Last September, I discovered Knipmode, the popular Dutch pattern magazine. Marianne, of Foxgloves and Thimbles, wrote a blog post for us about the magazine’s then-recent restyling, which included a newly extended size range for ALL patterns. Unlike Burda, which puts out a small plus size collection each month, Knipmode moved to a model where every pattern comes in every size. Remarkable!
After reading Marianne’s piece, I was sold.
Sure, I didn’t speak Dutch and I had a pathological hatred of tracing patterns, but the designs overcame such quibbles. They were too gorgeous to resist, y’all. More modern and fashion-forward than most commercial patterns, Knipmode’s pages brimmed with interesting seam lines, luxe fabric suggestions, and glamorous silhouettes. After trying two tester issues (09/2015 and 10/2015), I was hooked. Flipping through pages, ogling pretty patterns that actually came in my size, was an addictive experience. Subscription followed soon after.
A year later, I have a stack of Knipmodes on my bookcase and plenty of thoughts about the magazine. Over this post and the next, I’ll examine my year of Knipmode and see how it stacked up. Was it worth the language barrier and subscription price? Is tracing actually as tedious as it seems? After a year of extended sizing, did the designs continue at a high level? Let’s find out!
If you live outside the Netherlands, subscription is slightly more complicated than filling out Knipmode’s online form. Send an e-mail to their service desk, then someone will work out shipping to your country, additional fees, and set you up with a subscription. With shipping to the US, my subscription cost about $90, or $7.50/issue. That seemed super fair and in line with my budget, especially for 25+ patterns every month.
Once the magazine is sent out, delivery to the States takes an extra week. Typically, I get new issues of Knipmode and new issues of Burda UK on the same day, somewhere in the middle of each month. Three times this year, Knipmode has come wrapped with an additional special issue focusing on a specific theme. They each have a handful of coordinating patterns, with the same sizing as the regular magazine. In addition to a loungewear collection and a cozy autumnal collection, there was also an awesome mini-issue with patterns drafted for three heights: petite, average, and tall.
Select individual patterns can also be downloaded directly from Knipmode’s website in PDF formats, with the original Dutch copy. PDF patterns are not included in the subscription price, however, but can be a good way to try out Knipmode’s drafting and style, before committing to a full issue. They also eliminate the need to trace, though you still need to add seam allowances.
Update: Readers have also located online retailers for the German and French translations of Knipmode, which are titled Fashion Style. For the German version, the website Stoffnest carries the current individual issue. For the French version, you can order current issues and pre-order future issues from Journaux. Both of these websites ship internationally! We’ve also been informed that the Fashion Style versions of these magazines do not come with the special feature mini-issues.
Over the last year, I haven’t learned to speak Dutch. Surprise!
What I have learned are some handy techniques to make translation much, much easier. First off, if you’re going to order Knipmode and you don’t speak Dutch, download the Google Translate app on your phone. Not only does the app reasonably translate from Dutch to English*, but it also has a handy photo feature. Take a picture of the page you’re reading, highlight the text you want translated, and voila! Instant translation. It’s never perfect, but it’s reliable enough to put things together through context. When flipping through the magazine, this is my go-to translation technique, as it keeps the reading experience moving along.
For patterns instructions, I start with Google Translate, then supplement the results with a Dutch-t0-English sewing glossary. Knipmode has one of their own, but Marianne also directed me a more expansive one through SewingPatterns.eu. Like other pattern magazines, Knipmode’s instructions can be bare bones. This works in our favor, when it comes to translation, because there’s less text to work through! Bright side, kittens.
Honestly, more experienced sewers can also get by without directions, in many cases. After looking at the pattern pieces for two different skirts, I didn’t bother translating instructions for them. The process was fairly obvious, given how many skirts I’ve sewn, over the last ten years. Beginners may need to do more translation work, however.
*And Dutch to almost any language, of course. I also tried it in both French and Spanish, which seemed to have similar translation qualities as English, but I can’t vouch for other languages.
Ease of Use
As Marianne mentioned in her initial post, Knipmode doesn’t include seam allowances and you do need to trace off patterns, before using them. Wait, wait! Don’t run away yet! It’s actually really lovely and nice over here!
Y’all, I am a tracing convert. Knipmode patterns sheets are well spaced out and easy to read, with no more than three colors per page. I don’t spend hours trying to figure out which lines to use or squinting to find my way. If anything, tracing is infinitely faster than printing and taping PDF patterns. Once you have your process down, it’s a cinch.
For me, efficiency takes top priority. I highlight my size on the pattern sheets, cover it with tracing paper, then trace out the pattern using two sharpies taped together. The distance between the two sharpie tips is exactly 1/2 inch, so a seam allowance is automatically added while tracing. Some people prefer a double-edged tracing wheel, or free-handing in seam allowances by sight, but I love a good shortcut. For a skirt or top, tracing and cutting out takes less than thirty minutes. More involved patterns, like jackets or dresses, may take longer.
There are a few things to pay attention to, when tracing out patterns. Like Burda, Knipmode can’t always fit a full pattern piece on their insert pages. Pay close attention to markings, watching out for symbols in the corner that correspond to another piece. This will tell you where to overlap pattern pieces, for the the full pattern. Additionally, Knipmode provides seam line labels. Mark these, so that piecing your final garment together is easier! When translating a pattern, it can be invaluable to know what goes where, ahead of time.
Like most pattern magazines, Knipmode’s instructions do not hold your hand. They’re meant for sewers with some experience and previous sewing knowledge. That being said, there is a great pattern technique glossary at the beginning of each instructional booklet, which explains everything from zip insertion to interfacing application. In each issue, there’s also one more complicated pattern that gets full, in-color instructions as one of the articles.
Compared with other pattern companies, I’d say Knipmode gives slightly more information than BurdaStyle, heaps more info than Style Arc, but less than a Big 4 pattern or Indie. If you need a lot of hand-holding, you might want a sewing manual nearby for reference.
The one actual quibble I have with Knipmode’s instructions comes down to fabric suggestions. Knipmode patterns have an index up front, with symbols by each pattern for things like stretch fabric and downloadable patterns. The stretch fabric symbol applies to heavy-stretch knits, light-stretch knits, and stretch wovens, however. Add that to patterns that usually suggest just one fabric (the one pictured on the model) and picking an appropriate fabric takes careful thought. As with everything, muslin with something of similar proprieties to your fashion fabric, so that you know you’ve picked the right substrate.
Knipmode provides almost every pattern in sizes from 34 to 54, which covers measurements up to 51.5 – 44.5 – 54 in inches. Patterns are drafted for a height of 172 cm (a little over 5’6″) and a C-cup, for the larger sizes. The patterns have a modern amount of ease, fitting closer to the body than Big 4 patterns.
Based on my own measurements, I take a size 48, blending into a size 50 for styles that fit closely through the hips. The drafting has been true-to-size, with my usual adjustments needed for narrow shoulders and a full bust. I’m taller than average (5’8″) and don’t add any length to Knipmode patterns, which is such a fun change!
Now, you might notice that I said almost every pattern is available in every size. In the last year, there have been a few exceptions to that awesomely inclusive size range. There was a gorgeous lingerie collection, this spring, that was only available in limited cup sizes and measurements. There have also been a few designer collaborations that only went to size 46, cutting out plus sizes altogether. Honestly, though, those cases have been few and far between. For everything I’ve wanted to sew, except for the cute lingerie, the patterns have featured all advertised sizes.
Despite the language barrier and tracing required, I’ve really enjoyed my Knipmode subscription. It’s cost effective, especially considering that (almost) every pattern is available in my size, and really easy to use for a pattern magazine. Beginners may need more help with instructions, but experienced sewers should do well, especially with a sewing glossary or translation app on hand.
Next week, I’ll be back with thoughts on design quality, a breakdown of garments offered, and my own Knipmode projects. In the meantime, let’s talk about magazine patterns! Do you subscribe to any pattern magazines or prefer one publication over another? I’ve noticed that Burda has upped their plus size game, in the last few issues, which will also be a topic of a forthcoming post.
Note: None of the links or products featured in this post are sponsored. My Knipmode subscription was a Christmas gift, courtesy of my lovely mother, and all opinions are my own.