Belated thoughts on the last year, with Lekala tops

So, what do we think – is the end of February too late for a reflection on the previous year?

Late to the party as always, I didn’t really have last-year-wrap-up thoughts until this month. I’ll spare you a detailed rundown of my 2014 in sewing and just say that I feel like it was the year of the discovery of the magic of separates. Yes, after years of making jersey dresses my niche, I kind of got bored with them last year. Not with making them, actually, I still love nothing more than whipping out a full self-contained outfit in a day, but with wearing them. Last year I routinely found myself standing before my closet and either reaching for pants or shorts and a top, or lamenting that all my pants/shorts and tops were dirty and all I had left were dresses. For this amazing and surprising phenomenon, I credit my discovery of Making Bottoms That Fit (see: the magnificent Thurlow Trousers, shortsed and  skinnified, again and again). I remembered why I’d moved to an all-dress wardrobe in the first place (no fitting RTW pants), and now that reason had fallen away, leaving me with a whole new swath of wardrobe options to play with.

This is all a long way of saying I’ve been making a lot of tops-to-go-with-jeans. Many have been boring, or pattern repeats, or otherwise not compellingly bloggable, but I did want to share my experience making two tops from Lekala Patterns, or That Russian Company That Uses Your Measurements For A Custom Pattern. I of course chose two tops with weird necklines, because I’d heard their instructions were rubbish and I wanted to be frustrated? Not really, I guess I just like weird necklines.

lekala cross neck top First up I tried 4042, or “Blouse with cross-over collar” because the only place I noticed the pattern number was on the actual pattern. I had seen a few reviews of this pattern, including some made in a striped fabric with a chevron front, and I loved it. I knew it would be a bit of a puzzle, particularly considering the instructions contain no diagrams whatsoever. But I did figure it out eventually, mostly because it’s a similar construction to some of the other knot/crossover tops I’ve made before, but the other way up. Actually, the hardest part was figuring out how to attach the front shoulder yoke pieces. There are no notches or other marks to indicate what pieces go together and how, other than the neckline, so I had to kind of lay it out and decide which way made an armhole shape that made more sense. The notches that did exist weren’t labeled, obviously, but they sorted themselves out as I pinned the neckline twist and they actually lined up perfectly.

lekala cross neck top close

The fabric is a lovely bamboo knit (I bought it in a few colors) that was leftover from a top I made for my mom last year, so I didn’t have very much (maybe a little over a yard). Even though the pattern has a weird shaped front piece and I cut it on the diagonal, it all fit. I made the sleeves as long as the fabric would allow, so they ended up almost elbow length, which is fine with me. I cut the bodice the drafted length, but when I tried on the top, it was shorter than my preference (I do like longish tops, though). Miraculously I had a strip of fabric left over that was just barely big enough to finish the hem with a band, adding a couple of inches in length. I actually really like the way it looks with the horizontal stripe at the bottom as contrast. Happy accident! But I would probably just add length when I cut it next time.

The other top is the helpfully named “Blouse with collar“, or 4245. I’ve been wanting to make this kind of shawl collar for a while, and came close to buying the Kwik Sew pattern in this style several times, but what can I say, I’m cheap, so I was pleased to find this version instead.

lekala shawl collar top

Again, the instructions weren’t super clear, but this top has a much more obvious construction method, and as a result the text of the instructions was more helpful than the gobbledygook of the other top. You do have to sew a right angle turn at the corners of the front neckline, with the bodice corners going the opposite way, which is always basically impossible (or maybe just for me?), so my corners are kind of puckery, but it sort of blends in with the front gathers.

lekala shawl collar top close

This fabric is a fantabulous soft and beautiful mini-stripe coral orange merino jersey from The Fabric Store in LA. I thought the collar would make a nice cozy winter top, so I used the merino and lengthened the sleeves to full length. The length of this top, inexplicably, was just right. Not sure why the hem lengths would be so different, but I think these patterns come from many different places/designers, so there may not be a consistent length or fit across patterns.

I will say that both of these tops tend to ride up in the top front, bunching a bit over the boobs, so I find myself making the Picard Maneuver all day. I think this is more a symptom of the neckline design rather than a fit issue, but I can’t be sure.

Overall, I like these patterns and I would absolutely use Lekala again. When I first heard about the company, they had a super sketchy badly translated website, but now the site is pretty good and very straightforward. (And although they have many unique and interesting patterns, there are also some of the strangest, most terrifying things I’ve ever seen. Check out this one’s line drawing: Flashdance Scarecrow, anyone?) You enter your basic measurements, plus some less common ones if you want, and you can specify common adjustments. I was a little afraid to select anything other than “normal”, because I wasn’t sure how adjusted the pattern would end up, and I’m closer to normal in most things, I think. Plus with knit tops I didn’t figure it would make much difference. I will say that I think the fit is pretty close to what I get when I grade between sizes on any of the big 5 patterns. What was funny, though, was that without all the extra lines on the pattern paper to distract, the fact that my side seam is basically straight up and down (because I have no waist) is embarrassingly obvious.

At any rate, I’ve been really enjoying making and wearing more separates, so I anticipate that this year will be more of the same. To that end, I’m currently toiling away on an entry in the Pattern Review Travel Wardrobe contest – two tops, a pair of jeans and a skirt (hopefully), as well as the odd jersey dress or two (old habits die hard). And that’s because… I’m going to New York in just over a week! I’m excited about everything but the weather (though I did buy a nice wool coat – like I was going to make one of those in a month). I foolishly thought that by March  the snow would be done, but clearly I was wrong. Anyway, blizzards be damned, anyone out there on the other side of the country want to meet up in the Garment District for some shopping? I’ll be there from March 5th to the 9th, and am prepared to ditch the husband for at least a full morning or afternoon (or both) while I gorge on fabric. Got any fabric store suggestions? I’m planning to leave a lot of room in my suitcase to bring home all the awesome fabric I know New York has to offer. And it would be even better if I got to meet any of you awesome East Coast sewing folks!

  1. Both your tops look fab, the chevron ones my favourite, great work with the stripes. I’ve recently had a success with a dress from lekala and now have a skirt and dress printed off waiting to be sewn. I’d also like to have a try at trousers.
    You mentioned about your straight up and down seams being vertical, I’m surprised mine don’t go out in the middle, lol. Have you clicked on the 3D image of yourself? That was a shocker for me!
    PS it’s never too late for a look back, reflection, or whatever else you want to call it! 😀✂️😀

  2. lisa g said:

    I have yet to play around with Lekala patterns, but I keep hearing good things about them. I especially love the chevron top! Love how it came out with the stripes. Have fun in NYC! Hopefully this side of the country will warm up a tad by then.

  3. Oh man, that grey tee is fab! I might have to see about copycatting that. I’ve been itching to try Lekala too, but I’ve only ever downloaded and used the freebies, so I have no idea how well the measurement system works (or doesn’t). My inner cheapskate does keep telling me I should try them though–at least when it’s not telling me that I should just be happy with the patterns I’m currently hoarding….

  4. trumbelinasews said:

    I’m glad your experience with Lekala was better than mine. I bought 4 patterns and have so far only made up 2: the same cross over top you made in the stripe, and a hoodie. Both ended up quite small. Were my measurements off? Maybe. I thought that maybe their patterns just didn’t have much ease? Either way, your tops are great!

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