Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Did I not promise plaid?

Well, they do say that if you fall off, you should get right back on ... whatever it was you fell off.  I hope I'm in the process of recovering from the fall as I work on my new latest project, the plaid Burda jacket, #114 from the January, 2009 issue.

Here's Burda's version.

I loved this as soon as I saw it and it has been lurking on my "to sew" list for a year now. Birgitte was very prompt in February with her version, also in plaid and just gorgeous in every way.  For me, new ideas (plaid double-breasted jacket, bias plaid trim, diagonal bound buttonholes, very quirky collar/lapels) need time to percolate.  So a year later, I'm finally getting around to it. 

At some point in the year a piece of fabric buried in the stash called to me.  It called LOUDLY.  It said it was a plaid ... no - it SHOUTED that it was A PLAID!  And it thought it could be this jacket.  

Matching the plaid on a princess seamed jacket with set in sleeves is not a task for the faint of heart.  I have a long history with plaid and I am firmly in the slightly manic matchmaker camp of sewers.  Another of my school home ec projects was a tailored wool coat.  The teacher instructed us to go out and find a pattern for a coat or jacket and wool fabric.  She suggested plaid might not be a good idea, but if we fell in love with a plaid, to make sure it was an even plaid.  From a document on plaid at the University of Kentucky website:

"An even (balanced) plaid has the same lines,
spaces, and colors on the left and right and the
same lines, spaces, and colors above and below
a center or dominant line. Even plaids will
match in both the lengthwise and crosswise

NOTE: For the beginner, an even plaid is the
easiest to work with and will build one’s

You already know from this post that as a beginning sewer, I would sometimes pick challenging school projects.  In this case, I ended up with a plaid which was uneven in both directions ("Different from left to right and above and below a dominant line").  Just as my grade 8 teacher must have done, my grade 12 teacher sighed when she saw it, and then, bless her heart, she methodically started to show me how to plan the garment so I could match the plaid at every possible juncture.  Everything was cut single layer and as I recall, even the lips of the bound buttonholes matched the coat fronts.  Success with uneven plaid is truly a confidence-building experience. 

But I digress.  

A couple of days ago I started trying to figure out how the Burda jacket pattern would work with my plaid.  After moving some furniture around, I laid out the fabric on the floor, single layer, and tried various placements.  The crucial places to match plaid are the CF and CB (intersecting horizontal and vertical elements should meet precisely on vertical seams/edges).  The CB of the collar can usually be made to match with the CB of the jacket body.  Obviously wherever there are shaping seams, the plaid design will distort somewhat at the seams, but despite this thought has to be given to how the main elements of the plaid will interact at all vertical seams in the body of the jacket, and at the armscye-sleeve seam - the goal being to keep the general rhythm of the plaid as constant as possible, recognizing that perfection is impossible (for example, the plaid will not match at the shoulders unless you have an extraordinarily symmetrical pattern, which mine isn't).  

It probably should go without saying, but I'll say it anyhow, that the matching point is the seam line and not the cut edge of the pieces.  It's helpful to have that line drawn on your pattern pieces when laying out the pattern on the fabric. 

-- Oh, did I not mention that the plaid was orange, as well as loud? 

When this photo was taken I was toying with the idea that the CF and CB should be on the dominant dark vertical line of my more-or-less even plaid.  If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can see I had darkened the grain lines, critical seam lines, and CF line.  The CB neck point is lying so the seam line is exactly in the middle of the dominant vertical line of the plaid.  

Horizontally, I was paying attention to the built-in Burda horizontal plaid-matching lines (you can see them in the body pieces below the waist, and on the front and sleeve at the armscye near the notch).  I also thought about where the bottom of the jacket would hit on the plaid.  Because there's a bottom band which will be on the bias, I concluded this is less important - it so happened that the dominant horizontal element is just above the band which seems OK to me. 

The jacket has welt pockets with flaps and so I will also try to match the flaps to the jacket body.  Because the pocket opening lies on 3 pieces (front, side front and side back), it will be impossible to completely match the flap to the body.  The important part is obviously the front.  I therefore paid attention to matching the vertical as well as horizontal plaid lines as closely as possible at the point where the pocket markings cross from front to side-front. 

Eventually I realized that the WOF jacket was cut with the CF falling on a non-dominant vertical line and I decided that would work better.  So I shifted the pieces over and now the dark vertical in the middle of the orange lines is at the CB and CF.  It seems more subtle, that is if anything made in orange plaid could be subtle.

The real matching challenge in this jacket will be the armscye-sleeve seam which always drives me nuts, but I'm also thinking ahead to the interesting question whether (as Birgitte did, whether by accident or design) I can get at least some elements on the bias edge of the lapel to match the same elements on the jacket fronts.  (Or whether I care...)  For now, I've only cut out the body pieces and under collar.  Once the body of the jacket is constructed I can make more informed decisions about how to cut the sleeves and other pieces.  

I'll leave off with a sneak preview of how the plaid intersects at the front princess seams.  This is just pinned together, but isn't it exciting?


  1. Wowee! Love that pattern and the fabulous PLAID! Nice matchup at the princess seam. I only recently did my first plaid + princess seam. I don't generally swear, but I was sorely tempted. Yours is shaping up very nicely!

  2. Kay, impressive plaid! This will be a gorgeous jacket. (I'm not getting any sewing done right now, instead of sewing along, I will follow your process)

  3. Wow! No worries about plaid here! This is so perfect for you. Even plaids aren't as easy to find as you might think, many of them are long which doesn't work on the bias. I can't wait to see what you do with it next!

  4. Great job matching the plaid....can't wait to see it done. I especially love the color..going to be awesome.

  5. You are a plaid matching goddess. You're going to guide us along with the rest of the jacket...please? I love this jacket and I think a plaid is the best way to showcase the bias bands. Completely awesome and I love your posts. Please keep them coming (but I really don't see how you have the time...).

  6. Ciel mon amie, comme vous êtes patiente avec tous ces détails "tartanesque". Je suis certaine que la veste terminée sera digne des musées écossais. Je reste en attente de la suite. ;-)

  7. Hey Kay: When I saw your plaid my eyes popped and I had to giggle. I am afflicted with an orange plaid & now don't feel so alone in this plaid plaid plaid world. Onward (to us)!
    Mary Beth

  8. Wow! this is going to be fantastic. It may be loud, but I think that it's going to be striking on you. It's also about the same scale as the plaid Burda used.

  9. Boy do you love a challenge! :) I know that in your skillful hands that it will work out but boy do you love a challenge!!!

  10. Lookin' darn good! B-B-bbb-b-but Whatever happened to the Grand January Intercontinental Sewalong idea? Oh all right, I'll just entertain myself solo. Sulk.

  11. Wow, that jacket is going to be fantastic when it is finished! I am still a novice at matching plaids...they frighten me!

  12. This jacket is on my wishlist too. I love tartans and I can't wait to see how you are geeting on with this

  13. Bright it is! And you have certainly set yourself a challenge. It will be fun to follow along (and learn a lot about plaid matching too).

  14. Beautiful - your plaid matching and your plaid. I'm surprised a plaid that shy, retiring and ORANGE could hide in your stash so that it had to call you.

    That being said, I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

    I have that very pattern traced and folded inside a piece of plaid fabric, but it's not calling to me yet. Yet.

  15. The LOUD plaid is fabulous, and perfect placement, just as expected :)) Finally got around to adding you to my google reader, and not a minute too soon, don't want to miss this progress. The pocket and welt is gorgeous as well.

  16. I am in awe of the orange jacket. EVERYTHING
    MATCHES!!! Terrific job.
    m morris