I love books, and like many of us, I particularly love sewing books. What I don’t love about sewing books is that most of garment-focused sewing books that include patterns have the same problem that many commercial patterns have: a limited size range.
I was cautiously optimistic when I learned a while back that BurdaStyle was going to be publishing a book of plus sized patterns this summer. Historically, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with BurdaStyle’s Plus patterns: I love their drafting, sizing consistency, and occasional standout patterns, but I hate how frumpy and shapeless many of their magazine’s Plus patterns have been in recent years.
I was excited when Amy of Sew-Well offered to pass her promo copy of this book along to the CSC so that I could test out at least one of projects in this book and write a proper review. For this review, I made up the “Vintage Chic” shirtdress pattern that’s included in the book.
BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Full-Figure Fashion contains 24 plus sized sewing patterns. Like BurdaStyle’s previous two books, the Plus book is a re-packaging of popular patterns from BurdaStyle Magazine and BurdaStyle.com. I can’t really fault Burda for that; if the non-plus books all contain archive patterns, I wouldn’t expect anything different from the Plus book.
However on top of the standard re-packaging, many of these patterns have also previously appeared in the pattern compilation “kits” that BurdaStyle sells. Additionally, at least two of the patterns are also available as envelope patterns. That’s an awful lot of re-packaging for one group of patterns and also explains why the patterns didn’t feel particularly fresh to me when I first paged through the book. Given that anyone who follows BurdaStyle’s Plus patterns has probably seen these patterns in several iterations before, it would have been nice for Burda to have thrown in at least one or two new “exclusive” patterns for the book.
Here are the basic facts about the book:
- All of the patterns in the book are available in Burda’s standard Plus range: sizes 44-52, which equates to 39 1/2″ (100cm) bust and 41 3/4″ (106cm) hip through a 48″ (122cm) bust and 50 1/2″ (128cm) hip.
- The book is spiral-bound and lies flat while open.
- Burda states up front that this is not a “teach you to sew” book. There’s a very basic section in the beginning about tracing and laying out your patterns, and then it dives into the individual patterns. If you need fitting and alterations help, you’ll need a separate book for that. I actually really liked this aspect; I feel like some books waste a ton of pages at the beginning rehashing beginning sewing info that can be found in many other books.
- The patterns are laid out in an overlapping “roadmap” style on double-sided sheets of sturdy paper that are stored in the book’s included sturdy envelope in back. Trace your patterns so that you can re-use the sheets. There are fewer patterns per sheet than the magazine patterns, so the sheets are less cluttered. I didn’t have any difficulty tracing my shirtdress pattern even though I have terrible eyesight.
- Seam allowances ARE included in these book patterns. (The magazine patterns and download patterns typically do not have seam allowances included.)
The patterns in this book all previously appeared in issues of BurdaStyle magazine between 2012 and early 2014. I am including links to the download version of each pattern as it appeared in the magazine. Some of the Curvy Sewing Collective Editors previously made some of the book patterns as part of their BurdaStyle Plus blog tour to publicize Burda’s plus sewing kits. I am including links to their individual pattern reviews where relevant. (I’d like to thank Amy for doing a lot of the legwork on this, which you can read about in her blog post about the book).
- Studio Style Satin Shirt (12-2012 #147B)
- Sailor Girl Cowl Neck Dress (07-2012 #139)
- Love Story Tie-Front Blouse (08-2013 #140)
- Dress for Success Long Jacket and Trousers (08-2012 #142A and 08-2012 #148B)
- Day to Night Surplice Dress (12-2012 #144, also sewn and reviewed by former CSC Editor Mary)
- On the Go Wool Coat (01-2013 #127, also sewn and reviewed by former CSC Editor Laurence)
- La Dolce Vita Summer Dress (04-2013 #131)
- Block Party Jersey Top and Skirt (02-2014 #137 and 02-2014 #139)
- Cutting Edge Vest and Skinny Leg Trousers (12-2012 #149 and 12-2012 #148)
- Bohemian Spring Voile Tunic (01-2013 #133A, B6972, and also sewn and reviewed by CSC Editor Tanya)
- Vintage Chic Polka Dot Dress (08-2013 #138 and B6896)
- Vagabond Silk Trousers (currently unavailable online)
- Swing Time Jersey Cardigan (01-2013 #129)
- Southwest Charm Challis Tunic (09-2013 #133)
- Retro Glam Wrap-Front Top and Pencil Skirt (07-2012 #136 and 07-2012 #135*)
- Cloud 9 Tank Top (05-2013 #137)
- Weekend in the Country Boatneck Top and Pencil Skirt (10-2012 #143 and 10-2012 #145)
- Cowl Girl Blouse and Infinity Scarf (12-2013 #132)
* The skirt portion of the “Retro Glam” outfit is actually the skirt portion of the “Dart Dress”. The dress view is not included in the book.
It’s a decent selection of patterns, but given that most of them are 2-3 years old, they do feel a bit like warmed-over leftovers. Also, out of 24 patterns, why isn’t there a single traditional jacket or coat pattern with any sort of closure? The two pant patterns are very similar as well, and there’s no traditional trouser pattern or any pattern with a fly front of any kind.
In some cases, I thought that the view that they included was sort of odd–like the skirt which is really part of a dress, but they didn’t include the rest of the dress. Or if you look on the BurdaStyle website, the Tie Front Blouse has a view with a very pretty and much more interesting dress on than the blouse on its own. I think I would have liked to have seen fewer patterns overall and a wider selection of pattern views, especially since some of the individual patterns are pretty repetitive.
To give a review of this book beyond, “Look at all of the pretty patterns! I bet that some of these will look nice when made up,” I made up the “Vintage Chic Shirtdress”. I made up this pattern because I liked the collar and neckline and also thought that if the pattern worked out, it would make a nice day dress that I could see myself making several times. I’m using my experience with this pattern to give context to my opinions about the book.
I found the drafting for this pattern to be accurate. I didn’t run into any issues with missing notches or seams not lining up. My dress ran true to its expected size.
Having worked through one project in this book, I found the instructions to be slightly better than the magazine/download instructions typically are, but they felt quite a bit more sparse than the envelope pattern instructions. The shirtdress that I made is a simple enough garment that I didn’t have any trouble with construction, but the sparse and confusing instructions prevent me from being able to recommend this pattern or book to anyone who hasn’t previously made a garment with similar details.
For example, the buttons and buttonholes are applied to a self-faced opening. The instructions and accompanying diagram would lead you to believe that you fold over the self facing twice to the wrong side of the bodice, which will leave you with an unfinished seam allowance at the top. Instead, you’d want to turn the last fold to the right side of the bodice so that you can get a nicely finished seam allowance when you fold the facing back right-side-out. I found few other oddities, too–mostly to do with the order of construction jumping around a lot, so I just used my own order of construction.
As far as my finished dress goes, it’s not flawless, but I’m quite happy with it. I wasn’t in love with the long sleeves and was also short on fabric, so I cut them to a short sleeve length (not included as a pattern view).
The pattern fit as expected, and with the exception of some tweaks that I had to make for fitting and being short on fabric, it looks pretty close to the line drawing. I really like the collar and the neckline on this dress; they’re similar to the Colette Hawthorn, but probably scaled a bit better for a larger figure.
Book Rating and Final Thoughts
Size Range (1-5): 4 (Could be larger for plus sizes.)
Instructions (1-5): 2.5 (They’ll get you through the process, but there might be a better or less confusing way to do things.)
Selection of Patterns (1-5): 3 (It’s an oddball assortment of previously released patterns–some are very nice, some are “meh”.)
Pattern Drafting Quality (1-5): 5 (I have zero complaints about the drafting quality of the pattern that I tried–all of the notches and seams lined up, and the pattern fit as expected.)
Overall Rating (1-5) + Explanation: 3.625 (Average of all scores; Reflects that this book is a solid purchase…if you like the patterns and haven’t already acquired them elsewhere.)
This book was released to little fanfare in July–no blog tours were arranged around its release, and outside of Amy’s copy, I’m not aware of any promo copies that were sent out. The little bit of reaction that I’ve seen online has been mostly negative, largely centered around the fact that the patterns are all rehashes and that many of the shapes are boxy. I certainly understand the fatigue at seeing these same patterns over and over, although I do like a few of them. I also think that while most of the knit patterns are pretty boxy, they’ve included some really nice dress patterns with plenty of shaping. However, I would have loved to have been able to recommend this book based on improvements over the download/magazine pattern instructions, but I can’t do that since the improvements appear to be pretty marginal. Given that the book retails for ~$15 on Amazon, if you’re planning to make three or more patterns out of this book, it’s still a pretty good deal.
I do feel like there’s an unfulfilled niche out there for someone to put out a really great plus size-oriented sewing book with fun, stylish patterns and good instructions. This book isn’t doesn’t fill that niche.
In coming weeks, I’ll be taking a look at Tanya Whelan’s recently released Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time, which contains a pretty extensive size range for its patterns and provides an introduction to drafting details from a basic bodice and skirt pattern. I’m pretty excited about this book from flipping through it, but we’ll see how the drafting works out in the larger sizes.
Have you bought or are you contemplating buying the BurdaStyle Plus book? How do you feel about the book?