More Tricks for Matching Stripes

Hello! Im Eleanor from nelnanandnora and I love stripes. As a fairly petite person, I feel that they add some emphasis to my shape and give the illusion of curves. My absolute favourite top during my teenage years was an oversized, scoop neck tee shirt from Miss Selfridge, in pale grey and green.

So, how to match them? Some fabrics make this easier than others. Some grip, some slide, some distort and twist, and it can be a real pain to square them up, whether on knits or wovens.

These are the tricks I use when sewing a shirt, which will have some features in common with the methods shared in Meg’s roundup.

Front and Back Bodice:

First, place one front or back pattern piece on the fabric you have chosen. Set it at the desired angle to the stripes (90 degrees here). A quilting ruler or square can be very handy for keeping everything in line. When you’re happy with the stripe placement, mark the placement of several — or all — stripes along the outer edge of the pattern piece. (You could mark the top of a dominant stripe, or the top and bottom of a series of stripes.)

If you have a pattern piece that is designed to be cut as a single piece, mark the stripe placement on both sides. I have used a friction-erasable marker on both the pattern and the fabric. The corresponding piece (the front, in this case, as I started with the back) can be laid on the fabric next to this one, and the stripes can be matched quite simply this way.

If the piece has to be cut on the fold, mark its outline, with a dashed line along the centre fold, then flip it over, aligning the stripes. You can now cut it out. (With a very stable fabric, it is possible to cut on the fold, but this gives you more control and, I find, more even results.)



Lay the front and back pieces next to each other, and transfer the stripe markings across to the unmarked piece. If the pattern pieces have notches, use these to check alignment, or work from the underarm downwards if there is a split hem and no notches. Repeat the process described above to align and cut out the front piece.

Transfer markings to front piece


When it comes to sleeves, you can choose which stripes to match. I tend to go for midway down the armhole, where there is least distortion. Two opposite curves have to be matched to each other, at changing angles, so it’s pretty much impossible to match every stripe!

This pattern has no notches on the sleeves, which added to the challenge, although the sleeves are symmetrical. I used a curved ruler to measure up from the lowest point in the armscye of the front and back pieces, and marked a stripe on the sleeve to match up with it. This became the key to match up with on the fabric.

Where notches are available, I mark the stripe on the front/back piece and copy it across to the same point on the sleeve. Use this to guide the pattern placement on the fabric for each sleeve piece, double checking with the cut fabric.



Once you have transferred any remaining markings (notches, dots, etc), it’s time to sew!

I’ve found the following helpful for ensuring that the stripes remain matched when sewing, especially with slippery fabrics:

Pin at regular intervals, parallel with and through the stripes, to ensure alignment

Baste/tack with a long machine or hand stitch to reduce movement

Adjust the differential feed if using an overlocker/ serger (testing first on a scrap of fabric) to make sure that both pieces move together, not separately. Using a walking foot would have similar benefits.

Check the stripes on each seam when sewn; the degree of matching that you aim for is entirely up to you, as it’s your work. I sometimes accept imperfections, and at other times I will unpick a seam several times to get it just right. Both are ok!

Checking stripe matching

Here is the finished garment  — a Sunny Top by Friday Pattern Company — which is also my January make for #sewmystyle2018. Its made in a cotton/rayon/poly blend jersey from Girl Charlee UK, which has good drape but not much stretch. It responded well to pins and didn’t shift much when sewing. This made the matching process much easier than it can sometimes be.

Sunny Tee by Friday Patterns

Practising the process — and perhaps trying a few methods — with scraps of fabric will help you gain confidence. I’ve been sewing for a long time and only in the last year have I felt that I can match any patterns reliably. It still goes wrong sometimes, but there’s always something new to learn from the process!