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!

Tutorial: lined sleeveless bodice with no hand sewing

This week, I’ve been working Lekala 4276 as part of the Fall For Cotton sewalong.  Yes, I’ll use any excuse to do some guilt-free garment sewing from a quilting cotton, and I was so super happy with how my last Lekala turned out, I wanted to try another, and this one looked pretty cute and retro inspired.

This one is coming together much faster than the previous one, and I am hoping to have it finished and blogged tomorrow.  Now that I’ve got some Lekala experience under my belt, the instructions aren’t quite as hard to muddle through (though still kind of weird- like when they tell you to “fold” or “overstitch” that doesn’t always means what you might initially assume), and I was so impressed by their lined sleeveless bodice method, I thought I’d do up a quick tutorial.

It’s such a super easy and efficient way to put together a lined bodice with NO hand stitching, that I kind of feel like I’m having a serious memory issue for not remembering coming across this method before, so apologies if this is old hat, but I thought it was pretty nifty.

This method is for a lined sleeveless bodice with a center back zip.

You will need
Bodice front and bodice front lining pieces, with side darts sewn
Bodice back and bodice back lining pieces
Needles, thread, pins… nothing special.

1. Right sides together, sew bodice front to bodice front lining at neckline and armhole.  Leave side seam and shoulder seam open.  Press, clip curves, flip right side out, and press.
2. Do the same with each back piece.

You should have 1 front bodice and 2 back bodice pieces with nice clean necklines and arm holes

3. Flip the back pieces inside out, and slide them over the bodice front shoulders.  Line up the raw edges of your shoulders, pin, sew, press, and flip it all right side out again

Make sure the side seams of the bodice front and bodice back shoulders butt right up against each other, or they won’t line up exactly when you’re done.

Ta-da!!
I have a tiny bit of “overhang”, but not enough to bug me on a casual dress

4. Complete the side seams.  This method is fairly standard, but I know it confused me the first time I ran into it, so I thought I’d include it.  On each side of the bodice, pin right sides together bodice front and back and bodice lining front and back.  It should be a straight line for each side of the bodice.

If you look at it from the right sides after pinning, it will look something like this.

5.  Sew each side as 1 straight seam.  Press, flip down the bodice, press some more.

6. You’re done!  Admire you’re finished armholes and neckline, and rejoice in not having to hand sew a bit of it!

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….

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.

Untitled

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.
Untitled
  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.