Linen dresses part I

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OK I know I announced a lot of posts, or at least weekly ones, but of course life/work got in the way. I’m currently enjoying freezing in the streets of NYC for a quick 5 days and then I will be off to Guatemala. I made this dress before the end of 2013, and it is sort of an experiment than could be entitled “what happens when you let your boyfriend design your dress?”.

First of all, I have to say that he is very interested in women dressing. Like we shop together, for real. He does not wait around the entrance looking like he’s trying to escape. He selects clothes on the rack, wait around the dressing rooms, gives his opinion about fit and quality of material, etc. I’ve never been so much of a group shopper but for some reason it works well and generally if I follow his advice I get a lot of compliments by strangers later… So ok I give in, a guy may have better taste than me to dress me… After doing a closet clean-out due to some weight loss and style evolutions, I talked him into defining a dress he would like to see me in.

Overall no big surprises : it’s short, it’s fitted and in a solid color… Men… He also made the specific requirement that it should be linen (and navy). Which is good because it’s the only natural fiber readily available in Haiti (at high cost though).

For the pattern I used the made to measure lekala 5166 that I used for my little 90’s dress. I altered the pattern to make a sleeveless dress (bring the underarm seam up and in), removed the back seam and its shaping so it’s a bit more loose in the waist, raise the neck line and create a placket opening, and finally lengthen it  a little. I’m sticking to my strategy of working based on Lekala patterns, and it has been very rewarding so far!

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Construction was fairly simple, I finished the seams with french seams and the front placket unbuttons down to the waist so no need for other closures. I fused the placket pieces and the opening on the dress. Unfortunately I only had white interfacing but it’s on the inside so it does not bother me too much. Since I made that dress well over 3 months ago, it got a lot of wear already. Comfortable + flattering + easy to wash = heavy rotation!!

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Overall the experiment was a total success so we tried a second time. I already have the pictures of that second (linen… again…) dress and should be able to post it soon! What about you ? Have you ever let someone else decide on all the aspects of a garment you were going to sew for yourself? Is your partner a good source of advice for clothing or does he run away when you say you are looking for constructive criticism ?

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Grainline Studio Archer Shirt dress by Sewing Tidbits

Late Archer appreciation: it’s a shirt, it’s a dress, it’s a shirtdress!

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What, a new post??? I warned you, it’s going to be crazy blogging weeks with at least a post a week… It will be probably followed by the usual hiatus. Not because I haven’t been sewing (I have, 2 pencil skirts in one weekend, so proud!) but because I travel every 2 months so that usually put everything on hold. This time, I will be going back to NYC for 5 days (YAY!!! FRIENDS !!! DOUBLE YAY!!! MOOD FABRICS!!! TRIPLE YAY!!!) and then joining The Old Man) in Guatemala (3rd time now).

Now going to this dress, if you follow me on Pinterest, you know that I have a limited number but very pronounced obsessions (hum hum Miranda Kerr… hum hum). Among them you can count skinny jeans, pumps, shirts, maxi skirts, pencil skirts and SHIRTDRESSES. All these pretty much define how I dress on a daily basis.

I already made one last year but since then I started thinking about a dress that would be basically a long loose shirt. And what would be more perfect than Grainline Studio’s Archer pattern for that purpose ? That’s right, NOTHING!

Following the advice on Twitter from A Stitching Odyssey, I used size 0 for bust and waist and graded out to a 2 in the hips. In addition, to turn this shirt pattern into a dress I just added 10 inches below the hips area. I think it’s important to do the lengthening below the hip level other wise you end up elongating the curve between the waist and the hip. Other than that I did 0 alterations. Yes, you read well zero.Knowing me you could have expected a debauch of 1/4″ seam allowances, redrafting of the under collar, changing the button placket, etc. But, I wanted to follow the sewalong to the letter, so i did NONE of that, ET VOILA! I finished all seams with french seams, including the armholes (I recommend it, it’s really really nice).

The fabric is something synthetic that I found here in Port-au-Prince, I would go for something like rayon. Actually, The Old Man found it and made me buy it. He is EXTREMELY proud of it, so every time I got a compliment for the dress, he is beaming (men..). As much as I like to contradict him, I have to admit that it’s nice to wear, easy to wash and to iron. I already used the remnants to make one of the pencil skirts mentioned above. But of course it will probably take me an additional 2 months to blog about those.

So anyway, I did not make it on time for the Archer Appreciation month launched by Lucky Lucille and Miss Crayola Creepy back in December (part of my love/hate relationship with sewalongs) but I really love this dress. It’s a great option for these days when you have nothing to wear! I have a white 23mm silk crepe in my stash that is screaming to be made into something similar to this very popular pinterest picture… I may remove 3/4″ to the shoulder length though, because they are dropping a bit.

Have a great day everybody, I will finish this post with a gratuitous picture of where I was last weekend, this is  Ile-a-Vache, an island in the South of Haiti.

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Frankenpattern making, the result of Grainline Moss and Lekala 5430

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460 by Sewingtidbits

 

You guys! I took pictures! I did, and of 3 projects so get ready for some intense blog activity, because I may be reaching a post a week! I know, I know, it’s going to be INSANE!

So, first to come is the result of my frankenpattern-making from december (DECEMBER !! shame…). I did a whole construction post then, so there is not much to add.

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460 by Sewingtidbits

 

As you can see, it’s VERY VERY short. I don’t know what possessed me when I decided on the length… If I remember well I chopped off at least 3″. Aaaah late night sewing, when will I learn ?? It’s a lot of (short) legs showing… But surprisingly, it does not stop me from wearing it almost every weekend. It’s like impractical cut-offs. What can I say, I like to live a dangerous life!

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460
Where I hold a wooden giraffe in an attempt to fight posing discomfort…

Now, on the whole process… The construction went seamlessly (haha) except because of my own stupid, stupid mistake. Can you spot what is wrong here ?

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460

That’s right, I assembled the wrong yoke and back pieces AND serged them AND topstitched them. YES BOTH OF THEM. The result looked kind of weird but I did not stop. When I realized, even though I was alone in my sewing room, I was extremely embarrassed… Of course I took a picture, so that you can all make fun of me or reassure me that it happens to everyone (while thinking, OMG this girl is kind of dumb!).

Apart from that I’m super happy with my pattern prep process, the zipper and the pockets almost assembled themselves (almost)…

Grainline denim moss skirt
Blurry rushed Iphone photo…

Denim grainline moss skirt Grainline moss denim skirt

Fabric : in my initial post, I said it was chambray and as you can all see, it’s not. It’s denim. OBVIOUSLY! I actually had to google the difference… The verdict is : denim is a twill, chambray is a plain will. So if you all knew this, you can make fun of me again.

Going back to this nice and soft denim, I do not remember where I bought it. It was 4 years ago, when I just moved to NYC and I decided to knock-off an Abercrombie gathered mini skirt. It was a disaster, skirt was never completed and very little fabric was salvaged, stored and moved to Haiti, to finally found its use 3 1/2 years later.

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio

 

Lastly, I’m thinking more and more about what I sewed and what I sew. I lost some weight in the last 6 months, so I went through a closet purge assisted by The Old Man – TOM. It was a painful process, but I had to admit that I don’t wear a lot of things that I made (including quite a few that was blogged last year). The time involved makes it extra hard to remove items from the closet, even though they were worn once. So I want to plan my projects a lot more carefully now.

TOM has a very precise idea of what he likes me to wear (very decent, I promise) and I’m starting to realize that he is usually right. Currently, I’m running by him my ideas before I jump into the making and the results have been very wearable: more solid colors, natural material and focusing on a close fit. As much as I like loose shapes and interesting prints, they tend to make overpower my small frame. To give you an idea, the next posts will include 2 solid linen dresses and a shirt dress.

What about you ? Do you have an approval process before you start a garment or you jump right into what your heart (or pinterest) tells you ?

Sewing with Lekala patterns – Part III / A simple dress


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Lekala dress 5166

The last time that I managed to take pictures for this skirt, I also did this Lekala 5166. BUT while I was uploading them in Iphoto, something went wrong – Iphoto quit “unexpectedly” – and the pictures were GONE. Already deleted from the camera and nowhere in Iphoto. I could have cried.

2 weeks later, I’m looking for a picture for a friend and I ended up founding the pictures of the dress in the photostream of my Iphone. My friend could not have cared less because I was trying to find for him the picture that a Haitian Government official uses as a chat profile pic where he happens to be topless with 3 rottweilers (yes it’s true… and the guy well into his 50’s). Anyway, I cared more about my dress!!

If you remember, I scared you in this post deciding to use an old school Lekala Pattern, namely Lekala 5166. IT IS scary on paper but in real life it’s just a cute fitted dress! The only change I made to the pattern (made to measure with the Lekala advanced features) was to make it shorter, waaaay shorter. I also changed the seam allowances in the back on the dress and the facings to apply my favorite invisible zipper method.

There is not much more to say apart that I LOVE THIS DRESS and I already modified the pattern to make a sleeveless version out of linen (waiting to be photographed). Next time that I will make it with sleeves I want to remove maybe 1/2″ of ease in the sleeve head as it almost puckered.

The fabric was bought in Mood NYC when I went back in June. It’s from Anna Sui, it was in the silk section but I have to admit that I never saw a silk with such a weave… As you can see on the back I paid absolutely NO attention to print matching. Should I have to? I don’t think I care (which is weird because I’m usually slightly obsessive about this kind of things)!

For the construction I mostly used my 4-thread serger as I am trying to teach myself to use it more. Since you can’t really cout on the instructions here is my order of construction :

  1. Sew the front and back darts
  2. Serge shoulder seams on the dress and the facings
  3. Serge side seams
  4. Serge underarm seam and hem the sleeves.
  5. Set sleeve in armhole, serge the finished seam.
  6. Serge Center back seams separately, attach invisible zipper, sew the back seam, attach facings to zipper and sew facing to the neck of the dress.
  7. Hem the dress
  8. DONE!!

It really is a quick one and the result quite 90’s but nice and easy to wear. The dress form shots :

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Lekala dress 5166

Did I convince you to use Lekala yet? Is print matching absolutely mandatory? But most importantly: How much 90’s is too much 90’s??

Franken-Pattern Making for faster/better sewing

If you are not familiar with the concept of Franken-Pattern Making (you can read about it here and here, unfortunately the original post from Sew-4-fun is no longer accessible), it consists of using sewing patterns for the design details only and mix them with a pattern you already know fits well (your personal blocks/TNT patterns if you want). It’s actually very close (if not the same) to what Carolyn does with her Pattern Sandwich method. It particularly suits my sewing style because 1/ my sewing time is limited and 2/ I don’t always have the courage to make a muslin. I also tend to spend a lot of time on the pattern. Taking classes at FIT (draping and patternmaking) really taught me patience when it comes to working on the pattern.  I remember reading one day on Fashion Incubator that you could break up time like this :

1 hour of pattern making, 1/2 hour of cutting, 1/4 hour of actual sewing.

It was enlightening! I drafted blocks in the past, trust me! I started early, by the time I was 15 I decided that pattern companies had it all wrong (haha, teenage overconfidence… I also thought that sleeves were stupid because they could not fit in armholes, STUPID SLEEVES!). As a result I got books and I started drafting, some of the result were TERRIBLE (this was my first book, not good…), some were good (with this book, this one, or this one). But at the end of the day, where are those drafts ? I DON’T EVEN KNOW!! I spent looooong  hours making them and turning them into usable patterns. I want to start from something that is already a pattern!

I said it before, I believe that Lekala patterns are particularly suited to play the role of starting blocks (haha, pun intended) or be used for a Focus on Fit approach, because :

  1. I’m very happy with the fit of the made to measure feature. It fits almost perfectly without alterations
  2. They have a wide range of styles, so I can start from something already close to what I want
  3. They are relatively cheap, they don’t add much to the overall cost of the project.
  4. I can print them with or without seam allowances. If I’m going to do a lot of changes I prefer to have none.

But let’s take a practical case so that I can explain myself better!

For Thanksgiving, amazing Jen of Grainline Studio organized a sale. I really admire the level of professionalism she brings to home-sewing patterns but I only made the Scout tee in the past. After seeing all the praise on her work (specially Archer), I decided to go ahead and purchase the Portside Travel Set, the Archer shirt, the Maritime shorts and the Moss mini skirt. Over the last few weeks I came to the conclusion that a short chambray skirt was THE basic that I was missing. To be with fair, I have this type of thoughts quite often, sometimes it’s legitimate (a white shirtdess, black slacks, a pencil skirt, etc.), sometimes it’s more questionable (a shiny midi skirt, leather shorts…). Anyway, my heart is currently set on a chambray mini skirt so I. NEED. ONE. NOW. The technical drawing of the Moss skirt is exactly what I want, but after looking at the size chart and Pattern Review, I know that there are very little chances that this pattern fits me right out of the enveloppe printer. My hips are size 4 and my waist is size 0…

So I  went on a search on the Lekala website, looking for something as close as possible. I set my heart on number 5430.

Lekala 5430
Grainline Studio - Moss Skirt
Grainline Studio – Moss Skirt

A comparison of the 2 drawings shows the design changes that I’m going to make to the Lekala pattern. But in addition, I like to embed construction in my pattern as much as possible. This means often changing the zipper parts, reducing seam allowances, etc. For this case, I settled on the following changes:

Design :

  1. eliminate the back dart for a yoke
  2. chop off the top of the waistband
  3. and add a back seam

Construction

  1. The Seam Allowances are dependent on the type of Seam Finish. I will serge and topstitche all visible seams on the inside. This means 1/2″. The seam between the skirt and the waistband will be encased so I will use 3/8″. But the top seam of the waistband will be only 1/4 to eliminate the need for grading it later. Hem will be double-folder : 3/4″and 1/2″.
  2. Pockets : i read how pleased people were with the pockets being attached to CF on the Moss skirt and how deep they are so I want to keep this feature BUT I also liked the 1 piece pocket bag from the Jedediah shorts by Thread Theory I just completed so I will incorporate that too!
  3. Fly zipper : I know everybody has it’s favorite technique, and people seems to feel very strongly about them. My best fly zipper of all times (and it was not only luck since I used it several times) was completed using this amazing book : Design Room Techniques by Laurel Hoffman. I know it’s pricey but it’s worth every penny. I promise!! Otherwise, I think this one by Notes from a Mad Housewife looks great too!

Now for the visual people out there, I took pictures of the process. First this is what a Lekala sheet looks like for a pattern without seam allowances :

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I started by drafting the yoke and closing the dart (TIP: close the dart first, which is not what I did on the picture below so I had to redraw my curve completely…)

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Then I added seam allowances on the back pieces and compared with the Moss pattern :

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My yoke is a lot curvier than the Moss one, which makes sense since I have a bigger hips/waist differential (please not that I should have aligned the straight grains before taking this picture)20131212-091210.jpg

The Waistband pieces have been modified to be thinner and to have the extension needed for the fly zipper. There for there are 2 pieces fro the front and one is longer than the other.

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For the front, I added seam allowances and drafted the zipper pieces from Laurel Hoffman’s book, using a 5″ zipper instead of 7″.

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Interstingly enough, it seams that although the back are almost exactly the same width, my Lekala is considerably larger in the front.

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The key of this zipper method is that right side and left side are NOT identical pattern pieces. I will remove 1/4″ on the one of the sides but only after cutting since I’m cutting double layer this time.

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A better view of the zipper set :

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Now the pockets : I did not change the pocket shape from the Lekala pattern as I find it close enough.

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But I redrafted the pocket bag, so that it’s deeper, it reachs the middle (Grainline Instructions) but it’s 1 full piece of contrasting fabric (I like to use muslin) to be folded and with “facings”  of self fabric (Thread Theory Style). The result is this :

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An essential step after all this work is to WALK ALL THE SEAMS and check/correct the notches. This is what will make your sewing really fast because everything will match seamlessly (haha, again).

For the fabric I had a very small leftover of chambray from an old old UFO (which I think I finally tossed). The limited amount of fabric will not allow extra for mistakes, all the more reasons to be extra careful with the pattern.

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As you can see on the picture below, I like to cut my waistbands with the grain parallel to the longer side. I think it makes them more stable. You can see all the fabric I have… It’s not much!!20131212-091322.jpg

I hope this process post was helpful, as I said in my blog anniversary post, I’m trying to bring more substantial content and not only final results pictures. So I would love to hear your thoughts about franken-patterns, fly zippers, etc. !!

I’m alive… And I took pictures!!

Sooooo, from what I read on other seamstresses blogs I’m not the only one struggling to take pictures. To be honest when it’s between some sewing time and some picture taking time, sewing wins every time… But I managed to make an effort. I praised so much the Lekala patterns that you deserve to see what they look like. CIMG2327 So as I said in my previous post, I started with Lekala 4285. It’s a nice pencil skirt with some shaping and pleats at the back. CIMG2308 The fabric is a stretch cotton pique from Mood. If I remember properly it was from Theory. It has quite a lot of stretch so it’s actually perfect for a pencil skirt to make the walk easy. CIMG2321 I made one alteration that is going to sound major but it’s actually kind of my fault. Between the stretch of the fabric and me being scared of not having enough ease in the hip area (so I stated a bigger hip measurement that usual when I ordered my pattern), the skirt was really big when I tried it on (before adding the facing). I ended up removing 1/2″on each side (total reduction 2″!!). Other than that, I made no alteration, not even the length!! CIMG2322 I used seam binding for all the seams. I’m sort of a seam binder maniac. I only got a serger this year and sometimes I get very upset that I don’t get good results right away. Because of my classes at FIT, I took the habit of binding the raw edges of my muslin samples (yes I like to get As…) so I bind quite fast now… But I promised that I’m improving my use of the serger, I try to use it at least once per project.

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I think the skirt will get a lot of wear, mostly at work. Of course, being white, it does suffer from a typical Murphy’s Law. Everytime I wear it, I have a 50% chance to drop something on it (think coffee, blood, anything that will show A LOT) in the first hour that I arrive in the office. It would be way too easy if it happened before I left the house, because I could change and where would be the fun of trying to conceal a stain for the whole day!

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The fabric definitely appears more wrinkly in the pictures than it is in real life. All the back seams are top stitched as well as the top of the pleats.

IMG_2197If you plan on making of these patterns, don’t rely on the instructions. Google Translate will NOT do a good job translating sewing stuff from russian to any other language. However the technical drawings are quite accurate so they are worth taking a look (or 2, or more…) at. IMG_2199

For the invisible zipper, I used my favorite technique (from Fashion Incubator), I know some people do it differently but I really don’t know why. It works perfectly every time! The adjustments that you need to your pattern are the followings:

  • The seam allowances in the zipper area is 1/2″, from the top to 1.5″ lower than the finishing point of the zipper.
  • The rest of the back seam is the way you like it (for me it’s 3/8″).
  • The facings have 0 seam allowance where they are going to be sewn onto the zipper.
  • Once you did this, you can refer to this post for the sewing order (includes pictures for the visual learners). I never even made the pressing jig (I’m too lazy).

So in my configuration, the pattern looks like this :

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And the finish zipper on the inside :IMG_2203

What’s your favorite zipper insertion method? Have you tried the Fashion-Incubator ones ?

Next time I will show you the little 90’s dress but I also already made a variation from that pattern and I finished the Jedediah shorts (YAY!!) so stay tuned, updates are coming!

Scary 3D and sewing in Russian (Lekala patterns)

First of all, I moved in my new house (which is totally cute and adorable) and I HAVE A SEWING ROOM AGAIN :

So I have been sewing! But in addition, I have been RUSSIAN sewing. I have jumped in the wonderful made to measure world of Lekala and I will have 2 reviews coming very very soon :

This skirt (already done, just waiting to be photographed):

Lekala skirt

Nice huh? That skirt is a good example of their current offering, and the way they styled their newer patterns. Now get ready for old school Lekala with my other ongoing project, this dress :

Lekala dress 5166

OK OK I know what you are thinking… WHY ???

Well, because of the made to measure feature. I’m happy to report that It works EXTREMELY well (more on that below). After making the skirt (with super minimal alterations), I thought I should focus on a basic shapes to build a library of blocks with well-fitting patterns (by now you should know that I am a Fashion Incubator avid reader). So now in only 2 weeks (and no muslins), I have a basic pencil skirt pattern that finally accommodates the difference between hips and waist and a sheath dress pattern with short waist, wide hips, and narrow shoulders adjustments !

You may have an idea of how happy this makes me feel if like me you have been spending years of buying pattern making books, taking classes at FIT, reading blogs, grading for height and, of course, making countless muslins…

5166 lines

If you look at the lines, you can see that dress is nothing more than a basic sheath that I mat end up using endlessly!Even if it’s a very basic shape, I believe that a short version in a nice print could be a cute cute dress. By chance (actually it has more to do with addiction to the silk section of Mood NY than with chance…), I am the happy owner an adorable Anna Sui print! Let’s sew cake with frosting fabrics! The whole thing feels kind of 90’s but hey, I grew up in the 90’s.

If I was following a similar process to Sunni‘s “Focus on Fit“, I think this is where I would start (or maybe with this dress eliminating the terribly cheap looking belt and the very classy front zipper…). And I would even go crazy and use 2 units and have the seam allowances included because I’m lazy and because blocks have seam allowances.

Now, if you want to join the fun and use the Russian patterns from Lekala (and not the american version), you NEED to read:

Once you read them this is my 2 additional cents: you need to do step 1 BEFORE step 2 on the registration page. I know I know… it sounds completely stupid not to. Sometimes you (ok, I… maybe it’s only me) think that you can spare the extra step when really YOU CAN’T! Wait to receive the confimation of your PIN number (yes you need to wait… and it may take a few hours…). Then you can go as described by Fehr Trade and Steppenpuppy and use step 2 (second option) to register the credits you bought (done on softkey with a paypal account so you don’t give your banking info to any russian website…).

The made to measure feature. What I can report after 2 patterns is that it works extremely well and ease is minimal !! For less than 2 dollars per pattern it is totally amazing.

One detail is that I feel that if you use the same measurement for hips with and without belly slightly projecting you will receive a blank email, so I put a minimal difference (1cm). Now get ready for the funniest and most hideous version of your body that you could ever imagine. This is mine:

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Hello pear shape!

So when you find a pattern that you like, you can click directly on this button (next to the order button) (line-size)  and there you will enter the “string” that you received with your scary 3D body. Choose your printing options (for me it’s pdf and letter), enter the email address you have been using for registration in step 1 and click “proceed with the order”. Now tricky part (not really but I hesitated so…) choose the 3rd option : Payment from the user”s account (pin code 4 digits). Enter your PIN (the one from step 1) and you are done ! Your order may take has much as an hour to arrive in your mailbox so don’t worry!

Finally you need to be pretty comfortable about sewing on your own, the Google translate of the instruction from Russian is… confusing to say the least! I will try to give more details about fit, use of seam allowances and other things in my review of the skirt.

I also want to report that I contacted the customer service: leko@lekala.info (twice… because of my refusal to submit and accomplish step 1 before step 2…). There is a big language barrier but they are very responsive, less than a day, and willing to help.

Have you tried lekala? What do you think about them?