You will be relieved and hopeful to know that it was not your fault! That's right! There are special pins that do the job more or less for you. All you have to do is stay-stitch the seams first, then hand-baste (and you would have done those things with plaid anyway, right?) and then pin with these magical pins! Want proof? Here it is. (I basted around the seam line so that you can find it and also to keep the seam allowances back because I didn't press the seam.)
Now do you want to see the pins that made this possible?
The Amazing Plaid-Matching Pins (my name for them), whose "official" name is "forked pins". Isn't that a cute little box? You can find them on-line in a snap. Just type "Clover forked pins" into Google.
How to Use Clover Forked Pins and Match Plaid
When cutting your fabric, do so with a single layer. If you have a "place to fold" pattern piece, get a piece of paper twice the size of your pattern piece, fold it down the centre, then make a new pattern piece by cutting around your original one on the fold.
When cutting mirror image pieces, e.g. the side panels of a skirt, cut one, then flip it WS up and use that as the new pattern piece (still having it attached to the paper pattern for stability). Lay this garment section on your fabric so that it is completely camouflaged, i.e. the plaid matches.
With pieces that will be sewn together, cut one of them and then lay the other's pattern piece on top. Trace the plaid lines of the first piece onto the second pattern piece with pencil or ballpoint pen, colouring them in so that you get the right stripes of the plaid matched up. Now you can lay the second pattern piece on the fabric, making sure that you get the plaid matched up.
It is still vital to follow the grain line. The plaid match is most important on the stitching line, so don't worry if it doesn't match on the cutting line or the rest of the garment section. Unless you're cutting a straight panelled skirt, the plaid will not be a continuous straight line. There will be an angle in it.
When you have cut your fabric, you can stay-stitch all the edges. If your fabric is firm and on the straight of grain, you need only stay-stitch the curved, bias and garment bias edges.
NOTE: Garment bias is the "grain" that is neither the true bias nor the straight of grain. It might be the hip seam, or the side seam on a flared skirt for example.
When you have done that, hand baste the seams with even basting stitches about 1/8" to 1/4" long. Yes, it seems to take a long time, but it's much better to spend half an hour basting and have it work out than to spend three hours resewing the skirt over and over and over...
When you have basted the seam, have the garment on your table, and pin along the seam with your forked pins perpendicular to the stitching line, pinning especially on the plaid sections.
You might ask, why use the pins if you have basted everything? Well, the fabric shifts under the presser foot even if you do hand baste everything. The hand-basting is to make sure everything is aligned. The pinning is to make sure it stays that way.
Now you can sew your seam on your sewing machine. This is one of those rare times when you don't remove your pins as you go. Just be careful not to hit them with your needle. If you hand walk your sewing machine over them, or sew slowly and attentively over them you should be okay. At hand walking speed, the needle slides past the pins instead of hitting them at 750 spm and braking.
When you have sewn the seam, you can take the pins out ready for the next seam. Have a look at your seam. It is probably perfect. (I can't take account of the world's slipperiest plaid.) Now you need never avoid plaid again! These pins are a new staple in my sewing box! : )
I hope that helps!
Until next time, Happy Sewing!
The Sewing Corner