Friday, September 14, 2018

Pattern Matching for Seamless Seams {Tutorial}

Today I wanted to take a quick detour and do a more in depth tutorial about pattern matching larger scale prints for nearly invisible (or at the very least, less visible) seams for backings.

For some fabrics -- smaller scale prints, solids -- pattern matching is kind of unnecessary. But sometimes, with directional fabrics or some styles of large scale prints, just sewing two pieces of fabric together results in a very obvious seam location. Some people won't be bothered by this, but some people are and I am definitely one of those people.

An important note: different kinds of prints require different thought processes about how to match the print repeats and where to place the sewing line.

Here's a seam match from my Farmer's Wife quilt backing, which my mom actually sewed together for me:

Can you find the seam? It's between the white and pink stripes in the middle of this photo. For this print, the points of the zig zags were used to line up the print and the seam runs along the tip of the pink points and intersects with the tip of the white points.

Here's the backing of my Fire Pit quilt that I made this spring for the Stash Statement blog hop:

For this print, the seam is within the red stripe running across the picture from left to right. I aligned the fabric using the red stripes running up and down through the fabric and placed my seam line in the middle of the red edge stripes running left to right.

Today, I'm going to show an in depth example of how I match patterns. I'll be working on piecing a backing using this fabric (which I got from the clearance section at the Fat Quarter Shop online from a Downton Abbey fabric line) which is directional.

To get the tassels to hang all in the same direction, I'll need to sew together the two pieces of backing (approximately 2 yards each, 4 yards total) along the opposite salvage edges. (I also added the ruler for scale) If you fold your backing in half lengthwise and sew along the same side of the selvage, your tassels will hang in opposite directions.

Now I'm going to look long and hard at the print and think about two things -- where I want to place the seam line and what "landmarks" to use to align the fabric. If you're a spacial thinker, the seam line will run parallel to the salvage and the "landmarks" are the places in the print along the length of the fabric that you'll use to align your two pieces of fabric.

This photo is the same as the photo above with my projected seam lines (one dashed line on each piece of fabric) and my "landmarks" (marked with stars).

I am going to align the two pieces of fabric such that I pin at each of the tassels, which will be my landmarks. I am going to sew through the knots -- which ends up being about an inch from the fabric edge -- along the length of the fabric.

I don't like to trim my salvages prior to sewing the backing seam. I prefer to sew my seam and make sure that it's situated properly first and then to trim the salvage off. I also am totally okay with this seam being larger than 1/4" after I trim off the salvage since I will press this seam open (which I do for all of my backing seams).

And ta-da! I have a moderately well-matched seam that fades into the overall print of the fabric. The tassels along the seam are slightly more narrow, but the overall repeat of the print is not broken, which is the most important factor.

I hope this tutorial was helpful to you in your future pieced backing endeavors! As I noted, every print has to be considered differently, so this is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all type of technique. For example, this blue raindrop fabric is the next one I'll be working on putting together the pieced backing:

At a glance, I think I'll need to sew through the middle of the raindrops across from left to right. This one might end up being slightly more obvious given the detail of the little raindrops on the inside of the larger raindrop motif, but I think with a little extra love it will blend together.

Are you a pattern matcher or are you someone who avoids this kind of matching at all costs? Tell me about your pattern matching experiences in the comments!


  1. I have had some success with pattern matching seams; it's when the print repeat gets large and I don't have enough fabric to offset that I throw in the towel. :)

  2. I'm an avoider, for sure! I like to use a strip of contrasting fabric to piece together larger chunks. The skinny line fools your eye into thinking the pattern continues smoothly behind it. That's my theory, anyway :) You are obviously quite skilled at making the seams disappear!

  3. I went to Craftsy to check it out and you haven't included the size of the quilt...would you please update that for those of us who may be interested? Thank you!

  4. I am a matched when necessary. I do something very similar, but use glue instead of pins for the basting.

  5. When matching was really important, I usually end up inserting another fabric as I usually don't have enough of any one to make a complete backing. So I think I'm an avoider.


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