Tag Archives: Wendy Ward

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!!

Shop Your Stash! In 4 Easy Steps

stash busting

In this post I talked about ways to use up those awkward left over offcuts of fabric in your stash that are too small to make a garment, but too big to just discard. Now let’s get serious and tackle those bigger pieces of fabric in your stash – yes, you know what I mean, those lengths you bought on impulse that are languishing in the bag with the receipt completely forgotten about ……! It’s fine, we’ve all done it, but they’re taking up valuable space, so here’s my four-step plan for tackling them.

stash busting

Tackle the stash head on and prepare to be harsh and brutally honest. Pull out any fabrics that are in colours and prints that don’t coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe and that you’ve never worn before; if you’ve never bought clothes in those colours or prints you’re unlikely to wear anything you make in them. Do this in daylight with a mirror close by – if you’re unsure about a fabric, hold it up to your face, you’ll soon get a feeling for whether you’d be likely to wear it.

Put the fabrics that pass the cull to one side ready for the next steps. Get rid of the fabrics that didn’t make the grade. There are plenty of good things you can do with your rejects:

  • use it for non-dressmaking sewing
  • if you have storage space – keep it for making toiles
  • sell it online – there’s always Ebay, but social media sites like Instagram are becoming popular in the sewing community for regular “Destash Sales”
  • organise a fabric swap with some stitchy friends at a class or sewcial meet-up
  • donate it to a charity or school.

stash busting

Once you have your carefully edited pile of usable fabrics, make sure each piece is washed so that it’s all ready to just unfold and cut. Pre-washing is important and I’ve written more about it here; it removes any loose dye and encourages any shrinkage in the fabric. Natural fibres are most prone to shrinkage (especially cotton and wool), as are regenerated fibres such as viscose and rayon. Knitted fabrics are also more likely to shrink than woven fabrics. 

Here’s a guide to how much different fibres are likely to shrink:

  • wool by up to 15%
  • viscose 8%
  • cotton 10%

By now you probably won’t have a note of the washing instructions for your fabrics, not a problem, what I tend to do is put fabric on the machine cycle that I want to be able to use for my finished clothes. Personally I don’t dry clean, so if a fabric can’t withstand machine washing, I’m unlikely to use it. If you have any fabric in your pile that you know may require more careful cleaning such as silk or wool, put them on a delicate, cool machine wash or hand wash them if they’re very precious.

Dry knitted fabrics flat and woven fabrics on a line, airer or over a shower rail. Never drape any fabric over anything with protruding parts (like the backs of chairs) to dry as they will distort and stretch the area of the fabric that covers them and these stretched areas can be almost impossible to remove once your fabric is dry.

stash busting

Label each piece of fabric with the following information to save time when shopping your stash:

  • fibre content (if you can remember – you can always do a burn test to check)
  • whether the fabric is pre-washed
  • the size of the piece.

Then fold or roll the fabric. There are arguments for and against both folding and rolling fabric; rolling tends to reduce creasing, and although I find rolling takes up more space, rolled lengths of fabric stored on their ends can make it easier to see at a glance what fabrics you have.

The key to storage is visibility; I like to store my fabric in clear plastic boxes. If you’re lucky enough to have the space, fabric stored on shelves is most accessible, but if you’re short on space, vac pack bags like these are great space savers while keeping your fabric visible.vacuum storage bagsIt’s vital to shopping and using your stash to store it in a way that makes it easy to see what you have; if you chuck your stash all together in a box or suitcase under the bed it won’t work, it will never be seen again. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience!

Finally, beware of every fabric stash’s enemy – the moth! I always put moth balls (or similar) in my storage boxes and spray wool and silk with moth proofing spray before putting them into storage.

stash busting

Try and think ahead with your sewing. Unless you’re making lots of really quick-to-sew garments, anticipate your needs and start making in advance. I find it really difficult to sew out of season; I just don’t fancy sewing heavy warm wools in summer and likewise, floaty silks and cotton lawns just don’t appeal in the depths of winter. But, unless you want to wait a whole year to wear your makes, start more challenging seasonal projects ahead of season; for example, plan and make a start on a winter coat project at the end of the summer. You can always keep a few easy quick seasonal makes going alongside your big projects; a cool tank top or t-shirt dress isn’t going to take long to make and will be a welcome instant fix when you get tired of (or overheated by) the coat!

Identify the gaps in your wardrobe (including wardrobe winners that you want to make more of) and make a “to-sew” list. Beth of Sew DIY has a nice little sewing calendar you can download from her blog here.

According to the Craft Industry Alliance Sewing Planners are the next big thing, Colette’s sewing planner has been around for a while and more apps for “organising your stash” have emerged in the past year such as Cora and Sewologie. Personally I’d rather channel the work involved in setting up an app into a physical planner any day, but maybe that’s just the design school training of keeping a sketchbook that’s ingrained in me or maybe it’s the simple fact that fabrics are tactile and you need to touch them….

Whichever method you choose, the key is to keep it manageable – there are only 12 months in a year, so if your list has 25 projects, that’s 2 a month and do you really have that much sewing time? Also try and throw in at least a couple of projects that you know will stretch you and encourage you to learn some new skills.

I’ve written before about planning your sewing rather than rushing into projects to realise halfway through that you don’t like or need them….

  • find my post on thoughtful sewing with a Sewing Planner to download here
  • you can download my guide to making a Home-Sewn Collection here.