WHAT IS IT?
Plaid is a type of fabric with stripes running both lengthwise and horizontally, intersecting and overlapping. Plaids are usually yarn dyed, meaning the yarn is dyed and then woven together, but sometimes the plaid is actually a print on the surface of the fabric. If the plaid looks the same on both sides, then it’s likely yarn dyed. Plaids are classified as even plaids or uneven plaids. Even plaids have a mirror-image pattern where, if you fold back the corner, the lines of the plaid meet and continue the pattern. The stripe order repeats itself symmetrically across the fabric and may go in a pattern like this: 1 2 3 4 3 2 1 2 3 4. Uneven plaids will not match up if you fold back the corner and have a more irregular striping pattern. An uneven plaid may have a stripe pattern like this: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4. Plaids woven from wool fabric are also called tartans, originally used for traditional Scottish kilts and highland dress. Gingham and checked fabrics are types of plaid.
WHEN DO YOU USE IT?
Plaid fabric is popular for all kinds of garments, from dressy to casual. Woolen plaids are great for sewing warm winter apparel—coats, jackets, skirts and dresses, even trousers! Plaid flannel shirts are cozy for casual wear; lightweight cotton plaid shirts are often styled with curved yokes (page link) and called western shirts. In summer, look for lightweight plaid shirting for blouses, dresses and skirts. Plaid fabrics are best for confident beginners, as it takes work to match up the plaids.
HOW TO PLACE PLAIDS ON GARMENTS
Just like stripes (page link) and border print fabrics (page link), plaid fabrics require careful planning and cutting. You’ll want to figure out where you want the plaid to go on every piece before cutting it out. In addition, you will want to match the plaid lines at the seam lines, so the lines travel across the body.
Placing pieces on the bias (page link) for a diagonal effect is a great alternative to matching the plaids, for example, on patch pockets, yokes, waistbands, midriff bands and trim.
PLANNING A PLAID GARMENT
- Buy a little extra fabric. You know how they say, “Allow extra fabric to match stripes or plaids”? Make sure you do! Allow at least 25 percent more than the pattern calls for and more if you have a very large plaid.
- Pick a pattern with not too many pieces. If you pick a coat with a lot of seaming and panels, you’re creating a lot of work for yourself. Either the seaming will be lost in the plaid, if the plaid is perfectly matched, or there will be plenty of opportunities for less-than-perfect matching to be seen!
- Think about where you want the plaid lines to be placed. This could be at the hemline, on the collar or over certain areas of your body. I’d never want a wide band of plaid around my hips! (But I might over my bustline for extra attention.) Think about which lines you want at the hemline, especially if it’s curved.
HOW TO MATCH PLAIDS
Matching plaid is all about the cutting. The good news is that once the cutting is done, the sewing part is easy. Laying out your fabric and matching the plaids is a tedious process, but I feel it’s worth it to sew professional-looking garments.
Decide where you are going to match the plaids. It’s critical to match plaids at center front and center back. After that, the rest is up to you and depends on the pattern and the scale of your plaid.
Lay out your fabric on your table or floor, folding it according to the pattern’s cutting diagram. Now you will line up every plaid intersection and pin them together. Tedious and time-consuming? You bet. But it’s the best way to ensure perfectly matching plaids through both layers.
Alternately you could cut the fabric open and cut each pattern piece twice. That would mean less matching of plaid intersections but more marking plaid lines on pattern pieces. For uneven plaids especially, this may be the best solution.
Start at one end of the fold edge. Stick a pin through one of the intersections—this will be easiest if you always use the same place on the pattern. Flip over your fabric and look at where the pin went through on the other side. Your goal is to get the pin poking through the exact same place on the plaid pattern. If the intersection doesn’t line up, reposition the pin so it’s through the right spot and then smooth the fabric around the pin.
Secure the pin through both layers of fabric. I find it helps to always pin in the same direction. Repeat with the next intersection. Stick the pin through the intersection, check and reposition the other side and secure the pin. Once the fold has been matched, work your way toward the selvedges.
For large-scale plaids, pin every intersection. On smaller plaids, like this one, pinning every second intersection is probably enough.
When it comes time to place the pattern pieces, it helps if you already know where you want your plaid lines to fall. Think about where the dominant lines are going to fall on the pattern piece as you place each one.
Line up the most important part of the piece first and then continue pinning along the fold of the piece. Pin all around the piece, smoothing out the tissue. Now you’re almost ready to cut. Before you cut, mark the main plaid lines onto the pattern piece, using a ruler. I’m doing this on the side seams, so I can match the front side seam plaid to the back side seam plaid lines. Draw the lines approximately 2″ (5.1cm) onto the pattern piece. That’s all you need, as the lines may not meet in a straight line. You’ll have a slight V where the plaids meet on the side seam. The important part is to know where the plaid lines cross the seam line.
Repeat the markings for each wide or dominant plaid stripe, all along the seam line. Now you can cut out the piece. Remove the tissue carefully, and draw over the plaid lines so they’re slightly darker.
Transfer these markings to the front pattern piece. In my example, I have a Bodice Front and Back piece. So I’ll take the Bodice Back and lay it on top of the Bodice Front, matching side seams. You’ll be able to see the plaid line markings through the tissue and trace them onto the front piece. Using a ruler, trace the plaid line markings onto the adjoining piece along the side seam or whichever seam it is you are matching. Use these lines to line up the next piece along the plaid fabric.
To sew, pin at intersections along each seam line, sew the seam and check your work after to ensure one side hasn’t stretched out. For extra accuracy, baste the seams first.
Tips + Notes
- Do you have to match every single plaid fabric? No. Fabrics with small-scale plaids, such as small checks or gingham, don’t need to match up. The larger the plaid, the more important it is to match the plaid lines for aesthetic reasons.
- It’s easier to work with tissue patterns than white paper or traced patterns when you are cutting plaid fabrics. You can see through the tissue, which makes the plaid lines easy to find.
Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine