There have been quite a lot of people wondering about the various sewing pattern magazines out there and which they should buy or subscribe to. Since I’ve been primarily sewing with pattern magazines over the last few years, I thought some of you might appreciate my opinions on the major pattern magazines (and no, I’m not getting any kickbacks or referral money from any of these links, if it wasn’t obvious!).
For all of these magazines, you receive a glossy magazine with lots of nice photos of models wearing the various designs, and there will be a section containing the technical drawings, instructions, and fabric layout for each design. Patterns are included in a special folded bunch of papers (usually stapled in the centre so you can pull them out easily without damaging the rest of the magazine). The patterns come in a variety of sizes, but none of these contain seam allowances and you need to trace them off the sheets provided.
I trace my patterns using a serrated tracing wheel and brown kraft paper, but many others prefer to use tracing paper and pencils. I add my seam allowances when I cut out my fabric by simply cutting 5/8”/1.5cm away from the edge of my paper pattern, but there are double tracing wheels available to do this for you.
You’ll see that most of these magazines are printed in languages other than English. I personally speak only very basic Spanish and a bit of conversational French, neither of which are particularly helpful when it comes to sewing terminology. I honestly do not think that language is a huge barrier when it comes to sewing patterns – you can always figure out the important things (front, back, side, skirt, zipper, lining, facing, pockets, and fabric types) from Google Translate, and then look at the pattern pieces and technical drawing and see similarities between patterns you do have the instructions for, either in envelopes, online, or in sewing books. For instance, a jacket is nearly always sewn with the same steps, or a pair of trousers, or a knit top. After you’ve been sewing a while, you start to see that items are sewn in the same order time and time again and you won’t actually need the instructions for the most part anyway. Or if all else fails, ask myself or one of the sewing messageboards for help!
Ahhh my first magazine love, but the designs are getting really pedestrian/boring lately, so I’m letting my subscription lapse and only buying single issues if they up their game. A few years ago, I honestly couldn’t comprehend sewing without them, but the new editor has made some bad decisions, IMHO. In the last issue they also condensed their pattern sheets to an extreme degree, so they’re much more difficult to trace than in previous years. This actually doesn’t bother me as much as it does other people, because if a pattern is good enough, I’ll do just about anything to sew it, but frankly, the patterns have just been so “blah” so I haven’t even tried the new sheets yet. But if you like the designs and the pattern sheets don’t put you off, the drafting in their magazines is second-to-none, and the fit is truly superb. Their instructions are infamous for being mostly incomprehensible, even if they are in your native language, though!
Burda magazine is published in a huge number of languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, and Dutch. They also publish a “Burda Plus” magazine with only plus-sized patterns, and a “Burda Easy Fashion” magazine which has more youthful styles and is published in German, Dutch, French, and Russian (but not English) [thanks, lauriana, Julietta, & Olga!].
Note: I’m only speaking about Burda magazine here, aka “Burda World of Fashion”, “Burda WOF” or (to be really confusing, thanks!) “Burda Style” magazine. I’m still happy with Burda envelope patterns and BurdaStyle website download patterns!
I’ve bought every issue for the past few years, and recently they’ve been getting REALLY good. My two favourite pairs of jeans are theirs, and I’ve sewn probably more KnipModes than Burdas in the past year. I’ve not had any problems with their drafting, though I’ve been warned to only sew the ones that they’ve made up a sample for (ie: not the designer knockoffs). Despite featuring tons of readers and “real women” as their models, I think they’re more fashion forward than Burda right now. They also offer the widest size range of any of the other pattern magazines (all regular patterns are 34-46, plus is 44-56).
KnipMode is written in Dutch and they also produce a bimonthly children’s pattern magazine, “Knippie” (formerly “Knippie idee”), and a biannual collection of Plus sized patterns in the magazine “Knip XL” [edit: ah, apparently Knip XL is no longer being published, thank you Rose, Laura & lauriana!]
La Mia Boutique
Their designs used to be downright bizarre (think D&G’s Italian brand of weird), but recently they’ve become infinitely more wearable than they used to be, and feature a lot of interesting designs. The draft seems good, though I need to sew one size smaller than the size chart suggests to get a fit on par with Burda. I’ve just picked up a 6 month subscription to test it further. They include a lot of designs that teenagers would be happy to wear, in addition to stuff I’d wear, too.
La Mia Boutique is written in Italian but is also newly produced in French under the title “Ma Boutique”, and periodically in Russian too. They also create a quarterly(?) Plus sized pattern magazine, “Taglie forti”, and occasional children’s and bridal pattern magazines.
See my La Mia Boutique magazine projects here
Subscribe to La Mia Boutique here (Note: I do not recommend ordering single issues from this shop. You will not receive your magazine – they’ll take the money and refund it a few weeks later. Apparently they’re better with 6 or 12 month subscriptions)
Or subscribe to La Mia Boutique here
Home of the designer patterns including designs from Prada, Gucci, Jil Sander, Dolce & Gabbana, et list goes on…) but they had a rough patch last year where they dropped the designer names and made their instructions really user un-friendly, but they’ve clearly listened to reader complaints and switched back to the good instructions and brought back some of the designer names. The size range is limited (only three sizes in the regular range per issue), but the fashions are cutting edge. I personally avoid the summer month issues because there’s too many shorts and skimpy clothes for English weather [ahem, not “winter”! thanks, Susannah!], but their Fall/Winter “Extra” editions are MUST-buys as their coats are FABULOUS. Best coat draft ever, but beware the tiny sleeves if you’ve got anything other than stick arms.
Patrones is written in Spanish and is 12 magazines per year, but with different distinctions under the title: “Ninos” is children’s designs, “Extra” has a ton more patterns, “Vacanes” is holiday/vacation wear, “Joven” is more youthful styles, and there are a few holiday issues thrown in, too, that have more glitzy formalwear.
I’ve never sewn with them because I’ve never seen a design of theirs that I didn’t already have elsewhere, or that I’d actually want to wear. I personally find a lot of the designs to be dowdy, but others may see them as nice basics. Those who do sew from Ottobre are very complimentary about their drafting and instructions. From what I’ve seen of the pattern sheets, however, they make the new compact Burda sheets look like heaven.
Ottobre is mainly a children’s pattern magazine, but they publish “Ottobre Woman” twice a year which is entirely women’s sewing patterns. It is published in Finnish, English, German, Dutch, and Swedish [thanks, Laura!]
Prima (UK) is a standard women’s magazine, but they feature one sewing pattern in each issue. If you’re a subscriber you get the patterns alongside your magazine, but if you buy it on UK newsstands, you must ring a premium-rate number to have the pattern shipped to you (it works out to be around a pound or two on your phone bill). Manequim magazine (Brazilian, written in Portuguese), is just amaaaaaazing but near impossible to get a hold of. Or the Dutch FIMI magazine, which is quarterly (or biannual?) and contains about 30 basic designs (and is now apparently combined with “TopKids” magazine [thanks, Laura!]. Or Mrs Stylebook, a Japanese magazine with drafting instructions rather than patterns to trace [thanks, dris!]
[b]Edit: Since writing this article, I’ve since gone and subscribed to Manequim Magazine! You can find out how to subscribe to Manequim magazine at the end of this post.
I hope these have been useful for those of you who’d like to step outside the limited fashions available in envelope patterns. Or if you’re also a pattern magazine junkie, which are your favourites?