Sunday, 16 September 2012

Pattern matching

Looking back over the garments I have made for myself recently, it struck me that they have all been made from either plain fabric (the purple dress, the Golden Era costume, the Roman cape - well, almost plain), or a bold pattern which needed careful matching.

I regard pattern matching as one of those things which you don't notice at all if it’s done well, but it's very obvious if it's been done badly, or not done at all. (Although perhaps it's only obvious to dress nerds like me.)

Many of the dresses in the Horrockses exhibition had been carefully pattern matched; to be expected from such an up-market label.

Horrockses dress with pattern matched at front opening

The three patterned dresses I have made recently have all been matched using different techniques.

The blue crepe dress was made a while before I started this blog.

blue crepe dress, back and front

I wanted the pattern of the fabric to match at the front opening, with a row of circles down the centre front and centre back, and the skirt to match the bodice as far as possible. To achieve this I cut out all of the pattern pieces from the fabric folded double, as per the cutting layout, but first pinned the two layers of fabric together in a great many places, to ensure that the cut out pieces matched. Having cut everything out, it struck me that it would almost certainly have been quicker and easier to have cut the pieces out one by one, from a single layer of fabric.

blue dress front close-up

As I've posted previously, the pattern matching on the 'If it can go wrong' dress came about from necessity. Because I made the dress in such a hurry, I didn't take photographs at the time, but have recreated the technique I used on some spare fabric.

For the dress front I drafted a single, full width pattern piece, and marked where I wanted the yoke and the main dress front to join. I then laid this out on a single layer of fabric, and traced the outline of some parts of the fabric design onto the pattern piece, concentrating on the area around the seam line. Fortunately the fabric had a bold design with clear outlines, which made this easy to do. I also marked the cutting line for the main dress piece, 1.5 cm up from the seam line.

tracing the fabric design onto the pattern piece

the dress front pattern piece

I then removed the fabric, laid a fresh layer of tissue over the pattern piece, and traced the outline of the yoke piece, including the cutting line 1.5 cm down from the seam line. Then I traced the fabric design.

tracing the design and pattern piece for the yoke

Once this was done, I cut away the excess tissue at the top of the dress pattern piece This gave me two pattern pieces which could be aligned to the fabric, and when cut out would match at the seam line.

the completed pattern pieces
I then repeated the process for the dress back.

the completed dress

For the tarantella dress, the important thing was to match the stripes up the seams of the flared skirt. Again I cut each piece from a single layer of cloth, and drafted a single, full width pattern piece for the dress centre front. Because I wanted a stripe to run down the centre of the dress, I marked the centre front line on the pattern piece, and drew a line half the width of the stripe either side of the centre front. I then pinned the pattern to the fabric down these lines, before pinning round the edges of the pattern piece as normal.

centre front piece pinned to the stripe, and left front piece

Up each side of the skirt I marked where the stripe met the edge of the pattern piece. Then I laid the edge of the next pattern piece against the first one, and starting from the bottom transferred the stripe markings. I then used these to align the second pattern piece to the fabric stripes.

stripe matching marks

Once one piece was cut out, I flipped the pattern over and cut out the other side.I repeated this process for the remaining pieces until I had all seven dress panels cut out. To my immense relief and joy, not only did the stripes match at the centre back, they matched on the shoulder seams as well.

matching shoulder stripes

All three of these techniques took longer than just cutting out a dress as normal, but I think that the results are worth it. After all, if it was good enough for Horrockses, it's good enough for me!

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