Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Making Cargo Trousers Part 1 (Lekala #5066)

Possibly two decades ago, I recall I had a pair of shop-bought cargo trousers that I used to love and wore a lot. They were grey, straight-legged and with loads of pockets. Although I don’t buy clothes from shops anymore, I do sometimes visit the “Inspiration Emporia”, as I now call them, just for a look around. Anyway, I kept on noticing a pair of red cargo trousers in Urban Outfitters. They ticked all my boxes – loads of pockets, straight-legged and with cool top-stitching.

Urban Outfitters cargo trousers – the inspiration

The Pattern

I looked around for a pattern to use. A couple of months back there was a pattern for cargo trousers in Burda magazine. I liked them, but the number of pockets just wasn’t up there. There weren’t any back pockets. Then I remembered that I had some credits left on the Lekala website and I spotted this pair. Are these not the coolest cargo trousers? I was salivating at the prospect of sewing all those pockets!

Lekala #5066 line drawing

I put in my measurements and the website comes up with a proposed fabric requirement now. Definitely a handy feature, as I’m sure it didn’t used to do that.

Lekala #5066 Artist’s impression

The Fabric and Notions

I bought the fabric at Like Sew Amazing. They only had a couple of different colour choices for this cotton canvas fabric. They still have some of the lilac in stock. The colour I chose though was this bright turquoise. I felt it was rather bright, but then it is very much in the same spirit as my inspiration – those red cargo trousers from Urban Outfitters. For the top-stitching, again, I was quite unsure, but settled on a cream colour. I found some cream-coloured buttons too, to complete the look.

The Construction

Lekala pattern instructions are sparse and very much in the same style as the average Burda magazine instructions. But these instructions were particular bad. Half-way through it just directs you to a Youtube video on the So Sew Easy website for inserting a zip. The video itself is great but it inserts the zip in a skirt. No problem, except that there are no instructions for sewing either the fly guard on, or for doing the crotch seam as a result. I did look at the instructions for the Burda trousers, mentioned earlier, but sadly that didn’t help either as the two patterns were quite different in the way they tackled inserting the zip fly. So, I just swore a lot and muddled through.

Next problem was that I made a mistake on the pockets. Between you and me, let’s just call it a style change. In the useless instructions, which I was increasingly failing to follow, it tells you to sew the top-stitching on the side pockets so that the pockets concertina. However, mine are just sewn so they no longer do this. Actually I don’t care. It means that my pockets won’t get overfilled and look all baggy. I maintain this is a style change, not a mistake!

And, here we are! The finished trousers….. well, almost. I still have the hems to finish and the button and buttonhole on the waistband.

Cargo Trousers: Back View. Got to have back pockets too!

I’ve decided to write a second post in a few days once I have worn them for a bit and can comment on fit and comfort. I will also report back on the outfit choices I have made with them.

Cargo Trousers: Front view. Obviously more pockets!


An update – Christmas party clothing plans and decluttering action

I have realized I haven’t actually written very much this month. I think the rush to get my contributions for Independent Pattern Month at The Monthly Stitch on the blog resulted in posting everything all at once, rather than the pacing that I normally do.

This post is therefore more of an update on my current makes and what I’ve been up to recently.

My current make uses a beautiful silk fabric bought from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco when I was on holiday is California back in 2015. This fabric was expensive and has intimidated me for years! It has also taken me a long time to decide what to make with it. Well, obviously it needed to be a top, given that it is just 1 1/2 yards in length, but I couldn’t decide what pattern to use.

Eventually, I plumped for Lekala #4420. This top is a popular pattern and there are quite a number of these tops posted in the projects section on the Lekala site. The design is relatively simple; long-sleeves, relaxed fit, with pleats and a keyhole at the neckline. But simplicity is probably good with a light-weight, slippery fabric, like the silk I have.


Lekala 4220 Line Drawing

Lekala 4220 Line Drawing

Lekala 4420

Cutting out has been a challenge with the fabric, but I pinned it well, and made sure all my pins were only placed in the seam allowances as the pins leave holes in the fabric.

I made a couple of changes to the pattern. First I decided to cut the front on the fold, rather than cut two separate front pieces. I also, narrowed the billowing sleeves a little. This modification seems popular and has been used here and here.

The first steps have probably been the fiddliest – making the distinctive keyhole and the pleats. I’ve needed to also make lots of bias-binding out of the silk to use for the neckline.

Lekala 4220 neckline

Lekala 4220 neckline

I’m really looking forward to wearing this top. I plan for it to be ready for the work Christmas party. Oddly, I’ve never made anything specifically for the Christmas season before. It will be a first even if it’s only a top!

Lekala 4220 neckline

Lekala 4220 neckline

My decluttering progress has been slow and painful and I think I need to refocus on this. They say that the first step towards change is “awareness” and I’ve been aware for weeks that my decluttering strategy has not been freeing up space in my wardrobe, liked I hoped it would.

As a whole, the “Disney Declutter” strategy had been perfect for characterizing my clothes, but in terms of getting me to relinquish them it hadn’t really worked. I realized I needed more immediate and focused action and a strategy that would work for a working, time-starved person!

Decluttering (12-12-12)

Decluttering (12-12-12)

I read about the 12-12-12 challenge here. The idea is to locate 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate and 12 items to be returned to their proper home. I think this is probably an American idea, so I think I can substitute “throw away” with recycle. I think placing the number 12 at the heart of this makes the challenge achievable and yet it does stretch me. I can easily locate three or four items in each category, but 12 makes me think a bit more. I also like the idea of returning items to their proper home. In my house, things do end up just lying around and this will be a good incentive for tackling this.

This weekend, I did my first run at the 12-12-12 challenge. I can’t say that I got up to 12 in each category and I didn’t just apply myself to sorting out clothing. But, I think strategy uses a far more achievable  I’ll make it an ongoing activity.








IPM 2018: Lekala #7090 “Baker Boy” Hat

I was so uncertain about whether I was going to enter anything for the Independent Pattern Month challenges over at the Monthly Stitch this year. I was worried about the tight deadlines, which hit hard when you have to order fabric online (Bricks and Mortar shops are a bit lacking around here at the moment and ordering can take a while). But then the new challenge ideas came up, and Anything But Clothes really sparked my interest!

Lekala 7090 hat

I decided to use some scraps from previous makes for this challenge, so no visit to distant shops or ordering online was necessary. I used some grey corduroy, which had previously been used to make this Grainline Moss skirt. I also used some light-blue cotton lawn with stars on for the lining, which had previously done service for pocket making on these Papercut Wolf-like jeans.

My reason for choosing to make a hat, is that somewhere between the sun caps I wear in summer and my woolly winter hat, there is a gap. The mornings are cold and I really fancy wearing something on my head, but I haven’t got a good hat for the Autumn. I specifically chose a Lekala pattern too, for one important reason; I have a very small head. Apparently, the average head is 56 / 57 cm, whereas I’m about 51 / 52. Essentially that means that no ladies’ RTW hat has ever fit me and even finding a motorcycle crash helmet has proved tricky. (My current one is actually a child’s crash helmet). Anyway, Lekala do custom-sizing and you can enter your head size when you buy the pattern. I have made a Lekala shirt before and this particular aspect really appealed. (Check out my previous post for some notes on how the sizing works)

I think this hat is called a “Baker Boy Hat”, but I haven’t really seen many bakers wearing these! Mostly the hat reminds me of Sybil Fawlty’s golfing hat or the worker’s hat favoured by Jeremy Corbyn. Without the peak it’s even a bit Samuel L. Jackson. Not sure I was aiming for any of these looks!

Hat Models

The instructions with the pattern were not particularly clear. I would put them on par with the instructions suffered by those of us who are familiar with Burda magazines. The drawing of the hat, with all it’s top-stitching lines was probably more help than anything else as a guide for the hat’s construction. I would say that I had fooled myself into believing that the small size of the hat, meant small effort was required, but this was definitely not the case. These was a huge amount of top-stitching required on multiple layers of fabric, which were hard to manipulate and feed through the machine because of the hat’s shape.


Lekala Hat Technical Drawing

Although, the fabric came from my scraps bag I did visit my local haberdashery shop and purchase some self-covering metal buttons.

Self-cover buttons

The self-covering metal buttons were a dream to use. I was anxious that the corduroy was going to be too thick to cover these buttons, but following the instructions on the packet, I moistened the fabric and then pulled the fabric over the button. There are lots of little gripping teeth on the underside of the button and these held the fabric in place well, while I snapped the back into place.

Self-cover button instructions

The only other thing I needed was something to make the peak rigid. I struggled with finding anything suitable, but after raiding my stationery drawer found what I think was a thick overhead acetate sheet. I did look in the recycling first and couldn’t find any suitable plastic there (I think the plastic used in cold meats packages would have been equally good). This make is really turning into a tale of using up old odds and ends!

Half-way stage (Lekala Hat)

Half-way stage (Lekala Hat)

Inside of the hat before lining added

Inside of the hat before lining added

Inside of Lekala hat lined

Inside of Lekala 7090 hat lined

I went out to the park for some photos. It’s really windy today, but that hat sat on my head fine!

Lekala Hat 7090

Close-up of hat

All in all, I’m proud that this make came out my scraps bag. My only spend was on some thread and the self-covering metal buttons. Although I mentioned above that I do indeed wear caps in the summer and a woolly hat in the winter, I’ve never considered myself a “hat person”. A long history of buying hats that were too large or being stuck with children’s hats has made me a little wary of headgear. But the joy of sewing is that you can of course, made things that fit!


Lekala #5446 and the world of custom-sized patterns

I’ve been meaning to try out a Lekala pattern for quite a while. The Lekala website allows you to enter your own body measurements and get a customised PDF pattern, designed to fit you. I generally make quite a few adjustments, particularly to tops and blouses, to get a good fit, so this seems like a fantastic idea to me.


Leakala blouse

I selected the classic blouse pattern (5446), which is a free pattern on the Lekala website.

Line Drawing

I entered the three circumference measurements (bust, waist and hips) and also made some extra adjustments. I think these adjustments are critical for me to get a good fit. To explain, I have quite wide shoulders and I find that RTW shirts and blouses that fit in other dimensions, for example, arm length, body length will be far too tight across the shoulders. this is such a problem that I haven’t bought a fitted shirt or blouse since I was a teenage and first noted this problem. I did, of course, buy a few completely oversized shirts, but these just swamped me and were very unflattering. I don’t think that circumference measurements really sort my fit problems out totally. I can adjust for circumference and the fit can still be a little tight across the back, but sometimes too loose at the front. I’m guessing that this is probably because more ease is needed across the back than the front. I suppose when we pull our shoulders forwards, the distance across the back and shoulders can increase more, than when we pull our shoulders back, which is a smaller movement. I wouldn’t say I am a fit expert, do you think that makes sense? Anyway, back to the Lekala pattern, I therefore chose to increase the shoulder width and the back width measurements. I also decreased the breast width measurement. Hopefully, this will give the same bust circumference measurement, but with more ease available at the back.

After plugging in my measurements, the Lekala website supplied me with a rather unflattering “map” of my upper body. Hmm, do I really look like that?

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 17.51.30

I’ve very pleased with the fit across the back, no tightness here at all.


I used the PDF pattern produced, but I was unsure about the back darts, which didn’t seem to be very pronounced at all. In fact, I had to flare the pattern and add a 1cm width at the bottom of each dart, just so that I could sew the dart at all. I shall have to see if I can take this into account properly with the Lekala adjustments next time. Perhaps it was because I chose not to have seam allowances added to my pattern when I ordered it. It wasn’t too much of a problem though, because I could increase the back darts easily and this was just a minimal change at the cutting out stage. The sleeves and cuffs were exactly as per the standard pattern.

The instructions on Lekala patterns are fairly minimal, but as I have made blouses before I was able to follow them. I did make a couple of changes though. Firstly, the instructions mention a front dart, which was completely absent from my pattern and the line drawing. It was a bit mysterious. I decided not to add front darts in as I was quite happy with the fit as it was anyway.

I also wasn’t completely satisfied with the way that the cuffs were added to the sleeves. It seemed a very basic method – just folding over the seam allowance to the inside, instead of binding the edge or using a placket. I decided to bind my edges with bias-binding.


The final change I made concerned the number of buttons used. When I first tried on my shirt I noticed that there was a huge amount of gaping and I felt that the shirt was really wearable. There was about 10 cm between each of the buttons / buttonholes down the front. I hurried out on a Saturday morning to buy more buttons and placed an extra three between the original button placements. Just to show how it would have looked with only the five buttons, as per the pattern, I took this photo. I hope you’ll agree that the extra buttons are a must.


Overall, I have liked my Lekala experience. The shirt is a good basic design, and I would make it again with the adjustments that I made to the sleeves, the number of buttons and the back dart. I think though that the pattern is more a blouse than a shirt pattern and I’m not sure my choice of fabric was the most suited to the design. Perhaps a floral or plain cotton lawn would have been worked well. After the voluminous shirts I bought in the past, I can truly appreciate that here is one that actually fits. I have worn the shirt on a few occasions in the last week and it is definitely a winner. It’s not often I say that after such a short period of wearing time, but I really love the shirt’s relaxed fit and the fabric is so soft.