A lot of sewists shy away from stripes as they think it will visually add pounds and can be difficult to match. I would say it doesn’t have to be if you consider some alternate ways to utilize stripe fabrics.
When I am looking at a striped jersey, I like to sketch out options to see what I find more visually appealing. You don’t have to be an artist for this step. Simply photocopy the line art (or print a copy of the online image) and grab some pencil crayons. If you are a visual learner this is a great way to validate your design before you even lay out the pattern.
I found this grey and pink wool jersey at Mood Fabrics in LA and was trying to decide what I wanted to make. I knew that I didn’t want to sew the typical striped T. Here were some ideas I was kicking around. I knew I wanted to put the stripes on the diagonal matching at the centre front (CF), centre back (CB), and down the sleeve.
Used line art from pattern to sketch ideas
I took it one step further and decided to build a design board. I included the design ideas, sample of the fabric and trim, as well as test samples of various techniques. Doing a test sample first can help to adjust your technique prior to applying it to your fashion fabric. In this case, I was testing how much to stretch the neckline with applying the fold over elastic as well as how much to stretch the sleeves and side seams when applying the elastic (open) for the rouching effect.
Design idea board
To place the stripes on the diagonal, I rotated the grainline to the bias (45 degrees). To ensure I was able to match the stripes, I cut out the T single layer. I matched a few key areas on the centre seams as well as the notch at the armscye and sleeve.
Rotate grainline to bias
To help match the stripes on the CF, CB and sleeve seams, I used 1/8” wide basting tape that I commonly use when installing zippers. I ran the tape inside the seam line, removed the paper backing and then with right sides together placed the corresponding piece on top. The basting tape is a temporary hold and should be removed after stitching. Some tapes you can stitch through but others will gum up your needle. If you place it inside the seamline, then you won’t have to worry about stitching over it. To ensure you have lined things up correctly, take a peek before stitching. If its not quite lined up the way you want, pull apart, adjust and restick the seams. You can do this several times if needed. Once you like the placement you can stitch the seam with confidence.
Basting tape applied just inside seam allowance Check alignment before stitching.
Continuity of strips between front and sleeves Stipes start to deviate when angles differ
This summer I tried a new T shirt pattern Seams Easy to Me from Dana Maria Design Co. I wasn’t sure how I wanted the stripes to be positioned so I created a sketch to help me decide.
Horizontal option Diagonal option
I liked the look of the diagonal stripes vs the typical horizontal stripes. This pattern has an interesting design element as there is only one side seam.
Cutting out T on the diagonal
I made it out of the Mariner Bamboo Stripe and was quite pleased with the results. I must admit that I am not a big fan of tunics but this has more of an upscale T feeling. I liked it so much I am considering making the long sleeve version in a sweater knit.
I noticed when cutting it out that I would be unable to line up the stripes well on the one side seam since the angle of the seams were different. This is much more evident when you look at the pattern piece and the corresponding picture below. To allow for draping, the designer intended to make the shape of the side seams slightly different. I liked the overall look so I decided not to fuss with the side seam.
Line Art Side Seam
Another possible design alternative is the orientation of ribs on a ribbed knit. Some ribs run on the lengthwise grain and others run on the crosswise grain. I made a T-shirt dress (Pamela’s Patterns #116) out of a Ribbed double knit where the ribs ran crosswise.
I checked the amount of stretch which helped to determine the orientation. There was more stretch lengthwise (50%) vs crosswise (25%). This is not unusual as manufactures are responding to Ready to Wear desire to optimize use of fabric. I inverted the grainline down the crosswise ribs without any problems. If on your fabric you have more crosswise stretch, just ensure that you take that into consideration, you might need to stabilize areas to prevent stretching.
If you are still not sure what to do with a particular striped fabric, look for inspiration. It can come from anywhere if you’re observant. For example, interior design magazines or websites can be a source. The fireplace grate was a source of inspiration for the pink stripped T.
Pinterest is another great source for inspiration. I know I could spend hours scrolling through and pinning photos. Here are just a few pins from my board of how striped fabrics can be sewn.
I hope I have inspired you to give stripes a try. They can be used in creative ways that really make a garment interesting.
I would be interested in hearing about your experiences with stripes on some of your projects.
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