There is no single better reason to sew your own clothes than to get that perfect fit. For anyone who cares about clothes and loves to put his or her best foot forward, clothes have to fit. If you sew, you know that traditional tissue-paper patterns come in specific sizing―sizing that has changed over the years and does not resemble ready-to-wear sizing in any way. New sewists are often shocked and perplexed about what size to buy.
For example, in ready-to-wear, I wear a 6-8. When I buy a pattern, I always buy a size 14. And if I buy a vintage pattern from the 1960s or ‘70s, I have to carefully examine the bust measurement to select a size since sizing changed back then (I’ll write a bit more about vintage patterns in an upcoming post).
See how a size 16 pattern changed…
But what if I could get a pattern based on my specific measurements? What if I didn’t have to alter the size 14 pattern to fit better at the waist and over the bust? What if I could buy a pattern made-to-measure? Well, I can, and I did.
Lekala is primarily a company that produces commercial-grade software for pattern creation. They’ve been in business since 1989, and their main product is Sewist CAD software, available online at www.Sewist.com. In fact, you can register and use their software online if you’re interested in computer-assisted pattern design but be warned. It has a very steep learning curve! I have used Garment Designer, a computer program that is so much simpler than this one as to be laughable. I registered for the online software, created an account and started to play around. Believe me. There is no playing around. You really have to pay attention and learn the software bit by bit. I certainly have not come anywhere close to being able to produce a wearable pattern, but I don’t have to. That’s because the other product they make is a raft of pdf patterns their designers create with their software. These patterns are produced by a company called Sewist GmbH, based in Geneva, Switzerland. And for a small price, they will make a pattern for you based on your measurements, and it will arrive in your email box within fifteen minutes. Genius? Yes, genius!
First, there are the designs. Lekala produces new patterns every week, as far as I can figure out, and many of them are interesting and appealing. In fact, browsing their site will take you down a rabbit hole, so plan to spend some time. Recently, I’ve been looking for tailored summer blouse patterns with interesting necklines, and I found one in their design #1231.
I used one of their patterns last winter just to try them and was pleasantly surprised by the fit of the resulting top. This time, I found myself a piece of linen-cotton blend, plugged in my measurements, paid my $4.00 or so, and downloaded the pdf pattern. Just a bit of advice: For fifty cents more, they will add seam allowances. I did this the first time I ordered one, but I wouldn’t do it again. Some of their seam allowance widths are odd, and I had to redo them anyway. Just be aware that if you don’t’ specifically order a pattern with seam allowances, you will have to add your own before you sew.
Geesh, I hate pdf patterns. I know I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I hate pdf patterns. Okay, I got that off my chest; now we can move on.
To check on the fit of the pattern, I created a muslin. I found it quite a good fit, but the style was a bit wide at the waistline, so I decided to nip it in a bit. After making that change to my pattern that I cut out in pattern paper, I was ready to go.
These patterns also come with downloadable instructions. That being said, I often prefer my own order of operations and my own techniques. For example, the instructions indicated that I should attach the front and back neck facing like I would attach a cuff to a sleeve. I thought it would involve far too much stitching in the ditch, and, anyway, the fabric lent itself very nicely to a serged finish and a good press. Their instructions also suggested using bias binding for the armholes. Since they are slightly extended cap sleeves, I usually would just turn them under. This time, I dug out the bias binding maker I bought years ago and never used (*bats eyes*) and, voila! I had custom binding! I also realigned the yoke so that it was cut on the cross-grain rather than the straight grain.
In the end, I do think it’s still a bit baggier than I would like, but it is, after all, a top designed for hot summer days. I might even take it to Spain in September. (Did I mention I’m going to Spain? No? Well, I’ll have to think about a wardrobe, won’t I? Maybe I’ll share my ideas!).
(Oh that linen-cotton blend does not photograph well!)
Lekala Patterns: https://www.lekala.co/
6 thoughts on “Custom-Sized Sewing Patterns: Could this be the solution to the perfect fit challenge?”
Hi Gloria: I love your blog! It’s so informative and naturally, well written. I’ve taken an (online) course with Alexandra Morgan about fitting commercial patterns and what a learning experience! We took our measurements and made adjustments and from that made our own shirt. From what I learned in the course I would agree with you that the blouse pattern could be much more flattering. Yes please, do share your wardrobe for Spain if you have time. I’m not going anywhere but would still love to see your creations. The Lekala Patterns are most interesting. I may have to try them! Mary
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Hi Mary! Thanks so much for reading and coming along with me on my sewing/style journey! I do love to write about travel and especially travel wardrobes and love to read others’ stores so I will probably write about it before I go. I usually also do a follow-up to see how the plan worked out. P. (aka GG)
Hello Gloria. I did love this post and immediately jumped down that Lekala rabbit hole you mentioned. Two hours later ….. I am very interested in testing the fit of a custom made pattern and will add this to my ‘list’. For the moment I am working through the methodology of custom fit with the SureFit Design system of drafting and I think this may end up being the answer to perfectly fitting garments. The missing piece for me is adapting a perfectly fitting sloper to incorporate the design elements of commercial patterns. Another excellent resource is the book by Liechty, Rasband and Pottberg-Steineckert “Fitting and Pattern Alteration” (Fairchild Books) which covers every fitting issue you can dream up and how to address it (in several different ways) in both RTW garments and paper patterns. Alexandra Morgan also offers an amazingly generous amount of free information about fitting issues on her In-House Patterns website. Also, for petite ladies, SBCC Patterns design specifically for petite ladies “of all shapes and sizes”. You may have guessed I have been on a quest to unlock the secrets of pattern fitting in recent times – [thanks Covid for enforced solitude]. Happy sewing from Sydney, Australia.
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I have some experience in using my sloper to customize commercial patterns and I must say that it’s a fun process. I must have a look at the Alexandra Morgan site…thanks for the tip and thanks for reading!
I’m intrigued by which measurements are factored into the custom patterns and which aren’t. Did you find that it could cater for all the alterations you would usually make? I’ve seen a few people recently ordering Beatrice custom dress forms based on a body scanning app, and I wonder whether there’ll ever be an equivalent for patterns?
I have only used two top patterns so I cant’ say which measurements are used for dresses and pants. For tops, they request height, bust, underbust, waist, high hip and low hip. I’d love it if they also included figure length and over-bust. For me, that would provide an even better fit. I do have to say that it provides a better fit requiring fewer alterations than the standard pattern size I choose. Perhaps they’ll get better!
I’d love to see scanning capability for the provision of custom-sized sewing patterns! I’m going to investigate a bit and see if anyone is working on this! P. (aka GG)
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