“Hidden Patterns”

More than once I have come away from a fabric store with a beautiful print fabric only to find that, when I’ve gotten it home and spread it out, it contained hidden secondary patterns I didn’t see at the store.  No matter the type of sewing you do:  garments, home décor, quilts, accessories:  this scenario may play out for you, too.  I started cutting out a new top for my oldest niece and found just this situation on the cutting table before me.  I thought I was dealing with a fabric that had a repeating pattern of circles in a type of horizontal stripe.  Once the fabric was laid out I found I was not only dealing with the circles in horizontal stripes but also a portion of fabric area with no circles that formed a vertical stripe.  This meant I was dealing with….you guessed it…. a horizontal stripe + a vertical stripe… known as a plaid.  Yikes!  To top things off, the patterns created an uneven plaid, meaning the pattern was not identical with every repeat.

My father taught me how to match fabric patterns; stripes, fabric repeats, plaids, many years ago.  He was an amazing upholsterer and was a magician when it came to matching fabric patterns.  He taught me that the secret to matching patterns was patience and concentration.  I now have the top cut and will begin sewing tomorrow.  Only the finished product will let me know if I was paying close enough attention to my father’s lessons!  I will include some pictures next week.  I hope these tips help you with your next pattern matching adventure! 

Forty years ago, my father upholstered every piece of furniture in my home. His pattern matching abilities were amazing!
Matching simple stripes is one thing…
..floral diamonds that run from the loose seat cushion to the back are quite another.
In fact, the diamond pattern matches starting from the chair’s skirt, up the front, over the cushion, and up the back. Did you notice that even the arm covers match their pattern with the pattern in the chair’s arms? Amazing concentration!
This is the fabric for my niece’s top. Looked, at first, like an all over pattern that would require no matching.
When I stepped back from the fabric, the two intersecting stripes jumped out. The two wooden pointers show the two patterns.
Since the pattern did not repeat evenly, I needed to cut every piece from a single layer of fabric. In order to make sure my pattern matched at the notches, I laid the pieces out for cutting as they would be joined during sewing. This kept the vertical stripe under control.
Along with the notches, the side seams need to match. When they are sewn, it will look as if the material continues without a break. This helps with the spacing of the horizontal lines.
This is a cross over top with a short skirt attached. This is the layout for the right side of the garment. Once this is cut, I flip the pieces (a very important step!) and cut the pieces out again for the garment’s left side.
The best way I have found to get two pieces to match their patterns is to flip the first cut piece and use it as a pattern for the second cut piece. Here the back of the fabric is a lighter shade than the front side and you can see clearly where the circle on the left of the front matches the piece I’ve already cut.
This is a close up of matching the left side and the right side of the front. I will move the cut piece until it matches the fabric below. Once they align, I cut. Don’t worry about grains here. When you cut the first piece, be careful to match your grain lines on the pattern pieces. Once those are correct, when you flip your fabric piece to cut out the next piece, the grains will match when the pattern matches.
The first piece I cut was the front. I had to match it in two places. With every new piece you add, the amount of places your patterns must match goes up. This is the back and the back skirt. I now need to match in four places. When I add the sleeves, that number goes up again. By the time I finished cutting, the fabric’s pattern needed to match at the side seams (bodice and skirt side seams), the shoulders, the waist, across the sleeves, the hem and where the top crosses the right over the left sides.

This type of pattern matching is not something to attempt when you are tired! Make sure you are ready to concentrate, then enjoy the puzzle! Happy Sewing!