Saturday, 2 August 2014

How do Lekala patterns work?

A see-through negligee made from a Lekala pattern
Sexy lingerie
Well, the obvious answer to this, from my point of view and experience at least, is 'wonderfully well!'

But that's not what you wanted to know. 

Lekala is a Russian company whose pattern-drafting software is used, together with your basic measurements and certain body proportions, to produce a personalised custom-sized and adjusted pattern from a wide selection available on their website. The cost of a pattern is low, but of course you are responsible for the cost of printing. 
Cosy full-length dressing-gown from a Lekala pattern
dressing gown
In addition, each pattern consists of only one garment in one size - your size. If you want the same pattern in another size, then you must buy it again. 

At its simplest, you feed in your measurements, and are emailed back a pattern that will - you hope! - fit you when made up. In my still-limited experience with Lekala patterns, that is exactly what they do.
Floral-print, sleeveless gathered summer tunic from a Lekala pattern
Summer top

Of course, it's not quite that simple. Nothing worthwhile ever is. 

What Lekala does is take certain basic body measurements, then alter the chosen pattern to fit the measurements given. 

The program adjusts the entire pattern in a proportionate way for a 'typical' body. The basic measurements asked for are full bust, underbust, waist, hips, full hips and height. 
A coat designed for cold winter weather by Lekala patterns
Warm coat

Of course, providing half a dozen of your body measurements does not - cannot! - result in a pattern that, made up without further alteration or changes, will fit you. There are a range of 'adjustments' and a few optional measurements which can - in fact should - be used for best results. These adjustments are all applied proportionately to the basic pattern as altered for your actual measurements. 

They have a lovely range of patterns to choose from - from sexy lingerie to sensible dressing gowns, warm winter coats to summer dresses, casual wear to ball gowns. There are all sorts of interesting, useful, frivolous, practical and fun patterns available,  including some you're unlikely to see elsewhere.

I am short - 5ft wringing wet and stretched out! - and fat; the correct measurements and adjustment parameters used during the purchase of a Lekala pattern has so far enabled me to eliminate the fitting processes I used to so hate doing. However, if I were making a more elaborate garment, or wanted a perfect fit, I would still have work to do - albeit far, far less than starting with a 'normal' paper pattern.
A gorgeous evening dress, also by Lekala
Ball gown

Lekala states very clearly on their Russian-based site - I have edited slightly for clarity - that there are not, and cannot be, any guarantees as to fit
"Do clothes made by your patterns fit well?
Fitting is subjective. One person prefers a garment that fits loosely; another person prefers the same garment to fit snugly.Tastes differ.
and whether the patterns eliminate the need to measure and alter the flat pattern and, later, on a toile, or test garment,

"Can I sew from your patterns without needing to do troublesome alterations?"
The technique of distance pattern drafting cannot guarantee faultless results. Remember the tailor's adage "Measure twice, cut once"! After you have made up a few of our designs, you will gain an understanding of how our patterns, and their measurement and adjustment features suit your body size and shape. To this end, we offer a range of free patterns which you can download with different measurements and proportions, to check which adjustments best suit your body size and type.
I understand that if you normally need to make a large FBA, you'll still need to do one with a customised Lekala pattern - but I am told that the process is both easier and quicker, as a lot of the other adjustments you are likely to need will have already been done,

I normally need an FBA, but nothing major - I am a DD cup. I find that the combined adjustments of narrow shoulders and narrow back seem to shift enough of the total bust measurement to the front so as to have, in effect, performed a type of FBA. The adjustments I make on the measurement chart for the correct positioning of the bust apex points also helps a great deal with fitting.

Of course, this level of customisation can only cope with the supposedly 'normal' body. It will not cope with, for example, a dowager's hump, a sway-back adjustment or uneven shoulders.

You will have to try the patterns out for yourself - and you can do this easily, as there is a range of free customisable patterns available, so you can see for yourself how effective the different options and adjustments are on your body.

I think, if you normally have fitting problems when making dresses, skirts or tops, it would be well worth your while trying Lekala patterns which, as already mentioned, you can do free of charge, and see how they work for you.

A word of warning, though - don't lie about your measurements! Lekala uses your actual measurements, so if you fudge them, the pattern will not fit! There's none of that 6 to 10 inches of ease you find in so many of the 'Big 4' pattern companies' patterns - even for garments that are meant to be closely-fitting! No-one other than you will see your measurements, no-one cares about them other than you - the Lekala program only needs you to get them correct. Most of their women's sizes will adjust up to 160cm hip and a few of them to 170cm hip. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sewing pattern success!

Perfect fit.

In the past couple of weeks, I've made FIVE garments which I cut straight from patterns as printed, sewed along the seam lines indicated - and which ALL fitted me without any. further. adjustment. 


You can have no idea of how happy I am, unless like me you have  spent the past several years buying pattern drafting books, taking fitting courses, reading blogs, fudging FBAs, squinting over the multiple lines on multi-size patterns with a worsening visual impairment and, of course, making countless toiles - I've stripped local charity shops of their sheets!


I am having so much fun - I haven't felt this way about my clothing for nigh on twenty years.


I am a total Lekala convert after three free patterns and one purchased pattern have ALL fit me better 'straight off the printer' than any 'big brand' or Indi pattern on which I've expended blood, sweat and tears (as well as time, effort and money) to alter and adjust.
Pattern company's illustration of Lekala 5088, a classic straight skirt
Lekala 5088

So far, I've made a straight skirt, a tunic top, a shirt-blouse and - my only paid-for pattern so far - two drape-neck knit tops. NO ALTERATIONS on any of them.

The skirt (Lekala 5088 - free) was made from an odd bit of grey crepe. Here's the pattern company's image on the right:

It's a straightforward  three-seam skirt with a centre-back zip, two darts each side at the back, one each side at the front. It is a totally-classic, nicely-drafted straight skirt. I sewed it up on the seamlines as given, and it fits.  It needs lining - the fabric's not tightly-woven, and frays badly - but I confess I'm in no particular rush to finish it - I don't have a lot of use for a grey straight skirt, if I'm being honest. What impresses me is that even with my quite dramatic hip-spring, the line from waist to hip needs only the slightest tweak to get it perfect

I've worn this tunic below (Lekala 8001), another free pattern from Lekala,  several times during the recent warm weather; it is cool, comfortable and attractive.
Cool, comfortable tunic from Lekala
pattern 8001, which is free!
While I was sewing it - this was the first garment I made from a Lekala pattern - I was convinced that it wasn't going to fit. The armholes seemed too small, the neckline too wide - it took all my willpower to stop myself altering it 'on the fly', but I considered it as a test garment and convinced myself not to. 

'Believing in' the pattern was well worthwhile! There is no sag or bag in the armholes, but they don't bind or dig in, and the neckline, while it doesn't look straight in the photo, is 'just right', lying flat and straight on the body. The back has two long darts and a slightly shaped centre seam. I found the positioning of the casing intended for an under-bust drawstring was too high, but that was at least partly my error in marking.  The next one I make - the fabric is drying on the line as I write - will have a short length of elasticated gathering under the bust.

Forgive my very poor photography - my camera is currently held together with duct tape so I can't access all the settings.

The shirt below (Lekala 5446) is very nice. The collar in particular went together like a dream, every single notch matched beautifully and the sleeves eased in - well - easily. It has both narrow shoulders and a collar which doesn't choke me - a miracle!  Even the button and button-hole positions seem to be spot on; I marked them, then fastened the shirt with safety-pins at the markings when I tried it on. I wore it for a few hours round the house; the pins never pulled or popped. 
The nice collar of the herbaceous-border shirt
Sadly, as you can see, it is very floral and even more pink than it appears to be in the photo. I look like a herbaceous border in full bloom! It is a very nice, casual, semi- to loosely-fitted shirt which I'll probably be making up again, but in a different, less floral, less pink, fabric. In the meantime, here's the 'technical drawing' of it, so you can see the placement of the darts. I've done a review of the pattern on PR here.

Womens' casual shirt Lekala 5446
Pattern company's illustration of drape-neck top 4119
This knit top on the left - Lekala 4119 - is delightful. You can see my review` of it here on the PR website. The finished top is very similar to the much-admired Style Arc 'Creative Cate', especially if you omit the band at the bottom.

I made the first one from a vertigo-inducing printed stripe remnant which cost me 60p, IIRC. I might dye it, in order to tone down the optical illusions caused by so many stripes! 

Drape neck top made and worn by me, in a brown and teal paisley print viscose jersey
Lekala 4119 made up and worn by me, 
 in a brown, teal and cream viscose jersey.
The second I made from a drapey viscose/lycra knit, 150cm wide, which cost me £2.50/m from my favourite market stall. 

Flattering, nicely-fitted, comfortable, desperately fast and easy to make. What more is there to say?

I have some white knit fabric to make yet another one, and I am the woman who 'doesn't like' sewing with knit fabrics and who 'doesn't get' satisfactory results with them ...

Is that a recommendation? Or is that a recommendation!

Right - I mentioned in an earlier post that I don't cope with the sticking-together of downloadable patterns at all - eyesight issues. 
I already pointed out that I am a horrid shape and size to sew for from printed patterns. 
I am, too, a pensioner on a limited income and as such, I REFUSE to pay inflated prices for patterns that don't fit anyone remotely my shape. Big 4 patterns, in particular, are horrendous prices here in the UK compared to the prices charged in the US.

So what makes Lekala so very different - what makes it work for me? All will be revealed in my next post!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sewing pattern problems...

Lots of writing in this post, no pics - sorry!

I have a question for the big US pattern companies.

Why are so many products of the 'Big 4' pattern brands (Vogue, McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity; also including Kwik-Sew and New Look) so ... disastrous, at least in the oh-so-cutesily named 'plus sizes'? 

Baggy, saggy, oversized tents. Droopy, loopy, floppy awnings. A parachute with a neck hole is a rough approximation of many patterns, when made up according to the sizing and measurement information on the pattern envelope. 

I accept that an increasing number of adjustments on a purchased paper pattern is inevitable to cope with the figure changes associated with age. I can even accept that grading-up to what the US oh-so-politely refers to as 'plus sizes' is a procedure fraught with difficulties and inaccuracies, thus resulting in even more adjustment and alterations being necessary. I willingly acknowledge that the additional difficulties in fitting which are posed by my deteriorating eyesight are no concern to the pattern producer

However, what I cannot - and will not - accept are the inaccuracies, inconsistencies and outright errors which are increasingly associated with the products of these major pattern companies. Have you ever tried measuring these patterns, and comparing the actual measurements of the pattern pieces with the measurements stated on the back of the pattern envelopes? I have! 

It makes my brain ache. Not just my poor old eyes.

Whether this originates from poor original design, from incompetent grading of the different sizes, or at some other stage in the process, I have no idea. It has been suggested that there is too much red medicine available at all stages of the process ... :)

What I do know is that I am not alone in my frustration. See this open letter to Vogue, and the update, on the popular blog 'Communing with fabric'. 

See this post in a Uk-based sewing forum; what are the pattern companies thinking? I have to wonder if they are on the same planet as the rest of us, or if their standard inch and centimetre is somehow different to that accepted by the rest of us on Planet Earth.

I am also very angry that I am expected to pay an average of around a tenner (the majority of Vogue patterns are more than £14) for something which may well be 'not fit for purpose' nor 'substantially as described' in the commonly-accepted sense of the term, but which is sold on a non-refundable basis.

 It's a big, fat con.

European pattern brands are, in general, somewhat more consistent in their sizing, ease and grading, I find. As such, they're considerably less stressful to alter, Burda especially as they still produce a 'Petite' range which takes care of height/length issues. However, the multiple size lines put additional strain on my vision and I no longer find it a pleasure to work with them.

Indie pattern producers have some interesting stuff, but I am put off buying them by several factors. They can be unexpectedly expensive - when buying paper patterns from outside the EU, 20% of the total value of purchase and postage is usually added by HMRC as import VAT, and the delivery agent, be it Royal Mail or a courier, charges a significant flat fee for acting as collection agent on HMRC's behalf.   A downloaded purchase doesn't have these additional, inescapable costs, but it has others - the cost of printing, for one - and the time and effort needed to match up and stick together all these sheets of A4 paper ... with my eyesight ...

Many indie patterns come in a restricted range of sizes - actually I think this is a good thing, as it indicates the designer acknowledges the limitations of their skills when it comes to the correct grading of large sizes. Some brands of indie patterns are well-known (in the sewing community, anyway) for being - umm - confusing, despite having lovely styles. No thanks! 

I am simply no longer able to waste money on buying patterns that might, or might not, give an approximate fit, and I am no longer willing to waste time on taping together 49 sheets of A4 paper which might, or might not, be usable to make a garment which might, or might not, give an approximate fit.

A couple of weeks ago I found something very interesting. Was this the answer to my problems, was this the Holy Grail of patterns? What I found seemed to offer the possibility of being able to 'cut and sew', with no pattern alterations required, as they would be added for me upon input of a range of my very own measurements and adjustments.

Lekala patterns!

Huh? Who? I hear you mutter. 

What's the catch? you demand when you see the very reasonable price.

This is a Russian company which produces downloadable, customisable patterns at very reasonable prices, and with a selection of fully-customisable patterns free of charge to try out their process and tweak measurements and adjustments for best fit.

I am so very much not a standard size. 

I am 5ft/150cm short. My measurements are (b:w:h) 48:38:51 inches/122:96:130 cm. I have DD cups, narrow sloping shoulders and muscular upper arms and thighs.  I hate wearing anything constricting around my neck. My waist is not especially high or low, but over the past few years, my bust has moved downwards and outwards - it's like the old geological theory of continental drift!

These 'customisable' patterns had to be worth trying, so I needed to do some testing. 

More later.

Friday, 11 July 2014

I've been away ...

Well, not really away - just absent from the blog. Not that I ever was a very frequent blogger. I'll try to improve, honest!

Since I last posted - I've moved! 

Not very far, only a couple of miles away, so there's no big change. I now have chickens rather than ducks - four of them, one of which is sitting on a clutch of hopefully-fertile eggs. 

I had a stall at the village social club towards the end of April during a fundraiser coffee morning - a girl in the village is going to work in an orphanage in Uganda for her gap year, and needed to raise money for her air fare, expenses, health insurance and so on. I was so pleased to be able to add £80 to the total. She has now raised the required total and will be off in a few weeks' time. 

My sewing mojo disappeared for a while, returned, faded again. 

I have huge success sewing for others and helping others to sew. In March I made several stretch lace camis for a pregnant friend, curtains for a neighbour and, of course, stock for the fundraiser. 

1960s style colour-blocked shift dress in turquoise & navy with a white scalloped Peter Pan collar, made & modelled by a 15 year old
60s inspired colour-blocked dress
made and modelled by a 15yo.
Over the Easter holidays I taught and supervised a teenager doing some work for her GCSE portfolio - she made herself a beautifully-fitted 60s-style colour-blocked shift dress. 

I finished off a prom dress started (somewhat over-ambitiously, she confessed!) by a mum in the village for her daughter; she looked like an apricot meringue when we'd finished, but that was what she wanted. 

Heck, I made a spring coat for a good friend who often cooks and bakes for me - a PINK spring coat, no less, out of a wool mix, top-stitched, lined, pockets, tie-belt ... she received many, many complements and lots of questions about where she had bought it ... 

I made a shirt - a 'shite shirt!' - for a friend who mended my shed; he was so tickled by it that he wanted to wear it to a formal reception - naughty naughty!

Yet whatever I tried to make for myself looked little better than a sack. OK for nighties, pjs, dressing gowns - but that's all.

Depressing, very depressing - especially when I used to be able to pull a pattern out of the packet, make it up and wear it with minimal alterations (in my case, just length alterations).

The difference is in me, physically, and to a (perhaps) lesser extent, in the pattern companies' products.

More to follow.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Springtime - and aprons galore!

Well, not quite, not yet, but the daffodils are peeking above the ground, the days are getting noticeably longer and my spirits are lifting.

The mojo has returned, at least somewhat, so that a couple of weekends ago I had a stall at a local fund-raiser held for the Christie Hospital in Manchester  - and was able to donate a nice round sum, approaching £100, towards a teenager's quest to raise £1000 for the hospital which saved her dad's life. Coincidentally, I trained there as a therapy radiographer many, many years ago and had a wonderful, worldwide career on the back of that training and qualification. It was a pleasure to help such a worthwhile cause.

The aprons I first started selling last year at the village market are STILL selling like hot-cakes - I sold every single one at the fund-raiser and could have sold more! 

I thought I'd remind myself of my exploits in the past year or so with some of the pics I like. I keep forgetting to take photos, though - at the recent fund-raiser my table looked really pretty, but I'd forgotten my camera - duh!

Aprons on the washing line!

Three colourful aprons on the washing line
I love the flowery one on the right -  so cheerful, even on the dreariest of days.

September 2013 stall
Table display of sewn items for sale in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support
At the social club, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

My stall with me behind it, ready to sell!
Only just opened for business - I'd already sold a couple of aprons,
and by the end of the morning, I'd even sold the apron 'off my back'!

May 2013 stall
Stall at village market, May 2013
A corner of my stall on a very windy day last May, at the Village Market.

Stall at village market - the wind had really got up!
This was later in the day - the wind had really got up.
Aprons had to be taken off the rail, and rod pockets laid flat on the table.
However, the bunting really showed itself off in the wind, and all of it was sold.

More aprons I've sold

Pink and lavender apron
Pink and lavender - not my favourite colour
combo, to be honest, but it sold very quickly
& has been requested several times.
Retro look apron, blue floral with red polka-dot trim
One of my favourite print combos.
This gives a really cool retro effect.
The neck 'tie' actually buttons into  place.

I think there are a few reasons why my aprons sell so well.

They're made of 100% cotton, and fully lined, so they offer superb protection and absorbency. They're not made of flimsy fabric, but good solid stuff. 

I have a couple of weights of pure cotton fabric which I use for linings, depending on the weight of the 'main' fabric. One is a medium weight - I suppose a calico sort of weight - and the other is a sturdier fabric, possibly a light upholstery or soft furnishings weight. The first is a plain white cotton, and I've dyed some lengths of it to get coloured linings for a bit of variety. The heavier lining is white with a black print reading 'cooking eating drinking' - and thus absolutely ideal for aprons! I haven't dyed any of that, but see no reason why I shouldn't do so. The black print would look good against almost any colour background.

I also make another style of full apron, which offers really good coverage to almost any size wearer, and a couple of styles of half-apron, which the younger set seem to like. As one teenager said to me 'I love baking, and I don't mind getting my t-shirt messy, but I don't want to get my jeans covered in flour and egg'.  A half-apron can be tied at the currently-fashionable low waist level so that jeans or leggings are well-protected.

I'll post photos of the other aprons soon, I promise!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Mojo returning slowly

I've not done much at all for over a month. I lost interest after Poppy's sudden death. I completed a few outstanding orders, and took on no more. 

Poppy now lies in the flower border, near the bush she liked to sit under. Twelve bright red tulips are planted over her, and a sturdy oriental poppy in the middle of them. 

I don't know if I'll stay in this house, though. I had thought to stay here 'for ever' but  now ... I'm not so sure. About anything.

I was asked if I could 'fill in' at short notice at a somewhat-prestigious, hard-to-get-into craft fair the weekend after Poppy's death. My normal reaction would have been to jump at the chance, but instead I emailed the organiser to say 'thank you' but that I'd been recently and suddenly bereaved so wasn't up to it. 

But life goes on regardless.

I don't celebrate Christmas - I haven't done so for years, as I have no religious belief and the commercial frenzy surrounding the non-religious celebrations quite frankly sickens me  - but friends and acquaintances do, so I made some fabric origami stars as small gifts. They are very easy to make.

 A garland of four-pointed fabric origami stars, made with Christmas prints.
Fabric origami stars

Saturday, 9 November 2013


It's Remembrance weekend - more commonly known as Poppy Day.

? Feb 2012 - 8 Nov 2013
My darling little Poppy, a black and white cat, tiny in size but big in personality, was killed at five to ten on Friday morning, yesterday. I found her dead on the road outside my house, still warm and soft, but with a broken neck and half her face missing. 

This is a 20mph zone. A lady driving by - AT 20mph - saw a neighbour and me standing in the road and stopped to see what had happened and if she could help. She could see, and could stop, because she was travelling at 20mph. The majority of people go past at far, far more than 20mph - many at 40 or more. 

Where Poppy had tried to cross the road was precisely where a public footpath emerges onto the road.  No-one stopped, I heard no screech of brakes, there were no tyre marks on the road. It was a dry, clear morning on a narrow country lane on the outskirts of a small village. 

Another neighbour who called round said to me 'Your cat could have been a child!'

Yes, she could. Will that thought stop motorists from speeding? 

No, of course not! 

Rest in peace, little Poppy. I will dig your grave tomorrow, in the sunshine and as the church bells ring. Poppy Day will forever have an extra, other meaning for me.