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Donna Babylon: Quick Tip – Make A Perfect Match When A Seam Goes Through A Design

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'Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match,' the girls sang in Fiddler On The Roof . They wanted husbands. But they could just as well have been singing about matching up both sides of a seam when goes through the middle of a design. Both kinds of matches can be tricky to pull off. And even worse, they're obvious to everybody when not done correctly.

For the husband, talk to Yente. But for fabric matchmaking, we asked home décor sewing expert, Donna Babylon. She has a simple method she uses, which has given her great results. This is just one of the great techniques from her book, Decorating Sewlutions: Learn to Sew as You Decorate Your Home .

Matching up two sides of a design

When you need to sew a seam that goes through the middle of a design, you first need to remember to allow extra fabric for sewing the seam (at least ½" extra on each side). You should determine this when you calculate where the seam will go.

The tricky part in sewing two halves of a design together is the fact that if one of your pieces of fabric shifts up or down even a tiny amount while you sew, it will show.

I like to use a technique called 'fuse basting,' which allows me to perfectly match the fabric designs and then stick them together so they can't move when I sew. I use a paper-backed fusible tape, which you can find in the notions area of the fabric store. Steam-A-Seam is one example. Check the information printed on the packaging to make sure the tape can be stitched through. Some adhesives can gum up the needle.

Follow these instructions to fuse-baste a seam

  1. Lay the full width of your fabric on a large work surface right side up. Cut off the selvages. Cut the panels you will be seaming together.
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  2. Fold back the cut edge of one piece of fabric ½" toward the wrong side and press. Place a strip of paper-backed fusible tape, adhesive side down, on this pressed edge, close to the fold. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for iron temperature and steam setting. Iron along the paper side of the tape. Allow it to cool and then remove the paper.
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  3. Arrange the fabric pieces so they are both right side up. Working from the top to the bottom, lap the pressed seam allowance (the folded and fused edge) over the unpressed one. Match the motifs exactly.
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  4. Use your iron to fuse the pieces together.
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  5. Fold the pieces so they are right sides together. Stitch directly along the pressed fold line and the motifs will be perfectly matched! Press the seam to one side.
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Now you know how to make a perfect match. If you could just use the same method to find a date for your cousin. She's got such a sweet personality.

Excerpted from Decorating Sewlutions by Donna Babylon, which you can order online.

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Comments (22)

Mandy said:
Mandy 's picture

Thank you so much! This made things so much easier. I was trying to match vertical stripes for a large roman shade and this was the only website that had a solution. I am a beginner sewer, but was able to figure this out first try!! 

Jeri K. said:
Jeri K.'s picture

Great tip once I figured out that this tape has adhesive on *both* sides. I'm an advanced sewer and have never used it, lol. First time for everything though... I've got 21 yards of print fabric to seam together into drapery for my triple sliders in SW Florida. This tip will be extremely helpful to me in that project - thanks!

Costos said:
Costos's picture

I have matched the fabric but now how do I place the pattern for a curved valance and make it match?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Costos - this isn't really something we can troubleshoot long distance as we don't know exactly what you are working with. In general, it sounds as if you should create your larged matched fabric piece first (seamed and pressed) and then place your pattern on it to cut it out. 

bnash said:
bnash's picture

Thanks so much for the great idea! It was much better than other suggestions that I found. Your idea saved me while trying to match two pieces of chevron designed materials. It turned out nicely!

DeniseK said:
DeniseK's picture

My fabric is printed all the way through the selvage on one edge - the other edge has the typical white selvage with fabric and color information on it. How can I tell how wide the selvage is on the printed edge?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ DeniseK - That is typical. Look closely; the edge of the fabric will have a different texture where it was attached to the loom. Use your clear ruler to draw a straight line since you don't have the "white edge" to follow. You can simply trim off the same amount as you did from the printed side.

Nina.... said:
Nina....'s picture

Worked great for me too, thanks so much. I altered slightly and pulled the seam open so the fabric lies flat. Only thing I did wrong was to iron the newly opened seam flat without using a cloth under my iron - I got a bit of gunk on my iron from that but fixed it quick enough :) My fabric looks wonderful and you can hardly notice the join thanks to this wonderful article.

Allison said:
Allison's picture

This works so well!  It's ingenious!  What a life saver!

Donna Babylon said:
Donna Babylon's picture

I am so happy that this tip helped all of you! I miss the good old HGTV, too. I don't watch it at all anymore. Happy sewing!

Midnight Quilter said:
Midnight Quilter's picture

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! This worked perfectly!!!!!

Monica said:
Monica's picture

Thanks SO MUCH for this tip.  It worked wonderfully!

Monica said:
Monica's picture

Thanks SO MUCH for this tip!  I was getting frustrated in not being able to match two pieces of print fabric.  This worked wonderfully!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Alice A. Crawford - Donna is a friend of ours here at Sew4Home, and we did these mini tutorials with her a couple of years ago. I will be sure to pass along your nice comments to her. We still keep in touch via Facebook and email. I know she is doing well.
Alice A. Crawford said:
Alice A. Crawford's picture
Donna, so glad you have this on-line. I remembered all but where to sew and how to make it perfect....on the fold. Just finished pinning and matching yards and yards of printed drapery material now to go back and use your method. I've done the seam tape but never could remember how to sew it so that it matched. Thank for putting up this site. Miss you and Carol Duval on what was formerly a good network, HGTV. They've become a real estate mecca, a long way from what had been worth while watching. Thanks for this site. Alice
Alice A. Crawford said:
Alice A. Crawford's picture
Was it on HGTV somewhere that you did this? I kinda remembered it and just finished matching and pinning but knew that you had shown how to sew after the applying the tape, that was the part I didn't remember. Now I see that you sew right on that piece you folded. The end of the mystery and I have yards and yards to match. Thanks Donna and I miss you and Carol and that show. We're now learning how to buy houses!! Like, who cares, or even more to the point, who has the money for that. Bring back some good shows like something with Donna Babylon. Thanks.smilies/smiley.gif
Kelly aka HonestNiceWoman said:
Kelly aka HonestNiceWoman's picture
This is a wonderful tutorial! Thank you for posting!
orangesugar said:
orangesugar's picture
This is genious! I tried to do something similar with just pins and it worked for the most part, but I'm sure the fusible tape makes it spot on.
Mummsie 1 said:
Mummsie 1's picture
smilies/grin.gif Boy that's the slickest trick I've seen in a while. Mucho, Thanks!!

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