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1950s | Vintage Sewing

Don’t Let the Pattern Matching Get You Down…

May 22, 2017

I can’t say for certain that we have all been there, but I know I’m not the only seamstress to have had a definite plan and then once you actually take a hard look at the fabric you have to work with in more detail, you realize the plan is just not going to happen! Such was the case with this dress, as I had planned originally to cut everything with the print mirrored along the center front, but as soon as I laid the fabric out properly I understood that certainly was not going to work out.

The fabric I used to make this dress had some pretty serious downsides going for it. Firstly it was left over yardage from another project that had been languishing in my stash for years, so the piece I had left was an odd shape to start with. The other issue was more of a problem; though the print was hypothetically perfectly mirrored…it was actually off-set by about half a centimeter. I assume this fabric, being flocked (mimicking cut velvet) , was made by printing down a layer of glue in the areas where the black fibers would be, and then applying the flocking powder and then repeating this process along the center of the yardage, and when they did this it was obviously not perfectly lined up. So my original plan to cut this dress with the mirrored center of the print going down the center front of the dress had to be scrapped, for if I cut it like that it would appear as if I had done a very poor job of it since the fabric itself was off kilter.

It is in moments like these, when you have your pattern pieces strewn around you on the floor trying to figure out how to place and fit them on your fabric, that it is very easy to get too frustrated and give up before you have even truly started. I was tempted to scrap the idea of this project entirely, but instead took a deep breath and the time to look at other options. I decided, after much deliberation, to use the white space between the printed motifs to my advantage and cut the center front bodice pieces with their center in the white areas so when they were sewn together there wouldn’t be a jarring break in the pattern along the seam. Next I had to determine what to do with the skirt, and though I knew no matter what I couldn’t get the print to match along the side seams, to try and find an angle where the print would at least sort of flow. I ended up cutting the skirt pieces diagonally, but not perfectly on bias. As Tim Gunn would say, make it work!

Though this dress was a challenge to cut out, and looks different that I had originally planned, I am happy I persevered and still made it despite the puzzle like conundrum at the start.  Lessons learned, don’t get too attached to your original idea lest it not work out, and two- take your time and consider all the possible solutions when pattern matching. Such lessons came in handy recently when making another dress and matching stripes! If only fabric was always printed perfectly on grain and perfectly matched up, but such is not the world we live in.

I wore the finished dress on a recent trip to Paris and if you would like to see more photos, you can check out a full outfit post over on The Closet Historian.

Thanks for reading, and don’t let the pattern matching get you down! 🙂

  1. I haven’t attempted any pattern matching yet, I’ve heard so many tales of woe where it all goes wrong! It sounds like you rose to the challenge magnificently x

    1. Thanks Porcelina! It is definitely much easier when the fabric is actually printed correctly, then it is just a matter of patience and double triple checking everything before you actually touch scissors to fabric.

  2. This dress is absolutely stunning and you have used the pattern placement to its advantage by using the curved lines to swirl across the body, in such a soft, feminine swoop. I love it! But as a fellow seamstress I must admit that I am always too set on my original idea and do get frustrated if it goes awry!

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