Lekela blouse – pattern review and toile

Have you heard of Lekela patterns?

I’ve been aware of them for quite some time but I’ve never taken the plunge and tried them out. Originally their website was more than a little messy and their ordering system the same, and although I liked the look of some of their patterns, I really couldn’t be bothered faffing around with it all.

However they’ve recently upped their game and the site it much cleaner, more easily navigable, and the prices are super low.

I paid $2.69 for pattern 5098, which is this blouse pattern:

Blouse With Wide SleevesI chose this pattern because it’s very similar in style to a RTW blouse I’m wearing to death, that I’d like to replicate, and that I’d like to become part of my planned suite of Wardrobe Architect inspired TNT patterns.

And, frankly, at $2.69 I can afford to take a punt on this…other than a bit of time and some muslin fabric, I’ve nothing to lose.

Buying the pattern

Obviously it’s really easy to buy a PDF pattern.  5 minutes and the thing is in your inbox and waiting to be printed.

Lekela is that simple but you also get the opportunity to choose whether you’d like your pattern with or without seam allowances, which is pretty cool.  Also you get to input your own measurements so that the pattern can be adjusted accordingly.

In theory this is just bloody marvellous.  But don’t get all excited just yet…you’ll see why in a moment.


As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t mind the whole process of print/stick/trace that is your lot if you order a PDF pattern.  Even adult patterns.  I pour a glass of wine, arm myself with scissors, magic tape and a bit of space at the table and crack on. It’s especially fun if I’ve got episodes of The Archers to listen too.

So that’s what I did.

And I wished I’d had more wine.

I’ve had experience of poorly tiled PDFs before but nothing on this scale. Firstly there are only guidelines at the side margins to show where you need to trim the paper to fit together….nothing at the top or bottom margins.

Secondly there are no guide marks to show where the tiled pages should connect to the one next to it.  So you’re trying to match the actual cutting/sewing lines of the pattern piece.

That wouldn’t be so bad if they actually line up…but I had to do some serious jiggery pokery to make that happen.

I know you get what you pay for but, seriously, this was ridiculous.  If you were a newbie sewer, or new to the whole PDF malarky, this could really be problematic for you.

The instructions

Think Burda.  ‘Nuff said.

The Toile

Having thrown the pattern in the corner to teach it some manners, I came back to it refreshed the next day to cut and fit the toile.

This pattern should be used as a teaching tool in every sewing class to show the reason why you make a toile.

Here’s a spectacularly hideous photo of me wearing the toile cut straight from the pattern with no alterations.  Bear in mind that I input my measurements for this:

2014-03-20 17.43.46

It’s just awful.  It’s waaaaaaaaay to big,  I know I’m starting to lose weight but I’ve not lost that much overnight! (Oh, I wish!)  Also, the neckline doesn’t reflect the illustration, and overall it’s too long.

This is the second toile after some adjustments:

2014-03-20 17.41.45

Toiles are so flattering…but this is so much better…and I’ve tweaked the pattern a little more after looking at this picture.

My alterations:

  • Removed 2″ from the centre front and centre back.  I crossed checked this against the inspiration blouse and it was clear that all the excess fabric was in that area.
  • Widened the neckline, again using my RTW blouse to check the sizes.
  • Dropped the neckline by about an inch.
  • Lowered the bust dart by about 1/2 inch.
  • 1/2 inch forward shoulder adjustment.
  • Hollow chest adjustment
  • Rounded back adjustment
  • 1″ removed from the hem

The forward shoulder/rounded back/hollow chest adjustments are standard fare for me, but I’ll admit to being disappointed that, having given specific measurements, the overall size of this blouse was so far off the mark.

I didn’t fit the sleeve for this muslin as there is a lot of volume to allow for mobility and I’m really pleased with the fit of the armhole.  However I will ‘walk’ the armscye and sleeve head before I cut any fabric…just to be sure one will fit the other!

So…what do I think of Lekela patterns?

I think in principle this is a great idea.  The model for this website is obviously low price/high volume.  $2.69 is a ridiculously low price to pay for a sewing pattern, but they’ve cut right back on the instructions and everything is obviously generated by the software.  Once you’ve done the basic pattern in one size, and an illustration, I’m making a fairly educated guess that everything else is automated.

However, and it’s a big however, there are still a lot of kinks to iron out.  The fit is way off and the PDF tiling is atrocious…the worst I’ve ever experienced.

I wouldn’t recommend these for novice sewists, but if you’re comfortable hacking a pattern around to get the fit, then go for it.  These patterns cost less that a small takeaway coffee so it’s a tiny investment.

I’m hoping to get a sewing day tomorrow and start actually cutting out the fashion fabric.  I’ll be using a super cheap, but really pretty poly from Abakhan for this pattern’s first proper outing.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

Wish me luck!

ps…please ignore the absolute tip that is the sewing loft at the moment.  We keep saying “let’s go and finish packing the loft up” and then settling down with a glass of wine and a movie.  It’s just such a miserable job that The Husband would rather lift tiled floors than do it, and I need him to dismantle the heavy stuff before I can do any more.  So it sits, like an albatross atop the house. And we drink wine and ignore it!

32 Responses to Lekela blouse – pattern review and toile

  1. mrsmole says:

    I have been intrigued with the concept of sending in your exact measurements and what actually shows up in the email. Maybe the best way to go about copying a blouse is to lay it flat on paper and trace around it? With your list of things you altered just to start and then with the second muslin…that is almost you doing all the work for a simple pattern design…whew! Looking forward to the next step!!!!

    • Great minds…I’ve had the Craftsy course that covers this sat waiting for me for ages. I think it’s time to crack on and do it and copy this blouse and some jeans.

  2. Helen says:

    I had a similar experience with Lekala many years ago. I wrote (what I thought was) a balanced review on PatternReview, stating that it was a good concept but the pattern didn’t work for me and I thought you needed more than bust-waist-hip measurements to get a “customised” pattern to work. I got a really snarky comment (that I suspect was from someone linked to the company) telling me that it was my sewing skills at fault. It has really put me off Lekala patterns ever since.

    • Oh that’s very poor. Why do people feel the need to be snarky online? It’s so unnecessary.
      I do try to keep my reviews balanced here and realise that this is just my experience. Marianne has had a better time of it than me. But I’m glad I gave it a go, and will get a wearable blouse out of this, and didn’t drop too much money it on either, so it was a worthwhile experiment.
      I think the premise is a great one, just it needs some tweaking before it would be good for me.

  3. Marianne says:

    That’s no fun! I made my first Lekala top a few weeks ago and it was so good I’m making a second one as we speak. I did not notice anything wrong with the PDF, however, I forgot to fill in the extra tab for adjustments. I did a vertical only FBA. That was my only tweak. I think we will always have to check the personal details like forward shoulders, or hollow chests in any pattern but I was pleased with a pattern that was made for my height and more or less my measurements. I made notes about things that were a bit off so I can answer Lekala’s questions more accurately next time. You know like ‘is your neck wider than average’ or ‘is your apex relatively high’ ? Uhh? What’s the standard?
    I’m planning more Lekala patterns in the near future and will keep an eye on your findings. Good luck with your blouse!

    • I absolutely agree about the adjustments such as forward shoulder/hollow chest…I didn’t have a problem with having to do these as they are standard for me. I was disappointed with the rest of the fit though, although this is just my experience.
      I did look at the “standard” questions and scratched my head. It would be good if they could clarify this for users.
      I’m so glad your experience has been better than mine. I love the online community because it generates a real debate that enables everyone to make better and more informed decisions before investing their hard earned pennies. So, thank you for your comment.

  4. Bring on the wine box….a bottle would not be enough for me I think if I had to deal with this! Well done for persevering 🙂 Looking forward to seeing the outcome.

  5. It looks like we’ve both been playing with muslins this weekend 🙂 The second version looks so much better, but I agree with you it’s overall less fitted and longer than I would have expected from the drawing. Perhaps you should take it in at the waist a bit? What about rubbing off the shirt you like a lot (I am terrible at that so if you don’t like it I really understand!)

  6. Melizza says:

    I’ve printed out one of the free patterns just to check it out. I’ve been very curious after seeing this company mentioned in quite a few sewing blogs.

    • I do think I’ll end up with a very wearable top…I’d just expected a little more from the initial fit. But, at the price of them, it’s not a big disaster at all. Good luck with yours.

  7. I had enough of printing out pdf patterns making a pair of leggings from Burda Style so my metaphorical hat is off. Knew the thought of customized patterns was too good to be true. Thank you for the review 🙂

    • I really don’t mind the PDF’s…just didn’t enjoy this one. 😉 I’ll own up that I didn’t bother tracing it off. That would have been a step tooooooooooooo far.
      I’ve just had a very quick peek at your blog and roared with laughter at the Les Dawson reference, and am green with envy at your copies of Golden Hands!

      • Aww, thank you. I love a bit of Les. I only have three but I am going to start looking out for them. I think I might have some of the original part-works unbound in storage. I love a bit of 70’s nostalgia. Xx

        • He was a genius! I’m keeping an eye out for Golden Hands too. And I love the old Stitchcraft magazines. I’m mortified that when my grandmother died 30 years ago we binned her collection of them #headtodesk!

  8. knitsofacto says:

    What you’ve described here is exactly why I avoid PDF patterns. To be honest I’d rather draft my own from the designs in a book, at least that way the only person at fault if it goes wrong is me!

    • The more I sew the more I realise I need to bite the bullet and draft. I’ve done a little but really need to sink my teeth into it. I think it’s the way forward as I have to make so many alterations to fit my shape I may as well just do the drafting.

  9. prttynpnk says:

    They recently had a big sale and I got them for $1.99 each, so I ordered 4 top patterns and the map of the pdf was not very encouraging! I will be going very slowly on these!!!

  10. K-Line says:

    Truly, I wouldn’t have noticed the “sewing tip” if you hadn’t mentioned it! That’s how trained I am to keep my eye on the muslin 🙂 I have checked this site out – a while ago when it was really messy – so I haven’t taken the plunge. And after this write-up, I think I’m going to give it a while before I do!

    • Honestly, you have amazing skills and would be fine, but you’d need wine and to soundproof the room for the expletives. I made sure the kids were in bed. They have great vocabulary for their age, but I surely don’t want them picking up the language I was using. 🙂

  11. Andrea says:

    Thanks for the heads up about this pattern company. I had been curious, but after reading this review I think I will have to take a pass. I hate PDF patterns as it is and based on your description I would probably end up wanting to poke my eyes out, even if (or perhaps because?) wine was involved in the process!

  12. sophie o. says:

    Thanks for the review! though it sounds tempting, I’m not going to jump right in – my main problem being that I can’t go past the illustration for the pattern, it’s just not inspiring enough for me to try any, even of they were free 🙂

    • And the instructions are dire! I’ll cover it in another post but I was roaring with laughter last night. I’ll never complain about Burda instructions again! 😉

  13. Oh dear and I, like you, had been delaying trying them out. Now I think I’ll keep waiting and see if production value improves a bit.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the post-toile work out.

  14. Pingback: Lekela 5098 – the finished blouse | Pendle Stitches