Plaid: A Perfect Match
Fabric: Fine merino wool plaid **
**Editor’s note: To see all of our plaids, click here!
As sad as I am to see summer go, fall and winter are my favorite seasons to dress for. That may be because most of my wardrobe is made up of warmer clothing, since so much of the year is freezing up here in North Bay! Plaid is a classic staple in my wardrobe, both in garments I’ve bought as well as several I’ve made. I really enjoy working with plaid because it is so satisfying to see all of your careful and thoughtful planning and cutting match up just right!
Inspiration: Baum und Pferdgarten
I fell in love with this plaid ensemble as soon as I saw it, from the exaggerated pointed collar to the button up fly front on the skirt. I thought this would be such a great outfit to mix plaids, but it is equally fabulous all in one matching plaid. I also love how with all of the details like the yoke, collar and pockets one can play with the direction of the plaid.
Pattern Search and Alterations
When I look for a sewing pattern to make something similar to a RTW garment, I look for a pattern that has the most in common with my inspiration picture. You may be surprised to learn that the most important features to look for in your pattern are not the RTW design details; instead try to match the basic shape, cut and fit. The sewing pattern sometimes won’t look much like what you are trying to make, because things like collar, sleeves or closures are much easier to change than the basic garment shape. Also, pay close attention to seam lines and decide if you are okay with it differing somewhat from the inspiration garment.
Small changes can make a huge difference when it comes to fit. I recommend making a muslin, especially if you will be using a plaid. We will spend so much time matching the plaid that it would be a shame to have to let out or take in a seam significantly and have all that matching work go to waste.
I chose this pattern because it was the exact cut and fit I was looking for: ultra high waist, fitted, faced waist. Although it may not seem to be the case at first glance, changing this pattern from an asymmetrical design to a center front fly closure is quite easy!
- Start by cutting out the right front and back pattern pieces for the short skirt version. We will be altering the right skirt pattern piece and using that for both front pieces, so we do not need the left front skirt. Just add a 5/8″ seam allowance to the center front line on the right front skirt (and either cut off, trace off or fold under the rest of the pattern piece). As simple as that, you now have a symmetrical skirt with a center front seam!
- Optional: I added 1/2″ to the hem allowance, and turned up a 2″ hem when sewing.
- Optional: I wanted a more A-line skirt silhouette, so starting from nothing at the hip, I flared out to 1″ at the hem on both front and back side seams. This gave the hem an extra 4″ in total. You can leave your pattern as it is, or flare out the amount that suits you.
- At this point, I made a muslin. For such a simple yet fitted skirt, a perfect fit is essential. I tweaked the fit on myself a bit on the side seams, and I also marked where my fly would end, as well as the welt pocket placements. Keep in mind that your fly front has to be long enough so that you are able to get into the skirt. If you do not like the look of the fly being too long, you could add an invisible zipper on the side seam.
- Now that you have your fly length determined, draft a fly facing and fly shield. I’ve attached a pattern that can be altered for button size and fly length (at the bottom of the article).
- I chose not to use the pattern’s waist facing; instead I traced off my own from my now altered skirt pattern. I like to cut my two front waist facings long, since I am dyslexic and no matter how many times I check that I’m cutting it correctly I seem to end up with them backwards! 😂 Your left front waist facing will be the length of the skirt front waist, but the right front waist facing will be different. It will need to be the length of the waist minus the width of the fly shield, plus 1/4″ seam allowance to attach it to the fly facing later on.
- Tweak the welt pocket placement from your muslin and trace a 1/2″ by 5.5″ rectangle. For the welt lips, just cut strips of bias 1.5″ wide. Check out Kathryn Brenne’s fabulous EOS article on how to sew the perfect pocket. You could also swap the flap welt pocket for any pocket you’d like!
SHIRT: Butterick 6563
As you can see, this pattern has the perfect style lines for my shirt, but since it does not have a yoke, long sleeves, or the exaggerated point collar, it requires a bit of pattern drafting to add in those details. This is not nearly as scary as you may be thinking! Also, you may own, or find another pattern that already has a yoke and long sleeves, so if you do, you can skip or simplify these steps.
- YOKE: First decide where you want the yoke lines to be on the front and the back and draw them in. The back shoulder has a bit of ease, but since we are adding a yoke we can remove the excess ease from the armhole edge of the back shoulder. Trace off new pattern pieces for the front and back yoke, and the lower front and back, adding seam allowances
- SLEEVE: Trace the stitching lines around the full upper half of the bodice patterns, front and back. This is always helpful when we will be playing around with the sleeve and collar. Measure the neck and armholes along the traced sewing lines and keep a note of these measurements. Starting with the puff sleeve pattern, measure around the sleeve cap and compare the measurement to the armhole measurement. This will determine how much ease is built into the sleeve. Since we don’t want a puff sleeve, remove most of the ease by folding in equal amounts in 4 places on the sleeve. You want to leave about 3/4″-1″ ease in the sleeve cap for a regular sleeve. Now re-draw the cap into a smooth line. (Alternatively, you can pull out a regular sleeve from another pattern and compare the measurements, and just use it as your base instead). Now that we have a basic sleeve to work from, add 12″ to the sleeve length and flare out the underarm seams about 1″. I found this wasn’t quite enough fullness for the look I wanted, so I slashed and spread, starting from nothing at the sleeve cap to 5/8″ (measuring from lower edge of the original pattern) at the center slash. Then again either side of center but only 3/8″. Muslin your sleeve before cutting into the fashion fabric, and try sewing it into your armhole. Sleeves are finicky and take some tweaking to get just right. Mark 1/2″ on either side of the underarm seam at the lower edge, this will indicate where to start and stop gathering stitches, so that 1″ is flat at the underarm going into the cuff.
- CUFF: You can still use the same cuff pattern from the envelope.
- COLLAR: The original pattern is drafted for a convertible collar, but I wanted something with a more tailored look, so I opted for a collar and stand. I’ve attached a copy of the pattern (at the bottom of the article). Collars are so hard to get just right, I often pull out my favorite one and use it on multiple patterns. If you choose to use this collar, lower the CF neck by 3/8″ to make room for the collar stand. Now measure around the neck on the pattern and adjust the collar and stand pattern to fit, adding or subtracting from the center back. Since we are doing a collar and stand, we don’t need the center front facing going all the way to the shoulder; just go straight up instead.
- BUTTON STAND: I never follow the button and buttonhole placement from patterns. It is much easier to do this step when the shirt is otherwise finished. Try it on and place a pin at the level of your bust point. This is your starting point. We also want to have a button on the collar stand. Now you can space your other buttons above and below these established points. They should be somewhere around 3″ apart in distance, but the second button is usually a bit closer to the collar (this allows you to play around with the button placement and find a measurement that looks best).
Preshrink fabric before cutting by steaming it with a damp piece of muslin. Wool will shrink significantly, so it is a very important step. It is one of the many great qualities of wool and a reason I love to work with it. You can shrink in wool easily for sleeve caps or bust ease and create really beautiful shapes in your garments, but this also means that if you don’t preshrink it, every time you steam a seam it could shrink up. Even if you don’t plan to wash your garment it is still important to preshrink it so that it doesn’t shrink during construction. Preshrink from the wrong side of the fabric. Hang fabric to dry completely, and if necessary re-press before cutting.
Cutting plaid can be intimidating at first! Just be patient and definitely measure twice, cut once! First look at your plaid, note if it is symmetrical or not, and where the repeat is. Sometimes it is not obvious until you start cutting and realize it’s too late (I have made this mistake on more than one occasion 😣). This particular plaid is symmetrical and very consistently woven, which makes cutting much easier. Start by laying out your fabric in a single layer. All pattern pieces will be cut in single. Start with your main pieces; in this case it is front and back bodice. First, choose a line for center back and pin in place. Next, choose a line for center front. I chose the pale yellow line since this will be helpful when doing my buttonholes. Before pinning the front on, you will also want to line up the plaid stripes horizontally. I don’t worry so much about vertical lines at the side seams but keeping the whole shirt on the same level horizontally is very important. Using a tissue paper pattern makes it easy to line up plaids since you can see through them. Mark dart points with tailor tacks. Before removing the pattern piece, trace on a few of the intersecting plaid lines, as that way you can line it up exactly for your second mirrored piece. Make sure to flip your pattern pieces since we are cutting in a single layer.
Sleeves will not match everywhere so concentrate on matching them with the horizontal plaid stripe. Look for points on your pattern, such as the front notch on the sleeve, as a guide for where to match the plaid.
The collar will not match either, you can play around with the placement of this piece, choose what looks the most pleasing at the front, and if the center back matches a stripe, then consider it a bonus. You should be able to have both fronts of the collar match as I have, but some plaids that are less symmetrical may not allow that.
Yokes are cut on the bias as a design detail, so no matching! Yay!
If you’ve done all the planning correctly while cutting your plaid, sewing will be a breeze!
The only advice I have is to use a ton of pins. I like to pin in every plaid line, and pinning at the edge of each line is even more accurate. If it’s a particularly difficult area to match, try basting the seam first by hand before sewing it on the machine. Sew right up to your pin before removing it to avoid the fabric shifting.
For the skirt I would recommend interfacing the waist facings, the fly components as shown below, as well as the area around where the welt pocket will go and the pocket flaps. I used a medium/lightweight tricot interfacing for all these areas.
For the shirt, I would recommend interfacing one half of the cuff and the center front facings with medium/lightweight tricot. I chose a heavier woven interfacing for the collar and collar stand. Just interface one collar and one stand, the other half will not be interfaced.
Button Fly Front & Faced Waist
Start by interfacing half of the fly shield, the fly facing interfacing to right skirt, and a strip of 3/4″ interfacing to left front. Fold the fly shield with right sides together and stitch top and bottom, trim and turn to right side. Stitch the skirt from the hem, up to point where the fly will end. Stitch the fly facing to right front. Stitch fly shield to left side using a 3/8″ seam allowance, just like you would with a zipper fly; we want the fly shield to sit back from center front so that it doesn’t peek out from under the fly. Additionally, the fly shield should be sewn on 5/8″ down from the top edge of the skirt, since we’ve already sewn the top of the fly shield. Rather than clipping the seam allowance below the fly, I like to just press it gradually back into one side.
Stitch the waist facing piece to the right side of skirt fly facing, using about 1/4″ seam allowance (if you’ve done like I did and cut your front waist facings extra long, measure them now and trim down before sewing this first seam). Fold the waist facing back over the fly facing, and stitch the top of the skirt. On left side of skirt, stitch the waist facing to the skirt up to fly shield point. Press in the seam allowance on the edge of the waist facing and fold it down over the fly shield seam allowance. Slip stitch in place by hand.
Mark your button holes, stitch and slash through (your button and buttonhole placement will likely be different than mine, depending on the size of button you choose as well as the fly length you need to get into the skirt). Attach the buttons by hand. They should sit on the fly shield near to the seam attaching it to the skirt. Tack the fly shield to fly either invisibly by hand or by topstitching just the bottom of the fly as I have.
I find that shirt hems can be a finicky task, but with seam tape (Steam a Seam) they are so easy. I wouldn’t use this technique on a super delicate fabric since it adds glue into the seam, but otherwise its a great alternative. Iron on 1/4″ wide tape, and with the paper still on press the 1/4″ up and in again. The paper helps create an edge to use as a guide while pressing. Now peel the paper out and press one last time. Stitch hem.
I wanted the skirt hem to be invisible, and with wool it is simple to do and totally invisible! I used a hem-stitch. Take a stitch through the hem, but just a tiny thread from the skirt before coming back up through the hem. Pull the stitch through, but not all the way–leave a small loop. Once you have made it around the whole hem, pull the hem out a bit, sinking the loops into the fabric. As you can see it creates a sort of cross stitch inside the hem that floats slightly away from the skirt.
Shirt Yoke & Collar
Trace your seam allowances on the lower edges of the yokes and press along the lines. Trim to 1/4″. Pin in place on the front and back, and edge stitch along bottom edges. Baste along shoulders, neck and armhole edges.
Trim 1/16″-1/8″ off outer edges of under collar (this will be the un-interfaced one). This will allow the collar to fold over nicely. Trace your sewing line on with chalk; I find this helps to get sharper corners. Another tip for achieving sharper corners is to take a single stitch diagonally across the point. It seems like it would do the opposite, but this one stitch gives the seam allowance room to fold into a point, rather than stretching and making a rounder point. I also trace my seam allowance onto the collar stand, especially at the center front marking. Match the collar edge up with the center front marking exactly.