March 16, 2016

Finished Project: Lekala 4456, aka "The Russian Mechanic's Top"

"Здравствуйте"! Google Translate tells me that means "Hello" in Russian. (Da?) Today we venture to Moscow, where Russian pattern company Lekala is headquartered. I made model 4456, a cap-sleeved blouse with a curved yoke and welts over faux pockets.

Lekala offers print-at-home patterns that take full advantage of digital media. Instead of coming in pre-set sizes, Lekala's software customizes each pattern to your individual body! It uses 8 basic measurements, plus 11 tweaks to increase/decrease specific body parts, such as neck and arm lengths.

Because of this, I took a leap of faith and eschewed both muslin and the usual adjustments (FBA, hip width increase, etc.). Was that a mistake, or did Lekala's digital customization come through for me? Let's find out.

Lekala is largely unknown in the United States

I had never heard of Lekala until recently. First sighting: over at Saturday Night Stitch. Few of the U.S. bloggers I follow mention the company. I don't know why. Perhaps because some aspects of Lekala patterns can be off-putting to those of us accustomed to Big 4 and American indie patterns. Lekala patterns are not for the faint of heart ... or the lazy.


  • The print-at-home format requires a printer, and an extra half-hour to tape the pieces together.
  • Construction instructions are minimal. 
  • There are no step-by-step illustrations. 
  • Terminology can be inconsistent, due to translation from the original Russian.
  • You won't know how much fabric is required until you print the pieces, tape them together, and place them on a cutting board. 


On the other hand, if you have a can-do attitude and some sewing experience under you belt, these patterns offer a goodie-bag of nice sewing treats:
  • Made to order: Is your body weird? That's a trick question. Everybody's body is weird. The custom sizing takes our unique shapes into account.
  • Photos: Sewists post pictures of their creations on real people. These pictures appear with each pattern. So, for example, you can see who else has made model 4456 (oh look, there I am).
  • Prizes: There's a weekly contest for everybody who has posted their projects. The winner gets 5 free patterns!
  • New Style Voting: Lekala lets you upload photos of design inspirations. Members vote on which they'd like to see drafted as future Lekala patterns.
  • Beta Patterns: Take a sneak peek at new designs to be released, which you can download for free and send feedback on before they're offered for sale.
  • Facebook: Thir English-language Facebook page boasts a fast response time and a very engaged social media team.
  • Twitter: Yup, they have a Twitter feed too.
  • A side community,, doesn't get as much traffic as other sewing forums, but Lekala's social media team posts cool content (like this thread explaining how designers draft patterns in a CAD-like environment). The site also has a section for "Jobs," which are crowd-sourced requests for translating instructions, testing patterns, and writing copy. The reward? Free patterns.
  • Wonderful Sew-Nerd Treats: Lekala provides a lot of geeky technical detail about each design, including a diagram of the pattern pieces in the CAD-style design software -- so you can see how they fit together. 
Like technical information? Each Lekala pattern includes a screencap of the pattern drafting software used to generate your custom garment. Look closely: see the yoke (yellow, top left), back (red, left), front (green, left), cap sleeve (green, top right), and the collar (blue, bottom right) with collar stand (red, bottom right).

The shirt pattern, Lekala 4456

Hey, old people, remember the '90s, when gas station shirts were a thing? Sure you do. If not, let Diffuser school you:

"In the late '90s, punk bands like Rocket from the Crypt and the Reverend Horton Heat popularised a trend that seemingly came out of nowhere: wearing gas station shirts and dark-colored bowling shirts. Both retro looks commonly come as short-sleeve button-downs in solid colors, and the bowling shirts were often complimented with large, gaudy lettering. Gas station shirts, meanwhile, weren't complete without a name tag, usually featuring a common name like Ed, Bob or Rick."

Ah, the work shirts of the '90s. What do you suppose "Brian" is doing right now?

The fabric I chose for this project reminds me of that trend. Although unintentional, part of me wants to add an embroidered name to one of those welt flaps.

What name -- and fake gas station -- should I add to those welts?
Printing Lekala 4456 required 18 pieces of paper, plus 3 more for the instructions and 10cm calibration square. Taping together the pieces was relatively painless, although I could see it getting sketchy in something like a 10x10 grid, where a minor offset of pieces #1 and #2 could wreak havoc by the time you got to piece #100. I developed a different way of piecing these types of patterns, and I'll post a tutorial soon. Stay tuned!

Front view of Lekala 4456. The hem actually goes straight across; the camera angle makes it appear to dip down.
This is a simple pattern that goes together quickly and painlessly. Even the sleeves, which I usually have trouble setting in, went smoothly. Hooray, no cursing and throwing things.

You can wear this buttoned all the way to the top ... 

... or unbuttoned as you like! It works either way.
The pattern includes a seam down the center back -- only for the bottom piece, not the yoke. So if you require some extra shaping, this pattern's got your back. ****dies laughing**** 

The back: shaped by two fisheye darts, as well as a curved center back seam.

Did I deviate from the Lekala instructions?

You know I can't leave well enough alone. But I did not monkey with the fit! This was a test of Lekala's custom-fit feature. Instead, my energies were diverted to these tweaks:

  • Lined sleeves: After the flutter sleeve disaster from the previous post, I took my own advice and cut out an extra sleeve piece for each side, as lining. In this fabric, the self lining didn't add too much bulk. It will depend on the fabric, for sure.
  • Lined front and back yokes: According to the instructions, you're only supposed to cut one back yoke, and one front yoke per side. This leaves the seams exposed inside. Instead, I doubled the yokes and sandwiched the lower bodice piece between them, effectively creating a lined yoke. It's just something I like to do, yoke-wise.
  • Attached the welts in a different way: The pattern wants you to sew the front yoke to the lower piece, and then apply the welts on top, stitching them down after the fact. Instead, I layered the welt piece between the yoke and the lower front, and sewed through all three pieces at once. It just felt right.
  • Blind hem at bottom: You're supposed to fold up 1cm of the bottom, then fold it up another 1cm, and topstitch in place. Instead, I bound the raw edge in rayon seam binding, then folded up 2cm. I applied a blind hem stitch to this. In essence, the hem is the same amount, but it's done differently.
Back, interior detail. You can see the lined yoke in this shot. Also, I stuck an embroidered ribbon under the collar stand, so I can remember what year it is. This will work far into the future, right? Oh, wait.
As you can see, I also applied contrasting rayon seam binding to every exposed edge. 

Inside, the center back seam becomes more apparent with the rayon seam binding.

So, did it fit?


I was so pleased with my first Lekala pattern. Right off the printer, it fit perfectly. Sorry there are no pics on my bod; you'll just have to take my word for it. Even the cap sleeves looked good on my ample upper arms; the pattern customization took that into account!

To be fair, this is a loose-fitting garment with a good amount of ease. But if I'd tried to make this same shirt from, say, a standard Big 4 pattern, I can guarantee the bust and tummy would be straining while the waist would be blousing out like a balloon.

Would a closer-fitting Lekala pattern work as well? Hard to say. It would be a good start. On a fitted garment, I'd still recommend a muslin. But it would go quickly, since the basic adjustments would already be made -- leaving only the finicky tweaking to do.

The cap sleeves are lined, and the button placket wraps around to the interior. You can barely see it, but the yoke is lined (look closely, just above the fullest part of the bust) (yes, I know that's awkward).
I've already purchased and printed my second pattern from this company: Lekala 4438, a long, lined vest with faux lapel details at the center front and a semi-belt closure. Based on the experience with 4456, I predict a long and successful relationship with Lekala patterns. 

Finally, the interior: nothing to see here, but I just really like the jade seam binding against the charcoal fabric. Too bad no one will ever see it.

How will I wear this?

The fabric is a lightweight poly that looks like wool gauze; it ame from the clearance section of Hancock Fabrics. This is definitely a casual top.

Shirt: Lekala 4456, from this post
Trousers: me-drafted, me-made, wide-legged wool trousers using a wool/poly blend from Fashion Fabrics Club
Brooch: Forever 21, years ago
Shoes: Target (hell yeah, generic Converse, baby)
Orthotics: Dr. Scholl's :)

Shirt: Lekala 4456, from this post
Burgundy skinny Jeans: Merona, from Target
Shoes: EuroSoft ankle boots from

Scarf: Ross? Purchased about 800 years ago?
Shirt: Lekala 4456, from this post
Skirt: I don't even remember where I got this. It's corduroy, with gores for extra flare. Probably a Ross find. The color is  slate blue, which is more contrasty in real life.
Shoes: knee-high lace-up boots from Kickers
Have any of y'all sewn Lekala patterns? Do you think you might, based on this review? I'd love to hear about your creations.

Until next time, happy sewing!


  1. What's the payment process like? Should I be worried about about overseas transactions. Credit card? Paypal?

    1. Hi Madeleine E!

      Yeah, I agree: caution is the watchword when starting a new relationship with an online retailer. Lekala takes PayPal, which is what I used. The prices are in U.S. currency, and you can buy directly from the Lekala website, flowing the PayPal eCommerce process like you would on any other site.

      Hm, it appears they also have an Etsy store (, but the prices are higher. I guess if you absolutely refuse to truck with PayPal, you could pay a little more and go through Etsy. It's a manual process to give Lekala your measurements via email, so I imagine it takes a little longer to get your PDFs.

  2. Where did you learn how to draft pants - online? Linky?

    1. You mean in the first styling image (the light brown pants, with the faux Converse and peacock brooch)?

      Those are the result of Suzy Furrer's class on Craftsy, "Patternmaking + Design: The Pants Sloper."

      Great class, highly recommended. Very time-consuming. I think I made about 7 muslins, all told, and each one was needed. But it was soooooo worth it. Now I have a custom pants sloper that fits perfectly. The sloper can become any kind of shape I want (wide leg trousers, regular slacks, skinny jeans, cigarette pants, shorts, etc.); it's just a matter of adding or subtracting ease in certain places, which Furrer talks about toward the end of the calss.

      In fact, I may never buy another pants pattern again. Wait, who am I kidding?

      But, seriously, if you have trouble getting pants patterns to fit, a self-drafted sloper might be just the thing you need.