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Sewing Stripes Without Pins

Cali Ponte Stripe Nettie dress

Every good sewist will tell you that the secret to sewing stripes is to pin, pin, pin… so I’m here to show you a dress made with just 2 or 3 pins! (After all, I love Lazy Tips for Sewing Knits!)

Here are my top tips for life with minimal pins:

1. Choose a good quality fabric.

Look, we’ve all been there – we prewash a cute stripe jersey and it comes out of the wash as a diagonal! A good quality knit fabric like this ponte (sadly now out of stock, but look at all the other great options!) has stripes knit right into the fabric that are evenly spaced right to the edge. This means that when you cut and sew your pattern pieces, the stripes will align easily.

2. Choose a simple pattern.

This is the Closet Case Nettie dress, which is a great simple pattern. It has a front, back and sleeves, with no darts or waist seam. The less seams you have, the less stripe matching you need to do! Of course, I played with directionality and blocking on this one to make it unique, but you don’t have to.

3. Plan stripe matching as you cut.

If you’ve cut your pieces carefully, they should all align as you sew without the need for a million pins!

For this diagonal seam, I cut out the front piece as normal, then used a quilting ruler to cut off part of the bodice at exactly a 45 degree angle. I marked the correct angle in washi tape on my ruler to make sure I didn’t accidentally use the wrong line! Then I took that piece I’d cut off, and cut a replica (plus seam allowance) out of perpendicular fabric. Then it sewed together easily!

4. You are the boss of the fabric! 

As you sew, stay in charge to the fabric! I always tell my sewing students that with knits, you are in charge. Don’t let the fabric win! I serged all the seams in this dress with maximum 2 pins – one in the centre of the seam, one at the end. In between those landmarks, all I have to do is make sure that each stripe matches up as I sew. If one stripe doesn’t line up perfectly, then gently pull on either the top or bottom layer of fabric to make sure the next line matches perfectly.

Most importantly, remember that no one else will notice a tiny mistake as much as you will! It’s just clothing, after all, and you’ll always be smiling, talking and moving when you wear it. For example, did you notice that the back hem of my dress is crooked and shows that the stripes were misaligned? I bet most of you didn’t!

Now, there is no reason you can’t pin to your heart’s content as you sew – I’m not here to stop you! But if, like me, you like to be free and loose in your sewing, then I hope I’ve shown you that our approach can be equally successful!

How about you? Do you love to pin?

P.S. The Cali blog has some great posts about sewing with ponte, including “Ponte Fabric: A Complete Guide” and “Office Appropriate Sheaths and Tips for Caring for Ponte“.

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