Tips on piecing stripes to make chevrons

Hi everyone!  Chloe here!  I have been sewing for around fifteen years and still learn something every single time I sit at the machine.  You can find me on Instagram as chloe_deadlycraft or blogging sporadically at http://deadlycraft.blogspot.com.

Confession time:  I started my sewing life as a quilter.  I suspect some only-ever-garment-sewists might be wondering why you would ever faff about piecing a fabric to make another fabric, rather than just buying a fabric with the pattern you want.

It’s a good point.

Pushing past that though, piecing stripes together in different ways can totally change the look and feel of a garment or fabric.  It’s a good option if you have a fabric that you don’t like as much as you thought, or you are going for a certain vibe.

Heather’s post showed how altering the direction of stripes can have a dramatic effect.  Here I will go through my top tips for using stripes to make chevrons.

Tip #1: think about the angle

Maker:S,Date:2017-10-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

The fabric above has a very strong, definite stripe and it would have been super obvious if one side of the chevron wasn’t as “steep” as the other.

I used a quilting ruler to line up a 45 degree angle to make sure things stayed sharp.  This is a double whammy in piecing chevrons — you want to make sure the two halves line up in terms of matching the stripes and in terms of matching the angle.

(Watch for Tip #5 — you’ll see why it is important.)

Bonus extra tip:  don’t use a flimsy, crappy fabric with a bold stripe for this sort of exercise.  It’s just asking for trouble.

Depending on your fabric choice, you also need to wary of the amount of stretch when you cut across the grain like this.  If you are using a woven, the bias cut at 45 degrees will be much less stable and more stretchy than cutting on the grain — handle with care!

Tip #2: think about the repeat 

Maker:S,Date:2017-10-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

The picture above is where I would have ended up if I hadn’t been going (very) carefully.

In my ill-advised fabric above, the stripe repeat has direction.  Two tone (equal width) striped fabric would be horizontally symmetrical — but for this fabric, the repeat is blue, black, grey.  So you can’t use it upside down.  This is crucial for chevron piecing, where a natural instinct was to flip the pattern piece over and just orient it on the opposing angle to cut the other side.

In the pictures below, the stripes were uneven (different colours, different widths) and I didn’t have enough fabric, time, or moral fortitude to even try and truly match with such a repeat.

Left - trying to match the large black stripe.Right - not even trying...

Disclaimer:  these aren’t really chevrons, just sort of side-triangles.  Whatevs.

This is a good example of using a different angle for a different outcome.  It’s also a good example of just letting it go (tip #7) — I matched some points but was then always unable to match others.  It’s so busy, it doesn’t really matter.

Tip #3: seams: remember seam allowances and think about curved seams carefully

I don’t have a good picture of the seam allowance steps, but as with any pattern matching, you need to think about matching the stripes on the stitching line not the cutting line.  Matching on the stitching line is important if you want the very top of the pieced front to end perfectly on the point of a chevron, rather than half way through.

I pinned my seam allowance back when making my bold stripe top and made sure I was perfectly lined up visually before I cut any matching pieces.  This was time consuming but worked well.

For curved seams, the picture below shows how pieced, angled stripes behave on curved side seams.  From memory, these side seams got taken in a lot, so this effect wasn’t planned.  Makes my eye twitch just looking at it…

DSC_0173

This dress was one of my first knit projects a looong time ago (2011?).  It was eventually cut off into a skirt because I couldn’t deal with the stripes on the bodice.  Lessons learned!

Tip #4 : PINS.  Consider how your fabric handles, then PIN ANYWAY.

I pinned on every line for the bold striped top!  Interestingly, for the front I removed pins as a approached them but for the side seam I left them in and sewed over them (GASP!).  Please don’t tell the sewing gods.

I can report that sewing over them gave better results, so the sewing gods might be wrong on this one.

Tip #5: don’t do this tired / drunk / in a rush

Enough said.

Tip #6: think all the way around…

flowers& plants

I really like how this top turned out, but if I made it again there are a few things I would do differently.  Things to think through better were:

  • How will the stripes work with my curves?  I do think this effect is a teensy bit too much where the the stripes curve around my chest.  I might want them pointing the other way on the front?
  • What about the yoke piece?  I wanted a yoke with contrasted stripes as a feature but this yoke is so small that the effect is rather lost with the wide stripes.
  • How will the back work?  The pattern (Seamwork Aurora) has a back pleat, so I didn’t want a seam running there.  That meant no back chevron.  I ended up with a diagonal back which wasn’t part of the original plan.
  • Does it work all around?  The diagonal back choice meant I had no way to match the stripes on the left side seam (see middle bottom picture in the collage above).  I am trying not to care.

Tip #7: let it go (a bit)

I made the skirt below a long time ago (originally as a dress) and made it up as I went.   It’s very very far from perfect and yet I still get tons of compliments and feel good every time I wear it.

While I couldn’t match the stripes on one side of the top, I still like the overall visual effect.

In both cases, I had to let it go a little or I wouldn’t have finished anything!

You, Do You!

I hope this has been helpful — I think there are so many striportunities (stripe-opportunities!  Hahaha sorry…) that it’s worth sitting down to plan ahead before you sew.  Working with stripes can be more than matching at the side seams — in fact, you can go wild with direction and piecing and avoid any matching at all!

I can see more stripey, pieced tops in my near future.  What are your plans for Stripe Month?