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?

Finding Inspiration in Fabric and Patterns

There are as many ways to become inspired as there are things in the universe, but when I’m feeling especially directionless with my sewing, I generally gravitate towards 2 things to get my creative juices flowing:  Sewing patterns, and fabric.

Patterns:
The Big 4 (Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity) issue new patterns several times a year.  I am sure there is some sort of schedule to it…  I usually start checking daily when it seems like it’s been a while since new patterns came out, and then they are inevitably released the day I don’t check, and I have to find out from twitter or pattern review.
The independent companies aren’t quite as regular, which makes it even more of a treat when a new pattern debuts.  They usually like to tease us with twitter or blog posts leading up to it, so new pattern day is not as hard to miss!

This past round of releases hasn’t delivered many must-haves for me, but I will probably add Simplicity 1558 to my stash just for that skirt.  Simplicity 1553 is probably not something I’ll pick up, but did you see the hem of the skirt and list of notions? Battery operated micro fairy lights?  I didn’t know this was a thing, and it’s definitely got me curious.
McCalls 6891 is very interesting, and I’ve been turning it over in my head as an option for a costume if the corset  doesn’t pan out.
Then there’s Lekala.  I’m not sure how to classify this pattern company since it doesn’t really “feel” like an indie, but they aren’t like the big 4 (or their various underlings) either.  Maybe they deserve their own category.  Whatever they are, their 4282 pattern has me itching to do a matryoshka dress do-over like you wouldn’t believe.  Because I never really sold myself on that bodice I made.  Because despite pre-washing all my fabric, I got maybe 3 wears out of that dress before an unfortunate laundry accident caused the blue part to bleed all over the matryoshka part giving everything that was creme colored an off-putting and unintentional tinge of aqua.  4282 is the real reason I’m pushing onward with 4278…  Because I *need* to know if/how well this custom sizing system works before I blow another $2.18 and who knows how much time assembling another one of their blasted PDF patterns.

Which brings me to fabric:There are more online fabric stores than you can shake a stick at.  I dare you not to become inspired after spending time browsing Fabric.com, Mood, or Fabric Mart.  The fabrics you see made up into clothing at your favorite retailer are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there, and while I could tell you that I sew because I have a passion for fit, or sustainability, or to avoid supporting sweatshops- the main reason I wanted to learn, and the thing that keeps me inspired, is the fabric ~*~*~~*fabric*~*~*~ FAAAAABBBBRRRRIIIIIC!
Because I love my “hot dog dress” from modcloth, but what if I’m in the mood for a grilled cheese? And how else would I get a dress with roller skates all over it to wear to my favorite band’s show?

And sometimes you find a RTW dress where you love the fabric, but hate the design (and/or pricetag).  SEWING TO THE RESCUE!!!!

I found the fabric!  And this might be great for my matryoshka re-do (if it’s not too heavy….  that’s one of the risks with buying fabric online).
And so many others I could shop and sew forever….