If you’re looking for a good way to quickly and cheaply build up your pattern collection with a lot of different styles, consider picking up or subscribing to a European pattern magazine or two. Popular among European sewists, pattern magazines are released either monthly or a few times a year and contain entire collections of new sewing patterns, often in very on-trend styles.
The main caveat to pattern magazines is that in the interest of economy, the patterns themselves are printed in an overlapping format on large pattern sheets, often looking like a maze or a roadmap, and you’ll need to trace your pattern in the correct size before you can use it. Additionally, the quality of language translations varies quite a bit by magazine. However, these magazines provide a lot of bang for your sewing buck, and most are very well drafted and fit true to their size charts. All of the magazines I’ve highlighted here offer at least a small “plus” collection per issue, and two (KnipMode and Ottobre) offer every pattern in their entire size range–up to a European size 52.
How to prep a magazine pattern
Prepping your magazine patterns for use doesn’t have to be difficult, although it is a slightly different process than prepping a paper pattern or simply cutting pattern tissue. To prep your magazine pattern for use:
- Consult the pattern instructions within the magazine. These will tell you which pattern sheet contains your pattern and what color ink was used to print that particular pattern.
- Find your pattern and appropriate size on the pattern sheet. If the pattern sheet contains a busy roadmap of pattern lines, it can be very helpful to use a highlighter marker to trace the correct size line for your pattern.
- Trace your pattern onto tracing or medical paper. I add my seam allowances at this time using three pencils that I’ve taped together, which gives me 1/2″ seam allowances. You can also add your seam allowances later–just don’t forget to add them!
- Make your pattern adjustments to your traced paper pattern.
- Cut your fabric. If you have not already added your seam allowances to your paper pattern, make sure to add them when you cut your fabric–there’s a somewhat difficult-to-find rotary cutter accessory that will allow you to add seam allowances while you cut with a rotary cutter.
- Sew up your garment!
Roundup of Popular European Pattern Magazines
This section provides an introduction to the six most popular European pattern magazines that regularly include curvy or plus sized patterns in their collections. I’ve included basic information about each magazine, including ordering information for those who want to give these magazines a try.
BurdaStyle is the most prominent of the European pattern magazines. If you’ve ever sewn a magazine pattern, you’ve probably sewn a Burda at some point. Published monthly, the German-based Burda includes a small “plus” collection in each issue, and until recently, they used to offer a twice-yearly special issue that was entirely plus-sized patterns. Burda’s plus patterns are usually available in European sizes 44-52 (39.5″ – 48″/ 100cm-122cm bust, 41.75″-50.5″/106-128cm hip). Style-wise, Burda tends to be all over the map, but generally incorporates current trends without being too “trendy”.
As far as the appeal of Burda’s plus patterns…well, that’s another story. In recent years, Burda has been notorious for releasing shapeless sack-style patterns in their plus offerings. It doesn’t help matters that the models that they tend to choose for their “plus” shoots are generally not particularly curvy, so the sample garments often swim on the models. However, once or twice a year, they’ll knock it out of the park with a plus collection that includes pieces with lots of seaming and/or tailoring and doesn’t look like it’s trying to cover up a woman’s curves.
Having made numerous BurdaStyle patterns over the years, I can attest that their drafting is usually impeccable. Many women love the crotch curve of their pants draft. (On my body, it’s “okay”, but I feel like I get a better fit from StyleArc.) The English translations for their instructions are notorious for being difficult to understand and spawned the term “Burda WTF” from back in the day when Burda was called “Burda World of Fashion”, or simply “Burda WoF”.
BurdaStyle is available in most common European languages. Each language has a separate website and separate published magazine. BurdaStyle is available both in traditional physical magazine format, and in a digital format from their website where you can purchase and download individual pattern PDFs, pattern collections, or entire issues: US BurdaStyle website.
To order the physical Burda magazine in the US, contact GLP news, where you can order either a subscription or individual issues (you’ll want the “English International Edition”): GLP News Burda page.
KnipMode is a monthly Dutch magazine that offers all of its patterns in its entire size range (up to a European size 54). We’ve actually had a few posts about KnipMode on the CSC over the years, which you can read by clicking the knipmode tag. One of the nice things about KnipMode is that if you don’t want to order a whole magazine issue, you can download individual PDF patterns from their website (similar to what BurdaStyle offers). They have a nice variety of patterns and offer some pattern types that we rarely see from other magazines, such as plus sized lingerie patterns.
While no English translation is available for KnipMode, German and French translated versions are available with some searching online under the name “Fashion Style”.
To subscribe to KnipMode or order single issues, see the helpful instructions that Mary put together in her post: My Year With KnipMode.
La Mia Boutique (LMB) is a monthly Italian pattern magazine that focuses mostly on women’s sewing patterns. Most of their patterns are available in Italian sizes 42-46; however, each monthly issue includes a small selection of “plus” designs, as well. IMO, La Mia Boutique’s plus designs are typically more feminine and interesting (including having a fair amount of shaping) than Burda’s “plus” designs. La Mia Boutique also publishes special Taglie forti (“plus”) issues twice a year. LMB’s style tends to have a lot of feminine details and be trendier than some other pattern magazines.
The only language that La Mia Boutique available in is Italian, so you’d need to either be able to roughly understand Italian or not need instructions to use this magazine.
Years ago (when I remembered more Italian), I bought a few copies of LMB and did make a few garments from them. I found the size chart to be accurate and the patterns to be well-drafted.
My Image magazine is a twice-yearly publication that is based out of the Netherlands and includes translated sewing instructions in English, Dutch, German, French, and Spanish. I’d describe their overall style as “nice basics with trendy details”. One unique thing about MyImage is that they show each pattern made up in several different fabrics and styled differently to help give more inspiration beyond a single photo/line drawing.
The size range for most of their women’s patterns is a European 34-46 (32.7″/83cm through 42″/107 cm bust), but they do offer a handful of patterns each issue in sizes up to a European 52 (49.2″/125 cm bust).
I can’t personally speak to the instructions or fit of the women’s patterns, but I’ve made a few things from their children’s magazine (B-Trendy), and I’ve been very happy with how those have turned out. For the childen’s patterns, the fit has been spot-on, and while the instructions have had some…interesting…translations, I think that most people could probably muddle through. (FWIW, the girls’ patterns is where this company really shines, with a nice mix of age-appropriate classic and very trendy designs.)
My Image is one of the easier European magazines to obtain; they have an online shop that’s translated into all of their supported languages where you can order single issues, including back issues, or order an annual subscription: Made By Oranges.
If I were completely new to sewing from pattern magazines, Ottobre Woman is probably the one that I’d start with. Based out of Finland, Ottobre has fully translated versions available for Finnish, English, German, Dutch, Swedish, and French. Their designs tend to be contemporary basics that can be made again and again with small design tweaks and different fabrics.
On an equally user-friendly note, like KnipMode, nearly all of their designs are available in their full size range (European 34-52). (Unlike Burda, Ottobre actually includes shorts and activewear patterns in their plus range.) Ottobre Woman is published twice a year; Ottobre also publishes a quarterly children’s pattern magazine, and also has a new annual “family” issue, too.
I’ve made a few things from Ottobre over the years, and like most of these European pattern magazines, I’ve found the sizing to be accurate and the patterns to be well-drafted. If instructions are important to you, Ottobre has far-and-away the most easily understood (and best translated) instructions out of the European magazines that I’ve tried.
You can subscribe to just about any combination of Ottobre magazines or even buy single issues (including back issues) from their website: Ottobre – Subscribe and Order.
A little bit more difficult to obtain than most of the magazines in this post, Patrones is a monthly Spain-based pattern magazine. With a focus on designer fashion, including several designer knockoff patterns per issue, each issue of Patrones has a limited number of plus size designs. They do periodically publish a plus size-focused issue as a “Tallas Grandes” special edition.
I have not personally sewn anything from a Patrones magazine, but I know that some sewists are big fans–particularly more advanced sewists. Patrones does not offer any translated versions of their magazines or instructions, so if you need instructions, you’ll probably want to have an understanding of Spanish sewing terminology.
The easiest way to obtain Patrones is to either search eBay and Etsy for single issues or to order a subscription through Global Magazines: Global Magazines – Patrones Subscription.
I have an existing aversion towards tracing (although I have no issue with trimming/taping PDFs), so there’s always a psychological hump for me to get over when it comes to sewing from pattern magazines…even though, when I just sit down with my highlighter, pens, and tracing paper, I always think, “Hey, this isn’t bad; I should sew from these more.”
Have you ever sewn from one of these pattern magazines? Which have been your favorites? Any words of advice for your fellow sewists on pattern magazines?