Unravelling the hilariousness that Burda calls “Instructions”

Burda Sew Along

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!

Burda Instructions Page

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!

Difficulty rating

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.

Burda Instructions 01 copy

Now let’s look at the fabric recommendations:  Burda Instructions 02 copy

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:

Burda Instructions 03 copy

The seam allowance recommendations and cutting layouts are next followed by the construction “instructions”.

Burda Instructions 04 copy

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.

Burda Instructions 05

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!) 😉

Happy instructioning!

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