Burda instructions have a reputation for being hilariously bad – and they deserve it!
If you are used to sewing envelope patterns from the Big 4 or beautifully illustrated independent patterns then you are probably going to be left scratching your head a few times.
I can’t help much with a crazy instructions but please don’t be discouraged. I’m not trying to scare you off, just giving fair warning.
What I am going to do is help you pull apart the main gist of the instructions and tell you how I get around crazy confusing sentences that seem to have been made up by an ad-lib translation program!
(click on any of the images below to view full size and to read the text clearly)
First of all you should be familiar with this first page, it is in every issue and outlines some basic sewing symbols and some tracing help. We’ll get to the tracing in my next post.
I’ll be honest, I actually only read this in full the other day myself, before I have just glanced at it – I actually learnt a couple of new things, like a dotted outline in the cutting layout means that pattern piece is placed upside down on the fabric, I must have been pretty lucky so far!
The difficulty ratings are also important to know. Basically the more dots, the more difficult and involved so choose pattern that suits your experience but also don’t be afraid of a challenge, you might surprise yourself!
Ok, now let’s get right into it with a real example, this is Skirt 121 from February 2012
I have broken the entire instructions up into sections to explain some important points.
First up, the basics: sizing, pattern pieces and where to find your pattern for tracing.
Here is a more complicated example of fabric allowances. The first thing that confuses a lot of new Burda sewists straight up is how Burda list the sizes and fabric allowances. The secret is in the note at the top of each page, you might have missed it or not really understood what it referred to,
“Different figures for the different sizes of a pattern are given in the instructions, one after the other, separated by dashes. If only one figure is given, it applies to all sizes.”
Uhh wot? Yeah I know! But here is a colour-coded version of how I analyse it:
The seam allowance recommendations and cutting layouts are next followed by the construction “instructions”.
Here is where things can get tricky. I’ve been sewing for a while so I know the general construction order of most garments. I usually skim through the whole thing to get an idea of that particular garments construction order and to see if I spot anything weird or out of the ordinary.
Next I read through each bullet point with my pattern pieces ready to go and start sewing.
I sew through each point until I get stuck. It’s a good idea to take note of what each pattern piece is called in the Cutting Out section. Sometimes reading ahead helps you understand what is going on, or it might confuse you even more.
When I get to a confusing part I read it through a couple of times, pinning pieces together to help me visualise what is happening. If I am really not sure but need to move on to the next step I baste the pieces together. Sometimes after the next step or two it becomes more clear what is happening.
The key is visualisation. Don’t panic as you read through, instead pick up your fabric pieces and try it out.
Use the mini-numbers I pointed out in the first instruction image (purple dots) they will help guide your construction order and which piece joins to which.
Using instructions from other basic envelope patterns in your stash can also help.
If that all sounds like waaay too much don’t fear! Each month Burda illustrates one pattern in their “Sewing Course” section, and sometimes it’s a really good pattern, like this dress 117, also from February 2012.
Ok, that’s about all I have for you right now, it’s not a lot I know but I hope it’s helped you through the mass of text that makes up the middle of a Burda magazine.
One more thing, Burda also include instructions for lengthening and shortening patterns as well as how to grade a pattern up or down (I have personally used this method with great success!) I’ve scanned these in for future reference, you can find them here, just scroll down to the very bottom.
It’s awesome to read all your posts outlining your Burda collections and chosen items. Some of you have already made 2 or 3 things! Thank you also to everyone pinning to the Pinterest board, let me know if you’d like to pin too and I’ll invite you!
I’ll reveal my chosen Burda pattern and show you how I trace it next post. It’s nothing special, just more of me trying to encourage you and reverse a few Burda myths (spoiler alert: it’s not that hard!)
I was hoping to get my tracing post up today but I am running a bit behind so please bear with me callers, I’ll aim for mid this week so that those of you yet to trace off will be ready to tackle your pattern/s by the weekend!
When we first started discussing the Burda Sew Along idea I claimed to have hardly sewn from any of my many Burda issues.
Perhaps the warm sun on my back had made my mind sleepy because after a little bit of Sewing Archaeology I have to admit that is not entirely true.
More correct would be to say that I haven’t sewn much from them recently. I have also sewn quite a few BurdaStyle downloaded pattern items from the website before the whole Burda-becomes-BurdaStyle takeover thing, but I am choosing not to count those for my challenge.
80% of my past Burda makes are from my pre-blog days therefore we will need to find a way to travel back in sewing time to see them, luckily I have this:
So jump into my Sewing Time Machine, hold down the reverse lever and let’s travel back through my first “sewing-life” to approximately 2003 for the oldest make I can find:
You might remember Skirt 118a from October 2007 that I posted about after returning to NZ and exploring some long forgotten random storage boxes. I love the two-sided stretch denim that I would have originally bought from Spotlight, I wish I had some in my stash right now.
Now jump back in the Elna Tardis and head back towards the light to my current “sewing-life”, now we are in Perth and here are my very first projects after getting the Elna back:
Blouse 109b from April 2008 which I don’t wear any more, although I was super proud of it at the time. I can see now that my skills were rusty, the seersucker was a poor fabric choice and it was never that flattering, but we learn.
Tunic 103b from March 2007 followed quickly after and I learnt about my long torso and the need to add in length to the bodice of my future makes. I wore this blouse quite a bit and I still have both these items, but they are no longer in the regular wardrobe rotation.
Then I took a break from sewing for myself when two close friends (from different social circles) announced they were expecting within a week of each other and I got excited about trying out some miniature sewing. I got Burda July 2008 out from the library for the super cute baby section and chose two items for each friend.
One friend knew she was having a boy and the other was keeping the gender a surprise…long story short, one of those “friends’ turned out to not be that much of a friend after all. A mocking comment about my new “hobby” aimed to draw laughs from the rest of the group towards me meant that the wonderful Nicci received all the pretty baby clothes and later her new daughter looked super sweet even in the dinosaur rompers!
Nicci was so overjoyed she had a little cry (blaming the hormones) and therefore I had a little cry (blaming Nicci!) and I knew I had made the right decision. If nothing else this taught me the lesson that on the rare occasions I do choose to sew for someone other than myself or Nerdy Husband, that I should be absolutely sure they are the kind of person who truly appreciates the skill and love that goes into a handmade garment.
An Alice and Wonderland themed 21st party (what the hell I was doing at a 21st so long after my own 21st I have no idea) was a great excuse to sew my own costume and a simple dress to embellish came from March 2008. Clearly this is not in the usual wardrobe rotation
Next was Blouse 108 from January 2008, worn here with a Kasia skirt, a great staple that I wore to death. Blouses used to be my sewing crack, I have since weaned myself off them and developed more imagination when it comes to tops.
And then I had my first Burda fail. I’ve never had any issues with Burda in terms of fit, I find their draft quite consistent and the construction well tested. However this fail was stunning in its epicness, a combination of poor fabric choice, a pattern that was never going to flatter me. It’s possible this could have been saved but I moved on quickly and so we shall do so now.
There was quite a large break before I picked up another Burda pattern, you might recognise these last three, we’ve travelled back to New Zealand now and I’m sharing my sewing on my blog.
The Gok Coat of Doom doesn’t look so bad now that we’ve had some time apart, still, my trench/mac coat love is firmly with the Robson Coat now…I am considering gifting this coat to my Mum, we are the same size and she loves this shade of purple…her birthday is in July, smack bang in the middle of Winter.
Is this a good present idea, or is that a bit lame to give my Mum what I consider a fail? The fail isn’t a technical one, this coat is beautifully made (if I do say so myself) and the failure is more of the personal style type. Does that make it OK? Is it not better that someone is enjoying the Gok Coat rather than it just hanging in my sewing room?
The Elna Tardis has dropped us back off, almost in the present day, I love this t-shirt from February 2009, in a kiddies print I grabbed during a Spotlight visit. I also made it in a grey Merino (worn to death) and have 2 more Merino copies cut out, waiting to be sewn up.
My most recent Burda triumph was the Nerdy Husband Rugby Jersey however if we are being properly honest, not much remained of the original Burda pattern…maybe the neck line and collar…the rest was slashed and spread and re-drafted beyond recognition…but it worked!
Burda magazines contain so many patterns, including the basics, don’t discount the basics! For someone who cannot draft from scratch they make great base patterns to try out alterations.
Fellow Sew Alongers I encourage you to share your past Burda makes with us too.
Now, get out of my Sewing Time Machine, I’m off back to a few weeks ago to catch a fabric sale I missed!
To kick off the start of May’s Burda Sew Along I am inviting you to share your Burda collection with us.
Perhaps you just purchased your very first issue especially for this challenge or you have been collecting for a while. Did you inherit your Nana’s collection? Do you own a really really old Burda? Show me that retro goodness!
Do you have a favourite issue that has waaay too many post it notes sticking out of it? I know I’ve got a couple of those! Haha
How did you first find Burda magazine? How many Burda Projects have you made or is this going to be your very first?
Tell us EVERYTHING!
Me? Well my Burda relationship has had its ups and downs.
I sort of think of my sewing in two separate stages – my first “sewing life” includes my very first sewing attempts under Mum’s instruction as a very small child right up until University. I think my friend H introduced me to Burda during our second year studying together, she had one out from the local library and I was amazed!
A fashion style magazine where I can make all the items and it was free to borrow? Give me some of that!
So I started to get one magazine out each week painfully tracing my most favourite styles in my size. I. Was. Hooked! I still have a few of those original tracings although fashion, and my fashion taste, has moved on significantly since 2001/2002, it’s still fun to look at what patterns I chose way back then.
After University sewing and I took a break when Boyfriend-yet-to-become-NH and I moved from Wellington, New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia each with just a suitcase full of clothing. It wasn’t until my Mum came over to visit 4 years later, bringing with her the trusty Elna 2130 of Indestruction, in her suitcase, all the way across the Tasman and the rest of Australia, that I was reunited with sewing. So my second and current “sewing-life” began and continues today.
The first thing I did was find a local library that stocked Burda (there was only one) and get an issue out each week until I’d seen the libraries entire collection. Then I set up a rolling reserve so that I could get my hands on the newest copy (usually 3 months behind) each month. I still thought it was AMAZING. My “tracing” got a little bit quicker and a little bit more high-tech with access to a large format copier, although it only did black and white which was a challenge solved by highlighters!
After about a year of doing that I found issues in a local newsagent and began to buy the copies that I liked. Then I found out how to subscribe, it was exciting, my first regular magazine subscription, I was like a grown up! I even got each month on time for a change, no 3 month delay for this little kiwi.
I continued to re-subscribe each year until one day I noticed that I was flicking through each new issue without seeing a single item I liked. I was even starting to see repeats and I’d only been subscribing for 2 years! By now I had also discovered Manequim and Patrones and I loved their fashion forward approach, they made the Burda content look dated and boring. So I pulled out all my Burdas that didn’t inspire me and I realised that Burda was falling into a slump. I put my “boring” Burda issues on eBay and sold them off for fabric money. Then, coincidentally, my re-subscription reminder letter arrived and I put it in the bin. My Burda joy was over…
Then one day Burda hauled themselves out of the slump and I began to get interested in what I was seeing on other blogs. I was back living in NZ and found individual issues at Whitcoulls and other news agents for only NZD$13.00 – now I keep a list of issues I like the look of and buy them when they finally arrive. So I am back to my 3 month delay but I don’t care. The most recent issue I purchased is December 2012, I only own 3 issues from that year.
So here is my current collection as it stands today, oldest to newest:
The instructions for my “traced” copies used to live in a clunky binder until I got my hands on a binding machine, now they are nerdily kept like so:
It’s not very obvious in the first picture but there are many, many, many post-it notes sticking out of each magazine, marking some of my most favourite patterns, 99% of which have never been made.
This then is my not-so-short list and I will choose from these for this challenge. I’ll share those with you soon as well as some Burda “instructions” demystification and a semi-tutorial post about tracing. Next post I’ll introduce you to my I’ve-made-more-than-thought Burda items.
Happy pattern choosing!