August 7, 2013

Plaid Jacket Chronicles: Match-ups

For today's installment of the Plaid Jacket Chronicles, I thought I would go over something that I wish I could have found somewhere. Where and when is it OK that the plaid doesn't match up? To think that the plaids will match perfectly at every seamline in every garment will give you much agony when you find that they don't. Additionally, if you have to pick between two seams - which one to match and which one not to - which one do you pick? Let's use McCall's 6172 (my plaid jacket make) as an example and we'll start by pointing out the unforgivable areas. The areas which must match.

  • Jacket fronts - a matching plaid should be happening horizontally when you button up your jacket. Additionally, vertical darts should be matched. If possible, your jacket fronts should be mirror images of each other too.

  • Jacket Back - horizontally, especially at the center back and the jacket backs should also be mirror images of each other.

  • Princess seams - this particular jacket has princess seams that end up in the armhole in both the front and back, and these seams must match horizontally from the hem as far up as they will match, but note that for these particular princess seams (the armhole variety), they will never match all the way up the seamline. They will distort at the very top, but not to a very noticeable degree. If you plan to put a side panel on the bias, note that each side should be mirror images of each other.

  • Upper Sleeve - must match across the upper bust with the jacket front horizontally. Its ideal to have the upper sleeve match the jacket back as well, but if it cannot be achieved the jacket front takes precedence.

  • Under sleeve - must match with the upper sleeve at the sleeve back horizontally. It will be matched from the hem up - just like the princess seams - but will distort at the very top. Because of the way the under sleeve is cut, it may not match up at the front seamline on the sleeve.

  • Collar - should be matched with the center back vertically, however if you are using a jacket pattern with a contoured back, this will never happen. You can only match a collar with a center back that is cut on the fold.

  • Side seams - horizontally matched and this happens naturally if you have the princess seams matched.

  • Shoulder seams - vertically they should match, but they not as critical as everything else, but if at all possible, its a nice touch.
Places where the plaid may not match up (and its OK....)

  • The under sleeve in the front seam. It may not match up horizontally and if you have to pick between matching the front or the back, pick the back as its the more exposed seam.

  • The collar will not match up with the center back if there is a seam in your center back jacket piece. In order to match the collar with the center back, you have to cut the jacket back on the fold and it will result in something that is not as shapely or form fitting. Either that or your collar just won't be matched or your can opt for a solid colored collar piece like I did in my jacket.

  • The shoulder seams. If it so happens that your dominant stripes don't hit correctly when lined up at the shoulder seam, its fine for the shoulder seams to be unmatched vertically.

  • Side seams - guess what? If you are tearing your hair out getting the side seams on a jacket to match horizontally, forget about it! Your arms are down most of the time anyway. Am I right? You betcha!

A recent commenter made the very wise remark "pick your battles" when referring to plaid match-ups and I can't think of a better way to put it. Not every seamline is going to match, and that's OK, don't beat yourself up about it. Pick the most prominent seamlines and focus on getting them to match up. Also, I just want to weigh in on something. If, by chance, you've made a plaid garment and someone tells you that you didn't match up all the plaids, and you know you didn't get everything just right or whatever - Don't let anyone give you grief about it. And definitely throw it back at them and say, "well, I would LOVE to see you make a plaid garment?" Ask me how I know that other sewers can make you feel crappy about your sewing skills! Don't let them. Sewing with plaids is as much a learning experience as anything else and you don't start by getting everything absolutely perfect. Ok, OK!

In my next video, I'll show you how I planned my previous plaid jacket in addition to giving you ideas to help you make the matching up process easier. Thoughts? Do you ever feel like you have to excuse certain seamlines that didn't match up in a plaid garment? I think plaids are hard because I feel that there is a big misconception that all the plaids will match up everywhere, when they won't. What do you think?

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13 comments

  1. Thanks for this! It's something I've wondered about before.

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  2. I love the puzzle of matching up plaids, but it's true that you really have to pick your battles. Thanks for this list - it's very helpful (and something I've wondered myself!).

    As far as someone giving you grief for not matching everything up 100% - PFFFTTT!!! I was in Nordstrom the other day, looking at ~designer~ plaid flannel button up shirts in the men's department and they didn't even bother to match up the plaid at the side seams - yet they cost $220 a pop. I don't see anyone giving THEM grief. Hrmph!

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  3. Sheesh, that is a lot to think about... thanks for the list!

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  4. Great post but would it be possible to have arrows/line drawn into the pics to make it easier to understand the wording? I've read the post slowly a few times yet still wonder which is which ...
    Thanks in advance ...

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  5. @Lauren - I too, LOVE the puzzle of matching plaids. Its so much fun and especially fun when it all works out.

    @Jess - Alright, just updated the photos. Hopefully this helps. I thought I should have done something more in the photos, but was feeling really really lazy.

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  6. Thank you for going through the process of choosing a plaid and making it work for a pattern as complicated as a jacket. I have made plaid skirts before, and even shorts (out of a printed, not woven, plaid, an entirely different nightmare), but never worked on anything as complicated as a jacket. I might just have to give it a try. Thanks!

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  7. I love this post. I enjoy plaid but have been fearful of using it since as a newer sewer I don't understand "the rules". It's nice to know that there are places that is unrealistic to expect a match up.

    I cannot believe anyone would throw shade on your sewing skills- they must be taking crazy pills!

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  8. This was very helpful, thank you. Although I have a beautiful plaid for a jacket, I think I'll start with a plaid shirt first and practice on a smaller investment.

    As far as people being critical of your sewing skills, have you ever met those people who are just naturally critical and negative. Feel sorry for their unhappy lives, I do. Don't let them get you down.

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  9. Wow, this is so helpful! I made a plaid buttondown recently, and got very wound up about matching everything and it was super stressful. Somehow I really did think that I could get it to line up everywhere if I tried hard enough! The other day on The Colbert Report, a famous actor (I won't spoil it) appeared in a plaid 70's-style jumpsuit, and the plaid was terribly mismatched right across his butt, which made me feel a little better about not achieving a perfect match!

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  10. Wow! Great info- this is the kind of thing that would put me in the crazy house!

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  11. Sunni, thanks for making the pics clearer with the white dots ...
    You're the best ....

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  12. This list is genius. Thank you!! I have some plaids that I've been wanting to cut into but haven't been able to figure out which parts must line up and which ones are more flexible.

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  13. Thanks for an Awesome post on working with plaids. I scored a great pieces of plaid fabric. TFS.

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