Since 2010, we (folks at SG) have been talking about Lekala and Bootstrap pattern companies.
(Lekala discussion here. Bootstrap discussion here) Although different companies, located in different countries they have the same product even use the same software and illustrations. Kind of like buying Kleenex. Doesn’t matter if you stock up at Walmart or Kmart. If the name is “Kleenex” it’s the same.
I’ve always been interested in the idea of inputting measurements and having a pattern drafted for my shape and size. There are some programs available to the home-sewist, which I won’t link here, but there have been serious complaints about those offerings. It seems that it takes many trials, tests and muslins to reach the point of an acceptable draft and pretty much you can expect to do the same with each subsequent pattern produced from those softwares. These programs are costly. It didn’t make sense to me to spend the $$$ and end up fitting as always i.e. muslin, tweak, muslin, tweak repeat. I was curious about the on-line programs but didn’t want to be the beta-testor. 6 years later, what users are saying about Lekala and Bootstrap is they are pretty good (as compared to the users of home software who said what printed out was totally not what was expected). So I said I want to explore Lekala/Bootstrap, especially because I can do so without any out-of-pocket expense.
I knocked-around the individual sites for a few minutes and chose to register at Lekala because I understood that site quicker. There are just some sites that are more intuitive for me. That doesn’t make one better than the other or better for you. I also chose to use their classic blouse 5446
for testing because well it was free and it’s pretty close to being a basic sloper. It does have a stand-up collar which I dislike. I like a collar that folds into a nice V shape. On me, stand up collars either rub and choke or if left open they collapse into a frumpy, unkempt shape. But the basic shape, darted front, vertical back darts, front and back with sleeve (and cuff) are very similar to my own basic block. Which would make shape and fit easy to compare.
Let me put this out there, I wanted Lekala to work for me. Yes, I would far prefer to print, tape and trace a pattern that already fits; to buying a printed pattern and doing multiple alterations and muslins –sometimes never reaching a truly satisfying end. Since I wanted this to work, I took my tablet downstairs, disrobed and took new measurements. Nothing surprising there except that Lekala wanted a few new measurements, the underbust and full hip which are explained here. I also added the optional measurements of neck and upper arm.
Made a ‘trip’ back to SG to ask about a few concerns namely my narrow shoulder and high-waisted figure. To my annoyance, I had missed the “Adjustments” tab. I didn’t see it even though it was the next one over from the Optional tab. On the Adjustments tab, I chose only to change the shoulder width to less and waist height to high. There are numerous other possible adjustments. I chose to change only those 2 because I know for a fact that I need to change them on every pattern I buy.
Once all the measurements were in the fields, I clicked purchase and then clicked the cart icon to complete the buy. I received an email in less than 5 minutes. In it were links to the instructions, a preview and the pattern. I downloaded the pattern, looked at the preview (which looked alarmingly like my own body), but ignored the instructions. I can sew this particular style without instructional assistance. But it’s there if needed.
I opened the pattern pdf and looked it over. I discovered that the pages contained a unique labeling 1-2, 2-3 which seems to be column 1, sheet 2; column 2 sheet 3 etc. A little further exploring in Acrobat and I discovered I could identify the exact page number which corresponded to the sheet. I wanted to print the back pattern piece. I thought the back would be the easiest to compare with my personal block; and if the back’s were far off there was no point in looking at the front or sleeves. After futzing with the print menu, I printed pages 14-26. Far more than I was hoping for. Lekala had provided a full pattern piece back. With most pattern, especially if it will be placed on the fold, you get half the front and half the back. They tell me that the full-back is typical for both Lekala and Bootstrap but we don’t seem to know why.
Printing in itself, is a tale of woe. It seems no two printers use the same dialogue. In addition my printer is 11 years old. Fortunately I’m well acquainted with its idiosyncrasies. No where could I find a scaling dialogue. (The PDF says to set scaling to 0.00) I finally chose ‘default size’ and printed at fast draft. It was the right choice. My test square was just a hair off length wise and spot on width wise measured both in CM’s and inches plus my printer spits out pages at lightening speed when on fast draft.
It was surprisingly ease to assemble the pages or maybe I’ve just had enough experience that I’m not buffaloed by the process anymore. Whatever, the pages printed out in column and sheet order so it was easy to tape one to the next as well as identify and start the next column.. I trimmed the left edge a scant 1/4″. All the other edges overlapped perfectly.
Once printed and assembled, I could finally look at what I was really interested in: how close did this basic blouse resemble my personal block. Since Lekala printed a full pattern piece for the back, I located the center back and drew a vertical line from neck to hem. Then placed my block on top aligning center back and sliding up until the shoulders met. One note here, Lekala uses a 3/8″ seam allowance. I use multiple seam allowances widths and my block contains a 3/8″ shoulder pad allowance. Point is, the pattern pieces can’t match exactly. My block isn’t going to match any pattern exactly because of the seam allowances. But it comes very close to the Lekala print out. Ignoring seam allowances, width was very close, maybe 1/8″ difference. I prefer my blouses a little longer, so I would want to add length. But the waist matched. The waist was in the right place!!!! Shoulder slope was my only concern.
I printed the front; aligned with my personal-block front and was equally pleased. Width was spot on not even slightly different. Bust and waist were in the right places. Shoulder width was correct for both front and back. The biggest difference is my shoulder slope and of course the asymmetry for which I adapt.
Will I use this company, this pattern? I won’t use this particular pattern. I don’t want the stand up collar but more importantly my personal block is so close that it’s like tracing my block. Why trace and store something I already have? 10 years ago, I would have had no hesitance in making Lekala my primary pattern company. Now, I have two major concerns with the pattern draft. I saw no place to adapt for my sloping shoulder nor any place to address figure asymmetry. If I’m just cranking out basic patterns (that need alterations and muslins), I’d just as soon buy cheapies already printed that don’t necessarily need to be traced (and especially don’t need the steps of print, assemble, and tape/glue). A tertiary concern would be the ability to adjust hem length and to add/remove sleeves. (Not deal killers but capabilities that would make me choose one software over another.) On the plus side, the patterns already start with the correct back waist length which eliminates one whole alteration (both back and front) and a slew of drag lines. Also the shoulder is the right width. One of the most difficult fitting tasks I’ve had is adjusting both width and slope of the shoulder. Having it half done is better than nothing. Others have pointed out the initial cost of the pattern is pretty inexpensive; 5-minutes time-to-acquire also a consideration (especially relevant when you’re 200 miles or 3-hours from anything).
Last consideration for me, is style variations. I’m not really impressed by successively deep scoops. I don’t need a new pattern to scoop out a 1/4″. Nor do I care to purchase a dress length and then blouse length version. So I went through the both (Lekala and Bootstrap) entire, catalogs to see if there was anything I felt worth doing the work. There’s no Stylearc or CLD styling (my fav’s). Several good summer ideas (oh to have a sleeve option which doesn’t require my drafting efforts) but otherwise, I already have something very similar either in my pattern stash or my to-be-traced Burda patterns. There were several designs interesting enough to me to add them to a wish list. OK I’ve got 25 on the wish list.
I did find one blouse especially interesting and I may buy, 5167
This blouse looks semi-fitted-to-loose fitting with shawl collar. The drawing looks like extended shoulders and maybe a dropped sleeve but the pattern tech drawings of the sleeve cap look standard. I could live with either variation or not. I’d just have to figure out how to adapt the shoulder slope.
To answer my own question, will I make use of Lekala? Probably.
Especially if find it is possible to easily create my own designs or if I find where to change shoulder slope. My personal asymmetry is easy to adapt for at the sewing machine.