May 14, 2016

Lekala 4456 Blouse Sew-Along #1: Welcome, preparing the PDF, and assembling supplies

Welcome, all! I'm so excited to be starting our new sew-along for Lekala 4456. This cap sleeve blouse has front and back yokes, welts over faux pockets, and shaping darts at the bust and back.

In this first session, we'll be doing the un-glamorous (but necessary) prep work for the print-at-home pattern. But don't despair! By the end of the session, you'll have a custom-fit paper pattern, including seam allowances, that will serve you for years to come. This is such a versatile pattern, you could make a blouse from every kind of fabric, in every color of the rainbow!

Today's agenda

  • Get your Lekala 4456 pattern (5 minutes)
  • Print the PDF and tape the pattern together (30-60 minutes)
  • Estimate yardage needed (15 minutes)
  • Gather tools and supplies (5 minutes)
All told, these activities will take about 60 to 90 minutes to complete.

What's different from the original pattern?

As much as possible, this sew-along will stick to the original pattern and instructions. I want to give beginners something to follow without going off the rails too much.

But I couldn't help adding a few extra touches. These will not affect the overall appearance of the garment. You'll still end up with a blouse that looks like the pattern's line drawing. Except:
  • Front yoke is lined
  • Back yoke is lined
  • Sleeves are lined
  • Welts are sewn shut before applying to bodice front
  • Visible interior seams are encased in rayon seam binding
  • Hem is finished in rayon seam binding and catch-stitched to fabric
We'll go through each of these in detail, constructing the blouse in a slightly different order than the original instructions.

Get your Lekala 4456 pattern (5 minutes)

Lekala is an online retailer.  Here is pattern 4456 on Lekala's website. At the time of writing, they accept PayPal.

When ordering your unique PDF pattern, keep in mind these important options:
  • Your measurements. The pattern's web page includes three tabs for customization: Main, Optional, and Adjustments. The more info you enter, the better your pattern will fit. The Adjustments tab includes some ways to tweak the pattern. If you're not sure about a particular adjustment ("Is my back wide, normal, or narrow?"), don't worry. In my experience, if you haven't noticed something as a "problem area" to fit in the past, then it's most likely average/normal.
  • Seam allowance: yes. This sew-along uses a pattern with a 1cm seam allowance. This seam allowance is provided by Lekala, as an option. The default is "no" seam allowance, so make sure you change it to "yes." There may be a slight additional charge for this option, but it's worth it.
  • Format: letter for North America, A4 for all other regions. The format affects the way the Lekala pattern is printed onto different paper sizes. Make sure you pick the right size so that the pattern prints properly. North America uses one standard (letter, legal), while the rest of the world uses ISO standard paper sizes (A3, A4). Select carefully. NOTE: This is based on internet research. Please let me know if your experience with paper sizing is different.

Screenshot from Lekala's website: "Main" tab with 6 basic measurements and print settings.
Screenshot from Lekala's website: "Optional" tab with 2 additional measurements.
Screenshot from Lekala's website: "Adjustments" tab with 11 fine-tuning adjustments.

Print the PDF and tape the pattern together (30-60 minutes)

After processing your order, Lekala will send the custom pattern PDF to your email address. They will also send you a technical drawing and instruction sheet, separately. Squirrel these away for future reference.

Calibrate and print

In the PDF document, locate the calibration square. On Lekala 4456, it's on the last page of the PDF.
Here's what the calibration square looks like on Lekaka 4456.
Print the page with the calibration square, using these printer settings:
  • Page Scaling: No (or "100%"). Sometimes this appears as "Fit to Page: No." Whatever version you see, this setting is extremely important! The printed pattern needs to correspond to real-life measurements, so if the pages are re-sized in any way, it won't work.
  • Page Size: letter for North America, A4 for all other regions.  Whatever you picked when ordering the pattern.
  • Duplex: Single sided.
With a real, physical ruler (not a printable ruler), measure the printed calibration square. This ensures the pattern is printing at the right scale.

When you're satisfied, print the rest of the pages in the PDF. You may wish to double-check printer settings again, in case they reverted to defaults after you printed that calibration square.

Assemble the printed pattern

Now you're ready to lay out the pages on a large, flat surface. Each page is labeled by column and row: "p1/1", "p2/1", "p3/1", etc.

The first number is the column; the second number is the row.

So, for example, the page labeled "p2/1" goes in the 2nd column, 1st row.
The first page of the Lekala 4456 PDF includes a layout diagram for the pages.
When everything's laid out, tape the pages together.

Then cut out the pattern pieces. We opted to include seam allowances in the PDF, so we don't need to add them. Yay!

Optional (5 minutes): Remember, we'll be lining the yokes and sleeves. For the back yoke, you can just cut out a double layer of the fabric from the pattern piece you have (below). But you will need 4 front yoke pieces, and 4 sleeve pieces. Trace the front yoke and sleeve pieces onto paper, and cut out an additional copy of each. That way, you can lay out the entire pattern at once, without needing to shift and re-use any pieces.
Optional: trace extra pieces for the front yoke and sleeve, which serve as linings in our interpretation of Lekala 4456.

Estimate yardage needed (15 minutes)

Now that you have actual pattern pieces in your mitts, it's time to determine how much fabric is needed. Unfortunately, because these are custom-made patterns, there is no standard amount of yardage for a given "size." So we'll have to figure it out ourselves.

On a cutting board, find the 28" mark (for 60" wide fabrics, with selvedges) or the 21" mark (for 45" wide fabrics, with selvedges). We'll be cutting out the pieces "Big 4 style." That is, the fabric is folded lengthwise, along the grainline, and two pieces are cut at once.

Within this boundary, arrange the pattern pieces as efficiently as possible. Heed the grainline markings!

Make sure to take the extra linings into account: back yoke (need 2 fabric pieces total), front yoke (4 fabric pieces total), and sleeves (4 fabric pieces total).

Now measure the length of this layout. That's your fabric requirement. Write this down. When you make a second, third, and fourth version of this blouse, you'll be happy you did.
Lekala 4456, including extra pieces for front yoke and sleeve, laid out on a cutting board.
For reference: my version of the pattern requires a little over 1.33 yards in 60" wide fabric -- let's call it 1.5 yards to be safe. I usually make a size 12/14 in Big 4 patterns.

Optional (1 minute): for posterity, snap a pic of your pattern layout. Print it, and store it with the rest of the pattern pieces.

Gather tools and supplies (5 minutes)

In addition to the Lekala 4456 pattern, you'll need a few more things:
  • Fabric: As measured, above. Yay, fabric shopping!
  • Interfacing: 1/2 yard (no grain) - or - 1 yard (if the interfacing's grain matters)
  • Tracing paper and tracing wheel: We need these for marking the darts - or - use the marking method of your choice (water-soluble pen, tailor's chalk, washable markers, etc.). 
  • Buttons: 7 blouse buttons of your choice. Standard button-down shirts use 3/8" buttons, but I like 1/2" buttons for blouses. When shopping, place the buttons on your fabric, and imagine a row of them going down the front. Visualizing really makes a difference.
  • Rayon seam binding (optional): As I mentioned above, this sew-along includes Hong Kong bound edges. If you prefer some other way to finish your edges, go for it!
  • The usual: matching thread, steam iron, sharp scissors, pins ... you know. Stuff to sew stuff with.

In conclusion

Whew! That was a lot of work, and we haven't even cut out the fabric yet. But it's been worth it.

How did everything go for you? Got any questions about measuring yourself for the pattern? Printing or taping the pages? Fabric requirements? Fire away, in the comments below.

See you next time, when we break out the fabric shears (at last).

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