Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sewing Project: Plaid Shirtdress

All pieces have arrived! And the shoes complement the fabric in real life, not just on the screen. They pick up on the burnt orange lines. Surprise-surprise though, the linen plaid has some bling -- gold metallic threads woven throughout. I'm usually not into shiny bling in fabric (or anywhere else really; I prefer pearls to diamonds and antique burnished brass to polished brass), but I love the idea of this combination enough to stay committed to this fabric.

I have never sewn with plaid before so this is skill-building opportunity. Below are reference notes. Before sewing something new, I read up on it and make notes. Sharing them here in case they help someone else. All of this is readily available online by surfing sewing articles and blogs.

Some research & notes on sewing with plaids:

  • Find a pattern with minimal seaming, with no princess seams. (My shirtdress choice has darts rather than princess seams for shaping.)
  • I always cut on single layer, which is the advice for matching plaids. Use "with nap" pattern layout.
  • Know whether your plaid is even or uneven, also called balanced or unbalanced -- here are good instructions to figure this out.
  • Bias seams will create chevrons with the fabric. Unbalanced/uneven plaids don't make good chevrons so don't layout unbalanced plaids on the bias for seams. But details without seams like pockets or trim on the bias are OK.
  • Buy extra yardage for matching. Unbalanced and large plaids need even more yardage. (Unfortunately my unbalanced, large plaid fabric had limited yardage remaining so not much extra to play with. If I don't have enough for good plaid matching, I will look for a Plan B pattern rather than force the original pattern and be unhappy with results.)
  • Because you will not be able to match stripes and plaids everywhere, give priority to the side, front armhole and waist seams, and/or to places where an upper and lower garment meet. (Is that last part the waist? My pattern's skirt is fuller and somewhat pleated/darted and I'll wear a belt to cover the waist seam, so there may be more flexibility in layout with my shirtdress pattern which is one reason why I chose it -- think about the elements of your pattern before pairing it with a plaid or stripe fabric.)
  • Use underearm corner point as a matching point for side seams. Here is a picture of this layout.
  • Some advice recommends starting by laying out the front bodice/skirt/dress piece where you want it on the plaid design, then lay out the remaining pieces. Other advice recommends to start with the back piece if it is supposed to be on a fold, so you can then layout the front to match the plaid at the shoulder seams. You will have less control over where the shoulder seams fall for a single back piece than for two front pieces.
  • Position the pattern hems so that they do not fall on an obvious horizontal line, so that you can adjust the hem later as needed without bringing attention to a bold line.
  • Here are detailed instructions for collar layout on plaid.
  • This is good detailed advice too ...
  • Here is what Sandra Betzina says in Power Sewing about matching plaids.
  • And here Claire Shaeffer and Nancy Zieman weigh in with plaid matching advice.

Well after the assistance of these fine experts, it seems like this topic is covered.

Next step ... get confident about matching plaids, and just do it.

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