Thursday, April 28, 2011

Falling for Burda

Does this statement summarize all that I've heard about Burda?: The patterns are well-drafted, stylish, and have a sophisticated European cut, but are frustrating to trace, with all but worthless instructions?  This is my general impression of Burda - with the latter being why I've avoided sewing the patterns for this long - but, I will tell you, I'm starting to really get into Burda. 

I ordered the March 2011 issue because many of you recommended Burda pants for their great fit; while I ordered the issue solely for pants pattern 03-2011-116, I'd like to sew no less than 10 patterns in that issue. 

This was the "wedding" issue, but that section's patterns could be made in casual fabrics for workaday wear.  These 2 jacket patterns render me weak in the knees:

Burda 03-2011-120

Burda 03-2011-115

Will skirt patterns fit as well as Burda's pants?  I'd like to try out this simple skirt with a waist band and pleats:


Despite all the lovely Lady Greys out there, I never thought I'd sew an outerwear coat.  Never.  But my winter overcoat was on its last legs this past winter, and I couldn't find a coat that I liked (I even brought home a JCrew coat but ultimately returned it because I just didn't do it for me).  Burda 03-2011-123, though, is exactly what I want:

Burda 03-2011-123

I've become so obsessed that I picked up a Spanish version of Burda April 2011 (Burda is sold at sidewalk newstands in Spain, and was only about $5).  Hey, if the instructions are that pointless, does the language even matter?  Really, I could use Google translator if I need them.

I want this entire outfit from the April issue:

Pants 04-2011-120 & Jacket 04-2011-102

So this week I took 2 aspirin and traced the above 2 pants patterns.  It really wasn't that bad.  I'm actually glad I picked up Burda after the patterns were compressed; it would have been hard to go from the easier format to this rather confusing and chaotic one.  It required a bit of "Where's Waldo?" concentration to identify the various pattern pieces, but the tracing only took about half an hour and I got the hang of finding the pieces rather quickly.

I picked up this nifty Olfa Rotary Cutter Arm Guide which I can use to add the seam allowances while I cut. 

This product was recommended in the comments - thanks so much for that - and will make adding the seam allowances fast and easy.  I snagged mine on Ebay; it appears that they are available for sale here (scroll to the bottom).

I'm hoping my praise of Burda isn't misplaced; perhaps I should reserve judgment until I've used the instructions and sewn the patterns?  I'm going to start a pants muslin after I finish a few projects ahead in line, and if they work out, I foresee a many other Burda muslins in the future (hello, winter jacket!). 

Why do you sew (or not sew) with Burda?  Are you a devotee?  Or do you not want the extra bother?  Or are you a beginner like me who was (and still is) rather frightened of the magazine?     

* * *

We arrived home from Spain last week; we had such a great time.  The atmosphere was amazing: the parks in Madrid were full of color, the orange trees were blooming in Cordoba - simply perfuming the air with the fragrance of orange blossoms - and in Seville, the trees lining the streets were already replete with oranges.  Spring was a magical time to go to Spain.

Wow, did I pack poorly.  The weather was forecasted to be sunny and in the low 80's: we thought that meant the temperature would touch the high for an hour or so, like it does here in the US's spring, but have a chill much of the day.  So wrong!  It was gloriously sunny and hot (and even got close to 90 in Seville) all day, every day, for the entire trip, without a drop of rain or a pouf of clouds. 

I brought a long a few of my self-stitched items.  I won't bore you with a ton of pictures (my husband took over 400), but here's B5486 in the Parque de MarĂ­a Luisa in Seville on Palm Sunday:

Remember the vintage pattern cotton ikat shift that is still awaiting trim detail?  It was on top of my sewing pile, and I randomly threw it into my suitcase at the last minute because it was so lightweight.  I'm so glad that I did, because it's probably the item I wore most on the trip.  Here it is at the Mezquita in Cordoba:

The columns were begun in 786AD!

And me looking rather elated (and hot) after walking to the bottom of Ronda's gorge, in the White Hill Towns, to get a great view of its famous bridge:

I will admit, even with so much fun sewing to be done, it was difficult to return to real life.


Gail said...

There is something to be said for German precision. Yes, the instructions are frustratingly limited, but on the plus side, the patterns are so good that they are quite intuitive.

Kelli Ward said...

I have only sewn the Jenny skirt from Burda thus far, but I must say that I have made 5 versions for myself and helped friends make a few too. It is the perfect pencil skirt pattern and the fit is great. i am on the lookout for a great wide leg pant so if yours gos well i may have to give it a try as well. good luck. can't wait to see how it all goes.

Lori said...

Good luck with your Burda sewing and tracing. Beautiful pictures from your trip.

AllisonC said...

I think Burdas drafting is excellent and the sizing is pretty consistent. You get used to the directions after a bit. That said I have gone off Burda a bit in the last year or so, they seem to have gone for more basics (and lets not start on the craft sections), but I will keep getting the magazines, there is usually something in every issue I want to make and its surprising what you discover in there when you go back to them.

Uta said...

Your Spain trip looks wonderful, and the ikat dress is very photogenic! I never even knew there was another way of sewing than with Burda magazines (no books, no other instructions). I sewed exclusively with Burda for about 18 years until I discovered the sewing internet and other patterns. I stumbled and fumbled quite a bit, but in the end everything got sewn!

Kat3rina said...

I'm a beginner but I love Burda...not every issue though. Some issues are complete misses for me with styles that I would never wear. But they usually have great selections though. The instructions are minimal, but each issue has a "sewing course" that will do a step by step of a pattern. Tracing is frustrating, but if you have those flag tabs (like the post-it flags) to go along the lines of a pattern piece, it becomes easy to trace. I've made a few skirts and tops from Burda, and they're some of my favorite wardrobe pieces.

Lindsay said...

Burda has a way of sucking you in so that you you think it's the best thing ever and you can't get enough of it, but then after a few issues where it's all a little bizarre, and you switch back to regular patterns with their lovely drawings, easy instructions and ready to go patterns, the novelty wears off. However, the Burda mojo can easily return. Somebody was sellng the whole of 2008 issues on ebay recently, which I won for £20 and some of the paterns in there are amazing, so I'm back to tracing once again! Some of their designs are just a little more cutting edge than those of the Big 4, plus I have found the fit to be fairly consistent and well drafted.
Loving the Spanish photos btw.

sewing on a budget said...

Hi! I'm a new follower, and I have to say your blog has really inspired me. Good job!

I'm new to sewing, and the first project I tried was a Burda dress from the feb 2011 magazine. I live in Italy and the instructions are in italian. My italian is good, but I've never sewn from a pattern before and was nervous. Yes, it was hard at first, it took me a month, between life commitments. It was so hard because I had to read and read (and read!) the instructions, look at the pieces and try to figure out how to put them together. But my dress turned out fine, with only one small error that you can't see if you aren't expressly looking for it.

I like the magazine, because you get so many great patterns for 4.50 euros. I also loved the jackets that you listed here, but am still learning, so I have an easy pencil skirt from the feb. issue up next.

The cool part is, that on the burda website in english, sometimes you can find the instructions in english that someone has uploaded to the projects section. That's how I muddled through my project.

I bought the april issue too, but didn't find as much to inspire me. the feb. issue is gold!

Hoping to blog about my dress soon.

Kat said...

I love Burda! I'm pretty much a beginner at sewing, and their lack of instruction has pushed me to better understand the construction. I've purchased some sewing instruction books that help.

I find that their clothes fit well and are consistently sized (same as the other commenters here). But what I L.O.V.E is that the clothes look like something *I* might buy in shop - I find that many of the 'Big 4' patterns look more like something my nanna might wear ;-)

T. Sedai said...

Haha, I just wrote something along these lines on my blog:

But I totally agree! I only have 2 (well 3? It's in the mail) Burda Style magazines so far, and a few envelope patterns. I am part way through my second Burda pattern and planning my third and loving every bit of the product so far. Ironically I skipped the March issue, but I ordered the April issue just for the pants (not the ones pictured above, but the 104 and 131 styles) too.

It's funny because when I get the magazines there is usually only one thing I want, but after looking at them for a while I usually pick out a lot more that would look good. I think sometimes it is hard to look past the weird styling in the main photos, but the line drawings are great. Also, I really really love the "Best of Burda Styling" section where they mix and match pieces from the current magazine and previous ones. I always see something that I hated in the original picture but am dying to make because it looks way cuter in the styling section. Most of the "crafts" are laughable, but the April issue wasn't too bad, mostly because they had an Easter theme, so they weren't quite so out there.

Also, I don't think the instructions are so beastly; they are just terse. I mean, they tell you what to do, just not how to do it. They don't have any frills. I think maybe not good for the person who has never sat in front of a sewing machine before, but not too bad if you have made one or two things, or if you have read a few books about sewing.

Also thanks for posting about the Olfa guide - I think I need one of those now; it would make things a lot simpler.

Lisa said...

I also love Burda . I really do need to make more from them though ..I get lazy every now and again and switch to pattern envelopes . I have just ordered one of those arms to assist with seam allowances . I have to add you should search Ebay for some older issues they are much easier to trace .

Donna said...

I love that issue of Burda and I *love* that outfit with the wide white pants!! But I'm new to sewing clothes and scared to attempt anything out of the magazine. I think I'll start with a Burda Style pattern and see how I do. I can't wait to see how your skirt (or maybe jacket ;)) turns out.

Karin said...

What an amazing trip! You look fab in all the pictures too.

I sew more Burda than anything else. I think the cut and the fit are great. I can normally handle the tracing. I do wish they had more detailed/illustrated instructions though.

I have a seam allowance gadget like yours. It hasn't worked well for me. I have gotten into trouble with it. In the end, I just started to draw the seam allowance onto my tracing paper before cutting the pieces out. For me, so much easier and more controlled.

I like your Burda picks. I am looking forward to seeing what you sew.

Lisette said...

I would love to go to Spain, you lucky thing. And thanks for the tip on the thing to add seam allowance as you go. They think of everything, don't they?!

Chapstick Fanatic said...

Looks like you had fun! I wouldnt mind seeing more pictures of your trip!

Elaray said...

I'm glad to hear when someone comes to Burda. Your summation is exactly right, but you seam to be prepared. I use a compass, rather than the Olfa arm, to add seam allowances to the traced paper pattern. That way, the process seems more like what I'm used to.

Lindsay T said...

I use a double-wheel tracing wheel.

I think having a love affair with Burda is a natural evolution and usually hits when a sewer reaches advanced beginner/early intermediate stage. There is something about tackling a Burda pattern that makes you feel accomplished and in control of your sewing, more so than with American patterns.

The next phase for a sewist is making her "own" patterns by tweaking American patterns and Burda patterns. That's where I seem to be now.

Vanessa said...

Just recently my hubby surprised me with a three month "trial" subscription to Burda! I actually received a free sample issue last year which I did nothing with because it was beyond my skill level then, but I am excited about trying Burda.

I have sewn multiple things for my children from Ottobre magazine with great success, and though I am not sure how Burda compares to Ottobre's layout, I am more confident I can tackle Burda now than I was before.

Rachel said...

I am happy you had a great trip!!! I love Burda, but I quit subscribing last October because it got so bad for awhile. However, it seems to have been better so far this year. I have one of those guide arms, and they are the best thing ever for adding seam allowances to Burda patterns.

Marie-Christine said...

The trip looks -wonderful-! And yes, it can happen that one misinterprets the weather reports, or that the weather changes drastically once you're there. You had some really cute dresses to make the best of it though :-).

I'm a Burda devotee from way back. I'd rather waste time with the tracing/detangling and be sure to have something that'll fit great and look current, rather than re-draft US patterns entirely. Eh. Thanks so much for the link to the guide arm, which has gotten quite hard to find (no doubt because people haven't figured out how it shaves at least an hour off your cutting time). I'll get a couple extras..

Angela said...

Good luck with the Burda patterns! I've been collecting the Burda magazines now for about a year now... and am still a little intimidated by them. I've sewn a couple of things and really like them. :)

It looks like you had a wonderful time in Spain, too! Thanks for sharing some pictures!

Ruth said...

I love Burda. I have almost two years' worth of their magazines and I have sewn from almost every one, up to three garments from some of them (but some of those are quick repeats - like little tops, skirts, etc).

I have just made that coat you picked out above, all bar the lining. I'm off to go buy the lining fabric in a few minutes.

I think it is worth getting a subscription. Burda is largely designed for people who already know how to sew and contruct garments; it's not a "follow the instructions step-by-step" kind of thing. But the magazine has very useful "how to" pages and "Sewing lesson" bits where they show you how to sew an entire garment. For example, with that coat, I was stuck on the "collar bridge", never made one before. Then I found that the February sewing lesson pages show how to sew a different jacket but with the same collar bridge. I was thrilled! My first coat, and the sewing lesson pages made it so easy.

Anna Depew said...

Many of the patterns from the Magazine are also added to for download. The instructions are available in English for those patterns, whether you've bought them or not. (thought they are the same, mostly vague instructions in any language) You can also leave a comment on a particular step of the instructions if you found the instruction lacking and figured it out on your own.
Also, many people end up posting their finished project to the site, with notes if you're lucky, on what they found difficult, and how they dealt with it. I find it helps quite a bit!

Heather said...

I'm a beginner sewist. I just bought a subscription to Burda and I appreciate all the comments here that will surely help me figure out how to use them. I decided to buy the subscription because I live in China where it is difficult for me to buy patterns. What's better than a monthly magazine full of them!? Did you buy any Patrones magazines while in Spain? My husband's family is from northern Spain and we visit yearly. I can't wait to pick up more Patrones magazines. BTW - you look fantastic in your photos! Very Spain appropriate!

Sophia said...

The pictures from your trip are so nice. I especially love the last one :)

meli88a said...

Oooh, I love seeing the ikat dress in action. It looks so chic and comfortable!

Clio said...

Spain was an absolutely magical place for me, too - you make me want to go back! Sigh. Glad you had a great time.

I feel similarly about Burda - I love everything I've made and have a stack of things tabbed to make, but swearing a blue streak seems to be an inevitable part of the "creative process" for me when it comes to Burda.

McVal said...

I have SO got to get one of those seam things you pictured!!
I picked up my first Burda at the free table at my ASG meeting in December. LOVED it and so did my girls... Since then I've JUST finished the 2nd thing from it. I've trained my girls on tracing patterns from it, but if I can get this little tool too, cool! I may have to throw out all my other patterns...
Spain looks beautiful! I felt like that with Ireland and I think between all of us, we took several hundred pics per day.
Were you able to visit any fabric/sewing shops while there?

Kati said...

I got a 3 month Burda subsricption and was really disappointed, I had been buying them at newsstand price for a few months before I got the subscription and always found tons of patterns to sew, but once I got the subscription I found nothing! I did sew up a few things from the first issues that I bought and despite the terrible instructions I loved the garments and the fit. I will still buy Burda from time to time but only after perusing through to make sure there are at least 3 patterns I want to use.

Cennetta said...

The March issue is loaded with some great style for spring. Your first jacket is on my list too. Spain is a beautiful place to showcase you custom wardrobe.

Couturette said...

Funny thing that all German sewists I know become less and less fond of Burda and are lusting after American patterns whereas for the rest of the world the development seems to be the other way round. Since I have followed the Burda patterns over the years I find them endlessly repeating and often boring and "stuffy" and I don't like their sizing policy so I have cancelled my subscription, but there are certainly issues which are worth buying. I totally agree that the nautical outfit in the April issue is gorgeous.

Rosy said...

Your photos from the trip to Spain are beautiful, I'm waiting for more ... I learned to sew with Burda, the magazine accompanied me throughout my life and has perfect settings, however, I recommend a muslin if you will use for the first time, if you need help, I will be happy to offer my humble knowledge.

MushyWear said...

It looks like you had a wonderful trip full of good memories and beautiful weather. I think you are going to like the Burda pants. They are my favorite pants pattern company. I love the outfit you show too with the white pants and navy jacket. So glad the tracing went well for you and the new tool looks useful.

amber said...

I haven't made too many garments from my burda magazines, but I sure do love the ones I have sewn up. I also really like getting the magazine each month. :)