Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lekala Pants (5458) and Other Stuff


Lekala Pants (5458)

On New Years Day I visited Stone Mountain & Daughter fabrics and I ran into my friend Beth, of Sunny Gal Studio. Beth had recently been asked to try some Lekala patterns and had good success with the one or two she had tried.

If you aren't familiar with Lekala, they are a Russian pattern company. You look through their catalog, choose your pattern(s) and add them to your cart. When you check out, you enter your measurements, in centimeters. You also indicate the size of your printer paper and whether you want seam allowances included. Most patterns cost around $2 and you can save 10% if you register. Once your order your pattern(s), you receive an automated email. Then, a day or two later, you receive a PDF containing your pattern. The pattern is generated by Lekala's software, based on your measurements, so these patterns are considered "made to measure." (This is an important point that I will revisit.)

When you print your pattern, you make sure to select either "no scaling" or "100% scaling" depending on your platform and software. The pages print with a border of about 1 centimeter. Two of the edges have a dotted line and the other two edges have no lines. Cut off the border along the dotted lines, overlap with the corresponding edges with no dotted lines, and tape or glue. Cut out each pattern piece and off you go.

For my first pattern, I choose Lekala 5458, a pair of capri pants. I chose pants because of my recent weight loss. Some of my TNTs are now too big. Some of my pants are falling off. It's problematic, especially when I work out at the gym. This pattern is for a cute pair of pants with interesting seaming. I lengthened them to full length by adding 12", though I should have added another inch as I had only enough for a scant 3/8" hem.

Now, before I go further, I should say that when using a pattern generated by software (rather than created by a human pattern drafter), the pattern is only as good as the software. When the programmers create the software, they make certain assumptions. These assumptions are "programmed" into the code. It is very clear that the Lekala programmers never anticipated someone with my dimensions. Here is the front and back pants pattern.

Even though my waist is finally smaller than my hips, it's only by one inch. The software doesn't handle this well. For one thing, the software is determined to put a back dart in the pants. I do not have much of a booty, so I really don't need much, if any, back dart. But let's take a closer look at the back pattern piece.

Note the weird shape of the dart and how it dips down at the top of the dart. Then there is that weird "wing shaped" extension to the left of the dart. Look at the really strange line that results for the side seam. This does not provide a good fit, though it might technically meet the measurements that I entered. There is also a shaped waistband that didn't fit me at all. Nevertheless, I cut the pattern out as shown. I used inexpensive black ponte that I always use to test out pants patterns. (I am almost out of it!) I sewed it up. (And I should add that because I used ponte, I eliminated the zipper.)

The resulting shape was very weird at the top of the side seam, as you can see in the following pic.

On the body, it looked truly strange. It dipped down at center front and center back and shot up at the side seam. I had to cut off a huge chunk from each side seam.

Once I removed these chunks, the pants fit ok. The back darts still aren't quite right, and rather than use the contoured waistband, I substituted a rectangular yoke.

The final pants fit pretty well! (Sorry that it is hard to see in the pics, but they really do fit pretty well.)


If you have a more conventional shape, I think these patterns will work well. If you do not, you could end up with a very strangely shaped pattern. I think in future it would work better if I entered a more conventional waist measurement and did my own waist alteration. Though it would be nice if they improved their software to detect these unusual shapes and compensated accordingly. If I make these pants again, I will remove the weird fit at the waistline as well as the back darts.

DD1's Jacket & Neck Warmer

I was a bit derailed yesterday. I was toodling along on DD1's wool jacket. I was very happy with how it was going and I was enjoying the process. Before she returned to university in January, I cut out a muslin, pinned it together, and fitted it on her. (I didn't have time to sew it together.) I did some altering while she was here. I was looking forward to mailing her the jacket in the next week or two.

DD2 visited yesterday. She and DD1 are very similar in size, so I had her try it on. It was too big. Really too big. She said, "Mom, she won't wear it." And I knew she was right. I have no idea if it can be salvaged, and I don't want to attempt it until she can try it on in person. During my insomnia at 3am, I bagged it up and put it away. I won't see DD1 until spring break.

But before I put it away completely, I cut a piece from the leftover yardage and made a neck warmer. This is not my original design. I had purchased a beautiful neck warmer from a seller on Etsy and I made a similar piece. Because of that, I can't share her pattern, but I can highly recommend the neck warmers in her Etsy store, FashionCogs. She is a very clever designer and recycles her materials so no two are exactly alike. I plan to send DD1 a neck warmer, since I can't send her a mom-made jacket.

If you look at my neck warmer, you will see a very cool pin. This is a medal given to me by Luz Clara when she visited last year. She purchased it in a Paris flea market and it says "Al Merito." And, no, DD1 won't get my medal - I may have to make my own neck warmer in these colors since it coordinates so beautifully. :)

But before I retire the jacket completely, I want to share a few pictures.

Wool interlining

What will I work on next? Who the heck knows!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spring Vogues Have Landed

The spring 2013 Vogue patterns came out today. I was hard at work so I didn't notice them until rather late in the day. I was a bit underwhelmed. I didn't see any that would flatter my shape and/or work with my life. (Both Sandra and Marcy have new dress patterns, but I really don't wear dresses.) Go take a look and tell me what you think. There is a rather cool purse pattern, if you can find the right fabric for it.

Thanks for all of the comments on my weekend post. I ended up working on a purse Saturday, my daughter's jacket on Sunday, and a pair of pants on Monday. I finished the pants but haven't taken pics yet.

I currently have the most steam with my daughter's jacket. She wanted a plaid jacket. Have you noticed how "in" plaid is right now? Plaid is everywhere. Just go to Pinterest and enter "plaid" or "plaid jacket" or "plaid skirt" or "plaid" whatever. Plaid galore.

I couldn't find the perfect plaid for DD1, but I found a plaid she could live with. Want to bet that next fall there will be loads of wonderful plaid fabrics available to sewists? Isn't that the way? :)

Anyway, I am happy with the progress on her jacket. I have included a pic of the pockets. Hopefully I will have a more substantive post in the next day or two, if I can get pics taken of my new pants.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekend Ho!

Yay, a three day weekend!!!

Thanks for all of the generous feedback on the Betzina skirt!

I am so glad to be at the beginning of a 3-day weekend! Since I worked right through last weekend, and this week was also intense, I am especially looking forward to a break.

I have received several comments mentioning how flattering some of my recent garments are, so I thought it might be time to mention that I have been working hard, since mid October, on losing weight. (I don't want anyone to think I have some sort of wasting illness.) Boy, those who say that it's harder once you have gone through menopause aren't kidding.

While I am enjoying the results, I am doing this for health reasons. I carry my weight in my front torso which is notoriously unhealthy and I have been feeling it. So my goal has been to get rid of the belly, as much as possible. Since mid October I have lost 18 pounds. Since I do sew and I wanted to order some made-to-measure patterns, I took my measurements yesterday. I have lost 6" in the bust, 5" in the waist, and 2" in the hips. So I am making progress, though my belly is still problematic.

I am feeling a little unfocused, project wise. I have started a winter jacket for DD1. She had a specific sort of jacket in mind and couldn't find it in RTW. I suspect she could have found it last August, but not when she was looking over the holiday break.

She wants a plaid jacket and, at first, I was planning to use a plaid from stash that I bought locally a year or two ago. I was cutting it out, carefully matching the plaid, then I realized that it is too scratchy, so I stopped worrying about the plaid. I am now using the thin wool as an interlining.

She has a specific sort of jacket style in mind and, of course, there isn't a single pattern available that is similar, so I am starting with a Burda envelope pattern and will change it substantially. She is finding Oregon quite chilly and will be performing in Utah in a couple months, which is even chillier.

So we'll see how focused I am going to be in the next few days. Lots of projects I could work on, such as the jacket, but I might do something else entirely, or even several smaller projects.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sandra Betzina Skirt - Vogue 1333

I made this skirt over Thanksgiving weekend, last November. I didn't blog it at the time, because I wanted to make another one using a different sort of fabric.

But I haven't gotten around to it yet.

I haven't sewn this week. Work was busy to begin with, and then we went into crisis mode and kicked into high gear. I worked Friday evening and pretty much all weekend.

So maybe it's a lucky thing I didn't blog this skirt before, so I have something to post.

This is a great pattern, and I am not sure why people aren't falling over themselves to make it. It's an updated version of a previous Betzina skirt pattern that I also loved (and made 5 or 6 times), Vogue 1018. This updated version has eliminated the 60 tucks, making it easier to sew. It has also replaced the waistband/zipper combo with an elastic waistband, which I also did on my versions of 1018.

I chose this wild graphic print from FabricMart, purchased more than a year ago. (More stash busting, yay!) But the fabric is, frankly, weird. It feels like a home dec fabric, with a strange coating on the back. I am not sure how much I like it in this design, which is why I considered making it again in a different fabric. The pattern calls for a knit, but this is a woven. I think this pattern works fine for wovens, if you have the right woven. (I used both knits and wovens when making this pattern's predecessor, Vogue 1018. Both work fine.)

You might be wondering: what the heck are you wearing with that skirt, Shams? I am wearing a Japanese jacket that I purchased used. Margy calls it my Porcupine Suit.

I took a walk this afternoon, after hours and hours of working. It was a sunny afternoon, so I enjoyed taking cell phone pics of the porcupine fabric. I especially love the shadows it creates.

Also, thanks so much for your feedback on my "Epic Fail" jacket. I really appreciate all of your supportive comments and suggestions. For now the jacket is going into a closet, but I may revisit it later, if the mood moves me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Epic Fail: Ladybug Lab Coat

Paging Dr Dotty! Dr Dotty, your patient's taste level is hanging by a thread!
It may be fatal.

Oh, dear. It seemed like a good idea and yet it went so wrong. Worst of all? The loss of some great fabric and almost my entire sewcation.

Oh well. Live and learn. I share my story in that spirit.


Our Story Begins...

Do you remember last May when Margy and I were participating in a sew-along using a gorgeous black and red Japanese brocade? Margy made a wonderful denim-style jacket with her fabric.

(I might resent her if she weren't so darned wonderful.)

Actually, I didn't complete that particular challenge. I just could not decide on a pattern for the interesting fabric and I didn't want to make something I wasn't excited about. I wanted to mix my fabric with solid black, but I just could not settle on a design, despite making muslins of three different patterns - I wasn't happy with any of them.

I knew I would get back to this fabric eventually. It was too nice to let it marinate in the stash forever.


My inspiration for the final jacket came from Nancy M, a friend of Marcy's who helps out in her booth at the sewing Expo in Puyallup, Washington. (If you don't know, the Expo at Puyallup - pronounced "pew all* up" - happens every March, and is billed as the biggest sewing expo in the U.S. I hope to make it there one of these days, but probably not until both kids are through college.)

I've never met Nancy in person, having never been to Puyallup, but I have seen some of the wonderfully creative clothing she has made on Marcy's website and Facebook page.

For last year's Expo, Nancy made an unlined linen jacket with circles in different sizes and using several neutral colors. (I thought I had a picture of it, but I can't find it.) She used the OOP Sewing Workshop Mission jacket pattern and her circles were edged in bias strips. It was wonderful and very lagenlook.

For my version, I used a color palette of red and black, a Butterick blouse pattern, and Marcy's Holey Moley technique to create the inset circles, so the resulting effect is quite different. Then, while working on my jacket, I saw a Kate Spade coat with a similar motif, which encouraged me to forge ahead and be even more bold with my own design:

It was after seeing this coat that I grabbed my salad plate to make even larger circles.

Mine, unlike Nancy's, is not wonderful.

Fabrics Used

As I mentioned, Margy first found the beautiful red Japanese brocade with black dots on the Gorgeous Fabrics site. It is very 3-dimensional and you can use either side, to a slightly different effect. The fabric has a sprongi-ness to it. But I found that with the judicious use of steam and a clapper, that it behaved very well.

Last winter I also purchased a very fun fabric from Marcy, called Captain Midnight Black Italian Knit. This double-sided fabric consists of one layer of wool knit and one layer of cotton knit. When you throw it into the washer and dryer the wool shrinks, but the cotton not so much, turning the once-smooth fabric into a riot of wrinkles:

I washed and dried my yardage fairly aggressively and it shrank like crazy. I had only purchased 2 yards to begin with, and the resulting yardage wasn't big enough for a garment on it's own. I didn't mind because I knew it would be great paired with another fabric. I had the idea of using it for the inset circles on my red brocade jacket. I wasn't sure how well the stretchy black fabric would work with the sproingy red brocade, but I think it works quite well.

In addition to the inset circles and the semicircular pockets, I also used the puckered black knit for the standing collar and at the sleeve hems.

The final ingredients for my jacket stew: a wonderful black silk charmeuse that came pre-fused with interfacing from FabricMart, black textured buttons from Stone Mountain, and Pam Erny's fusible interfacing.

Interfacing the hem.

Grade A ingredients. Nothing but the best. sigh

Alterations and Modifications

I am not sure why I used this pattern for this jacket. I do know that I bought Butterick 5526 because Margy had used it very successfully to make several tops. That's fine, but why I decided it was right for a lined jacket... I can't remember the thought process and it now baffles me.

As you might expect, I had to make loads of modifications. I'm not sure I can even remember all of them:

  • Started with View C, and straightened the hem.
  • Lowered the bottom of the armscye, which was fairly high, by about 5/8".
  • Narrowed the shoulder. I can't remember by how much.
  • Added a bust dart.
  • Removed about 4" from the side seams, beginning below the bust and continuing down to the hem.
  • Lowered the neckline (which was very high) by 5/8".
  • Omitted the collar and re-shaped the collar stand. I squared it off and made it a bit taller. Also, I had to widen it to accommodate the increased neckline.
  • Drafted facings.
  • Drafted a lining.
  • Added semicircular side seam pockets.
  • Cut out a number of holes and inset circles of contrast fabric.

Mistake Alert: I did not make a muslin. Oh, the hubris! The unbridled vanity!

Inset Circle Technique

I learned this great technique (which I have used before), called Holey Moley, from Marcy's Inspiration Paris CD. I had to modify it slightly, to accommodate the sproingy woven brocade and the extra large circles, by basting the seam allowances of each hole. It slowed me down a bit but I was very happy with the result.

My circles are a variety of sizes. I used a salad plate and saucer from my dish set, as well as a roll of duct tape, a mug, a teacup, and a candle, to create the various circles.

I spent what felt like hours playing with the placement of the holes. This was definitely the most challenging aspect of the project. I cut "audition" circles out of black ponte scraps. I would pin on the circles, try on the jacket, which was sewn only at the shoulders, and tweak the circles (their size, number, and position), endlessly. I took many cell-phone-in-the-mirror pictures to see how it looked. (It would have helped a lot to have a dress form for this part of the process.)

Eventually I would get one circle in a position that seemed right. I would cut out the hole, and sew in the shrinky dink fabric. I would then move on to tweak the next circle. Repeat ad infinitum.

It was during this process that I alternated between loving the project, hating the project, and feeling complete ambivalence. I eliminated circles, I changed the size of the circles, I added circles back. In fact, when I had only one circle sewn, I threw the whole thing into a corner and let it sit for weeks. I despaired of finishing it.

When I picked it up again after Christmas, I had trouble remembering what pattern I used. I had also lost a bit of weight in the interim and had to take several inches off the side seams.

I forced myself back to it, because I thought if I didn't work on it over my Christmas break, I probably would never complete it.

(In hindsight, maybe not such a bad thing.)

Semicircular Pockets

I wanted to keep the circular motif going with semicircular pockets in the side seams. I quickly drafted up a pocket using a saucer for the semicircle. I used a piece of lining to create the semicircular hole and the shrinky dink fabric for the part of the pocket that is exposed.

Side seam pocket, before basting was removed.

Epic Fail

So, where, you might ask, did I go wrong? I can only partly answer that question. Not being more alert to the problems in the pattern draft is a big one. I noticed, the first time I tried on the jacket with a sleeve pinned in, that it didn't fit quite right - there were lots of drag lines in the sleeve. But it didn't really register in my brain what was going on. Later I realized what the problem was. Look at this picture of the sleeve:

Note the shape of the sleeve cap. There is a very slight curve. This is fine if you are dealing with a dropped sleeve, but this is a set-in sleeve and you need more of a rise in the shape of the curve. This is what caused the drag lines in the finished sleeve:

Furthermore, the fit just feels "off" through the shoulder/upper chest area. I noticed things weren't right when I tried it on, but I was too busy being distracted by the creative aspects of the project.

In truth, I can't blame all of Dotty's problems on the atrocious sleeve draft. I think it would have been more effective if I had made the jacket shorter. But, for some inexplicable reason, I wanted a longer jacket.

This was just one of those times when my idea just didn't pan out.

It happens.

To be honest, I'm not all that bummed out. I wish it had been successful, but oh well. I immediately dived into the flannel lined pants, which you've already seen. I'm not completely sure what is next on my plate, but I have ideas. And fabric.

I am a bit bummed that my sewcation is over and it's back to the salt mines. And I have so little to show for it.

Ta Da!!!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Flannel Lined Cassie Pants

On Christmas morning I took a walk. My initial plan was to make the 3-mile trek to Stern Grove, one of my favorite destinations, but it was a really cold day. I hadn't expected it to be that cold and I wasn't dressed properly. I felt the cold right through my pants, and everywhere else except my head since I was wearing my new hat, a gift from DD1.

I cut my walk short and decided, on the way home, that I needed a pair of flannel lined pants. I decided to use the Style Arc Cassie skinny pant, which I had made before.

I really love this pattern. However, I realized that it's a size too big - I can grab several inches at the hips on my first pair. But that made it perfect for this project for two reasons. First, lining with flannel means adding more bulk. Second, the 100% cotton flannel doesn't stretch and the pattern is designed for a stretch woven, so you need more ease.

The stretch denim is left over from my Katherine Tilton skinny pant. This fabric is so nice - it's soft and malleable like buttah. I can't remember where I got it, as it's been in the stash for awhile. The flannel is from FabricMart, purchased about a year ago and machine washed and dried three times to remove all shrinkage. I topstitched the denim with white Guterman topstitching thread.

I left these pants intentionally long, so I could fold them up at the ankle and enjoy the contrast plaid flannel. I only worried about matching the plaid at the hem - I don't care if the plaid matches anywhere else as it's hidden from view.

These pants are so soft and snuggly! It's like wearing a hug. These are just what I wanted. I'm sure these will get lots of wear in the cold months ahead.

Right after I took the backyard pics, I put on a coat, hat and boots and headed to Stern Grove for a New Years Day walk.

And now, here are a few pics taken at Stern Grove!

The entrance to Stern Grove is perfect for shadow pics!
You can rent the Little Yellow House for weddings and parties.
Throughout the summer they have free concerts at Stern Grove. Most people (like me) sit up in the trees, where the views are not so great, but it's still worth it for the music and the scenery.
Pine Lake at Stern Grove
Feeding the ducks.
Proof that I'm wearing my new pants on my hike!
My new avatar.