Sew Professional

Claire Shaeffer

How To Couture With Claire

Matching patterned fabrics at seams and openings can be a challenge, but flawless professional results are worth the extra effort. Learn the techniques for matching the pattern at the center front of a jacket and for piecing a patterned fabric.

Front & Center
Choose a relatively simple jacket pattern, such as the garment featured below (1). The silk jacket has no center front buttons or buttonholes, so the fabric's pretty pattern can remain uninterrupted. This jacket is unlined, lightweight and easy to pack-the perfect accessory for a black dress or pants.

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Examine the chosen fabric to determine where the pattern repeats. The featured jacket's fabric has two patterns to contend with: an alternating chiffon and satin weave stripe as well as an allover floral pattern. The fabric has even repeats in both the vertical and horizontal directions, but on the crossgrain, different flowers appear on the satin stripes. It was important that the satin stripe fall at the jacket opening rather than the chiffon in order to provide body and stability.

On the vertical stripes, the flowers are always the same, so the center of one satin stripe was marked with a hand basting stitch (2). This step would also apply when working with a plaid or vertical stripe.

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Cut out the jacket front paper pattern piece. Mark the pattern center front. Align the pattern center front with the basted line. Add seam allowances or extended facings before cutting out the front pattern piece. Flip over the front pattern piece and align it so that the pattern will match at center front along the basted line. Cut out the other front piece.

Assemble the jacket according to the pattern guidesheet.

Perfect Piecing
Occasionally you fall in love with a patterned fabric only to discover that it's too narrow for the particular pattern you want to use-but don't despair! By piecing the garment with an inconspicuous matched seam, you're free to use any fabric you like.
Vogue 8449 from Claire Shaeffer's Custom Couture Collection is a gown designed to be cut from a single piece of 54"-wide fabric. The dress is cut on the bias and has only one seam at the center back. I found an unusual silk brocade with a bouclŽ yarn to make the dress, but it was only 45" wide. It took some creative problem solving and piecing to make the fabric work for the pattern.

Spread out the fabric on a large, flat work surface. Position the pattern pieces over the fabric to determine where the garment will require extra piecing. Align the pattern so the piecing seam will be in an inconspicuous location. For this gown, it was necessary to add a small piece at the pattern lower left side.

Find a large fabric scrap from the remaining fabric that you can use for the extra piece.

Cut out the pattern. With the pattern still positioned on the fabric, fold under the fabric scrap selvage edge. Match the fabric scrap to the pattern at the location where the dress will be pieced. Try out different placements until the patterns match exactly at the seamline. Pin the scrap in place.

Mark the new seamlines on both the pattern piece and the scrap with a hand-basting stitch.

Align the basted lines on both pieces; pin.

Baste the pieces together using a slipstich. Finish cutting out the dress.

Mark the darts and zipper placket. Remove the pattern. Baste the piecing seam a second time.

Stitch the seam (3) and remove the basting. Press the seam flat, and then press it open.

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Assemble the garment
according to the pattern guidesheet.

Claire Shaeffer is internationally known for her expertise on couture sewing techniques. She is the author of 17 books including Couture Sewing Techniques, High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the World's Best Designers, Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide and Sew Any Fabric. Claire designs the Custom Couture Collection of patterns for Vogue Patterns. She teaches couture workshops in Palm Springs, CA. For more information, e-mail Claire at

Note: On thick or bulky fabrics, basting with a slipstitch doesn't hold the layers securely enough to prevent them from shifting, so it's important to baste a second time with shorter stitches.


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