But with a little time and patience, you can achieve designer precision in your own creations. Here's how:
Stripes 101: Ranging from wide to narrow, stripes can be woven or printed. If printed, be sure that the stripes are on-grain, or your garment will be crooked from the get-go. Also, for correct yardage pattern layout, check if stripes are even or uneven, by folding back a corner of the fabric on the diagonal to see if stripes match (smaller, even stripes are easiest). Choose a pattern with fewer seams to eliminate alignment headaches.
Plaids 101: A plaid is created from lengthwise and crosswise strips, and many of the same rules of working with stripes also apply to plaids, but keep in mind that the stripes are running two ways. Be sure to check for even or uneven plaids in both directions.
Perfecting pattern layout: OK, here is where the stripes meet the paper, but don't fret. First, if your pattern is made for stripes, count yourself lucky because layout will be that much simpler, and you likely won't need extra fabric. If not, you will definitely need extra fabric. With plaids, you can count on wasting a certain amount of fabric. (If the pattern envelope advises against plaids, don't even think about it!) For even stripes or plaids, you will need at least a half-yard of extra fabric. For uneven stripes or plaids you will need to make some calculations (not worth it unless you are just absolutely mad about the plaid or stripe!). To match stripes and plaid while laying out, follow these tips.
Stitching it up: Basting will be your best friend to keep stripes matching, so be sure to use a long running stitch to secure your pattern pieces before running through the machine. Even better, press under one seam allowance, match and overlap with the other seam allowance and secure with slip basting. If you use a machine with an even-feed pressure foot, you have an even better chance of stripes staying matched.
Playing with stripes and plaids: For some real fun, you can turn stripes and plaids on the diagonal. To get way out of line, try pleating stripes: You will want to pleat the fabric first and then lay out. Or layer sheer striped fabrics at right angles to create a new kind of plaid. Once you get going, there's no end to the patterns you can dream up.
For more "DIY Design" columns, click here. Next week, love that Oscar lace.