Pattern fitting is a task that often makes or breaks a dress. During my years of sewing to myself and my children, I have learned the tricks that make the patterns work for us. Now that I have gained more skills and confidence, I can finally start making garments for others, too. My friend needed a new dress and I challenged myself to make her a well fitting dress that she could wear both at work and when attending parties. I ordered a Lekala pattern S4103 which is a good pattern to modify for many different purposes.
Lekala S4103 has princess seams, a separate waistband, a straight skirt and short sleeves. It has been designed for woven fabrics.
What I love about this pattern is that it is very versatile. The princess seams make it very easy to adjust the dress to fit beautifully. The short sleeves can be lengthened or left out if this pattern will become a sloper for other future dresses. With little changes to the neckline, the seams or the skirt length this pattern can be transformed into a wardrobe full of dresses!
Toiles and pattern fitting
My measurements weren’t really up to date, so the original pattern I got from Lekala was a bit too large. No problem, since I made the first version out of the Ikea cotton I like to use for this purpose. There was quite a lot of fitting to do.
First, the waistline was way too low for my friend. After lifting it for about 4 cm the dress looked much more flattering. I was able to take in the princess seams quite a bit, especially at back. As we were fitting the dress, my friend mentioned pencil skirts. On a whim, I turned the skirt into something like a pencil skirt by turning the skirt darts into princess seams and narrowing the skirt at the hem. The neckline gaped at the centre front a bit, but this was fixed after we decided to turn the boat neckline into a v-neck which suits my friend very nicely.
I made the changes and the next toile looked like this:
It was time to tackle the sleeves. The original sleeves didn’t have any ease at the sleeve cap. I added a bit but found this fabric pretty difficult to ease (of course the ramie was very similar in this sense). I added a note to myself that both the grainline at the side front skirt panels and the side seam were pulling forward. This needed fixing so that the side seams would lay straight. I also noticed that the armscyes were a bit too high and that the fabric was pulling across the bust a bit. Furthermore, the waistband was hiking upwards at the centre front so I definitely needed to make a full-bust adjustment.
At the third fitting, the sleeves were better. I still found it necessary to narrow the shoulders slightly. The waistband and the bust looked great, so I felt comfortable to finally cut into the real fabric.
My friend likes natural fibres so I suggested ramie that I had just got for myself from Ompelino (and thus had a sample for her to touch and feel). However, instead of rusty orange (that I had), she went for the bold red that really suits her.
During this project, I found ramie a great fabric to work with. It was easy to sew, press and it didn’t unravel. I still either zigzagged or overlocked the seam allowances to make this dress durable. The only drawback was that it was very difficult to tell the right side of the fabric from the wrong side. This was important, though, since the fabric may pill a bit from the wrong side, at least if washed in a temperature that is too high. Finally I noticed the thread ends here and there on the wrong side and then went on marking the wrong side with very large X’s.
This pattern is perfect in the sense that you waste a minimum amount of fabric. Just look at the pattern layout above!
I added a 2 cm seam allowance in the case I still needed to make any adjustments. Since I wanted to line the whole dress, I left out the neckline facing I understitched the neckline seam allowances and slip stitched the lining at both the sleeve hems and the skirt hem to the turned main hem. I also made the vent mostly by hand, since that method required less thinking!
It took about two whole days to sew this dress. I can usually make an unlined dress in a day, but the lining basically doubled the work. The dress was worth it, though. Today, I could finally present the finished garment to its happy new owner!
It was really wise to make the toiles since this dress fits really nicely. I only had to check the hem length and even that was just a formality.
Here is the dress from the back. (I really should have ironed the centre back a bit better! So sorry!) I am happy with the fact that the vent doesn’t open but stays put where it should be.
My friend has two black cardigans that she was thinking of combining with the dress. When the short sleeves are not warm enough a cardigan fixes the problem:
I am happy with this project and now even more confident with my fitting skills. What’s even better, I have now a good sloper that I can use again and again, if and when I make any future dresses for my friend.
The Lekala S4103 was a good pattern to start with. I cannot really say much about the fit since I know that my measurements were old and that my friend had lost some weight recently. However, this is a good pattern to start if you want to try pattern fitting. The princess seams and the separate waistband make the fitting easy.
Thank you for reading. I hope you liked this post and want to share it with your sewing friends! See you soon and in the meantime: Happy Sewing!