Match a print when cutting a dress

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Love great print fabric but are baffled at how to cut your dress so the prints all match up? Here are some behind the seams photos I took while making a dress for my book Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit. The finished dress took a different form in the book, but I thought these photos where a good example of matching print. This fabric is Morning Glory from the Amy Butler Lotus Collection, but it would be a great technique for any bold prints, stripes or plaids.

Step 1

Begin with the front and make sure to arrange print in an attractive way. We don't want to have surprise floral motifs in unexpected places when the dress is finished. Plan ahead. Trace enough of the design onto your pattern that you are able to place subsequent pieces with it if needed.

Step 2

After you've cut your first piece, find an area of fabric that will match the first piece and leave room for you to cut the next. Here is the bodice front laying on the fabric with print matching so I can find an area to cut the skirt front piece. (Note that the fold lines on the fabric are not used here to align the center front of the pattern pieces. I aligned the fabric based on the desired placement of the floral pattern)

Step 3

Take the next pattern piece and fold away the seam allowance so you can see exactly where the seams are going to meet and align the print on those lines. I make as many notations as I need to align the pattern to the print when the bodice piece is taken away. I make pencil marks where the color changes and note the color of that portion with R for red, Y for yellow and B for brown. This allows me to then place the skirt piece for cutting. I remove the bodice piece and mark all around the skirt piece with chalk, then flip it on the Center Front line and mark the other side. I re-check the print alignment with the bodice piece and then cut the skirt. (Measure twice, cut once!)

Step 4

Next move on to the bodice back. You can usually not match all seams all the way around a garment so it's best to choose the most prominent. In this case the Front Bodice to Skirt seam and the Center Back seams in the Bodice and Skirt which will have a zipper as well. So after cutting the first bodice piece fold back the seam allowance,so you are matching exactly where the seam will be and move that cut out piece to another area where you will be able to cut the full piece aligned with the pattern.

Step 5

Again, mark your pattern out on the fabric with chalk and check the print alignment before you cut. Then cut the piece.

Step 6

Next lay out the bodice piece on the fabric to find an area where you can cut the first skirt piece. Note that the cut bodice piece is placed above the skirt pattern. It is aligned with the print so you have to look for the chalk marks to see it! When you are pleased with the arrangement mark around the skirt piece, check the alignment again and cut the first piece. Repeat the same process with the next skirt back piece and cut the next piece.

Step 7

So there you have it! You can see with this example why you need to buy additional fabric when you are using a print in order to match the stripes or print, right? The rule of thumb here is the larger the print the more you'll need because the pattern repeats less often.
There's nothing more satisfying than making something that has a matching print like this and having the pattern match beautifully. It's worth the extra time it takes in cutting and makes the garment look especially refined. Here's wishing you great matching mojo!

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