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.