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.