Panda Bear Picnic: Lekala 4276

I’m a week late to Fall for Cotton, but I did manage to finish up Lekala 4276 this past weekend.

The reasons for my delay are both good and bad.  Everything was going along just fine until I attached the skirt on September 27th.  I should have no trouble finishing by the 9/30 deadline, right?  Well…  Unfortunately for me, it was immediately apparent that this skirt was wayyyy too tight :(  I double checked my measurements against what I told Lekala my measurement’s were, and I am entirely to blame for this snafu.  I used the same measurements as for my Tiana dress, but either I measured wrong, or my body changed because my hips were a good 6cm larger than I had reported.  Not a huge amount, but when the skirt has so little ease, 1 cm seam allowance, and 3 seams to work with, it was apparent that no amount of seam tweaking was going to save this thing.  Fortunately, I had enough fabric to cut another skirt.  Unfortunately, in the quest to get this thing done in time, I just added .5″ to all seams except at the waist, which was fine.  This worked well to fit my hips.  It did not work so well for giving me a skirt that didn’t look like I was sporting saddlebags.  Fixing that issue took time and frustration, so I moved forward on this at a snails pace.  Also, the inside is ugly as shit as a result of all my guess and check work, so you will get pics of the outside only!

More bad news on the timing of this dress- the deadline fell right in the middle of a super busy time at work, and was one of the 4 weekends a year where I lose most of my weekend for work.  Womp womp womp….

Her name is Rarity, of course.

But wait! Didn’t I say there was a *good* reason for missing the fall for cotton deadline? I surely did! Possibly the most best reason!!! The same Friday of the skirt fitting disaster, I became a proud new mommy to this baby:

She’s a barely used Pfaff 4.2 that I got a pretty good deal on (I think). My husband and I were talking about a new machine for Chistmas, so I wasn’t at all expecting to get one that day, but I knew the barely used ones would be gone by then, so I high tailed it back to the dealer as soon as the expense was approved.

I love it so far.  It’s so quiet and fast, and I haven’t even had time to play with all the awesome features yet.  The invisible zipper foot is especially good.  It really curls up around the zipper teeth, so it feels like there is little to no chance of hitting them.  I always had to be oh so careful doing invisible zippers with my Brother CS6000i as things had a tendency to shift, and I’d get too close a good part of the time.

I am reminded why I hate collars. I need to tack that shit down.

This post isn’t (only) about my new machine, though, so here’s the details on the dress:
I really liked the design on the Lekala website, but I felt like I wanted to pull the contrast fabric into another part of the dress besides the collar.  Initially, I planned to do the midriff portion in that same fabric, but once I had the fabric all cut out, I started to doubt that plan.  The midriff was a bit wider (taller?) than I expected, and that felt like too much of the contrast.  I debated flat piping the seams, but decided that looked weird.  I wound up making a belt.  I apparently suck at making belts.  I’m glad I have the option to not wear it.

Construction and fit wise, this was not a difficult dress.  I was nervous about the keyhole part.  The instructions told me to cut the hole in fabric and lining, then sew it.  I decided this was a supremely bad idea.  Instead, I marked the stitch line around the hole,pinned it, sewed it, then cut it.  That worked just fine.

For the custom sizing of this Lekala, I went with “average” on the choices that affect bodice front dart placement, and I didn’t have the issue of darts being too low or too widely spaced like my other Lekala had.

I still had them give me the broad back adjustment, and that worked well, but it’s still a bit tight and has a very slight upper mid-back gap, so I probably would do well to add a little more back room in the future.

I think this dress is supposed to be more form fitting than the previous Lekala I made, but back wrinkles aren’t a good look even if it was still comfortable.

Lekala’s instructions for the kick pleat were a nightmare.  Frustrating because it’s a really neat detail.  Even more frustrating, I couldn’t find great instructions for it in any of the big 4 patterns in my stash.  Luckily for me, the geniuses at Threads magazine saw a need to tutorialize this technique last December, and they totally saved my kick pleat from becoming a vent.

The intended length of this skirt is also super short!  When I decided to re-cut the skirt, I took the opportunity to add 2″ to the length, and that hem is .5″ single folded up and covered with navy blue lace hem tape on the inside.  Maybe having that first skirt not fit was a blessing in disguise because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to lengthen the skirt.

I think that’s about all I have to say about constructing this thing.  It’s a cute dress, but I’m reminded why I like full skirts in crimes against quilting cotton (wrinkles!!!  UGH!!! ), and if I make it again I’m going to do a proper hip adjustment and let out the back just a little bit.

Oh- and tack down that silly collar!

BELT!

I don’t really like to go around sleeveless, anyway, and a cardigan conceals most of my issues/insecurities about this dress, though I’m ambivalent about the belt either way.

NO BELT!

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Lekala 4278: Tiana Dress

UntitledLast week, my husband had a funny conversation with our 4 year old.  It went something like this:

Mr. Parayim: Who is the most handsome man?
A: Daddy!
Mr. P: And who is the most beautiful woman?
A: Princess Tiana!

How am I supposed to live up to that??
A friend suggested her opinion might change if she saw me in a green ball gown and tiara, and since I was already in the middle of this project, I decided to name it after my daughter’s inspiration.  I tend to think her answer had more to do with beignets and gumbo than Tiana’s clothing.

This pattern is Lekala 4278, and I’ve been struggling to get excited and work through it for several weeks.
Lekala is a fascinating pattern company for a few reasons:
1. The patterns are cheap!  This dress pattern is $2.49, but if you register an account with them, you can snag it for $2.19!
2. The designs are interesting! I sometimes feel like some of the larger non-big 4 pattern companies either cater more toward an older clientele or their stuff is so similar to big 4 patterns I can’t see the point of doing a special order when I’ve got a Jo-Ann 3 miles from my house.  Many Lekala designs appeal to me (like this coat, these pants, this dress, and this dress), and while many of their designs are similar to patterns I could find at Jo-Ann, the most exciting thing about these patterns is….
4. CUSTOM SIZING!!!!!  Fit work has been my main sewing focus this year.  It’s been a time consuming and often frustrating process, and while I feel much more experienced in trying different adjustments, I still struggle a lot with choosing which adjustments I need and then doing them correctly.  The US Lekala site will email you any of their PDF patterns customized to your height, bust, underbust, waist, and hip measurements.  Or you can head over to the Russian version, and choose pattern modifications for a variety of common figure variations.

I have to admit, I’m digging the purple boots CGI me is sporting.

I was super curious to see how these pattern adjustments worked out, so I headed over to the Russian site, put in my measurements and adjustments, and they emailed me this creepily accurate computer generated image of myself.

The adjustments I requested were:
-high waist*
-low bust*
-wider bust points
-reduced shoulder width
-increased back width
-increased breast width

*I don’t think these adjustments were the right choice for me, and I will probably keep these as “average” in the future.

The dress sewed up pretty easily, although I would not recommend it to someone that was uncomfortable working with a pattern.  The instructions are translated from Russian, and aren’t always as clear or intuitive as what you’d expect from a big 4 pattern, and there were no diagrams.
For me, the trickiest part of the instructions came at the point of attaching the facings and connecting the shoulders.  I think I read the instructions 5 times, and still didn’t really understand exactly what I was supposed to do, so I just winged it.

Other quirks in the pattern: the grainline is marked “beam”, and seam allowances (if you choose to include them in your order) are 1cm.  I didn’t have a metric ruler handy, so I figured .394″ was close enough to a half inch, and I marked all my seam lines to make sewing it up easier.  The extra tenth of an inch I gave myself in the seam allowances didn’t appear to hurt the fit at all, and I think this is probably my best fitting dress so far, though I wouldn’t call it perfect just yet.

FIT:

The 2 most obvious fit issues with the finished dress:
1.  The waist is a bit too high- I don’t think it’s that bad, but it does give the dress more of a “babydoll” look than I anticipated.  I’m comfortable with fixing this on my own if/when I use this pattern again.

2. The horizontal bust darts are a little too low. They’re about a half inch below the apex.  Again, this is a pretty easy fix for next time, and I don’t think it makes the dress unwearable.  Before I started to sew, I never would have noticed a flaw like this in my RTW clothes.
I blame both of these issues on the 2 adjustments I requested above that I marked with an asterisk.
I suppose since Lekala knew my height, they took that into consideration when drafting my pattern.  My torso is short because I am short- I guess I really don’t need that adjustment in their patterns.
The lower bust I requested was something that was marked on my “visual figure evaluation” worksheet I got at Sewing Expo in March.  I’m going to call that as wearing a bad bra that day, and that newfangled bra fitting method that has since led me to a more supportive and comfortable size.

There is 1 less obvious fit issue, and that’s a little bit of gaping around the armholes.  Maybe my request for wider bust points is to blame since the vertical bust darts are also about a half inch outside the apex.  I think a sloped shoulder adjustment might also help with this.

This isn’t a deal breaker for me at all since I almost always wear a cardigan over anything sleeveless.

The back of the dress fits so well!!!  Best fit I’ve ever made!!!  Practically none of the dreaded “back gap” in the upper center back!  I think with wovens there might always be just a little- depending on your posture.  It’s really comfortable too, and just the right amount of form fitting.  There are no baggy areas, and no too tight areas.  I am super happy with it.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES:
The dress is a quilting cotton I’ve wanted for a while, and finally got on sale.  The polka dot contrast is a poly/cotton seersucker from Joann’s juvenile apparel fabrics.
I decided to cut the contrast on the bias.  I can’t tell if it makes a difference with the dot pattern, but the rows of seersuckering are at a 45 degree angle, and I think that looks a bit more interesting.

I think this might have been my first time using facings!  I usually

opt to fully line the bodice- either because it needs the coverage for sheerness or because I think it will be easier than facings.

To my surprise they were no more difficult than a lining (and probably easier, since no darts), and I’m not sure why I’ve been going out of my way to avoid them.

  I think maybe I was put off with the idea of them hanging loosely in there, ready to pop out and look ugly, but I understitched them, sewed them to the side seam allowances, and stitched in the ditched them to the back seam, so I feel like they are pretty secure.


There only a couple of design changes I made to the pattern. I added a pocket at the side seam that doesn’t have a zipper.  I firmly believe that pockets should not be optional if at all possible.  I also decided to gather the skirt instead of pleat it because I had just done a pleated skirt, and it’s been a while since I did a gathered one.  I’m happy with both of these changes :)

I think I did an especially nice job on the hem of this dress.  I have not been too impressed with my hems on the last several things I’ve made, so I’m pretty proud of how nice this turned out.  It helps that the fabric is pretty light weight.  Maybe I am improving with practice.

So…  I am very happy with my first Lekala experience.  While I didn’t get the *perfect* fit, I definitely got a better fit than most other patterns I’ve done- either straight out of the envelope or with my own adjustment attempts, and a few simple pattern adjustments would make it even better (but honestly? this isn’t couture, and I feel like it’s good enough as is for a simple, casual, comfortable dress).

While the PDF pattern is a pain in the ass, and the instructions could be better, I feel like the hassle is worth it to get something that requires minimal to no adjustments.  Lekala has a lot of great designs, and now that I’ve got one of their patterns under my belt, I am sure I will go back to try more.

How many awkward faces does it take to make a blog post?

On my Sewing Table: Variety is the Spice of Life

Since completing the Enterprise dress, I’ve been in a bit of a sewing funk.

I started my 2nd go-round at Simplicity 1873, which I made once before with pretty good results (Cosmo Cricket Dress).  I intended to get that done in 1 day to bring to Play on Con, but I got overwhelmed with con-prep, and didn’t finish it until after I got back.  I still need to photograph and blog it.

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Then I kind of stalled out and flailed around for my next project.

I want to get started on a corset, and have Butterick 5662 and Laughing Moon Mercantile #100 cut and ready for tracing.  I just feel kind of… scared to get started on that for some reason.  I’ve never played with any boning at all, and I’m wondering if I should get my feet wet by making a dress with that requires it before jumping into a full blown corset.
I also had Lekala 4278 assembled, traced, and ready to go, but I was having a hard time getting excited about it since the pattern is so similar to the Simplicity 1873 I had just finished.  I was super curious about the fit since the Lekala patterns are custom made to the measurements you send them, so I decided to go with that.
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  I raided my stash for a suitable fabric for this.  Since I’ve been making more of an effort to stay away from quilting cottons, I tried hard to figure out a grown up fabric that would work.  I really did.  Turns out, I really didn’t have anything else that was suitable.  I have quilting cotton, and I have sheer and floaty fabrics, and I don’t really have much in between.  So quilting cotton it is!
I had my eye on this print at Joann for months, and caught it in the clearance section when I was looking for fabric for Simplicity 1873.  I decided I could indulge myself by using it for a lining, but it turned out that only the bodice needed a lining, so I had plenty of leftovers to use it for Lekala 4278!
The green polka dot is a poly/cotton seersucker-ish fabric from Joann’s Children’s apparel collection, which happens to be the same stuff I used for Simplicity 1873, but a different print. 

Although I’m pretty happy with the fabric choices, I’m still having a hard time getting into this one.  I think I need more variety in my sewing, and maybe I’d be better off if I had just gotten over my fears and done the corset right away.  I am about halfway through this dress, and just want to get it done so I can work on something different.

Sewaholic Cambie: The Enterprise Dress

UntitledIt’s been a month since my last completed project post, but I’ve been busy! I’ve been working away at my version of the Sewaholic Cambie dress. I decided a while back that the a-line version without the sweetheart neckline (thanks to the handy dandy tutorial on Tasia’s blog) would be perfect for my favorite fabric.

I finished the dress over a week ago- just in time to debut it at the super awesome fun time that was Play On Con. So, while I usually have tried to post my projects within a day or 2 of completion, I am doing this a little late because I had a lot of sleep to catch up on.

I love the shape of this dress. The A line has a little bit of a late 1960’s feel, but is not so obviously retro. I like that there is a little flare still in the skirt. It doesn’t feel as sultry bombshell as a straight or pencil skirt, but it’s much more tailored than a fuller gathered or pleated skirt, and I only had about 2 yards of the fabric, so I wouldn’t have had enough for that anyway. I think it’s a good balance between the two, and just right for showcasing a large scale, busy print.

The main fabric is silk, and is probably the softest, floatiest fabric I have worked with so far. I’m glad I did some test stitches on scraps because I very quickly discovered my feed dogs were hungry, and they think silk is delicious! To avoid disaster, I pinned a strip of tissue paper to the feed dog side of every seam before I sewed it. It was a pain, but it worked. I also reduced my stitch length to 1.6 (my machine default is 2.5). I thought puckers might be an issue, but that was fine. I noticed in my test scrap that the seams with a longer stitch length were pulling at the fabric, and I could see the holes where needle and thread had gone. Shortening the stitch length helped prevent this from happening, and kept the seam together and strong.

UntitledI tried to be soooo careful in laying out this pattern. I even made myself a chart of each piece of the garment, and where the enterprise would wind up- left or right, top or bottom. But I must have had the pattern piece for the skirt back wrong side up when I went to cut it because I ended up with 2 enterprises on the same side in the back. Oops! It doesn’t bother me too much- especially since I don’t look at my own back, but I was kind of annoyed when I discovered the mistake.

The back of this dress ended up being a little bit tight, but nothing some spanx couldn’t make better. I’m not exactly sure why that happened. I muslined the dress 3 times, and it seemed like it would be OK, but I wound up having to take it in at the neckline, and maybe I got a little over eager at that point. Or maybe the zipper in my muslins wasn’t placed well. Or maybe I gained 5 lbs in between starting and finishing this dress. Who knows. I really like the pattern, and I’m not too disappointed with the fit, but I will definitely be re-mulslining it if/when I make it again, and will probably add a side dart and a real FBA instead of only monkeying with the back and side seams, which is what I did here.

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I lined the dress in a quilting cotton I found at Jo-Ann. I didn’t plan to line it in quilting cotton, but when I saw the print, how could I not? I wanted something breathable since I’d be wearing this at “Nerd Camp”, and while a lawn or voile would have probably been softer and more drapey, the cotton did the job of ensuring against transparency, keeping me from sweating, and providing some support to the bodice. Also- ENTERPRISE!

You can see in the final muslin/lining fit photo there’s some gaping around the neck area. I thought this might be self correcting once I attached it to the silk, and wasn’t looking at seam allowances, but no such luck. Doing the fix at that point in the project was definitely not ideal, and another reason for a new muslin next time.

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I finished off the hem with piping I’d made from leftovers of the sleeve and pocket fabric, and I covered up the ugly with this sparkly blue trim. I’m a sucker for the sparkly. I look for excuses to work it in. That contrast fabric has a little bit too.
I originally thought about using the piping around the neckline, to make a clean, sharp, seam with that floaty silk, but it was suggested I understitch it instead, and that worked just fine. I’m glad I didn’t use the piping there because it does add a little bulk, and I made sure I packed my trusty iron for the con to de-wonk the hem before heading out, and that helped.

Sewing the dress was a good experience. I sewed a fabric I had never worked with before, and while it isn’t perfect, I don’t regret it. I feel like I learn something new with every project, and this was definitely no exception! I didn’t even get into the genius way the invisible zip is installed, but I know I’ll be using that technique in the future.
I really like the pattern, and I think I will definitely make it again!

This post is part of a blog share with parentwin.com– an awesome blog about parenting, current events, crafts, and more!

Colette Crepe: Ice Cream Social Dress

Since my last post, I quickly found myself basically spinning my wheels on both of my fit muslins.  It seemed I would get *so* close to doing the one more thing that would make it perfect, doing that, and then realizing that didn’t solve the problem, or it did, but it drew attention to a new issue.  I was getting pretty fed up with the process, and the fact that I hadn’t made anything wearable since February, so I decided to take a break to recharge.

I decided to try the Crepe pattern by Colette Patterns.  I figured the wrap style dress would be easy to minimize fit issues, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while anyway.  Since I feel pretty comfortable working with muslin at this point, I decided to do a quick one just to make sure it would all go well.  The muslin seemed to fit OK, but something still felt a little off- the shoulders made me look like a linebacker, and there was some excess fabric in the armpit area- not a good look.  Lady Katza suggested I try a sloped shoulder adjustment in one of my previous muslin fitting posts, and I pulled out my visual figure evaluation report from the sewing expo class, which also confirmed my shoulders are not square- they are sloped, so I decided to give it a try, and was very happy with the results.  I know my before/after pic might be hard to see, but after my adjustment, the sleeves looked to be much more in proportion.  There was still a little bit of extra fabric under the arms, but I decided it was minimal enough that it didn’t bother me.

adjusted pattern on top of original to show effect of 3/4″ sloped shoulder adjustment

I have to say, of all the bodice patterns to try your first sloped shoulder adjustment, I do not really recommend this one.  The adjustment for sloped shoulders is fairly straight forward- assuming you have a standard looking shoulder and armhole shape to your pattern AND you have a little bit of an idea about what you’re doing.  I spent a good deal of time consulting all my fitting books, tutorials on the web, and you tube videos trying to figure it out.  I think it’s the type of adjustment that’s probably easy peasy once you’ve done it once or twice, but the books and internet just didn’t have as much hand holding and tutorials as I would have liked (pssst, Lady Katza- you would be making the internet a better place if you posted one!).  Sometimes it’s good to see it done on different sleeve configurations, or even a standard looking one, but with more step by step photos, or maybe just a different “voice” telling you what to do can make all the difference.  Whatever it is, I would have liked to have had more tutorials and videos about this one!

The green line is my reference armscye

I think my main issue with this adjustment, was the shape of the sleeve, and trying to figure out what parts of my pattern corresponded to the vanilla sleeves that were adjusted in all the materials I was referring to.  I decided to trace the shoulder and armscye from my fitting muslin pattern to use as a reference when doing this adjustment.  That worked very well for me, and after I did that, it was easy to see exactly what needed to be done, which lines to move, and how to redraw the sleeves (which I did fudge a little bit, but it turned out OK in the end.  The only other pattern alterations I did was to curve the darts, and I really love how that turned out!  Now I want to curve all the darts!  All the time!  I’m not sure why it’s not standard to print them curved- they aren’t any more difficult to sew, and it makes the garment follow the body’s curves much more naturally than straight darts.

I started sewing this in my real fabric about 2 weeks ago, but could not quite get it complete before I left for a vacation to Washington, DC.  Finishing it up was one of the first things I did on coming back home, and it will be nice to wear a new dress when I go back to work after a week off.

This dress turned out so sweet- when I tried it on before hemming, the first thing that came to mind was “I should be wearing this to an ice cream social at a church”.  Being a lapsed Jew, I have never been to one, but this is how I imagine you’re supposed to dress at them.  At any rate, I needed a name for the dress, and that seemed to fit.

I made this in the pink toile I picked up in New Orleans, and lined/underlined it in a creme colored Bemberg Rayon.  I couldn’t decide if I should line it or underline it- I wanted to avoid doing the neck and arm facings (line it), but the toile was so sheer, I thought the darts would work better if it were underlined.  So I kind of did a mash up of both.  I sewed and understitched the neck and arm areas first, like a lining, then I flipped it right sides out, and basted the edges as if it were underlining.  It worked out pretty well, although there were a couple of places I had to pick out those basting stitches because it restricted the give of the fabric enough that the pieces weren’t lining up correctly.

The Bemberg is a new fabric for me to work with.  I still haven’t mastered the art of pressing it, and it tends to get kind of ripply looking, which you can kind of see in the center front seam.  I think it’s a combination of heat level and steam level that is doing that…  it’s easy to turn down the heat, but I have a very hard time laying off the steam button (or maybe I need more of it?).

More pics!

The back has some extra fabric in the overlap, but not enough to really bug me. I think I can work some of it out with how I wrap it.

I like pockets!

Inside view

I french seamed wherever I reasonably could.  I never would have thought about doing a french seam to attach the bodice to the skirt, but the pattern instructions suggested it.  There was a minimal amount of hand sewing in this dress- just the top of the hem, which was easy since I just stitched it to the underlining.

Also, I am almost sure I read somewhere that Bemberg is great for breathability, but after 10 minutes outside taking pictures, I was feeling pretty sticky.  It does have a nice feel inside, in the air conditioning, but I think if I had a do-over with this dress, I’d line it in something 100% cotton instead.

Overall, I like this dress.  It was my first time making a Colette, and I thought the instructions were clear, and the dress came together easily.  The one thing I did not like about the pattern was there were so many sizes included it was sometimes difficult to find my size line.  Maybe I got on “off” print because there were parts where the size indicators were really hard to make out, and there were a few times where I just counted from the smallest size inward to get to my line.  All that aside, it turned out OK in the end!  The final dress took 8-10 hours.  The muslin process was maybe 6 if you don’t count the time I spent researching the shoulder adjustment.

It’s a pretty design, and I think I’d like to make it again in a fabric that isn’t so sweet since I think the dress is sweet enough on it’s own.