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.