Shop Your Stash – Matching Patterns to Fabrics

For the last 2 months I’ve been talking about how to use and organise your leftover scrap fabrics and your fabric stash. So now you have a beautifully edited and organised stash of fabric, but no doubt you also have a pattern stash?! Here are my tips for how to streamline and organise your pattern collection and a quick guide for teaming fabrics with patterns.


how to store patterns

Go through your wardrobe and pull out the garments you most enjoy wearing. You could even take photos of them and create a moodboard or a “My Style” Pinterest board (this is probably a good version of that for me). Hopefully a pattern will start to emerge of styles, shapes and details.

You might also begin to see some gaps that could be filled with particular garments.

Next get an accurate set of your body measurements; include your cup size as well as your bust, inside leg and your preferred skirt lengths. Always refer to these measurements when choosing your pattern size, DO NOT go by dress sizes on patterns – they’re meaningless (read why here), get to know your body measurements and just go by the size chart and finished garment measurements on the pattern.

Download a copy of my guide to taking measurements:how to measure yourself


Next, go through your patterns and using the flat technical drawings so as not to be distracted by photographs and illustrations, pull out all the ones that you would wear and that fit in with the styles you identified in step 1. Be honest with yourself!

Once you have made a pile of “possibles” go through these patterns again and check that the sizes covered by each pattern include your measurements (remember to check both the body measurement chart AND the finished garment measurements of the pattern). Put all those that cover your measurements to one side, the rest are your reject patterns to get rid of.

Like with your culled fabrics, there are lots of ways to get these patterns out of your life:

  • sell them online – there’s always Ebay, but social media sites like Instagram are becoming popular in the sewing community for regular “Destash Sales”,
  • organise a pattern swap with your crafty friends at a class or meet-up,
  • donate them to your local charity shop or school.

What’s the best way to store your newly edited library of patterns? Patterns come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and then there are PDF patterns.

As with fabrics, I’m a fan of the clear plastic stackable box approach, but here are some more ideas for storing your patterns:

  • paper patterns that you think you’re likely to use several times need to be more durable – transfer the pieces onto card or iron interfacing onto the backs of the pattern sheets before cutting out the pieces,
  • store card and interfaced patterns on pattern hooks and hang them along with any toiles you’ve made of the patterns,
  • don’t try to stuff cut out paper patterns back into their envelopes, either store the pieces in a card or plastic folder and keep them on a shelf or put the pieces in a clear plastic sleeve and put the sleeve on a hanger along with any toiles you’ve made of the pattern,
  • don’t roll patterns that are on card or stiffer paper – they will never lie flat again and will drive you bananas!

It’s time to shop your fabric stash! Take each of your edited patterns and see if you can find a suitable fabric in your (now beautifully organised) fabric stash.
Each pattern will have a list of suggested fabrics, if you’re still quite new to sewing, these lists can be quite confusing.

To help you out I’ve put together 2 checklists:

  • a fabric checklist which explains by fabric name some of the more common fabrics, along with what kind of styles they best suit and their typical fibre content,
  • a project checklist for you to better plan your sewing projects.

You can download them here.

fabric guide

If you’re planning to make a pattern that you haven’t made before, make a quick toile in a similar weight, substitute fabric first to check whether you want to make any tweaks to the fit or style.

Once you’ve sewn with a range of different fabrics and have an idea of how they behave, what they’re like to sew and how much you enjoy wearing them, you can experiment with substituting the fabrics recommended for your patterns.

How to Sew Stripes and Stripe Match Every Time

stripe matching tips

If, like me, you love wearing stripes, you really need to learn how to stripe match. Look at most cheap high street stripey clothing to see great examples of awful (non existent) stripe matching. Argh, it sets my teeth on edge!!

If you’re making your own clothes you have the power to change that and get beautifully matched stripes every time.

stripe matching tips

I’m going to show you some of my simplest stripe matching tips so that you can achieve results like these. Spoiler: there are no shortcuts.  It takes time to achieve perfection and sometimes it can be wasteful of your fabric, that’s why you’re unlikely to find it on the high street.

I’ll show you how to ensure perfectly matching stripes at every stage of making your garment:

  • Planning Stripes
  • Stripey Layouts
  • Cutting Stripes
  • Sewing Stripes

STEP 1: PLANNING STRIPES

Fact – some stripes are easier to sew than others. If this is your first attempt at stripe matching, go wide. The wider the stripe, the easier the stripe matching.

In these examples, the stripe on the right may just tip you over the edge if you haven’t had a bit of experience with stripe matching.

The second thing to consider (more in terms of fabric consumption and cutting) is whether your stripe is symmetrical.

A stripe with a simple symmetrical repeat (like the 2 above) will allow you to use a 2-way lay plan ie. you will be able to turn pattern pieces upside down in order to make best use of your fabric.

These two examples of asymmetric stripes would mean placing all your pattern pieces the same way up with the tops of the pattern pieces all at the same end of the fabric:

Here’s an example of one of those stripes in repeat with front and back pattern pieces placed on it in different directions:

how to sew stripes

 You can see straightaway how the stripe repeat would be different across the front and back of the garment; that narrow double red stripe would always be above the wide red stripe across the front, but below it across the back.

STEP 2: STRIPEY LAYOUTS

Once you have worked out whether your fabric has a symmetric or asymmetric stripe, you’re ready to start laying out your striped fabric ready to cut.

If you’re working with a knitted fabric and a horizontal stripe, this can be a challenging stage. You need to be sure that your fabric is square and if you want to cut out your fabric folded, that fold has to be spot on and the same stripe must be sitting on top of itself with the fabric folded otherwise you’ll never be able to match your seams and your horizontal stripes will end up looking a bit sea sick.

how to sew stripes

I tend to cut stripes on the right side of the fabric to be absolutely sure they’re going to match, so once you’ve folded your fabric and followed the same stripe around the fold to the underside of the fabric to ensure it’s sitting on top of itself, pin the ends of the stripes along the selvedge to hold them in place. I like to pin every few stripes – yes you’ll be using a lot of pins!

how to sew stripes

This is also when you can find lots of knitted fabrics haven’t been cut square. You can see where the 2 selvedges meet in the middle of the fabric above; once I had matched up the stripes the selvedges were drifting off at a bit of an angle. This is because most knitted fabrics are knitted on circular knitting machines as a tube. As most home dressmakers are used to working with “open” fabric, this tube is then cut open, not always accurately.

If you’re struggling to keep your stripes matched when folding your fabric, don’t panic, just cut out your fabric as a single layer. To make life easier, adapt any pattern pieces that are cut on a fold into full pattern pieces and remember to flip over pieces that are cut twice to make sure you get a left and a right piece and not two identical ones.

STEP 3: CUTTING STRIPES

Now you’re ready to place your pattern pieces onto your fabric and start stripe matching across the different parts of your garment.

The key thing to remember, is to start with one prominent pattern piece (such as the front) and line up the same points on each pattern piece with the same part of the stripe. The easiest points to line up are the hemline or the top (underarm point) of the side seam.

how to cut stripes

Always try and follow a stripe along straight hems and if you’re working with an asymmetric stripe with a very dominant colour or wider stripe in the repeat, think carefully about where you want that to end up in your garment as it’s likely to draw the eye to that particular area.

I prefer to weight my patterns and draw around them on stripes, again to ensure I’m being as accurate as possible.  Then remove the paper pattern and cut along the chalk lines. If you’re working on folded fabric, place a few pins within the chalked out pattern piece at its extremities to ensure the layers don’t move while you’re cutting.

A note about bust darts – if your side seam incorporates a bust dart on the front of the garment, begin your stripe matching at the hem. Only by chance  will the stripes match above the dart (it’s all down to the size of your dart and width of your stripes) and you have the longest expanse of seam visible to the stripe-matching police below the dart!

STEP 4: SEWING STRIPES

Now, if you don’t like tacking or precision sewing, maybe stripes aren’t for you just yet as we’re going to be doing a lot of pinning and tacking.

First, match up the stripes at each end of your seam and pin them accurately together. Then, work your way along the seam pinning every stripe for wide stripes and every other stripe or every 2nd stripe for narrower stripes. Place your pins at right angles to the edge of the fabric; you can fit in more pins and the pin is holding more of the stripe in place.

stripe matching tips

Take a peek and double check the stripes in between your pins are aligned before you start tacking.

stripe matching tips

Set your sewing machine to do a tacking stitch: a straight stitch on the longest stitch length setting.

Machine tack your seam together ON THE SEAMLINE don’t tack to one side because when you do your final stitching the stripes can move out of alignment.

how to stripe match

Once tacked, open the seam to check the stripes are matching.

stripe matching tips

If they have moved (yes, I know how frustrating it is once you’ve got this far and been sooooo careful), don’t fret, all is not lost. Your fabric is likely to be either very stretchy, a bit thick or a bit “bouncy” and the top layer of your seam has been moved slightly by your machine, pushing the stripes out of alignment.

Here’s how to fix it:

1 – If your machine has the facility, reduce the presser foot pressure.

how to stripe match

This reduces how hard the presser foot presses down on your fabric and so can stop your machine pushing that top layer of stripes out of alignment.

2 – Use a walking foot.

The walking foot has an extra set of feed dogs (the little metal teeth under the presser foot that feed the fabric through the machine) which means your 2 layers of fabric feed through the machine evenly without the top layer being pushed out of alignment.

A walking foot tends not to come as a standard accessory with your sewing machine and so needs to be bought separately.  Make sure you buy the correct foot for your make and model machine.  The price will vary according to what sort of machine you have. It’s worth investing in a walking foot if your machine doesn’t have the facility to adjust the presser foot pressure.

A note about hand tacking – anyone that knows me knows that I love a bit of hand tacking, but honestly, I don’t think it’s the best method for tacking stripes; machine tacking is just that bit more secure which is exactly what we need when stripe matching.

Once you’re happy with your stripe matching after tacking, carry on and permanently stitch the seam using your chosen method. If you’re sewing a  knitted fabric with just your regular sewing machine, I have written lots of tutorials with advice on different machine settings here. If you’re going to overlock your seams, here’s a short video of how easy your overlocking will be once you’ve machine tacked your stripes in place! Note that I’m following the tack line with my left needle thus making it the seamline.

Now you too can become a stripe matching geek!

stripe matching tips how to stripe match how to stripe match

MIY March 17: Week 5 Prizes

MIY March sponsors

It’s here already, the final week of MIY March for this year *sobs*. I’m going to assume that by now you know what’s involved, but if you need to check, it’s all in this blog post.

So as it’s the last week, let’s go out with a bang and a prize bundle from some fantastic sponsors, a huge thank you to:

Here are the prizes these sponsors have generously donated to the final Prize Bundle that you could win this week on FRIDAY!

MIY March Prizes

  • Ernest Wright – a pair of 8″ dressmaker’s shears with winner’s choice of handle colour and a pair of antique stork embroidery scissors
  • Seamwork – a 6 month subscription
  • Discovery Knitting – a £50 voucher to spend in their online shop.

Wow, what a month!

Next, watch out for the MIY March MIY Maker finalists and get ready to vote.

MIY March 17: Week 4 Prizes

MIY March sponsors

It’s the penultimate week of MIY March already. If you’re only just joining us, where were you?! Better late than never. All the details for how to play along if you’re not sure what to do are in this blog post.

Here are the sponsors of the prize bundle for week 4:

And here are the prizes they’ve donated that will be up for grabs on Saturday……

MIY March prizes

  • Fashion Formula – a £75 voucher to spend on custom printed fabric
  • Sew DIY – PDF copies of all 3 of Beth’s sewing patterns
  • Love Sewing – a 3 month subscription (sent monthly in print to a UK winner, an international winner can choose either a digital subscription or the 3 months in print sent in one package).

Prize Day this week is again open to international players! I’m looking forward to seeing your pictures…..

No Pattern T-Shirt & Dress Project

free dressmaking project

When Julie from the Sewing Directory got in touch to ask if I’d create a dressmaking project for their site that could use an overlocker and didn’t require a pattern I immediately said yes. I like a challenge!

Armed with some gorgeous knitted fabrics that were kindly provided by Girl Charlee here’s what I created…..

free dressmaking project

….a tapered hem dress,

free sewing project

and a loose drapey t-shirt (those dogs, always trying to get their little hairy faces in…..!!)

The project works in woven fabric as well as knits and you can find it here.

Don’t forget to share your makes on social media and tag me (I’m @thatwendyward on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest or you can post a photo on the MIY Collection Facebook page). I love seeing what you make with my patterns and projects!

MIY March 17: Week 3 Prizes

MIY March sponsors

We’re almost half way through already!! If you’ve only just discovered MIY March and want to play along, you can find all the details in this blog post.

Here are the fabulous sponsors of this week’s prize bundle:

Feast your eyes on the bumper bundle you could win this Saturday…..

MIY March Prizes

  • Minerva – a £100 fabric hamper
  • Textile Garden – a £30 voucher to spend online
  • By Hand London – your choice of 3 PDF patterns.

Not bad eh?! And this week’s Prize Day is open internationally. Off you go, get snapping and posting!

MIY March MIY Makers

MIY March MIY Makers Sponsors

Wow what a start to MIY March it’s been so far! After only 9 days there has already been over 4000 pictures posted by the sewing community on Instagram.

Did you know there’s also a new making challenge this year? Instead of my usual monthly MIY Makers challenge, for this month it’s the MIY March MIY Makers and there are prizes.

Full details for how to enter are here and don’t forget to download your copy of my free (for a limited time) Pomona Shrug pattern…..

free miy collection sewing pattern

Janome and Sew Essential are the generous sponsors of this challenge, here are the prizes up for grabs:

janome sewing machine

A Janome Sewist 525S sewing machine worth over £250 and….

mettler thread pack

from Sew Essential a Mettler thread pack worth £30 and your choice of 3 sewing patterns.

So, get busy with the scissors and I look forward to seeing what you make!!