Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lekala Patterns and the Busty Sewer


You may be aware of Lekala Patterns. This is a Russian-based pattern company (they have both Russian and English websites) that offers some very attractive and unique pattern designs. When you order a Lekala pattern, you enter your measurements. Their pattern drafting software customizes the pattern based on your measurements and emails it to you for printing.

Their prices are quite reasonable. Most patterns are a couple of dollars and, if you create a login, you save 10%.

Sounds great, right?

Well, yes, for some people these patterns work very well.

However, if you are busty, you might want to be aware of some issues with their current software.

I wanted to make a denim-style jacket, and Lekala offers a design that, while not exactly what I wanted, was close enough that I could use it as a springboard.

For the upper body, they want measurements for the full bust and the under bust. I usually use my full bust and upper bust measurements, but I dutifully followed directions. The measurements I entered were:

  • Full bust: 47"
  • Under bust: 35"
  • Waist: 35.5"
  • Hips: 36"

Given that the full bust and under bust measurements are different by 12", I think it's safe to assume that these are the measurements of a busty person.

In fact, Lekala provides a computerized image based on your measurements. (This is a rather new feature. To access it for past orders, go to their website, and select My Orders to bring up a list of your previous orders. For one of the orders, click the "View" icon to the right. This brings up an invoice. Scroll down to the list of patterns and click 3D Preview for that pattern. Voila.)

Here is the image that was provided for my measurements:

Lekala's 3D image based on my measurements

Rather amusing, is it not? Particularly the side view.

How does the Lekala software handle this situation? What it should do is, in effect, perform a full bust adjustment (FBA). This puts the additional fullness right where you need it—at the bust.

It does not.

What it does do is to enlarge the entire pattern to have enough circumference to fit around the bust.

But this is not what you want. This puts fullness all around the body and creates a massive, shapeless, box.

Lekala also allows you to "tweak" other aspects of the pattern draft. Under the Adjustments tab, you can impact several aspects of the custom pattern.

For example there is a Upper arm circumference pulldown. If you select this, there are three options: Normal (the default), Increased, or Big. Like many mature women (especially those who have been overweight), my upper arms are on the large side. I often have to widen the bicep on a pattern by 1", particularly patterns that are drafted for a slimmer shape, such as Style Arc and Jalie. So I selected the "increased", but not "big".

I also have to routinely lower the bust point on any given pattern by 2". There was another adjustment called Relative height of protruding point of the bust. This also had three options: low, normal (the default), and high. I selected low.

Finally, I always have to narrow the shoulder when I make up a pattern, sometimes by 2" or so. The Shoulder width pulldown had three options: reduced, normal (the default), and increased. I selected reduced.

Note that these things are relative. You don't really know what their pattern drafting software has in mind. And, in my case, these adjustments were far more extreme than I wanted, even though I did not select the most extreme choice for the arm width, for example.

I printed out the pattern (I think it was 33 pages) and taped it together.

And, let me tell you, it did not look right. The shoulder was narrow, yes, but it also had an extreme slope. A slope you could use for a slinky or a slide. The armholes were enormous. I am not exaggerating when I say that I could fit one of my thighs into the armhole. But I decided to go ahead and make up a muslin, just to see.

It was an atrocious, boxy, mess. An absolute wadder. I have no pics to show you, because it's been long carted off in the trash. It was so bad, I couldn't see how to save it. I would have had to start over, with a much smaller pattern, and do my own FBA and other alterations. That would have meant figuring out what numbers to plug into the software to get a closer fit (do I use upper bust?), paying another couple dollars (not an impediment), printing it out again (ugh), taping it together again (double ugh), and tracing it off again (triple ugh).

It was really not worth my time or trouble.

Many people happily use Lekala patterns, but I don't think they have my shape issues.

Lekala pants

You may recall that I made a pair of Lekala pants about a year and a half ago.

At the time, my waist was a bit larger than my hips (not unusual for me), and I entered my actual measurements. The resulting pants draft had issues.

The software assumed a dart at the waist and, since my waist was bigger than my hips, the software created a truly strange shape at the waist in order to maintain the dart. (It was determined to maintain that dart.) If you read that post, you'll see how I modified the pants in order for them to fit. I wear those pants quite often (I wore them yesterday) and I do like them.

However, I noticed, when I ordered the jacket, that they have taken steps to prevent this situation. They no longer allow you to enter a waist measurement that is the same or larger than the hip measurement. They require that the waist measurement is smaller. So if your waist is actually larger, you'll have to enter a false value in order for the software to accept the numbers.

Just an FYI.

32 comments:

  1. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who's had issues with Lekala. The funny thing is that even though I'm very full-busted, where the 3D simulation was really off was with my hip measurement. I carry a lot of my hip circumference in my rear end, and have relatively narrow hips. Their 3D model of me showed a pear shape, which I'm not. There was no way to account for this in their measurement adjustments, which dissuaded me from even trying a pant or skirt pattern of theirs.

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  2. This is all so good to know. Thanks for your honest review, Shams.

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  3. I'm sorry you had such a grim time with this. I've recently made a top from a Lekela pattern and I too had a complete nightmare with it. As it was a simple shape I persevered and got a wearable garment, but the fit is still a long way from perfect. I'm not in any hurry to make another one, but am interested to see the diagram of the shape it comes up with for me. I also had to fudge the waist measurements as I measure the same at hip and waist. Very strange indeed. I'm just glad I didn't spend any more money on the pattern. In theory, it's a great idea, but they have far too many kinks in the software for it to be company I'll be wanting to sew from until they've really upped their game. I'd be willing to pay more for a better quality pattern.

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  4. Oy, sorry this happened to you but you saved many yards of fabric and tearful sewing around the world!

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  5. Not a good thing! Having used Pattern Master Boutique pattern drafting software and knowing how the patterns are drafted when your body is not the norm per the drafting software, I don't use it as I once did. Age, weight, body shifting because of age, etc. I now get some wonky looking patterns from the software because measurements are not the norm. My assumption was the same for Lekala patterns. I am glad others have had success; I decided not to try them. Even with PMB, you give your full bust and under bust, thus upper chest measurements were normally always to big.

    At least you gave them a try and now know they are not for you.

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    1. I have Pattern Master for Knits and have made a few things. Along with measurements, and weight, PMK also asks for bra cup size. I would not say the fit is great as I am still tweaking my ease and other custom inputs, but I have been able to produce some very wearable garments. I do have Lekala cd's but have never used them.

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  6. Wow, thanks for the PSA - I was going to try Lekala because I thought they might be great for my bust measurements, but seems like they probably wouldn't!

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  7. Thanks for the morning chuckle with the 3D photo! It really is bizarre and not surprising you had issues with the pattern. I have bought one dress and also downloaded the free shirt. But of course have not got around to testing them out. When I do (if I do) I will use muslin first for sure.

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  8. As a fellow full-busted,narrow-hipped woman I so appreciate your frank experience of Lekele patterns. Now I will save my money, energy and patience and pass on them. Besides, I hate printing out and taping patterns!

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  9. Well, goodness. I'm not sure what to say...oh yes, I've heard of these kind of problems with pattern drafting technology before. In fact I read some reviews on a (now no longer updated but might still be up) blog called Sewingplums. I was quite new to serious garment sewing at the time and was very attracted to the idea of patterns personalised by measurements. Reading it saved me a serious amount of money and I must thank you for the same. I have concluded my best bet is to make looser clothes that don't require darts or buckle down to a proper FBA. I wouldn't rule out trying to draft my own pattern one day, though.

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  10. "Particularly the side view."

    ha! that is ALL about the side view!!!

    Thank you for this review. It's especially vexing as the people most likely to want to use such a service are going to be people who constantly have to make alterations. One would hope that using this type of software one could AVOID all that extra hassle, but it doesn't sound like the people behind this think that way.

    I'll stick with my line back shoulder alterations and FBA (Full Bust Adjustment) and FBA (Flat Butt Adjustment). Double Whammy!

    eckh, i hate it when sewing goes so squirrely (no offense to tree dwelling rodents!), especially when one's sewing time is limited. Feh! Here's hoping next time is more funner, and looking forward to seeing you on June 28th!! steph

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  11. Thanks for the honest truth about this company. Custom made patterns seem like a dream to me, considering my plus size figure. Maybe they are a dream!
    Thanks, too, for the laugh. That side view is just hilarious. It would make Barbie jealous!

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  12. That is all just ridiculous. Thanks for doing the experiment for us.

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  13. Oh wow! Whose boobs stick straight out like that? Sorry you had this experience. At least you quit while you were ahead.

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  14. Oh Dear! If ever there was proof that a computer program can not 'see' the complete picture but just the components it is given..
    BTW I think Butterick 5616 might prove the pattern starting point you are after.

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  15. Well, that's disappointing! Thanks for the information.

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  16. Thanks for your review. That computer generated model looks as if she'd be much harder to fit than you!

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  17. I'm sorry to hear about the wadder. Ouch! After seeing that Lekala's rendering of your measurements, I'll have to check and see if they sell bra patterns. They are illustrating an impressive level of cantilever engineering.....

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  18. Oh dear! Your sewing time is precious, so what an unfortunate outcome. The only thing worth a darn is that hilarious profile. Maybe Lekala has a future in bras, but more likely suspension bridges. Shams carry on- you know how to fit yourself.

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  19. You should really invest some time in drafting your own personal perfect slopers/blocks, you would never have to use bought patterns again!

    I am very interested in this story, because you might remember I wrote to you that I am busy making a pattern drafting program like Lekala. I intend to draft blocks that include FBA if necessary, if only for myself. I am very happy that I did find a drafting method which works well for my full bust, but the programming goes very very slow, and my blogging is in Dutch. If you don't mind, when I have completed the bodice block, maybe you could send me your measurements, so that we can test it?

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  20. YES! What Michelle said! (and you Shams...lol)

    I discovered this when I made my skirt. Waist 33.5" ish, hips 44 ish and it gave me a pear shaped skirt...but I don't have it in my "hips", it's in my butt! Ahhhhh!

    Also, the more I think about it, the less I see Lekala as the "great deal" I thought it was. I don't have a huge problem with Big 4 envelope patterns. I know what size I need and what adjustments to make, generally. I can get them for a dollar. I have to pay $2+, paper/ink to print, tape it together (which admittedly only takes me a few minutes) and sometimes I don't bother tracing. Like my pencil skirt pattern...I just cut the pieces out once taped together. AND I have to make adjustments? Meh.

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  21. Although I understand this is not comical, I laughed all the way through reading this piece. I needed some humor this morning!

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  22. Thanks for posting this, Shams. I thought I was the only one who'd had an experience like that. I'm fairly busty with a narrow rib cage and narrow shoulder. I'd filled in all of the measurements as well as all of the extras explaining that I had a narrow back and narrow shoulders, etc. The resulting tee shirt (I'd done the free cross over tee) was extremely wide in the back and didn't have the depth or the vertical space for my bust still. When I contacted them, their only suggestion was to try a woven pattern as those were easier to fit. I did not follow up on that suggestion. I'm glad I only spent $10. I'd been so excited about their company, too. They make a lot of really pretty patterns that I'd love to be able to try out.

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  23. I feel so bad, but I must admit that I did succumb to laughing at that side view picture. Oh my goodness, whose body does that?!!!! It just defies gravity! Reminds me of a joke about the pilotless aircraft run totally by a computer. The plane takes off, everyone hears a message that the plane does not have a human pilot, but is completely piloted by a computer, by a computer, by a computer...... Computers are great, but we still need people who have a real brain :)

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  24. Apologies for a long comment--this post touches on an area I've been thinking about a lot.

    Like other commenters, I had viewed computer drafting to my own measurements as a holy grail. I've tried PMB, and Patternmaker, and was disappointed and frustrated when these tools didn't take my careful measurements and yield a perfect fit for my broad and slope-shouldered, pear-shaped, swaybacked frame. If I tell PMB or PatternMaker the truth about my shoulder length, I get an armhole that looks like a nautilus shell.

    A few months ago I realized in an aha (or, "duh") moment: A pattern drafting system is a system (not an artist) that produces a draft (not a final product) by following a set of principles and assumptions about human proportions. Apparently those assumptions do not hold true for every possible figure. My figure falls out of bounds in places. In those places, I can pretend to be in bounds, and alter the pattern (edit the draft). OK then--that's certainly no worse than patterns that come in envelopes.

    I now think that I caused my own frustration by holding unreasonable expectations. Yes, the marketing for these products encourages that, but caveat emptor. Because I'm a techy, I believe I should have known better. When I really think about it, I understand how very difficult--and with current technology, expensive--it would be to do this perfectly every time.

    But! There are still good results to be had. I know that if I were programming and testing such a system, I would tune it to produce acceptable (i.e., not weird-looking) results when given some easily available standard sets of measurements. So, for reference, I choose from a standard size chart (http://www.leenas.com/English/Standard_measurements.html) the size that generally matches my bust and waist combination (those being not far from standard). Where my real measurements work without producing distortions, I use them. Where I've had issues, I use the number from the chart. I alter the generated pattern where it doesn't accommodate my shape.

    With this approach, I need to do less alteration than with patterns from envelopes, but not zero. Once I accepted the technical limitations, I found a good personal niche for these tools and for Lekala's patterns. I also find the whole subject interesting, and understand that others may not! Anyway, if you give Lekala well-reasoned, false information about your bust and waist, you may get something worth altering and sewing up.

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  25. What I don't understand about the image is, the gal is in her underwear but she has purple boots on? LOL

    Thanx so much for the info Shams! I've been checking out the Lekala patterns and was very curious what would result if I did purchase one. Since I'm a very similar shape to you, I now know I can save myself the aggravation!

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  26. Shams, that is a fantastic review. I've been having lots of success with Lekala dress patterns, but I suppose that I fit closer to their fit assumptions. I'm a C cup and my waist is not much smaller than my hips either, but it must be enough to make the patterns work quite well for me. It seems that the Lekala computer needs to learn how to make a FBA! I must admit that I haven't been quite game to try one of their pants patterns yet - the first skirt one that I tried went straight into the bin.

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  27. Please tell me you have shared this with them. I found their customer service to be pretty good.

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  28. You've proved what I've long suspected that their custom fit wouldn't even come close to working out for my body shape. But Lekala does have some very cute styles that might be worth persisting with making the usual fit adjustments on a more standard block. At least they are a very reasonable price to experiment with.

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    1. I completely agree, Louisa! That is exactly how I would use them in the future, if I do. I would enter more "ideal" measurements (maybe upper bust and under bust) and proceed from there. They do have some very nice designs.

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    2. Since they allow you to also order a pattern using a 'standard' size UK, US etc that might be a place to start? Luckily I've had great luck with them and their patterns and I'm a curvy girl too.

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