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How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Matching the Fabric


Pattern Matching Pockets and Shirt Fronts


In the last installment, I discussed how to cut out patterns. In this installment, I will discuss ways to arrange the patterns to match and coordinate the printed or woven design of your fabric. When using novelty fabrics or those that have a defined directional print, such as plaids or stripes, it can be important to plan your pattern layouts carefully so that you can match important areas such as the pocket or the front opening of a shirt to keep the design continuous.

You can also play around with the placement of motifs to arrange them a specific way. For example, when I laid out the collar pattern, I placed it so that the words "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" would appear on the collar points (you can see the example in the photo here). I did this because the images on my fabric were so large, this was more attractive visually than chopping off one of the figures and having a partial image on the collar points.

In the next installment, we will start the shirt assembly process!
finding pattern match lines


How Much Extra Fabric to Purchase?


Trying to match fabric can create some issues with fitting all of the patterns on the fabric so it is important to plan ahead and purchase extra fabric to allow for this. It can be tricky to figure out just how much extra fabric you need, but I generally estimate according to the fabric repeat and how many places I plan to match. Pattern repeat refers to how often the pattern motifs repeat on the fabric across the width and the length. The larger the distance between repeats, the more fabric you will need, especially if your pattern pieces are large. Consider how often the pattern repeats across the width of the fabric as well. If it doesn't repeat across, it will be harder to match the pattern. I like to purchase at least one complete fabric repeat in addition to the yardage required by the pattern; sometimes I purchase more based on the factors mentioned above. The other thing to think about is how many pieces you plan to match. On a man's shirt, I typically match the pocket and the front opening. The pocket can usually be fitted in easily, but the shirt fronts take up a substantial amount of fabric and can be difficult to arrange so that they match.

Where Do You Start?


The first thing to do is to decide what areas you want to match. In this case, we are going to match the pocket and the front opening of the shirt. So, you want to start laying out the larger pieces first and match them before placing the rest of the pattern pieces. You should always make sure all your pieces will fit on your fabric before cutting any of them out in case you need to make some adjustments.

Note: To more accurately match my prints, I do some tracing on my pattern pieces, so you may want to make a traced copy of your patterns (right front and pocket) prior to using this technique.

In order to match the shirt opening, you need to determine how the front left and right sides overlap when they are sewn to find the match line.

To do this, place the pattern pieces for the shirt fronts on a flat surface in front of you and fold each of the pattern fronts following the assembly instructions so that you can determine where the finished edge is.

Mark the corresponding fold line so that you will remember which one it is.
finding pattern match lines


Keeping each pattern folded, place both shirt fronts together, left over right and match up the center front line from top to bottom.

Mark a line on the right front indicating where the finished edge of the left front falls on the right front pattern.

Unfold both patterns.
finding pattern match lines



Place the left front pattern on your fabric, right side up, as you wish and pin in place.

Place the right front pattern (right side up) over the left front pattern and match up the line that you marked on the right front with the finished edge line on the left front and pin the right front in place temporarily.
finding pattern match lines



Find a distinctive portion of the fabric showing underneath the area where the patterns overlap and using a pencil or chalk, lightly trace a small portion of the fabric image onto the right front pattern at both the top and bottom areas of the shirt.
finding pattern match lines


Once you have traced the image, unpin the right front pattern and find an open area on the fabric where you can match up your traced images and pin the pattern in place.

To match the pocket, overlay the pocket piece on the left front, lining up the placement lines and trace a fabric image onto the pocket piece. Place the pocket pattern on the fabric and match the image that you have traced on the pattern.

Lay out the rest of your pattern pieces and cut them out, including any interfacing pieces. Mark all of the notches, dots or circles, and any other indicators shown on the pattern (such as darts or pleats). I also make a short snip at the top and bottom of the center front and center back of the front and back pieces and the yoke.
finding pattern match lines




I hope that you now have a better understanding of how to find the match points on your pattern pieces. I find that actually tracing the fabric image allows me to more exactly match the print creating an unbroken design on the garment. I tend to be a bit obsessive about this, according to my husband, but I think taking this extra time makes the garment look professionally made and expensive.

Now that all of your pieces are cut out, we are ready to sew! Tune in next time for the first phase of sewing a man's shirt!

Happy cutting!

How to Sew a Men's Shirt Lesson Index

How to Sew a Men's Shirt - First Steps
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Preparing the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Reading the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Cutting the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Matching the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Pocket
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Yoke
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing Shoulder Seams
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Collar
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - the Collar Stand
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Sleeves

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How to Sew a Men's Shirt - First Steps
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Preparing the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Reading the Pattern
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Content copyright © 2014 by Tamara Bostwick. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Tamara Bostwick for details.

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