Learning about sewing stripes doesn't have to be a challenge. Today is the day! If you are in front of a sewing machine, it is time to ‘earn your stripes!’ It starts with laying the pattern, cutting the fabric, and then sewing with some precision while matching the stripes. Don't worry. Learning how to sew stripes is not hard, and this article will lead you through step by step.
Sewing Stripes Tutorial
Striped dresses, shirts, and tops are stylish and a classic way to update your wardrobe. Here you will learn about sewing stripes and get all the tips and tricks you need to perfectly match seams.
Types of Striped Fabrics
Stripes can be broad or thin, horizontal or vertical, even or uneven, and finally, printed or woven. The size and directions are easy concepts to follow, and you can add diagonal stripes by cutting diagonally on the bias.
Even or uneven refers to the size and pattern of the stripes and the colorway. Then the stripes can be in the dye print or in the weave of the fabric. If your stripes are woven, then generally, the stripe is visible on the reverse side of the fabric as well.
Patterns for Sewing Stripes
It is important when sewing stripes to choose a pattern that suits you. A pattern that is too fussy and has too many different pieces makes using stripes difficult. Choose a simple pattern with perhaps a yoke design if you want to play around with stripes for the first time. A band, pockets, or collar can also be used to add interest.
How to Sew Stripes Step by Step
Step 1 - Fabric Preparation
Pre-wash and press the fabric to ensure if won't shrink after you have sewn the stripes causing distortion. Align the selvages and square up any badly cut ends so everything is square before you start.
Step 2 - Pattern Layout
The most important thing to remember before sewing stripes is that you must cut them accurately. You don't want the fabric to slip when you are cutting, and all stripes must be horizontal around the body and not at strange angles.
Placing the Pattern
When you lay out your fabric ready for cutting, fold it in half and pin your stripes together to get them to match before you place down the pattern. Keep in mind that the stripes may have been cut crooked in the shop, so check the edges carefully. You may need to work on the floor as you will want all the fabric flat and not hanging off the ends of the table. Hanging fabric may cause distortions, particularly if you are cutting stretch.
You may find it easier to cut with the fabric unfolded for really fine or difficult-to-match stripes. Don't forget to flip pattern pieces that will need to be mirror images.
Side seams are one of the key matching options when sewing stripes, so look for notches that will help you match. Another easy way to match stripes is to start matching at the hem.
Sleeves are difficult to match up, so depending on the stripe, try to fix the center stripe to match and as many others as you can. Don’t get too fixated on this, as the sleeve top is a curved edge, so it will rarely be exactly matched.
Further reading - Napped Fabric, What is Nap in Sewing
The key and most visible areas you want to match when sewing stripes are:
- Any back or front seams
- Side seams
- Sleeves if possible
- Underarms for long sleeve garments
In the below example, I matched the pieces at the hems and then matched the sleeve from the bottom of the armhole at the front.
How to Transfer Markings when Sewing Stripes
It is a good idea to use a dressmaker’s carbon and a tracing wheel to transfer the pattern markings and remove the pattern before you cut.
This way, you can keep your eye on the stripes and double-check as you go. Just don't go cross-eyed! Small stripes are very hard to look at for long periods of time.
Step 3 - Cut the Stripe Fabric
Cut the striped fabric with a rotary cutter or sharp scissors. Be careful not to move the fabric and ensure you are accurate when cutting the straight lines.
Step 4 - Pin and Baste the Stripes
Pin with pins going down the seams (vertical pinning). Open up the pinned seam and double-check that the stripes are matching. You can then change the pins to a horizontal position if necessary.
Basting is a very good idea to prevent the stripes from slipping and ease the sewing process. Stretch fabrics and slippery fabrics like silk, in particular, tend to move around as you sew if not securely pinned or basted. Double-sided fabric sticky tape can help with holding the stripes in position while you sew.
Step 5 - Sewing Stripes
Match and sew the front and center back openings with stripes first. It is difficult to match stripes when setting in sleeves and other aspects of the garment, so work with the most visual sections first.
A walking foot lifts as it sews and prevents the fabric from moving, thus making sewing stripes much more accurate.
Step 6 - Finishing
Press the seams and hems carefully using a pressing cloth. Topstitch along seam lines to enhance the strip effects.
More Ideas for Sewing Stripes
- PIPING - Stripes make interesting inserts, piping, and accessories. Either cut straight across the stripes or have them on the diagonal bias.
- FLATTER -Take care when using bold stripes across the hip area, as it is not flattering on all body shapes. I'm very pear-shaped, so try and avoid this. As a general rule, stripes should go down the body to be the most flattering.
- NAP - Follow the ‘without nap’ guidelines on the pattern for your stripe's pattern layout. Follow ‘with nap’ for uneven stripes on the fabric.
- UNEVEN STRIPES - If you have stripes with multiple widths, select a dominant stripe and use it as the center point. The rest of the stripe pattern will follow around in the garment.
- DIRECTIONS - Place your stripes in different directions to get different effects. You may color block your design, so some stripes go in one direction, and some are going in another direction. Stripes can even be cut on the bias, but be aware that this introduces some stretch into your pattern.
5 Tips for Sewing Stripes
- Pattern Placement: When choosing a pattern for striped fabric, consider how the stripes look in the final design. Look for patterns that provide cutting instructions for fabrics with a nap.
- Cutting Layout: Take extra care when cutting your fabric to ensure the stripes are accurately aligned. Match all stripes before cutting.
- Pattern Matching: Transfer pattern markings onto the fabric accurately and match the stripes at the seams. Use pins or tailor's tacks to mark the stripe matching points to ensure precise alignment during sewing.
- Seam Techniques: When sewing seams on striped fabric, use a walking foot to prevent the fabric layers from shifting while you sew. Pin or baste parallel to the stripe lines to maintain the stripe matching. Take the time to sew straight and evenly along the stripe lines.
- Pressing and Finishing: After sewing, press the seams and hems carefully to set the stitches and create a neat finish. Use a pressing cloth to protect the fabric.
Sewing Stripes - In Conclusion
You don’t have to be caught up in boring uniformity when sewing stripes! It is possible to be rebellious, throw caution to the wind and sew up your striped fabric in an easy come easy-go fashion. Just dare to be different and choose the style and fabric to suit the end result you are aiming for.