Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Man's button-up: Matching plaids

When I discovered the beautiful and vintage-y modern plaid at Britex, I knew I had found the fabric for which I had been searching.  I had in mind a short sleeve button-up shirt for my husband, but wanted something different than classic dress shirting.  This fab plaid completely fit the bill!   However, once I laid out the fabric and went to cut out my pattern, I realized I had a big challenge ahead of me.  Plaid.  Matching plaid is one issue; deciding in which direction the plaid should be arranged and the overall layout was the other.  Should the plaid on the yoke be diagonal?  If the yoke is on the straight grain, could the pockets be diagonal?  What about the placket??  I was completely paralyzed by indecision for a while, but after looking at some ready-to-wear men's tops, I opted to go for a straight-laced version with no diagonally arranged plaid pieces.  Really working the 70s vibe of the fabric might look great, but I wanted to be sure my husband would actually wear the shirt!
Working with plaid is definitely a challenge, but there are certainly tips to make it easier.  First up, buy more fabric than needed.   I can't stress this enough!  Ask a professional for recommendations for how much (like the nice folks at Britex!).  Tasia from Sewaholic has a great piece on plaid matching.  Her suggestions for carefully pinning your fabric to ensure that the plaids are lined up and drawing plaid lines onto your pattern pieces are invaluable.

This post will help you tackle matching plaids and keeping the pattern continuous across the front of a button-up shirt, with or without button placket.
To keep the plaid continuous across the front, the first order of business is to identify the center front on each of the three main pieces: left and right front pieces, and button placket.  If your pattern does not have separate left and right pieces (the Negroni pattern does not), trace the piece so you have two separate pattern pieces.
Since I drafted the button placket for this shirt, it helped me visualize the process by drawing in the sewing and topstitching lines for the placket on the left piece. 
I decided that I wanted the center of the shirt and button placket to fall between the dominant plaid lines, so the center front of the right side was centered accordingly.  Then, the left side front piece was overlapped onto the other side, carefully lining up the center front lines and pinned everything in place. 
With the pieces overlapping, this is how the plaid pattern will appear on your final garment.  However, the fabric can't be cut with the pieces overlapping, so the plaid lines must be transferred onto the pattern pieces.
Using a straight edge, trace the plaid lines onto your pattern pieces, in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Do not unpin the pieces, just draw straight across the overlapping sections.  You may want to label the plaid lines, particularly if there are multiple designs in the plaid pattern.

The button placket piece could be lapped on top of the other two pieces, but I placed it separately, using the front pieces to guide the location of the horizontal plaid lines.
Once the plaid lines are drawn on the pattern pieces, the pattern can be moved around on the fabric, pinned and cut. 
Collar, yoke and back all match up
With the fabric all cut, you are ready to sew!  Here are a couple of tips for keeping plaid lines together while sewing:
  • be sure to mind the width of your seam allowance.  If your sewing machine doesn't have the right seam allowance guideline, measure and draw the guideline on a piece of clear tape.
  • use plenty of pins, but don't sew over them (the lump created by the pin may move your fabric).  
  • a walking foot can really help keep plaid lines together, particularly for thick fabrics. 
A follow up post on creating the notched pocket (an option from Colette Patterns) and coordinating notched sleeve hem (below) will be coming soon!


    1. This is great! And thanks for all the tips. Sewing a shirt like this is on my list of things to do and I definitely want everything to match up. And hopefully look as good as yours!

      1. Just dive in--it's not as hard as it seems! Best of luck!

    2. Experiment with different styles to find the type of clothing that represents you best. Once you have figured out your style, look for fashion ideas in magazines, see what celebrities are wearing and look at the girls in your community and this is really nice stuff,I must say.

    3. Great! I'd never have thought of drawing the lines, and I know I'd forget about seam allowance and overlap and just match the edge of the cut piece :)

      1. So happy this helped you out!

    4. I like this apparel she has taken on and the smile she has on her face, so adorable and gorgeous looking.