December 10, 2016

Tutorial: How to match plaids on a pleated peplum top or jacket

Hello, everybody! Soon, I'll be sharing a full write-up on my version of Burda 9404, a girl's jacket with notched lapels and a lovely pleated peplum. I made this jacket in a very soft large-scale plaid flannel that has a black, white and turquoise color scheme. It's going to a girl who's turning 6 this weekend. I can't wait to show it to you!
Matching vertical plaids across the bodice and peplum: that's what we're gonna do in today's tutorial.

But before reviewing the pattern, I wanted to offer this tutorial for matching plaids on this type of jacket. It's not a standard plaid-matching tutorial, because the jacket has a peplum with pleats. Plaid-matching-wise, that kinda gums things up.

Here's a picture of the Burda 9404 pattern envelope:

Burda 9404. View A is the red jacket on the right.

As you can see in the line drawing below, View A, the front peplum is made from one piece of fabric (per side), and the back peplum is one long piece of fabric that goes across the entire back, with two pleats.
Burda 9404, View A: the peplum's pleats complicate the plaid-matching situation.
Now, if you're trying to match plaids on the bodice, you would just use your tried-and-true method to line those suckers up. Oh, and if you've never matched plaids before, here are some tutorials from around the web:

So you're going along, happily matching plaids. Once you get to the peplum, though, your plaids aren't gonna match across the whole front or back of the garment. If you match them at the center, they're going to be unmatched at the sides. And vice versa.

But with a few extra steps, you can get them to match at both the sides and the center. What wizardry is this? You'll see.

How to match plaids on a top with a pleated peplum

This method will work for many different sewing patterns. As long as you have a peplum with a pleat, you can follow the instructions below to get your plaids all nicely lined up. This example uses Burda 9404 mentioned above.

Disclaimer: I came up with this method on my own. I don't know if this is the official way they do it in the fancy design houses where clients expect couture-level custom work. But for quotidian home sewing, I deem this method adequate. Actually, it's more than adequate, since you're going to the trouble of matching plaids in the first place. Hooray for you!

How it works: Basically, you split each peplum along the pleat, so you have two separate pieces. Then you can match the plaids at both the center and the sides.

Here's how to do it.

First, mirror the back peplum piece

The Burda pattern has you cut the back peplum on the foldline of the fabric. Which is fine if you're not matching plaids. But we're being fastidious here, so we won't be cutting it on the fold. You'll need to make a mirror image of the pattern piece so you can cut it out fussy-style.

So: trace the back peplum piece (#7) onto another piece of paper, and tape it to the original pattern piece at the foldline (don't add a seam allowance). That way, you have a single long piece for the back.
Here's the back peplum. The new piece is on the left. It's a mirror image of the original piece on the right.

Split the pleats

On front peplum and back peplum pattern pieces, draw a line down the center of each pleat. In the picture below, those are the vertical dashed lines. I used the back peplum as the example, but you'll also be doing this on the front peplum piece.

Again, this is the back peplum only. See the two dashed vertical lines? Those are new, and they're where we'll be cutting. Also notice that I've labeled each of the 3 pieces individually. That way, when you drag this pattern out of your pattern box 4 years from now, you won't be confused.

Cut the pattern pieces along the dashed lines you just drew.

Add a seam allowance to each piece where you cut down the center. Printed Burda patterns in the United States include a 5/8" seam allowance, so that's what I recommend. Just cut strips of paper 5/8" wide, and tape them to the edges you just cut.

A triptych of peplum pieces! Once again, these are just for the back; do the same for the front.  You can see the 5/8" wide strips of paper that have been added along each edge you cut. Those are you seam allowances, and later you are going to thank yourself for adding them.
Now you have three pieces for the back peplum:

  • Center back (cut 1)
  • Right side back (cut 1)
  • Left side back (cut 1)

And you have two pieces for each front peplum:

  • Center front (cut 2)
  • Side front (cut 2)

You'll be joining them together later, but the new seams will be hidden in the center of the pleats.

Match the plaids and cut out the fabric pieces

This is where your plaid-matching skills come into play. You'll be using the bodice of the garment as the guide for matching the peplum's vertical lines. We'll be doing some horizontal matching, too, but only in relation to the peplum pieces (not the bodice) (although you could).

Please remember, this tutorial doesn't cover the basics of matching plaids; instead, visit one of the tutorials linked above if you don't already have a general idea of how to do it. Come back here when you're ready, and see these instructions for specifically applying the technique to our peplum/pleat situation.

Center back:

  • For the center back, lay the pattern piece on the fabric so that you're matching the bodice's vertical plaid, starting at the center and going outward toward the side. 
  • Cut the fabric.

Side back: 

  • For the left and right side back pieces, lay the pieces on the fabric to match the bodice's vertical plaid, starting at the side and going inward toward the center.
  • You'll also want to match the plaid horizontally across all 3 pieces of the peplum; the idea is to have one continuous horizontal line going across the entire peplum. Use the center back peplum piece you cut out earlier as a guide. 
  • Cut the fabric.

Using the side back piece as the example, match the plaids from the side going inward. At the top, near the pleat, you can see two tiny marks I made, which correspond to the edges of the white line on the plaid. I got those from lining up this peplum pattern piece with the bottom of the fabric I'd already cut out for the bodice.

Now we'll do the same for the front pieces.

Center front: 

  • For the center front piece, match the vertical bodice plaid starting at the center, going outward to the sides.
  • You'll also want to match the plaid horizontally on both center front peplum pieces, so that when the jacket is buttoned, the horizontal lines are continuous across both pieces. 
  • Cut the fabric.

Side front:

  • For each side front piece, match the bodice's vertical plaid starting at the side of the peplum, coming inward toward the center.
  • Again, you'll also want to match the plaid horizontally, using the center front peplum piece you just cut out as a guide. 
  • Cut the side pieces.

Put the peplums back together

I don't have photos for the following sections, but you can use your imagination. It's fairly standard stuff. Can you sew two pieces of fabric together! Good. You've got this. If you have any questions or if something is unclear, please feel free to leave a comment and one of us will try to clarify.

Sew the center back to the side back pieces, using a 5/8" seam allowance (or whatever you added above). Press the seams open.

At this point, the seam where they come together will not match vertically, but it should match horizontally. The non-matching portion will be hidden in the pleat anyway. Yay! After sewing, you'll now basically have the same piece you would have had if you'd cut out the back peplum as one piece according to the pattern instructions.

Sew each side front piece to each center front piece. Press the seams open. Same deal: they won't match vertically where they come together. No problem. But they should still match horizontally. And again, now you'll have one front peplum piece for each side, just like you would have had if you'd cut them out per the original pattern instructions.

Sew the rest of the garment

Now you can proceed as normal, following the pattern instructions. When it comes time to sew the peplum to the bodice, be sure to carefully place the pieces together so the plaids line up at the sides and the center. You wouldn't want to go to all that trouble only to have them off by a fraction of an inch!

In conclusion

By cleverly hiding a seam in a pleat, we can achieve our lifelong dream of matching plaids at the center and the side of a garment ... even when a pesky pleat attempts to foil our plans. Pow! Take that, pleat!

Aren't you glad you took the extra time to match your plaids on both sides? Whatever you're making, it's going to look so much better with that extra little touch of classs (the extra "s" is to show we're not messing around here -- your project will have classs coming out the wazoo).

Got any questions about this special plaid-matching situation? Have you tried it, and what did you think?

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