements here. I first of all fold under the outer seam allowance of the button placket, and then fold under again to the wrong side the full width of the button placket and top stitch to secure. 

When it comes to sewing the second placket (left front for me) I check that my patterns are lining up, if they aren’t quite then you can adjust the width of the second button placket a little bit to perfect it. 

Another thing to check is the top of the button placket when you are attaching the collar, as well as the hem line, again if you need to adjust these slightly you can shorten one side to make sure the pattern is still aligning. 

Finally when it comes to sewing on your buttons I like to pin my button plackets together lining up the pattern, I then mark through the button holes onto the underneath button placket where my buttons need to go. 

When doing vertical buttonholes, place your buttons more towards the top of the hole. When doing horizontal you need to place your button off centre towards the edge of the placket that the button holes are on. The reason for this placement is because the bodices will naturally pull away from each other with horizontal holes, and with vertical the buttons will naturally go towards the top of the hole. 

If you find videos a helpful reference then I have created a quick guide reel to share over on Instagram, so keep an eye out for that!

ZIPS & SEAMS

This is the least common type of pattern matching that I do, and it is predominantly a type of pattern matching that I use for sewing stripes and plaids. 

I have made a couple of Arlo Jackets by Friday Pattern Company where you line up the colour blocking across the front zip, not quite pattern matching but the same principles apply and they suggest a great tip. 

  • First insert one side of the zip. 
  • Next you do the zip up and mark on the opposite side of the zip where the colour blocking panels join. 
  • Now when you undo the zip to sew in the opposite side you have little notches to line up the second front. 

You can apply the same principle to a pattern fabric by picking distinctive markers in the design to pinpoint. 

For lining up stripes and plaids across seams I like to place the first pattern piece with the chosen seam at the top of a stripe, I then make sure the seam that is going to be joining the stripe starts in the same position as the first one did on the pattern - for example the top of an underarm seam on a T-shirt. I then like to put a pin in each stripe so they don’t move as I sew them together. I know that technically you shouldn’t sew over pins, but I do like manually going over my pins with my sewing machine when I sew stripes, and I also have some very thin pins that are designed to be sewn over. Alternatively I’ve found using pins parallel to the seam line but placing two as a little overlapping cross can be quite effective in stopping the fabric from moving as you sew.

For pattern matching other types of patterns over seams you can use similar principles to the ones I’ve described about for the button placket, except you will be lining up your seam allowances rather than the centre front. I would baste my seams together first to check the matching before sewing them together with a standard stitch length. 

WHEN NOT TO BOTHER…

Now, as much as I love pattern matching, even for me it isn’t something I always do. Sometimes I just don’t have enough fabric, or if the print is very small and dainty then I wouldn’t spend the time matching it, sometimes it just isn’t possible or worth the time. 

I also don’t pattern match all of my seams, I’m not even sure how often you could actually manage this as it would depend entirely on how often you have a pattern repeat, and well..it’s just too much for my brain to be thinking about! 

I also find sometimes I don’t want my pockets to blend in, for example when I made my check Ilford Coat in the long view I wanted something to ‘break up’ the boxy silhouette so I purposely chose not to match my pockets so they would stand out.

I really hope you’ve found this post helpful, and maybe if you’ve been undecided about pattern matching then you’ll now feel like it’s something you could give a go. As always it’s a pleasure to collaborate with The Rag Shop, and if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment below.

 

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