I know this is going to make me sound like the biggest dork ever, but I loooove matching plaids. It’s really fun and it makes me feel super smart when I get all my lines to match up. I know a lot of people are skeered of dealing with The Plaid (or The Stripes, or the Gingham, or the Buffalo Check for that matter), but I promise they’re not hard to sew! It just takes a little prep, a bit more attention while cutting, and then you’re golden!
The first think you need to do is determine what areas need to match, and what you can get away with cutting on the bias to avoid matching. My biggest #1 tip for plaids is cut whatever the fuck you can on the bias. It breaks up a monotonous pattern, it creates visual interest, and it saves you a few matching sessions. Generally speaking, the parts that go bias tend to be pockets, the yoke and the button placket (on a shirt), princess seams (on a dress), under sleeves (on a jacket) and waistbands (on a skirt or pants), as well as anything that is a small detail (such as pocket welts).
A couple things I never cut on the bias – sleeve plackets (those shits are fiddly enough without throwing bias in the mix), shirt cuffs (tends to be too busy; just accept that the lines won’t match up all the way across and get on with your life), collars and collar stands (you can’t see the collar stand, and a collar doesn’t have to match up to the lines on the shirt if there’s a bias piece underneath it. And, again, too busy). It should go without saying, but try not to sew bias pieces next to each other. They are good for breaking up the lines, but use them sparingly!
Once you’ve determined your bias pieces, now is the time to locate all the seams that need to match up. Generally, it’s not very many – for my Archer, I matched the side seams and the sleeve seams. The back yoke, pocket and button placket were cut on the bias, and the remaining pieces (collar, collar stand, sleeve placket) were cut without any matching. Sounding easy so far? Ok, let’s get cutting!
Now, just a head’s up – I don’t cut my plaids on a folded layer. I know a lot of people do it that way but I personally have never ever had any luck with that method – there is always oneeee line that is slightly off, and ugh, do not want! So I cut my shit on a single layer whenever I can get away with it. This goes the same for bias pieces (if your piece is on a fold – like the back yoke – trace it so it’s a full piece and cut it on one layer. Trust me.).
Of course, there are some pieces you have to cut on the fold – like the back for the Archer shirt. Start with this piece. Fold just the amount of fabric you need, being very careful to match up every single line (and now you realize why I cut shit on the single layer, right? This part is maddening!).
Once you’re satisfied with how everything matches up through both layers, pin the selvedge down so the fabric won’t shift. Cut out your pattern piece and clip all your notches.
For the next piece – in my case, the two front pieces – open out your fabric so it’s a single layer. Take the folded piece you just cut and open it up (hope you marked those notches, buddy!). Line up the side seam – the part that needs to match – with the plaid lines on the fabric. Get it so it’s totally even and basically plaid camouflage.
Then take your front piece and align it on the fabric so the side seams match, from underarm to hem. I know it’s hard to see the in the picture, but the piece I’m holding at the bottom is my back piece, lined up with the remaining fabric.
Make sure your notches are aligned on the same bit of plaid, and then cut your one front piece. Don’t forget to clip your notches!
Now take the piece you just cut – the front piece – and flip it over on the single layer so the pieces are mirrored with the same sides together. Take care to match the lines on every single cut edge.
If you squint your eyes and can’t see the piece you pinned down, you know it’s matched up there perfectly.
Once you cut this piece, you should have two front pieces that are a perfect mirror image of one another – this means that the side seams will match the back on both sides, as well as the center front matching (since it’s a mirror).
I’ve found this technique to be much more successful as you have complete control over the matching and cutting since you are doing everything on a single layer (so no unhappy fabric-shifty surprises when you open up the pieces). And bonus – cutting a single layer means you use less fabric. Seriously! I think I eeked that Archer out in like, less than a yard and a half of fabric. Crazy talk, y’all!
Also, I should probably point out now that once you’ve cut all your pieces, you don’t have to give any other thought to matching the lines as they should perfectly fall into place. Yay for mindless sewing that looks difficult!
Now go forth and match up those plaids like a BOSS!