Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tis the season for more plaid

It has become a tradition that I make some holiday outfits for my little cousins, a family of 4 sisters plus their cousin. So yes, 5 matching holiday outfits, for ages 2 - 10.  There is a brother in there too but he escapes - although last year he did receive a matching necktie. 

My 10 year old cousin is quite tall for her age, has outgrown the looks still worn by her younger sisters, and I heard she liked the clothes shown this year by a popular American designer well known for his classic and preppie styles.  So using that as an inspiration I designed this skirt which has a flat front, partial elastic waistband and a faux wrap with ruffles all around.    I think this style will be going on my own wish list - I have a remnant of charcoal grey wool crepe that would be perfect with this design.

Purple plaid skirt

For the younger girls I made jumper style dresses, probably will be worn with a blouse or turtleneck sweater.   
Plaid jumpers all 3

This fabric was fantastic to work with, I bought it at my favorite fabric store, Stone Mountainand woven into the selvedge are the words "pura lana vergine tartan exclusiva".  Totally worth the price to buy virgin wool made in Italy.  It feels almost like cashmere.    I lined them in purple and got a bit carried away with the seam finish on the hems.  The pattern is Simplicity 2320.

S2320Jumper hem

A couple of notes on matching plaids.  

  • Start with high quality wool.  You may not want to spend the money on expensive fabric when first working with plaid, but usually the higher quality fabrics are very even, not twisted on the bolt, selvedges nice and straight.  This will help with laying the fabric down and getting the lines to match.   I suggest a slim skirt as a first project, takes very little yardage.
  • Refold the fabric.  Instead of 1 fold and matching the selvedges, fold both sides of the fabric inward, creating 2 folds.  Then you can place the center front and back of your skirt on or near these folds, and the side seams will be adjacent for matching.
  • Check and double check when laying out the fabric.  I start at the fold, and slowly roll the top layer out, matching the plaids as I go.  Then I check by poking a pin through the fabric and making sure it is hitting matching spots on the plaid grid.
  • Shift on the seams to match the plaids,  I think it is OK to move the pieces in relation to each other up to 1/8 -  1/4 ", particularly the side seams.  or just a portion of a seam.  Despite what seems like perfect cutting out - there is always a bit of a shift but you can ease it back in.

plaid matching

Another technique is to cut out one piece, flip it over, place it on the fabric matching the plaids and cut out a mirror image based on the previous.  I did use this method to make the dresses above, since I made 2 of the size 3T and wanted them to be the same.   Looking carefully you can see the side front piece on top of the fabric, to use it as the pattern piece.

plaid layout

The only change I made on this pattern was to cut out the center front bodice piece on the bias, to create visual interest on the front.  I love the juxtaposition of straight and bias plaid and this style seemed to call for that.  Here is a look at the front and back of the size 3T.

plaid front and back

For another of my small friends I had a Chanel inspiration so I made this little 2-piece outfit from a boucle I ordered from, which has powder blue and sparkly threads among the black.   It may be hard to see, but the hem of the vest and skirt are fringed, very easy to do with a loose weave.  I machine stitched a double row of very small stitches about 3/4" from the edge and then just pulled out the threads parallel to the hem.  Great fast hem finish - I will definitely keep this one in my bag of tricks.   Outfit is approximately size 5T.


For the rest of this week I will be finishing a number of projects, perhaps some Christmas gift sewing for my mom and sis - but that is all I will say as they read this blog.
Then my last big project of 2010, a coat for myself.  I have some black basketweave wool, my first purchase from Gorgeous Fabrics - so I am eager to begin that.

Happy Holiday Sewing to all,   Beth


  1. What beautiful fabric and dresses! You did a remarkable job on all that plaid matching and I really like the visual interest with cutting the bodice on the bias. The black and blue outfit is just darling and so chic!

  2. I like those girl dresses very much. And I know - matching the plaids is not easy. My last project was mans jacket in checked fabric that took a lot of time.

  3. What wonderful garments you have made for the girls - so adorable! Thanks very much for the tips on matching plaids.

  4. Hi Beth,

    These are so cute. The plum colour of the plaid is so beautiful. I followed the link to your blog from MushyWear and I'm looking forward to following your adventures in sewing


  5. Such cute dresses! I've never made anything plaid, so thank you for the tips.