How Stripes Can Change a Pattern

Hey! I’m Heather from Heather Handmade, and I love sewing my own clothes and especially sewing with stripes!

What is it about stripes that attracts so many people? Stripes can look good when they are bold and when they are soft; stripes can look good vertical, horizontal, and diagonal; and stripes can look good on all genders, all shapes, all ages, and all sizes. I personally really love stripes and how placing a pattern piece on stripes in different ways can change the look entirely! In my examples below am using pictures of myself, a woman, because that is what I have available to me, but I hope it can still inspire your own unique creations.

Stripes and Skirts stripe-placement

The simplicity of stripes are a great place to start with choosing stripe placement and direction. Above I showed how cutting out different skirt pattern pieces would look on striped fabric. A striped circle skirt makes the stripes looked curved when being worn. Horizontal flared skirts have a curved hem which cuts through stripes. Vertical gathered skirts  will look like one color at the top and will release into the stripes below. It’s pretty amazing how stripes can change!

I made a tee with a peplum from striped fabric and the stripes look like they curve down to the side seams.

I made a dress with a circle skirt and chose to have the vertical stripes on the side which made all the other stripes look diagonal. It’s hard to see because the stripes were really tiny.


Stripes and Altering Direction


When making a larger item from striped fabric, you can use the pattern lines to change the direction of the stripes. You can do horizontal stripes against vertical stripes, making a striking perpendicular look. I made a striped Farrow dress and I did horizontal stripes on the bodice and angled stripes below the pockets. I love the contrast the different direction creates.

Stripes and Ruffles


When you create ruffles and flares with stripes, you can make some really fun details. When you cut gathered striped ruffles, the stripes will stay the direction you cut them. When you cut flared striped ruffles, the stripes will change direction.

In the diagonal ruffle tee above, I cut a circle ruffle. This makes the stripes change direction all along the ruffle. Here is a rough image of how I cut out the circle ruffle.


On the long sleeve waterfall tee I did horizontal stripes on everything, but since the hem was curved, it makes the striped ruffle look like it curves up at the sides.

Stripes and Collars, Yokes, Pockets


striped Willamette shirt, striped Kalle shirt

Have you ever studied a striped button up shirt? Each one places the stripes in different ways and highlights different areas. It’s fascinating to see what they choose. The two shirts above are similar in that they have collars, yokes, dolman sleeves, and curved shirt hems, but the stripe direction are opposite. With different stripe placements you could minimize shoulders or highlight a waist depending on what you want.


You can also use stripes to make details stand out or to make them disappear. On the striped Willamette shirt above, I matched the stripes of the pocket to the shirt, and it almost disappears. If you cut the pocket on the bias or crosswise, it would jump out at you. I also stripe matched across the front seam to get a seamless look.

Stripes and Chevrons


When you cut stripes on a bias, you can make a stunning chevron pattern. It’s pretty tricky to cut the pieces correctly and line them up when you sew, but the result is quite amazing! See the bold chevron dress above. It’s really amazing to get four striped pieces converging at one point!

Stripes and Scrap Busting


One last idea for using stripes is to use up striped scraps. Years ago I made my son a striped tee but I alternated between two striped fabrics to create lots of extra lines. I had to cut my pattern piece into lots of pieces and add seam allowance before cutting out the fabric, but I used fabric scraps that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to use. I love the resulting bright striped tee that it created.

This is just a drop in the bucket in terms of the ways that stripes can change the look of a pattern, but I hope it opens your eyes to some of the possibility with stripes. You can really personalize your look with stripes by choosing the placement and direction.

What is your favorite way to wear stripes?