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Aug 14, 2010

Suit-us Interruptus or "Burda, He Wrote"

It has happened again.

Readers d'un certain age, remember how you used to think life would be a clean linear progression -- 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, Burger King beef-patty flipper, unwed parenthood, delinquency -- but it never was?  No, as you and I have painfully learned, life is instead filled with countless tangents and twists, road blocks and blind alleys.

And so it goes with my sewing projects.

I try hard to provide a much-needed sense of order in your chaotic lives.  I try not to make false promises, to raise your hopes too much.  I know many of you are on the edge emotionally, I can sense it from your comments.

That's why it is with a great deal of trepidation that I reveal that fate has thrown the proverbial wrench into my plans once again.  Actually, it's not fate.  It's BurdaStyle.

Last month I was invited to participate in a friendly little sewing competition using the downloadable Burdastyle dress pattern of my choice and a Westminster Liberty Art Fabric.  They'd send me the pattern and the fabric and I would submit the dress by September 7.  I cannot tell you what criteria they used in choosing me but I suspect it had less to do with my sewing skills than their sense that I was a person with time on his hands who was desperate for a little attention.

I was flattered, of course, and Cathy delighted at the prospect of modeling something that wasn't ripped from the fashion pages of a 1943 issue of Ladies Home Companion.

Well, readers, I've received the pattern -- thirty-six  8 1/2" x 11" sheets of paper that I had to trim and tape together to form a medium-sized area rug and then proceed to cut again into its various pattern pieces.  I am embarrassed to admit how tedious and embittering an experience this was.

This is the pattern I chose.

This is the fabric.

I know, I know, not the best match but the choice was limited and I did the best I could.  You can hardly even tell what's going on in the dress from the photo, and now having seen the pattern up close I can confidently say, a lot, including approximately fifteen button loops.

While BurdaStyle very generously provided me with the pattern, however, they somehow forgot to include the pattern instructions.  Friends, I was forced to humble myself and approach the very person who would most likely want to trip me up, in a veritable act of self-sabatoge.  She quite selfishly downloaded the instructions off the German Burda website and translated them into English for me. 

So this weekend I really must muslin this pattern.  The fabric should arrive any day now -- Ich hoffe das, meine Freunde, oder mein Ganz ist gekocht. 

So there you have it.  My weekend will be sadly devoid of hair cloth interfacing, pad stitching, Silesia, buttonhole twist, and all the other good things we've been talking about for the last how many days.

Wise readers, have you ever downloaded a BurdaStyle pattern and can you explain how this makes sense when there are an infinite number of beautiful printed patterns available to us -- patterns that don't involve toner cartridges, laser printers, Scotch tape or the cheap generic equivalent I use, and dull scissors?  How many hours does it generally take you to put one of these together and are there any shortcuts?  Of course, it's too late for me, but maybe someone else can benefit.

I am hoping that this all comes together.  If not, I swear I'm gonna Burda someone.

What has your experience been with downloadable patterns?

Be discrete -- the walls have ears!


  1. Peter, congrats on being chosen by Burdastyle to participate in a sewing competition!!

    LOL - that certain selfish someone is throwing you under the bus. I am sure Cathy will have something to say about it.

    You will do just fine with the Burda garment - cannot wait to see the final result. Good luck!

  2. I love the pattern and I love the fabric you chose. I think the finished product will be very pretty.

    I refuse to download a pattern, for all the reasons you mentioned. Not only do you have to tape everything together and cut out the pattern pieces, afterward, you have to dig up your own pattern envelope.

    I imagine some extremely talented sewist reader knows tricks to button loops, although I don't believe they are all that hard. Tedious maybe.

    When you get the fabric you will fall in love with your project. It is so pretty. Cathy will be thrilled.

  3. I don't know if the walls have ears, but that very pretty fabric is decorated with figures of lady parts. Just what Cathy needs?

  4. Does Burda Style include seam allowances? Something to think about...

    I have downloaded a couple, but never actually printed and made one yet. It seems wasteful, doesn't it. In my case, I'd have to print, assemble, THEN alter on tracing paper...sheesh!

  5. Seam allowances included? Surely you jest!

  6. Peter, I am so impressed by your enthusiasm and industriousness. Tailoring a jacket, drafting a pants pattern and now this project - just the thought of it makes me want to have a lie down. How many hours per day do you get in your part of the world - here in London we get only 24?

  7. Eugenia, what can I do? I am trapped by circumstances beyond my control.

  8. And you'll notice I haven't actually DONE any of these things yet!

  9. Interesting pattern choice. Is Cathy harbouring a secret?

  10. Hi Peter,

    I rather feel that life is too short to go through all hassle of Burda download patterns. Are you sure that the invitation wasn't an "Eins, Zwei, Drei, you vill volunteer to take part in our competition".

    Looking forward to to the suit process, though.

    Abrazos de gaviota roquero.

  11. Oh Peter, I love..."I'm going to Burda someone" ,oh I am so going to use that! Those in the know will know; those not in the know will wonder!
    Isn't that nearly a Chaneyism...
    Burda has great patters, that come together well, with a good fit (for my European type body) but tracing or downloading, putting it all together etc is just too much for me. By the time I have done all that (with or without seam allowance - depends on whether I forgot or not!) I am over it.
    Good luck however... you do beautiful work with the patience of an angel.

  12. I never printed and taped together a pattern in my life UNTIL I moved to Colombia, the land where patterns and non-synthetic fabrics do not exist.

    I'm not sure the missing instructions will pose much of a problem. Generally I find the Burda instructions more confusing than helpful and tend to just throw them away in frustration.

  13. I HATE downloadable patterns, seriously, I REALLY HATE them. If I had the choice to download a pattern or pay $20. dollars for it I would pay the $20.

    I've heard of using colored elastic hair bands (the thin ones) for button loops. I haven't tried it and it's totally cheating but after what you went through with that pattern I don't think anyone could blame you.

  14. I've used some downloadable burdastyle patterns in the past and again last months for my contribution to the Burdastyle Book. Back then, all the patterns I downloaded were free. Although the whole printing and taping was a bit tedious, it wasn't more so than tracing a pattern from a pattern magazine sheet. And a hell of a lot cheaper than buying printed patterns (here in the Netherlands, those rarely go on big sale). Now, I make all my own patterns.
    By the way, rest assured, your pattern doesn't include seam allowance.
    (and is it just me or does it look a bit like a maternity dress in their picture? they don't say it is, so I guess it's just a result of the A-line style...)

  15. I have this pattern from a recent (May?) Burda issue. If you want me to scan the English directions, just let me know - wouldn't take long. I'll check back after I hit the notions sale at Hancock.

  16. Oh, Sandi, that would be so nice! You can email me at peterlappinnyc at gmail dot com.

  17. I just finished a downloaded Burda pattern last week. Putting it together is tedious, but I've come to like using the regular paper instead of tissue. I feel like its a pattern I will be able to reuse without transferring it or being insanely careful. That said, I really don't like patterns without seam allowances.

  18. Oh, I'm so using that. "I'm gonna Burda him." Ha!

    Burda is a foreign language in the worst possible way.

  19. It has tucks, Peter. Lots and lots of them. And when they're in a series like that, it's difficult to keep *all* of them straight. If one is crooked by even 1/8 of an inch, it makes the entire thing look wrong. So here's my trick-- Buy a transfer pen and transfer the pattern markings to the wrong side of the fabric. Then you can easily match them up and sew them together. Since your match up lines are straight, your tucks will be straight, too. It saves lots and lots of hair pulling, swearing, and dumping the entire project in the trash can!

    (I would recommend testing the pen on scrap fabric first. If it shows through on the right side, use another method, 'cause the transfer pen doesn't wash out.)

  20. Thanks -- Michael hates when I pull his hair.

  21. I downloaded a Burda pattern (the "Coffee Date Dress") and it had zero instructions. Zero. I realized it didn't have seam allowances after I had cut the fabric, and there was no way it was going to fit me. I gave up. I wasted two yards of really cute vintage seersucker, too!

  22. Amy, send the bill to Elaine (The Selfish Seamstress)-- that's her design.

  23. @ Amy: the Coffee Date dress is a user-upload, so I wouldn't blame Burda for that (and many of the user-uploaded patterns don't have instructions). Sorry to hear about the seam-allowance thing!

    I don't mind printing and piecing patterns. It's not any more work than tracing my existing ones, though a paper-cutter helps a lot, and I like knowing I can always print out a new one if I goof this one up. I especially like it if it means I get to have the pattern I want TODAY, RIGHT NOW, without leaving my house... but I do have a hard time paying for them.

  24. @Amy: If you read the project description, you will see that for some reason BurdaStyle gives me errors when I try to upload the instructions for the coffee date dress. It also says you can find them on my website available for free download and the instructions there clearly say that the seam allowances for the pattern (as for any Burda magazine pattern) are not included.

  25. Oh, Peter. Good luck! I made one Burda dress, downloaded/taped/cut/etc. Never again!!! (though I do desperately want to try the Coffee Date Dress) I bet Cathy would love that Coffee Date Dress! ;)

    Can't wait to see the finished product! I've been eyeing some patterns with pintucks, and am anxious to see how you do it :)

  26. Peter the link you gave to the BurdaStyle (BS) dress is from the site, if you go to this page on the ".com" you can then navigate to the English instructions, and the wording/text is the same as it would have of appeared in the printed paper-magazine :)

    P.S. The BS magazine PDF patterns DO NOT include seam allowances - and tell you add on hem allowances too, ie for your dress they say to:

    Trace the pattern pieces from the pattern sheet.
    Seam and hem allowances:
    Seams and edges 1.5 cm (5/8 in), hem 4 cm (15/8 ins). UNQUOTE.

    :) Seemane

  27. Most time I usually just eyeball the patterns and see if I can do it without the directions first. I usually use the directions when I get stuck. But I'm only making doll clothes, so it might be easier on my part, I wish you luck with this!

  28. What download angst! I've sedulously avoided such trauma. But I have engaged in magazine pattern tracing -- which may rival downloading in frustration. But I'm all baited breath here -- can't wait to see the culmination of pattern and fabric. You slay, uh, Burda me. In sincerest admiration.

  29. Guten Tag, Peter:

    Actually, that's a cute pattern. I couldn't see the fabric because the link broke.

    I refuse to assemble numerous pieces of paper to create a pattern. I've been offered a few gift downloads from pattern companies, but what kind of a freebie is that?

    One day I'm going to try to learn how to assemble the pieces using a software program such as Adobe Illustrator and take them to a large-format printer.

    By the way, in this case, it's "discreet." "Discrete" means "separate."

    If you have any problems with the German you might want to try the following forum. You'll have to register, but it's free, and you'll have to make an attempt at translation yourself, in other words, say, "My understanding is "____ means ___, is that correct?" Wait for a German speaker to confirm.

    I've gone to this site for help with languages other than German and people are generally very responsive.

    Viel Glück. Tschüss!

  30. You probably know this, but the quick way to add SAs is to take a clear ruler, lay it on the sewing line of the pattern, and to move it along the line, plotting the SA. When done, connect the dots. Use 1 inch for the main seams and 1/2 inch for curves. Those measurements are easier to draw than 5/8 of an inch anyway.

    Some people like to use a double tracing wheel to mark the SAs.

  31. I've never done it, but isn't there a method for button loops in which essentially you use one continuous fabric strip bent into loops and sew it? I'm sure you'll be able to find it on the web.

  32. I've never downloaded a Burda pattern b/c well, I have a thing about using all my paper. Silly really.

    Anyway, the button loops. Yes, make one continuous loop and use your serger. First w/o any fabric, make a long string of serger stitching (longer than your loop rectangle), leaving it attached. Then you lay it on the right side of your long rectangle for the loops, and fold it in half, like a thread taco. Serge that long length. Then, pull the taco string out, turning it right side out. Then cut each loop as long as they need to be. I think you can also leave them one long length and place them wavelike on your bodice piece. I've never tried that part though.

  33. I have honestly never read anyone say anything nice about printing out and taping together a pattern.

    I did it. Once (not Burda). I have a couple more that I will because well, maybe I like the torture or something I don't know.

    And one is the legendary Coffee Date Dress. You know I have to make that one. Or Else. You Know Who has awesome super powers and may open a can of magic kick a** on me if I don't.

    But anyhoo have fun on your Michael's Suit Break Project.

  34. congrats congrats, i too hate transferring patterns! i often look at BS and put it back again because it looks too stressy! jo in rainy devon!

  35. I downloaded a pattern once, attempted to put it all together and by the time it was half done I lost any desire to actually sew the thing. Never again will I use a downloadable pattern.
    Anyways, Burda. Where I live only German version of the magazine is avaliable. I don't speak German and translating is very tedious, does anyone know if there are English instructions anywhere on the web? I wish they would just put up the instructions in different languages for people to download monthly......

  36. I can't see the fabric either. I'm guessing that so many people have tried looking at it as a result of reading your blog that their server has blown up or something.

    My inclination would be to make up the fabric in a lovely shirt for yourself. You know that pattern is going to make Cathy look like as Heidi Klum might say "a cheese hostess" and you'll have to pay the price.

    Tell Burda that you don't understand and that the pattern you downloaded was for a tuxdeo shirt - still lots of tucks etc. It will be in a sense burda-ing them back and seems only fair.

  37. Have fun with that, Peter. And while I suspect you too might not listen to me, as many have not already, it is far easier to cut out and assemble the individual pieces than tape out the whole diagram and then cut. Just saying.

  38. If you still need any help with the translation, tell me.. I am from Germany, but sewing by pattern I did learn in Canada.. :) Besides that, I really like the pattern!

  39. I love these Burda downloadable patterns. I get a little tingle of excitement when it's time to put them together. I usually do that in front of television of an evening. The free ones are best of all because it's instant gratification and brings the cost of a garment right down. My favourite jeans pattern is a Burda download. The paper is harder to work with and one day I might just trace it off onto something easier, but I'm a great fan of the patterns. I hope yours goes well.

  40. I have downloaded and used simple pattern from Burda. I use paper from the recycling bin so it's not too wasteful, and it's true the patterns are quite sturdy and easier to alter. But, I have avoided some patterns because there are too many pages. In terms of directions--I hate Burda's. I think it must be something about the Germanic frame of mind that eludes me, because I have used Ottobre Design patterns and like their directions. So, just follow common sewing sense rather than go crazy trying to do Burda-think.

  41. There's a reason it's called BS. The whole thing is a pita. I don't like printing the pattern, trueing the scale is hard, instructions are awful. The site is awful to navigate, counterintuitive and the pattern's page is in no way connected to the project page :p

    I avoid the whole thing like the plague. Seems unprofessional on every level, and too cliquey.

  42. I meant to say... my only experiences with downloadable patterns are with free ones, downloaded in PDF format. I'd rather wait until a sale and buy one for $1. As for instructions, whyfor do you need them, Peter?

    *evil smirk* My first (and only) formal lesson involved chucking the instructions over my shoulder and learning how to wing it. While I occasionally consult them, for the most part I do it *my* way with my own methods... and nine times out of ten, it ends up looking just like the pattern picture!

    Instructions? We don't need no stinkin' instructions!

  43. ... all the patterns I've downloaded from the BurdaStyle site include the seam allowances... I just checked all 5 of them.

    I'm in the camp that enjoys taping the pattern together. It's just fun to watch it all come together. Also, it can be done in front of the tv, so it's not such a big deal.

    Mostly,I like Burda because if I want to sew something up quick on a Sunday or in the evening when everything is closed I can just download a pattern instead of having to leave the house to buy one.

  44. BurdaStyle patterns (at least the ones i've chosen) tend to run big and do have seam allowance but the one you are using says it doesn't. I'm guessing that since it's from the Burda magazine and those don't seem to have SA (who knows)...just checked; there is a FAQ about the magazine patterns and it confirms that the ones from the magazine have no SA (

    It takes me about 1hr or more to put their patterns together and cut them out. I've downloaded several and made 2. Right now I'm putting together the JJ....3 weeks in and i'm still not done *sigh*

    My biggest problem is that their size chart seems off. It says I'm a 44 this translates to a US 12, which would be correct, but it's too big and I end up using a 38.

  45. Downloaded BurdStyle patterns?
    Never again.
    What a waste of paper, toner, tape and time!

  46. I've used Bernina My Label software and got used to printing and taping patterns. (Of course, I was motivated by the possibility that it might fit me).
    First cut off all the edges on the right hand side of the paper, then cut off all the bottom edges. Next, choose whether you want to start with columns or rows, but choose one and do them.
    In other words, tape all the right sides of paper to the next page in the row.
    Once the rows are done, tape the columns. Then- cut with a rotary cutter. I do it on a large cutting table (a must for this sort of work). I just got used to it. Still, I am pissed at Burda for taking down the archives of all the line drawings from the magazine. What are they doing???

  47. I usually don't have the patience for the cutting out and taping together of patterns. I get excited about a pattern, download and print it, then look at the 30 or so pieces of paper on the floor and realize I'm not as motivated as I thought I was.

    If you don't feel like making the fabric loops, you could do them with embroidery floss instead. It's super simple and I find my loops tend to look a lot more even. Here's a tutorial:

  48. Oh my goodness you get a lot of comments per post! You must feel like the most popular man on the planet!

    I have my own little blog which feels a little lame and useless next to your beautifully worded and *funny, funny, funny* daily musings. I wish I had your silver tongue (or fingers, although that metaphor seems a bit wrong since silver fingers would make it far harder to type...).

    I love the idea of Burda printed patterns but after reading The Selish Seamstresses blog, and seeing the hell she goes through every time she has to print/tape/cut, I've had a enough already! So I applaud you for trying and doing so amazingly well.

    Really looking forward to the nect installment as always.

    Thanks for making my days a little brighter!


  49. Hey Peter,
    Just popping up to say hi after being absent from my reader for a few days - looks like you have a HEAP of sewing work in front of you!
    The dress and print will go really nicely together, and Cathy with her shapely legs will pull it of beautifully. Where abouts is your holiday before your holiday? (lucky lad)

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