Beaded Blouse – Lekala 5767

WithNeedleAndThread - Beaded Blouse


Several years ago, when I was first getting into sewing clothing and before I knew anything about what I was doing, I picked up two 2 yard pieces of a mystery poly blend woven fabric. It’s been sitting in my closet ever since, keeping quiet about what it really wanted to be since I rarely sew with lightweight wovens.

As soon as the first round of the Pattern Review sewing bee was announced (see the rules here – we were challenged to make a fitted blouse in about a week), this fabric started screaming at me. It wanted to be a fitted blouse with ruffles and beadwork.

I used Lekala 5767, a fitted blouse with shaping through front and back princess seams as well as darts, 3/4 length set-in sleeves, button front closure, and a collar with collar stand.

Outside of the fit of the blouse, many of the details of the blouse were inspired by a RTW Alberto Makali blouse (see inspiration and original pattern in photo below).

The pattern had a collar and collar stand, which I used as drafted in the pattern. The collar is a bit oversized, which I liked for this particular blouse as it allows the collar to stand out amongst the ruffles. However, if I were making the blouse as originally drafted, I would probably reduce the collar a bit.

I added a 1 inch ruffle (made with a straight strip of fabric with one edge finished with a serged rolled hem, then gathered to about ¾ its original length). The ruffle runs from below the collar, down the right front, around the back, and only partway up the left front, then picking up again where the left front again becomes visible (thereby reducing bulk under the overlap between the two front pieces).

I also rounded the center fronts at the lower hem level so that the ruffles would settle smoothly into place.

As a trim/finishing detail, I added 22 individually stitched beads along the inner border of the ruffle running along the right front from the lowest snap up to the collar, and again on the left front where visible along the neckline and two at the corners of the collar.

The pattern called for buttons and buttonholes, but after adding my ruffle, I opted to instead use four sew-in snaps, which I carefully stitched into the reinforced hem/ruffle seam.

I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch, and removed the slit, and left off the tie, instead finishing my sleeve with a simple turned hem so that the focus would remain on the above-mentioned details.

All internal seams were finished with serging in the same thread as the hem of the ruffle.


The pattern fit well as drafted – I’ve used Lekala patterns enough to have a fairly good idea of which measurements and adjustments will give me the closest to accurate fit for different types of garments (usually not my exact measurements). I did raise the armscye for a closer fit and slightly increased range of movement.

Lekala patterns aren’t known for their instructions. However, I’ve found that since I’m not relying on the instructions for each step (and the patterns have great bones), the patterns are often great jumping-off points for making projects your own.

I basically gave the instructions a quick read-through, sewed the bodice, then ignored the instructions for the remainder of the blouse, instead relying on several online tutorials and videos for instruction on how to sew the collar/collar stand, and reminders on things such as the supposedly proper way to press a dart.

Going into this project, I thought that my biggest challenge was going to be the collar as I’d never made a collar with a stand and collar piece before – I’d made each before, but not in combination with one another.

However, it turns out that my biggest challenge was actually the ruffle that I added – first I couldn’t gather it evenly, then when I was basting it to the blouse, I caught the ruffle up in the seam in at least 5 places and had to carefully remove the stitches and re-stitch. It was more a case of my thinking it should be easy and not giving it my full attention than anything else, so lesson learned – don’t get distracted and think about what to write in your review while still sewing the blouse.

I didn’t realize it until taking pictures, but my biggest issue with the finished blouse is that the fabric shows every wrinkle every time I so much as flinch. And the fabric doesn’t breathe. At all. But that should make it a great blouse for me for fall when everyone else is still wearing t-shirts and shorts and I’m freezing.

My Uniquely You Dress Form…

…and a blazer, because the two go hand-in-hand.

I’d been wanting a dress form for a while when I found a decorative-type dress form at a discount store last year. It looked smaller than any dress form I’d seen, and seemed close to my measurements, so I grabbed it up, thinking it would be “the one.” Well, of course once I got it home and started using it, I realized that close wasn’t good enough and that it was really too big all around, but particularly in the shoulders and bust, for me to use for any sort of fitted or draped garment. It quickly became a glorified, decorative coat rack where I tossed any project that didn’t seem to be coming together the way I wanted at any given moment.

And all the while, I researched dress forms whenever I had fitting issues with a project or got tired of trying on a piece-in-progress on a million times. Lots of research showed me that most dress forms, even those in small or petite sizes, weren’t quite small enough. Despite knowing back in November/December that I was going to be budgeting all of my holiday gift money toward a dress form, I couldn’t find “the one” and didn’t make any purchases until early February.

I ended up going with a Uniquely You dress form, which came close to fitting everything on my wishlist (and a few things that I hadn’t thought to consider but love now – it’s pin-able and “steam-on-able” in addition to being small enough to fit my clothing). These dress forms consist of two parts: a foam “base” and a fabric cover (which you buy separately to suit your sizing needs). You fit the cover to yourself, then squish the foam form into the fitted cover, giving you a finished form that more-or-less mimics your body’s measurements, if not shape.

I got the petite sized form, with the size 2 cover. As many of the other reviews have shown, she does indeed come with two torpedoes (my mom was with me when I pulled her out of the box and was ready to name her Dolly). I couldn’t resist putting the cover on her immediately, just to see how it worked with no adjustments, and then let her sit like this for a few weeks while I got up the nerve to fit the cover. Of course, I didn’t take a picture of her with the cover, but did take one as soon as she came out of the box.

It took a few tries for me to get the cover/form to match my measurements, even after very snugly fitting the cover to myself. Note: this isn’t exactly how the directions say to do it, but my way seemed to make more sense to me at the time. First, it was too big all around, so I figured I must not have fit it snugly enough and took out a smidge from each of the main seams. Then it was too small all around, so I let out the side seams. At this point, it was the right size/shape through the underbust, waist, and hips, and my mom was asking me if this was really something I was enjoying as we squished the form back into the cover for what seemed like the hundredth time (and it is definitely a two person job…I would probably still be trying to get that cover zipped onto the form if I hadn’t had help). I decided that rather than risk messing up any of those measurements that now looked right, I would use an old bra and pad out the bust to get the right shape and measurements.

Uniquely You Dressform - WithNeedleAndThreadUnlike many of the reviews I read, I didn’t need to perform surgery on the torpedo boobs to get them to fit into the cover – though I have to admit that they weren’t pretty before I added the bra. Nor did I cut off the shoulders, as I have seen others do, to reduce the shoulder width. Instead, I went with a slightly less permanent fix, by sewing a band of muslin to match my shoulder measurements and using that to reduce the shoulders from about 15.5 to 14 inches.

To give the fitted, padded, and banded form a more finished/polished look, since it would be sitting out a lot of the time, I used less than a yard of super stretchy swimsuit knit to make a final cover for the form. I draped the fabric wrong side out over the form, and working in somewhat equal increments, stretched and pinned the fabric along the sideseams and shoulders/neck of the form. Then I carefully eased the pinned fabric off of the form and used the pins as a stitching guide. After sewing along the pinned lines, I flipped it right side out and put it back on the dress form, and handsewed the bottom (so it’s easily removable, which is the one thing I’d change somehow if I were making another).

As a test, I put my just-finished jacket on the dress form and took a picture. Then had my mom take a picture of me wearing the jacket so that I could compare how the jacket hung on both. And, I think it fits both of “us” pretty similarly, so I am calling project dress form a success.

Lekala 4162 Coral Blazer - WithNeedleAndThreadThe blazer is Lekala 4162, a classic princess seamed blazer with a notched lapel and single button closure, which I’ve made a few times and seems to have become my go-to pattern for both dressy and casual jackets. This one is made with a textured jacquard knit from Fabric Mart and is lined with a coral and black polka dot ITY knit, also from Fabric Mart.

I’ve worn the blazer several times between when I finished it and when I got around to writing this post, and I’ve noticed that the lapels naturally want to break slightly higher than called for in the pattern. Since the fabric doesn’t hold a crease very well, I decided to go with it and added a second button above the first.


Lekala 4298: My New Little Black Coat

Lekala 4298 Seamed Coat Detail - WithNeedleAndThreadSeveral weeks ago, in the middle of a small heat wave, I had the crazy desire to make a winter coat. Out of wool. Heavy, cozy, black wool. In 80+ degree weather. It was a bit of an odd time for this fabric to start speaking to me, but I decided to run with it and get a jump on my winter sewing.

I picked up this great wool fabric when it went on end-of-season clearance at FabricMart last spring, with the goal of making a classic/traditional black coat, but with no plan or pattern in mind other than knowing that I want to make just another black coat. I used Lekala 4298, a knee-ish length coat with princess seams in the back, and decorative/shaping seams in the front. I was drawn to the interesting and unique seamlines on the front of this coat, which I hoped would give a bit of subtle visual interest to a black coat (and I think it worked out exactly as I hoped).

The pattern seems to have been …inspired… by this Burberry pattern. Which apparently sold for around $3,000 when it was in stores.

The shell Lekala 4298 Seamed Coat Front - WithNeedleAndThreadof this coat is made up of eighteen pieces, six of which make up the front. None of those six pieces resemble traditional coat or jacket pattern pieces, at least none that I’ve encountered in the past. I nicknamed this my “jigsaw puzzle coat” fairly early on in the process, as working with the oddly shaped pieces was a bit like putting together a puzzle. The instructions did help with the construction order for the strangely shaped pieces, but I could have used a few diagrams in with the writing – it took me a few more tries than I care to admit to get the front of the coat correctly sewn together. After I solved the pattern piece puzzle, I colored the seam allowances of the various pieces in different colors so that I have a color coded guide for if/when I decide to sew this pattern again.

The fact that Lekala patterns are custom to your measurements gave me a great starting point on this coat, and I didn’t have to make many alterations. The only alterations I made were to raise and make smaller the armscye and narrow the sleeves.

The pattern calls for all of those fancy seams on the front to be topstitched, but seems to ignore the back of the coat (save for adding the tabbed belt piece). I decided that if I were going to be spending all the time on the seaming and topstitching on the front of the coat that the back deserved some, too, and added topstitching to the side and back seams.

I knew from my muslin that I was going to make several substantive design changes, as well, mostly do to my lack of height. I shortened the coat by several inches to get a car or walking coat length, as the original pattern’s hem fell at a funny spot on me and made me look shorter than I already am (and I aim for my clothing making me look taller, if anything). Since I shortened the pattern, I didn’t feel the need for the back vent, and left that off.Lekala 4298 Seamed Coat Back - WithNeedleAndThread

The pattern called for, if I recall correctly, seven 3/4″ to 1″ buttons on the front, not even carrying the buttons through to the hem of the coat – seven buttons all on a smidge more than half the length of the coat. Which I guess would work on a super tall model, but I thought that felt way too crowded on my coat (again – I’m short), and only used three.

I left off the huge (on me) angled pocket flaps, then went ahead and also left off the pockets themselves as I felt they broke up and distracted from the great seaming details on the front, which, to me, were the main attraction of the pattern. I contemplated adding in-seam pockets to the side seams, but decided that wasn’t the most comfortable place for pockets and then managed to convince myself that I didn’t really need pockets as I almost always have a purse with me and can shove all of my stuff in that rather than in pockets. And use gloves if it gets that cold here. But, really, where I live, the coat should keep me warm enough.


A New Fall Jacket: the “Moto-blazer”

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazerI’d been wanting (to make) a moto/biker-style jacket for a while, buy hadn’t found a pattern that spoke to me, so the project kept getting bumped further and further down my “to make” list. Included in my list of wishes for my jacket were that it: have an asymmetrical but mostly straight zipper (versus a diagonal zipper), have an actually collar (not just the lapels), have traditional two-piece sleeves with no gussets, zippers, buttons, or extra seams, and that it be fitted rather than boxy, ideally with princess seams.

In other words, I wanted a cross between a classic moto-style jacket and a traditional blazer. Once I came to that epiphany, I decided to set about making my own “frankenpattern” (an oh so technical term for when you combine two or more different patterns to create one new pattern…think Frankenstein). I debated between several different moto jacket patterns before deciding on Simplicity 2056, which had the collar, lapels, and straight-off-center front that I had envisioned. For the blazer portion, I used Lekala 4162, a classic blazer pattern which I’ve made before and know fits well.

I traced the front of the Simplicity pattern onto the front piece of the Lekala pattern, lining up the shoulders and center fronts. When I cut the traced pattern out, I kept the center front part of the moto jacket and blended into the armscye princess seam lines of the blazer. In the photo below, the purple is the Lekala pattern, the teal is the moto jacket, and the red should be ignored (I traced two sizes of the moto jacket and ended up going with the smaller one – this is the larger one).


In addition, I used the side front, side back, back, and sleeves from the Lekala pattern, and the collar and pocket pieces from the moto jacket pattern. About halfway though the project, I started calling my jacket a “moto-blazer,” and I think that name is going to stay with it.
Based on the pattern envelope images, I thought that the moto jacket collar may be too big for me, so I basted it on before sewing it for real. And it did turn out too big; I would up narrowing it by increasing the seam allowance along the back seamline, taking 1.5” from the corner, tapering to .75” at center back, then back out to 1.5” at the other corner. I probably could have made it smaller still, but decided to embrace the slightly oversized collar to give the jacket even more of a different look from the other jackets in my closet.

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazerSince I had changed the fit of the moto jacket and was changing the pocket style of the blazer pattern, I added the pockets after I’d sewn most of the jacket, but before attaching the lining. This allowed me to determine the ideal length and placement of the pockets as they would fall when I was actually wearing the jacket. I think my pockets ended up being a bit smaller than a traditional pocket, but they work on me. And I don’t really intend to use the pockets for much, so going smaller with the pockets wasn’t an issue. This was the first time I’ve put zippered pockets in a jacket, and I initially found the idea of cutting a whole in my jacket slightly terrifying. Of course, in reality, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d built it up to be in my head and I’m glad I went ahead and put in the pockets/zippers.

After the jacket shell was mostly finished (and pockets mentioned above inserted), I decided that I really didn’t like the look of the partially exposed zipper that I was originally intending to use (the left zipper piece had no seam to be sewn into…which I hadn’t fully taken into consideration when combining my patterns as the Simplicity pattern originally called for buttons rather than a zipper on the view I used). Luckily, I had enough wiggle room (or extra ease that could be un-eased) that I was able to taper the top edge of the zipper tape, and fold the jacket fabric over the edge of the zipper tape to create a faux-seam. If/when I make this pattern again, I’d probably draft a real seam into the pattern here as I like this look much better than the exposed zipper look.

The fabric is a wool blend coating that I got from a few years ago. Though it’s hard to see in my pictures, it is a blend of cream/tan, olive, purple, and mustard yellow threads. I lined the jacket with purple Bemberg lining.

Zipper issues aside, I am happy with the way my new “moto-blazer” turned out and am now anxiously waiting for the weather to cool down enough so that I can wear my new jacket.


A Closetful of Jeans

Over the past few months, I’d noticed that despite having many pair of jeans, I was drawn to the same 2 or 3 pairs of jeans everyday, and I had been running into problems figuring out what to wear when all three pairs were in the wash. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that all three pairs were jeans that I’d made, and that I had no intention of wearing the closet-full of store bought jeans for anything other than yard work or puttering around the house. Partially inspired by the great timing of Pattern Review’s One Pattern, Many Looks contest, I decided to donate all of the old jeans that I hadn’t been wearing and replace them with better-fitting, me-made jeans.

The One Pattern, Many Looks contest challenges you to use one pattern to make 2 or more different garments without making any substantive changes to the pattern itself. The goal is to use different fabrics, trims, embellishments, etc. to create a variety of different looks without needing to go through the fitting and alterations process for each item. For the contest, in the case of self-drafted patterns such as my jeans, the first pair made counts as the base pattern, which determines what you can and cannot change in subsequent versions. In preparation for me jeans-making spree, I tweaked my base jeans pattern a bit, adjusting the grainlines, rise, and pocket curve. Because my pattern is for stretch denim, and each stretch denim stretches differently, I had been basting each pair together, tweaking for fit, making note of the correct seam allowances and where needed deviating from the norm, and then carefully un-stitching everything before sewing them up for real. With the first pair that I made for the contest, I changed my construction order, making it easier to adjust the fit with less seam-ripping.

I used my tnt jeans pattern, which I made a few years ago using Kenneth King’s Craftsy class, and tweak for fit every few months. I ended up making 5 pairs of jeans during the month that this contest ran.

This pair is a medium-weight stretch denim from FabricMart Fabrics. If I remember correctly, it was Marc Jacobs fabric. The back of the fabric is primarily white, and I thought about doing some sort of color blocking to play up the reversibility of the denim, but decided to stick with the more classic, solid color and subtle tone-on-tone topstitching. Since they were pretty basic once sewn, I decided to add a bit of embroidery to the back pockets, and a second decorative button and loop (non-functioning, purely decorative) to the front to give them a bit more personality without making them too casual.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the classic bright gold on dark denim look on jeans, so for my take on “classic, dark wash jeans”, I went with a goldish-brown for my topstitching and the embroidery on the back pockets. The ‘contrast’ stitching became a bit less contrast and more subtle after the first run through the wash, and I’m hoping it doesn’t lose any more brightness in the future. Other than that, they are pretty much your standard jeans, without the coin pocket (which I’ve never seen the point of and rarely put on any of my jeans). The denim is a medium-weight stretch denim that I got more than a year ago from FabricMart Fabrics.

Since my attempt at a dark wash jean with contrast stitching sort of flopped, I decided to go with a definite contrast for this pair, in an effort to make a more casual pair of jeans. I ‘auditioned’ a variety of colors on a scrap of fabric before settling on two lines of stitching for most topstitched seams: a thick white thread closest to the seam and two strands of blue variegated threads for the second row. I used the bolder of the two variegated threads for the embroidery on the back pockets. With the exception of the back pockets, the fabric/thread combination isn’t quite as ‘in your face’ as I had expected, and I like the finished product a lot more than I expected.

Made with Black Bebe Diagonal Twill-Weave Knit from FabricMart, this is my take on the jeggings/yoga pant craze that seems to be sweeping the nation. After basting most of the pants together to see how much I had to adjust due to using a knit rather than a woven (turns out, not at all with this fabric), I realized that these actually slightly resembled slacks rather than jeans. So, following that thought, I left off the back patch pockets, changed the front pockets to slash pockets rather than the classic jeans pocket curve, and eliminated some of the classic jeans topstitching. The stretch of this fabric also allowed me to eliminate the traditional zippered/button fly for a faux fly and make pull-on, elastic waist pants. For the elastic waistband, I used my regular contour waistband pattern piece, and added a narrow strip of elastic to the top seam. Since it was elastic waist, I also left off the belt loops for a smoother fit.

Inspired by these buttons, I decided to make something a little more fun than a standard black jean with black stitching, and went with a medium-weight charcoal black denim, light grey-blue contrast stitching with a hint of shine (embroidery thread). To further show off the buttons, I added buttoned flaps to the back pockets. Well, really faux flaps, as I like the look of flapped/buttoned pockets, but in reality like my pockets to be easily accessible and get frustrated when I have to unbutton a pocket to slip my phone in. I sewed the flaps first, then serged the top edge of the flap into the facing of the pocket so that I would maintain the look of a separate flap, but would have an open pocket. The button goes through both the flap and the patch pocket but not through the back of the jeans.

Summer Sewing Roundup: Part 2

After all of the tops I shared in my previous post, I knew I needed something to wear with these tops. Now, living in California, most people would think that my mind would jump to shorts and/or skirts for summer. Well, I’ve never claimed to be like everyone else, and the first thing I thought to make was a jacket. Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds because my office does run cool and most people there wear some sort of layering piece through the summer. Some of us like to joke that we can dress for summer for the drive to/from work, but that it isn’t summer in the building. Since all of the tops I’d made recently had shades of blue, I decided to draw on that for my jackets.

WithNeedleAndThread - Lekala 4268

On the jacket front, I’ve had my eye on Lekala 4268, a short-sleeved jacket with front and back princess seams, a darted front, welt pockets, and a shawl collar with angled front corners, since I first discovered Lekala patterns, but I never bought it because of the short sleeves. It finally dawned on me while watching a Peggy Saegers/Silhouette Patterns webcast that all I had to do was take a long sleeve that I liked the fit of and transfer that armscye/armhole onto the other pattern to use the long sleeve. I ended up taking a two-piece sleeve from another Lekala pattern and had to make virtually no adjustments to the armscye, even for fit, which I’ve had to do on a few Lekala jacket muslins.

Even though this jacket looked somewhat complicated, and Lekala is not known for its great directions, the only problems I ran into were the welt pockets, which I had never done before. I read some tutorials online, and ended up just going for it. They aren’t perfect, and I ended up making  them faux pockets, but in such a busy/texture fabric, I think (and/or hope) that I’m the only one who sees the flaws.

For this jacket, I used a textured knit that I got from FabricMart Fabrics and a coincidentally matching button that I took off of an old raincoat back my freshman year of college when I used the rest of the raincoat to make a waterproof bag to put in my bike baskets, and kept knowing it would come in handy at some point. Though I found a matching button easily, I had a hard time getting a buttonhole to look good on this fabric, so I wound up sewing a snap closure in, and putting the button on as a non-functioning decoration.

WithNeedleAndThread - Lekala 4162

Still thinking of summer-style jackets, I also tackled another blazer pattern that had been on my mental to-make list: Lekala 4162, a classic blazer with princess seams, a notched collar, and a single button closure in front. I used another textured knit from FabricMart, this time in a slightly sparkly light blue. I didn’t make any fit adjustments to this pattern, either, but in the future, I may raise the armscye a little, as there is a little too much room even with the shoulder pads. I left off the welt pockets, thinking that the fabric was busy enough on its own, and pockets would just make it look a little less clean. I also chose to serge the seams and leave off the lining. With no lining, this jacket came together fairly easily. Finding the right button may have taken longer than most of the sewing of the jacket. I do love this jacket, and have plans to make it in several other fabrics, both classic blazer type fabrics and a few fun colors/fabrics.

I’m loving textured knits for jackets/blazers and cardigans lately. At some point, I’m thinking that I have to tell myself that I have enough textured, colored jackets, but I don’t think I’ve hit that point quite yet.

Summer Sewing Roundup: Part 1

It seems that this summer, I was more into the sewing than the writing-about-the-sewing. Before I knew it, summer was essentially over, and I had a pile of new clothes, but no new blog posts. At least I was being productive with one of the two, and will aim for a better balance this season. Though it was fun to write this post and look back at how well everything I’ve made in the last few months works with each other to form a cohesive and easy-to-wear wardrobe. I also seem to have ended up with a bunch of tops that look great with white jeans, which wasn’t my intent when I chose my fabrics, but is nice for summer.

WithNeedleAndThread - Lekala 4119

WithNeedleAndThread - Lekala 4119











Lekala 4119, a kimono sleeve, drapey cowl-neck top was the first pattern that I took on for the summer season. A very simple pattern, with just three pieces, this is a great pattern for those who aren’t sure about digital download patterns (though, I, myself, am sold on the idea and have no problems taping printer paper together).

I loved the first one (pink floral) that I quickly whipped up a second version of this top. Both tops are made with ITY knit, which I think is one of the best fabrics for this style top as it has a lot of drape and doesn’t form permanent wrinkles within the cowl.

I did find that the pattern had a bit more ease than I was expecting, and the sleeves were far longer and baggier than I was expecting. I ended up taking about an inch+ from the bottom of the sleeve, tapering a similar wedge down to very little at the side. I also added a bit to the top curve of the front cowl to get more fabric to drape and fill the neckline. The top wound up being long enough without the hem band that I was able to leave off the band for a slightly dressier look. Once I decided that I was going to leave off the band, I realized that this would be a great project for me to play with the rolled hem stitch on my serger, and finished all edges with a lettuce/ruffle rolled hem.

WithNeedleAndThread - Lekala 4284

I followed this pattern with another Lekala pattern, Lekala 4284, a knit top with a bow-style back, and a subtle (or not, depending on your fabric choices) yoke in the front. There are darts drafted into the front of the pattern, but I chose to leave them off and to ease the excess material into the seam as I sewed the side seams. Much to my excitement, this was the only alteration that I made to the pattern. Well, that and hemming the sleeves with a deeper hem to get more of a cap sleeve.

Although it looks like it would be a stand-out type of piece that you would only have room in your closet for one of, I quickly made this top in three different fabrics (a print, a textured solid, and a solid with lace and lace overlays on the bow/yoke),  and get different reactions to all three versions. I love that the front is modest/subtle, yet when you turn around there is a pop of style from the dipped bow.

After making these five shirts, I decided it was time to get away from knit tops and add another type of garment to my wardrobe. Stay tuned for Summer Sewing Roundup: Part 2 shortly.