Some pattern facts of life

Paper patterns

When I come across (mainly) Americans wondering why on earth anyone ‘wants to’ pay $20 for an Indy pattern, or spend time and trouble tracing a pattern from a spaghetti-junction of lines, or  tediously match and tape dozens of sheets of paper, it makes me ‘want to’ scream, or rip the pattern catalogues from their ungrateful hands!

Do our American friends  really think most of us actually  want the extra time, trouble and opportunity for error in taping or tracing? Lots of us don’t want to spend $20 on a pattern, either.

But you know what?

We do it because we have to.

What you in the US refer to as ‘Big 4’ patterns which you can buy for a dollar or two in regular sales or with coupons, are, here in the UK and everywhere else in the world that I know of,  expensive, often seriously so, if they are even available for purchase.

As there is so little price differential between Indy patterns and Big 4 patterns, they’re a much more attractive proposition than they would be in the US. When a Simplicity pattern costs more than £8, and a Vogue pattern £15, a $15 (~£10) Indy pattern seems  perfectly reasonable!

This high cost of paper sewing patterns in Europe and elsewhere – often, even, their unavailability – also serves to explains  the popularity of pattern magazines. These seem to be considered a bit of a mystery or curiosity in the US, and the use of Burda magazine patterns is often looked on with trepidation by even many skilled and experienced sewers.

A pattern magazine  costs most people in the world us less than a single paper pattern, and contains anything from half a dozen to a couple of dozen or more  different patterns, each covering a range of sizes. Is it any surprise, then, that so many of us ignore Big 4 patterns, even in countries where  they are widely available?

Pattern magazines – not just Burda!

Burda (from Germany) is probably the best-known pattern magazine in the world, and seems to be the only one widely known or fairly easily available in the US.

It is  distributed worldwide and published in several languages. Burda also publishes ‘specials’, usually once or twice a year – Burda Easy, Burda Plus, Burda Petite and Burda Kids. (Also Burda Quilting, but we’re talking clothing patterns here). Burda was the first glossy Western womens magazine which was  legally available behind the Iron Curtain in the days of Soviet Russia; when I went to work in Berlin just a few years after the Wall came down, I remember a colleague of mine, an ‘Ossi’ (former resident of  East Germany), telling me about her mother getting the occasional smuggled copy of Burda, and how very precious it was. Marion also told me why bananas were such a scary fruit, but that’s a story for another time.

Burda, though, is far from being the only sewing pattern magazine available.

Sewing and cutting

Where shall I start? I think I’ll go from north to  south. Bear in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list!

In Russia,  Diana-Moden seems to contain (as far as I have seen) Simplicity or Simplicity-type patterns for tracing off. Another pattern magazine called “ШИК: Шитье и крой” ( CHIC: Sewing and cutting) appears to contain mainly re-issues of La Mia Boutique (Italy) and LOOK! (Argentina) patterns.

Ottobre, from Finland, publishes editions in Finnish, English, Dutch, German and Swedish. It publishes six issues a year – four for children’s wear and two for women.



Back issues, single issues and subscriptions can be purchased from its website. Here in the UK, it’s only occasionally seen ‘in the wild’ at newsagents.

‘Sy’ is a Danish pattern magazine which contains all sorts of sewing projects from dolls clothes to evening gowns and craft items.

Germany is  a hotbed of sewing pattern magazines. Näh-Style,  Fashion Style,  Meine Nähmode,  and Sabrina Woman are all pattern magazines from Germany and most of them also publish occasional plus size specials. Fashion Style provides all its patterns in German sizes 34 to 56 inclusive.

From the Netherlands comes Knipmode, Knippie (for children),  My Image and B-Inspired.

La Maison Victor is a Belgian magazine which seems to be getting increasingly popular all over Europe for its quality patterns, drafting and styling.



In France, we find Elena Couture and Fait Main – which latter is a direct translation of the previously-mentioned ‘Sy’ magazine from Denmark.

Patrones is published in Spain, as is The Sewing Box Special.

La Mia Boutique, Special La Mia Boutique Taglie Forti (ie plus size),  and Modellino are Italian-language  pattern magazines.

Staying in the Northern hemisphere, but zooming eastwards, Mrs Stylebook and Lady Boutique are just two of the many Japanese pattern magazines. If you have a Kinokuniya near you in the US, you should be able to find them there. When I lived in Sydney, NSW, I spent half my time and salary in Kinokuniya. Sadly, there’s no Kinokuniya anywhere in Europe. 😦 sad face 

South of the equator, Brazil publishes several pattern magazines, naturally enough in Portuguese. Manequim is possibly the best known; two others that I know of are Moda Moldes and Molde e Cia.

Still further south, in Argentina, ‘Look’ is  published in Spanish.

The very best styles, though, in my opinion at least, come from the furthest south.

Snappy dressing and style which is  suitable for all occasions,  which  will carry the wearer from a casual fish supper and baby sitting, to an ocean swim or a formal photoshoot with equal aplomb, is the prerogative of the penguin,  who needs  no outside help in design or colour choice – they always look good!

How to be smartly dressed for any occasion!



6 thoughts on “Some pattern facts of life

  1. I think the misunderstanding is that the pattern companies sell the patterns cheaply in the US. It’s actually the chain fabric stores that run the pattern sales at such cheap prices. They consider them loss leaders – an item to draw customers in – so they will buy more items than what they came in for. Also not all American sewists have access to those chain stores and those sales.

    I’m one of those who hates taping patterns together or tracing them out of Burda magazines but that’s because I learned to sew with paper patterns and have been using them for over 40 years. The thing about the globalization of sewing is learning how sewists around the world “do/handle” sewing. I guess it can be disheartening to learn of the methods that’s used in various countries. However, I don’t believe anyone means any harm, they are just speaking from their experiences.

    Personally, I didn’t know that other countries paid exhorbant prices for paper patterns until I started blogging 10 years ago. I now understand the appeal of PDF patterns in other countries or why sewing magazines are so popular. It’s just different from my personal sewing journey.


  2. Apologies if this is a duplicate comment –

    I wonder if it is the pattern companies that are responsible for the US pattern sale prices. Or is it the chain fabric stores that use them as a loss-leader to get people in the store, then make the profit off the fabric & notions, or whatever other craft and decorating items they sell? I don’t think I’ve seen any of the Big 4 at independent apparel fabric stores (there’s only one that still exists in my area) in years. It’s been so long, I don’t recall if they were ever on sale at independent stores.


  3. Yes, patterns are expensive in the UK. However, we do get the ‘Big 4’ and Burda on half price offer from time to time. That makes a top whack half price Vogue pattern £7.50 – still fairly pricey. I also have a load of sewing mags – I have some in Spanish, Dutch and Italian (haven’t tried them yet). There is a Simplicity magazine in Spanish (Simplicity Moda de Pasarela) and Dutch (Simplicity Naaimode) which has patterns to trace based on the Simplicity patterns that are on sale for £8 a pop. Interesting (but not surprising) that there does not seem to be an English language version!


    1. The fact that in the UK the Big 4 put their patterns on sale at 40% or 50% off once or twice a year is not a reason to let them off the hook. If a Simplicity pattern can often be sold for a dollar in the US, there is no need for it almost always to cost nigh on £10 here in the UK. Paying that amount would be acceptable if there were some sort of reliable accuracy check or quality control – but there isn’t! Patterns should be, at the very least, ‘fit for purpose’ before being sold commercially. Some are clearly not. (Just to clarify – I am NOT referring to fitting issues here – that is an entirely different kettle of fish)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for the list of sewing pattern magazines.

    Regarding pattern prices in the U.S. – I come down on the fence hard on this. I love paying so little. But these prices have some downsides. It’s led to some indiscriminate pattern buying on my part, for minor variations rather than learn to modify a basic pattern I’ve already altered to fit me. Even on sale, the cost adds up, especially if those patterns remain unused. The pattern pile seems to make it hard for me to pick one and start sewing, because of the alterations I need to do. Those cheap prices have kept me from trying some of the well-respected independent companies like Style Arc, Jalie, Hot Patterns, etc. And I wonder if we in the U.S. weren’t so well trained to wait for those sales, if Hancock Fabrics might not be back in bankruptcy.

    If I were starting sewing all over (maybe it’s not too late?) I’d have found a basic set of patterns, altered them to fit me, and learn to do all those modifications rather than have a shelf full.


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