In my last post I mentioned the great pleasure I get from sewing stripe fabric. So what better time to write another ‘top ten tips’ post on exactly that.
1. Front & Back Pattern Placement
The aim is to get the stripes to match up. Use pattern features such as notches, waistline and centre markings to guide your pattern placement. Since these features are on both front and back pattern pieces it’s a surefire way to get a satisfying match around a garment. I also like to mark the stripes on my pattern piece (one long stripe and then a few short guide ones at the edges) if I am cutting two out, at least they will match.
2. Don’t forget shoulders
Often we focus so much on the side seams, we forget other areas where stripes meet at a seamline. Unlike sides seams where stripe matching is done by sliding the pattern pieces perpendicular to stripes to get a match, slide parallel to the stripe direction to match shoulder seams (again use a notch to get an exact match).
3. Cut on a single layer of fabric
Cutting on a single layer of fabric allows more control over the stripe placement and avoids faffing about with folded fabric trying to get the stripes perfectly matched up. You can either make new pattern pieces from the ‘cut on fold’ ones or just chalk around the pattern piece before flipping to make a mirror image. The latter is my preferred option but remember to cut just inside the chalk to keep the sizing accurate.
4. Keep it straight
Use a quilters rule over the pattern pieces and fabric. Place the rule lines over the marked grainline on the pattern and check that the stripes are perpendicular for horizontal stripes and parallel for vertical stripes. This is particularly useful when flipping a ‘cut on fold’ pattern piece.
5. Pin as much as you need
I pin about every inch for striped fabric, even more if its a slippery sort. Handily horizontal stripes make it easy to space pins out evenly.
The narrower the stripes, the more matching up you’ll have to do but it’ll be worth it in the end.
6. Pin to check alignment
Pin on a stripe barrier on one side then flip over to the other side to check that your stripes are aligned (the pin should hit the stripe border that side too).
7. Directional sewing
Sew the area that will be seen the most first. When sleeves are sewn in flat, the side and sleeve seams can be sewn in one go. On a top, the side seam will be seen more than the sleeve seam so sew the sides first so that if the fabric shifts and the stripes become mismatched it’ll be in a less obvious place.
On a long side seam, check every 5-10 inches that you are happy with the stripe matching. It’s quicker to unpick a short stretch of stitches than all of it. Basting first is also a good idea especially if you are trimming as you go with a serger/overlocker blade.
8. Have fun with the neckline
All this precise stripe match you would be forgiven for thinking stripes are boring. The neckline is a great place to have fun. Turn the stripes the opposite way to the rest of the garment or use them to give a neat border and frame the face and neckline.
9. Thread colour
There are no rules but do ask yourself the following questions: Is there a main stripe colour (usually a wider area)? Will darker thread show through on lighter areas if the fabric is thin? Which colour stripe will hem stitches appear on? If you are still not sure what colour thread to use, sew up some samples on scrap fabric first to see what looks best.
10. Press just beyond a stripe border
While it’s nice to use stripes as a guide for hemming and bindings it is tempting to press exactly on the border of a stripe. This is risky and likely to show glimpses of the other colour from the outside. Instead, press the hem just beyond the colour change border so that from the wrong side there is a hint of the final stripe colour. This will ensure that contrasting colour doesn’t peak out after sewing.
Do you have any tips for sewing with stripes? Or are you currently sewing something stripey?