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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Print Block Tee - Vogue 9004

I actually got some sewing done on this long weekend!

This pattern, Vogue 9004, came out in the most recent batch of Spring Vogues. It's similar to an Au Bonheur tee I made some time ago. This pattern is designed for woven fabrics, but I made it with a knit.

I wear knit tops much more than I wear tops made from wovens. But that's just me.

The pattern says that it is a Fitted Top, and you should believe it. Check the finished bust and hip measurements on the pattern tissue before you cut it out.


The fabric I used is a double knit from JoAnns. One side is striped and the other has polka dots. Unlike most double knits, which have stability, this is a very unstable, stretchy knit. It has all the earmarks of a poor quality knit, and I should have thought twice before ordering it by mail. The fabric is "droopy" (rather than drapey), and it easily stretches out of shape. It also had flaws, which I was able to cut around, but I didn't notice until long after I'd ordered it. I will use it for testing patterns, like this one, since I have more left over.

I used both sides of the fabric to "print block" the tee. (Print blocking is similar to color blocking, but with prints.)

Alterations and Modifications

  • I made view B, but used the sleeves from view C.
  • I selected the size based on negative ease, which is how I like to fit a knit.
  • I should say, I sorta used the sleeves from view C. I lengthened them to 3/4 length. I omitted the slit. Also, this top was designed for wovens, so the short sleeve is a bit loose at the hem. I tapered it considerably.
  • I did not do an FBA. The pattern comes with a 1" bust dart, which I did not sew. This fabric had some stretch to it, so I eased the dart at the side seam. (I will sew a dart on a more stable knit, such as a ponte.)
  • I wanted to "pull" the top in a bit at the armscye (similar to making a small dart), so I reduced the sleeve cap a bit, just in that location.
  • I removed quite a bit of fullness at the hip - at the side seams.
  • I narrowed the shoulder seam by 1/2"!!! This is FAR less than usual, so maybe Vogue is now drafting for a narrower shoulder!
  • I did not sew in the back shoulder dart—I eased in the fullness.
  • As this knit is very stretchy, I stabilized the (horizontal) shoulder seams with twill tape.
  • As this knit is very unstable and floppy, it would not support the notch at the front neckline. I cut the notch off and, instead of facings, finished the neck with a binding.
  • I alternated the print around the body—I did the same for the 2-piece sleeves. (It creates sort of a harlequin effect.)
  • I omitted the zipper.

I think that's it. It just goes to show that, even a fairly simple top, can require quite a few alterations to fit properly.


This is a very nicely drafted top! I will definitely make it again, preferably from a better quality fabric. This design is a great way to use those two-sided fabrics that we all have in our stashes.

Fun new shoes!

What Else?

That's not the only sewing I accomplished this weekend. I cut out some leggings, and I have almost completed a project that I will be showing early next month. It is part of a larger project that includes other bloggers, so there will be a big reveal in the next couple of weeks and a blog tour.


I want to thank my (very well mannered) readers for not commenting on my recent weight gain. I definitely have suffered in that realm since starting my new job, and I have experienced adverse health ramifications as a result. But I am not giving up—I am working on finding more work/life balance. I have no plans to go into hiding or stop blogging.

I am participating in a corporate health initiative that begins next week and lasts for over 3 months. As part of this project, I pulled together a team of 7 like-minded colleagues. We will be wearing pedometers and attempting to walk at least 10,000 steps (or equivalent) every day. I have been wearing my pedometer already and, on days I am in Mountain View, I walk on average between 12,000 and 16,000 steps. I move considerably less on other days, so I will be working on consistency.

We were asked to come up with a name for our team and, as we are all writers, another colleague suggested Run on Sentences. As the team captain, I guess that makes me the Queen of Run on Sentences. ;)

Happy Week!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Three Days Off!

A rare day, working at home, with a rather pesky charming colleague

Oh, goodness, gracious, me!

I have been quiet.

I would love to tell you I have been sewing away, but that is not the case. I had a big deadline at work, which kept me pretty busy. I released some documentation on Wednesday highlighting a wonderful new Dart feature— a tool for profiling your Dart applications. I just know you are dying to read all about Observatory!

What is going on in the sewing realm?

Well, I muslined a Lekala pattern a couple weeks ago. It was a disaster. A true wadder. The printout, the test garment, it all went straight into the trash.

I planned to write about it, but I haven't had the time. Maybe I can get to that this weekend, because the reason it didn't work for me would apply to others with my body type.

I also traced off a Burda jacket and altered it, but I haven't chosen a fabric to test it out. (I have a very special fabric that I want to use only when I'm sure of the pattern.)

Also, I've been watching the new Cocktail Dress online video class offered by Susan Khalje. It's very good! But I want to watch more before I blog about it. (This class is offered through her website, not Craftsy or other video websites.)

We both hope you have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Britex Launch Party

Britex, the largest fabric store in San Francisco at four stories tall, has added a workspace where they will be holding events and (I would imagine) classes.

Britex is hosting an official (and free) launch party on June 28th, from 1-5pm, to christen the new space.

They have asked me, and a few other bloggers, to speak at this event.

If you are in the area and want to immerse yourself in a delicious stew of fellow sewers and fabric goodness, please come!

(For those who might be interested, I can point you to a wine bar nearby for afterwards. ;) )

For more details, see the Britex event page.

And mark June 28th on your calendar!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Middle Aged Me

Oy vey.

I've been spending much of this weekend with DD2 but have also squeezing in as much sewing as possible. Yesterday I sewed until 3am, for example, after spending the afternoon with DD2, shopping for prescription glasses at a trunk show and enjoying a Vietnamese sandwich and a boba tea. (DD2 tried an avocado flavored one and said it was like drinking Guacamole - she usually prefers a more conventional flavor, like coffee or chocolate, but she likes to experiment. She drank most all of it, so it couldn't have been too bad.)

DD1 is busy this weekend so she can't lavish attention on me this Mother's Day. She is still off in Oregon at university and is squeezing studying in between a weekend of big dance performances. I would have liked to have seen her show, but I couldn't make it work. (I tried.) They used DD1 on the poster advertising the event.


So, today, I wanted to squeeze more sewing in before meeting up with DD2 again. (I'm on a roll, though this project is certainly full of challenges and compromises.)

I hadn't been sewing long this morning when I took a break.

I checked my email.

I checked Facebook and "liked" some things.

I got a drink.

I went to the bathroom.

I watched a bit of a program on Egyptian pyramids.

I plucked a few hairs.

I checked up on the cat.

After a half hour or so, I went back to the sewing machine and sat down.

Then I remembered.

I didn't take a break. I had lost my hand sewing needle and went off in search of another.


I am pretty sure (as much as my memory can be trusted) that this forgetfulness started during pregnancy with DD1 and has only gotten worse.

I blame motherhood.

Happy Nurturing Day, to each of you!

(I believe there are many ways to "mother".)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Santa Fe Shopping

My last post talked about visiting Santa Fe and hanging with Fiber Friends. That post discusses some of the intangible delights of Santa Fe - the friends, the snow, and the art.

This post (Santa Fe, Part Two, as it were) talks about some of the more materials joys of Santa Fe. Namely, shopping (and snoop shopping).

Santa Fe has marvelous shopping! It reminds me of Carmel, California, but at high altitude and with adobe.


Fabric Shopping!

Nancy and I, with our modest purchases

I spent my first day in New Mexico in Albuquerque, with Nancy and her husband, Tony. Nancy took me to a delightful fabric store in Albuquerque, called Nob Hill Fabrics.

This is a small, but nice fabric store. I bought a piece of fabric that I knew Margy would love. After meeting Margy at the airport, I showed her the fabric and we decided to head straight back. On the Nob Hill Fabrics website, they mention that they carry Silverado fabrics. This is a company that manufactures home dec items. Nob Hill re-sells their extra yardage, which is what a jobber does. My favorite fabrics in this store were from Silverado.

The Silverado fabric I bought at Nob Hill, which inspired Margy to head there

I stopped at Santa Fe Fabrics two years ago on my way to DOL, so I knew that it was worth another visit.

And it was!

I bought 4 fabrics. Not too excessive, but they were a bit bulky (two were wools), making my suitcase a bit overstuffed and causing Southwest Airlines to label it, on the return trip, as "Dangerous to Lift"!

Nancy and Liana study a made-up shawl at Santa Fe Fabrics

Other Shopping!

The shopping in Santa Fe is legendary! If only I had unlimited funds...

My first purchase was a pair of Fly London Shoes from Street Feet. This was my first pair of Fly Londons, but they will not be my last! They are sooo comfy. Margy also bought a pair, but in a different color.

I decided to break out of my routine, shoe color-wise. I just love these mustard yellow shoes!

The original shoelaces were beige - not my favorite color. Margy and I headed to the Five and Dime store to buy some black laces, but it would be fun to replace these with something more whimsical!

I then bought a polka dot purse (of course) at Leathers with Style.

I was hoping that it would fit my laptop, but it doesn't quite. That's ok, I love it, anyway.

That is all I purchased, though I there was a necklace that I coveted. I visited it every day but, sadly, it was far outside of my budget.

Pretty pretty!

Snoop Shopping!

Santa Fe is particularly wonderful for snoop shopping! We checked out many stores, but the store that we returned to over and over (at least 5 times) was Santa Fe Dry Goods and their new "sister" shop, Workshop.

These stores feature European and Asian designers, like Issey Miyake, Rundholz, Eskandar, Elm Design, Avant Toi, and Meiko Mintz. But, for this trip, the most compelling clothing was from Dries Van Noten, Uma Wang, and Isabel Benenato.

It was such a delight to try on these garments, and study the fabrics and construction up close. We went in so often that the sales people recognized us. They were all wonderful, but we especially enjoyed talking to Bethany, who appreciated our appreciation of these works of art.

Bethany (center - photo from their website)

Isabel Benenato

First up, there was a linen jacket, $995, from Isabel Benenato. The workmanship and detailing on this jacket was superb and it is definitely worth the price.

Isabel Benenato Linen Jacket

This jacket used a beautiful quality linen and there were almost no visible stitches. When I first saw it, I thought of Armani's silhouettes. The unlined jacket was finished with Hong Kong bindings and the center back seam was on the outside of the jacket. There were small flanges on the shoulders that extended from the armscye seam. The welt pockets were beautiful. The large button is decorative. Another, smaller, button on the other side of the jacket front closes the jacket.

Uma Wang

Somehow, I had overlooked this designer. Uma Wang, from Shanghai is a favorite of Margy's. Uma uses wonderful fabrics in her designs and fun silhouettes.

Bethany suggested I try on this orange, cotton/lurex, $3045 coat, which I quite liked, and it reminds me of a long OOP Issey Miyake pattern.

Margy wanted to try on a beautiful wool vest by Uma, so Bethany brought me one to try also. I knew that this would not be "my" silhouette, but it was fun to try. (It looks similar to a Katherine Tilton vest that Margy has made.)

Bethany graciously took a photo of Margy and I in the Uma Wang vest. The vest looks great on Margy, but is not for me. (On me, it hangs from the bust, which makes my skinny legs, extending from below, look out of proportion.)

So much cuter on Margy! The double-sided fabric is gorgeous.

Dries Van Noten

Both Margy and I particularly loved the Dries Van Noten clothing from the Spring 2014 RTW line.

I don't have pics, but I tried on this coat, which is stunning:

I don't know how the fabric was made, but it is leather and the areas between the red "leaves" are semi-transparent. Gorgeous gorgeous and it looked good on my body.

I loved these $800+ shoes. They are red and black (with a shot of turquoise). They featured a tassel at the back of just the right shoe.

I couldn't find another photo of these shoes, but the following shoes are similar, but in a high-heeled, yellow/black/red version:

The Dries Van Noten clothing also featured a lot of chiffon. (All of the Spring collections are featuring a lot of chiffon.) I loved a simple, tiger striped, red and black chiffon top. It was underlined with a coral knit and they were sewn together at the hem to create a bubble hem.

There was also a very simple top, made from black chiffon and embroidered with a barbed wire design. It was so fun and so whimsical. It was too small for me to try on, but the fabric is similar to the (non-chiffon) Dries Van Noten fabric in this jacket:

The embroidery is very three dimensional.

Also, do you notice the cowrie-and-tassel tribal belt that the model is wearing in the previous picture? They had that, too.

It was fabulous on Margy, as a necklace. (It was a bit too wide for my neck, though I loved the look of it.)

That's my summary of Santa Fe!

I'm quite busy, back in the real world. I have some big work deadlines coming up later this month. I also have some sewing-related deadlines, but more about that later.

This weekend I spent some time hanging out with my youngest daughter and writing these blog posts. But now I must get back to my current project, which is a jacket. I've printed a pattern, taped it, and am now muslining it.

I never have enough time anymore!

Santa Fe Getaway 2014

Table of Contents:

(I've already mentioned going to Santa Fe, but here's a bit more info.)

Two years ago, on my way to Design Outside the Lines in Taos, New Mexico, I squeezed in a lightning fast visit to Santa Fe. (I wrote a blog post about it.)

And I loved it!

I was thrilled to have another opportunity to spend more time in Santa Fe. Last weekend, a small group of sewers rendezvoused in Santa Fe at the La Fonda hotel. Margy, of course, I have spent time with, but the others I knew only in cyberspace.

It was such a delight to meet Ann, Liana, Nancy, Patti, and Jan, in person!

It was four days of great food and drink, great shopping, great conversation, beautiful art, comfy accommodations, excellent company... and even some singing.

Here are a few pics.


Nancy, Liana, Patti, Ann, me, Margy, Jan
Hanging in the La Fonda bar

With Ann, Margy and Jan

Lovely Ann, owner of Gorgeous Fabrics

Nancy and Liana

Stopping for Prickly Pear Arnold Palmers while shopping


We had nice weather in Santa Fe.


On our last day, Margy and I decided to walk to Canyon Road. I love Canyon Road. It's approximately half a mile from downtown Santa Fe and it's a long street full of art galleries, restaurants, and shops. There are many outside art installations along this charming street and I love looking at them.

It was a chilly morning and, while I didn't bring any really warm clothes, I bundled up as best as I could.

As we left the hotel, I noted the flower petals that were gently falling. I was enchanted by these petals. We walked the half mile to Canyon Road and the petals continued to fall. After half an hour or so, Margy pointed out that these weren't flower petals, they were snow.

I didn't believe her.

For one thing, it didn't seem cold enough for snow.

For another, this was totally unlike any snow I have experienced.

I walked up to several of these "petals" and started squishing them with my thumb. They were large, like tapioca beads. But they were snow! Little beads of snow. I squished them (this was not icy, like hail), and they were dry and crunchy.

I have never experienced snow like this before.

Margy called it Tapioca Snow.

Is that a thing?

Margy is sporting beads of snow in her hair

The snow "petals" are a bit harder to see on my jacket

As the day progressed, the snow started coming down harder and harder. We stopped for lunch at a charming cafe called The Tea Room where we had panini, soup, and salad in front of a fire.

Outside the snow was coming down more insistently. It was difficult to believe that it had been sunny the days before.

After lunch, it was coming down quite hard. As we walked into the snow (it was now falling into my boots, into my mouth, and up Margy's sleeves), it was starting to sting, more like hail.

But I loved it - I was completely enchanted. I kept stopping to take pictures and then I'd run (in my Trippen boots) to catch up with Margy.

The snow settled on my "shelf"

We returned to the hotel for some coffee and a roaring fire.

Margy makes a mean fire!

What a magical experience! I never thought I'd be in Santa Fe during snow! Especially not at the end of April.


Santa Fe is just chock full of art. Art is everywhere - inside and outside. I particularly love the outside art!

About the enter one of the galleries

Others have also posted about the weekend:

Prickly Pear Margarita at Blue Corn Cafe.