Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Look Through Italian Sewing Magazines

While I was in Rome, I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to bring home any gorgeous Italian wool suiting or silk chiffon because of the prohibitively high prices. For someone who thinks that anything more than $3/yd (or $3/thrifted sheet, which translates to less than a dollar a yard!) is pricey...well, let's just say I'm lucky I didn't keel over right then and there in Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti! I really wanted some sewing-related souvenirs, though, and somehow, elastic and zippers don't cut it. They're so...boring. Thankfully, Assorted Notions' blog post about fabric shopping in Rome clued me in on the treasures waiting for me in those ubiquitous green newsstands -- sewing patterns in magazines! I picked up four different magazines while I was there, from different stands:

Let's take a look through them more carefully, shall we? First, Burda Giovane & Easy, meant for the younger set and presumably with easier patterns:

There are a lot of gathered elastic waists, simple shapes, and trendy design elements.
There are other articles about make-up, style, and crafting, like this one with directions for making an envelope clutch.
Pattern sheets in the middle, printed on tissue paper. I like that they take a basic shape and build on it for different looks, kind of like the Feminine Wardrobe book. I really like the first set of patterns.
I want to give 3D a try, as I need a nice basic button-up shirt. 
The instructions include how to take measurements, layout, and basic construction. 
There are some nice line drawings illustrating the steps, which is good because I don't read Italian. 

Then there's the actual Burda Style magazine, which goes along with the site that I used to post on, except that I got tired of reloading my pictures for every make (when you have to load them on the blog, Flickr,, and BurdaStyle, it gets to be a lot of extra time spent summarizing and linking and loading).

It starts with a helpful article about how the patterns in the magazine are similar to runway trends.  
I love that all the technical drawings are gathered onto one page! 
Patterns like this don't scare me anymore, after my experience with Japanese sewing books. However, I have no idea whether these come with seam allowances or not. Anyone know? 
There was this cutesy section featuring matching mother-daughter outfits. 
Just watch me have SHBs that are all SHB and I won't be able to wear matching star-print skirts!
Little accompanying article about what household objects one could use for stamping fabric. 
Oh hey, random article with recipes for sandwiches! Is it just me, or do other people think that 1) it's weird that there's food in a sewing/style feels unsanitary somehow, even though I know that there's no way to get printed crumbs and oil stains onto patterns that are stapled in the middle of the magazine, and 2) who the heck needs a recipe for a sandwich? A pot roast, I understand, but don't you just assemble things on a sandwich? 

I had never heard of La Mia Boutique until reading Assorted Notions' post, so I was quite intrigued.

There's a whole bunch of Grace Kelly-inspired dresses and coats, including the lovely gray outfit on the cover.  
I love the pleats on this dress. Also, Grace Kelly does not do bold colors? All of these are pastels and silvery grays.
Technical drawings. I'm quite keen on trying #8!
I got really confused when I saw the bottom of this page of drawings, until I read further in the magazine...
...and realized that there are patterns for a men's tuxedo?!
And *whew*, if I have a male SHB I can still dress him. 

And lastly, Modellina Facile, which was also new to me. Going by what I know of Italian, this translates to Easy Tiny Models? Since the suffix -ina means a smaller version of the thing?

A whole set of patterns for going to the beach/pool! It's too bad the fabric they chose is so obscures the cute style lines of the swimsuit.
I really like the look of that blazer.  
The directions don't have illustrations like the easy/teen magazine does. Still, if you either had a similar pattern in your stash, or you were really good and winging it, you could probably figure it out. 
The whole collection, unfortunately displayed on models, instead of technical drawings. That is, it's unfortunate that there isn't a page of all the technical drawings, and not that the modeling itself is unfortunate.

Okay, now here's the fun part -- one of you gets to fake-visit Italy with me by winning your own copy of the last magazine, Modellina Facile! Just specify in your comment that you'd like to enter the giveaway, and tell me what's the most you've ever spent (per yard or per meter) for fabric...let's see how  close we get to that ridiculously-priced cotton-viscose blend in my last post! Also, if you live in Italy, you probably shouldn't enter this giveaway :)

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is what the pattern sheet looks like for the Modellina Facile magazine. Happy tracing!

I'll choose a winner on Friday night. Speaking of things that end on Friday night, have you voted on your favorite knit stashbusting project yet? Go check out the link party; there are some pretty spectacular makes!


  1. Hello from Spain,

    Burda doesn't have seam allowances, unfortunately I do not know the rest of magazines that you show.

    Best regards

  2. Hi there,
    yes, Mireia is right, Burda does not have seam allowances on their patterns. What you trace are the stitching lines and then you add you own choice of seam allowances. The Burda Magazines are published in English as well and sold in the US, so if you get hooked they are available where you are.
    What might be worth mentioning is that their standard (36, 38, 40 etc) sizes are made for a standard hight of 168cm, so if you are a lot smaller it is worth looking out for the petite sizes (17, 18, 19 etc) and if you are a lot taller for the tall sizes (76, 78, 80 etc). I would not be surprise if the patterns in La mia Boutique are made for smaller women, given that they are originally published for the Italian market.
    Let us know what you make from those issues! I love the Burdastyle issue you bought and have already quite a lot of plans what to make :-)

  3. Thanks for the fun little roundup of sewing magazines! I had heard of La Mia Boutique from, where she usually does a hilarious round-up of the terrible styling choices and clothing that is actually worthy of making.

    And I TOTALLY feel you about not spending so much on fabric while abroad. First of all, the exchange rate is terrible for us! I went to London (Liberty), Paris, and Amsterdam which all had amazing fabric. I'm more content to frequent my local swap meet for <$1/yard fabric. :) (

  4. I live close enough to Italy that entering feels a cheat. But worth mentioning with burda is that once (and if) the patterns are uploaded to their website you can download the instructions in English for free. I buy the german edition and whilst I can mostly follow sometimes it's helpful to check in English I'm not barking up the wrong tree....

  5. I already have that copy of Modellina, so passing this opportunity for somebody else :)
    As for La mia Boutique, the patterns are also designed for 1m68cm women. And although I've never sewn something in there, I was told they are pretty true to your measurements.
    And no, Modellina doesn't translate to easy tiny models - actually, for that it should have been "Modellino" (male gender). It's just a name for the magazine ;). I've sewn two patterns from other issues, and you should look out for that measurements table! It fits HUGE!! I'd be a 48 in their table, but a 44 fits well, and with stretch fabrics, even a 42!
    Sorry for the teacher-like comment, but just needed to clarify! :)

  6. Burda doesn't do seam allowances, which is a bit of a bummer... I just highlight the seam line I need and locate all the pieces, and then get tracing. Always make a muslin though, especially for fitted garments; I found that some of their patterns fit me perfectly while others in the same size are absolutely massive on me!

    And the most I've spent on fabric? I once ordered a beautiful linen (one I'll hopefully be working with soon!) from a place that normally didn't ship to my neck of the woods. The fabric was reasonably priced, but the shipping cost was so atrociously high it makes it the most expensive piece of fabric I've ever bought. So expensive, in fact, that I'm too embarrassed to tell you the total price :P

  7. It looks like you had an amazing time in Italy! And I'm glad that I'm not the only one who can't leave sewing behind when I go on vacation; I'd've been just as excited about notions in grocery stores and pattern mags on newsstands! Count me in for the giveaway, I can have my mom try to help me translate the instructions since she studied Italian...
    And I just had my first Burda adventure - do refer to Sandra's awesome Burda tracing post (, she's got a good method and she actually gave me some of that carbon tracing paper and it worked like a charm! I couldn't find a double tracing wheel, so I taped two cheap tracing wheels together to add the seam allowance as I traced.
    Oh, and I'm a total cheapskate about fabric too - I think the most I've ever paid for fabric is like $18 dollars a yard, and I only bought one yard. I tend to even balk at anything above $10! I guess the bolt-end stores have just spoiled me.

  8. Sounds, and looks, like you had a fabulous trip.
    The most I've ever spent on fabric was $64pm on the fabric for my wedding dress and my husband's wedding waistcoat. Made me gulp a bit, I usually spend much less on fabrics. But was the colour and fabric I wanted, so totally worth it.

  9. I actually like the "no seam allowances" more - it lends itself more easily to alterations, and because I'm definitely not a conventional size (20 cm difference between bust and waist, 30 cm difference between waist and hips - definitely between sizes), I always need to make alterations.

    I don't remember anymore what was the most I ever paid for fabric, but I know it was some six meters of silk. And it was a fairly cheap, rough, raw? silk; I probably could not have afforded it if it was smooth and shiny. I still have not used it, because I wanted to use it for a medieval dress and then realised it was probably not very period accurate and would be better used for something else. Oops.
    (I'm still happy that I bought it, because it's a lovely fabric, just not for the original purpose.)

    Oh, but I'm not entering the giveaway. I don't live in Italy, but I also don't speak Italian, and I have loads of patterns and magazines I have not used yet, and I've just recently won a giveaway of a Craftsy class, including pattern, so I think I've had my share of blessings for quite some time and better leave it to others!

  10. I think the most expensive fabric I have ever bought was length of blue and gold Jaquard silk at £30 per metre - but I only bought 1m, for the sleeves and collar for my wedding dress - the other 16m was satin backed dupion at about £4/m.

    As far as really dressing shbs like yourself - I have never knowingly done it yet, with my girls (although my 7 year old son and I may have inadvertently both worn blue jeans and black t-shirts at the same time). I wanted to say though that my girls were touchingly disappointed that their brother wasn't going to have a sparkly dress like theirs for being bridesmaids in...

  11. I sew with Burda magazine exclusively. It's 7 Turkish Lira per magazine where I live (about $3.50), can be bought on every corner, and contains upwards of 20 patterns, so why would I spend that much on a single pattern (in BMV sales) or, say, $18 for an indie pattern? I also prefer patterns without seam allowances these days. I am definitely going to make alterations so it's best to start without them. I would love to try the Modellina Facile patterns so put my name down for that, please.
    The most I've spent on fabric is probably about £20 a yard (a long time ago), but in the last five years 30TL per metre for a Chanel-type tweed.

  12. I love Rome! I may be biased, because I'm an ancient historian, but still :)

    The most I've ever spent on fabric was for a silk dupioni: $45/m. I got it on sale, buy one metre and get the second half-off. Took me forever to be willing to cut into it. The lace on my wedding dress cost the seamstress something like $150/m, but she only needed 0.25m, and I got the extra! Now to think of something to do with it...

    And as everyone else has said, Burda doesn't have seam allowances. I've had decent luck typing instructions into Google Translate, but it's slow going.

  13. i'd like to enter the giveaway! the most i've spent on fabric is $12/yd for some oilcloth to make a gift for my mother.

  14. As already told, Burda has no seam allowances. I'm Italian, so if you need some informations I can (try to) help (my english is not so good...)

  15. Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about the instructions not being in English for the Burda stuff. They're famously hard to interpret, even when they are in English, and I end up winging it half the time!

    I think the most I've ever spent on fabric was the $17-18/yard for the dupioni silk that makes up the skirt and bodice underlay for my wedding dress. (I don't remember exactly how much it was, and I just checked and it looks like the price has gone up since I bought it in the fall! I certainly don't remember it being $22/yard!)

  16. The most I've ever spent on fabric was around $30/yard (on sale) for the dupioni silk I used to make my wedding dress last summer. Thanks for the peek into all those magazines!

  17. Thank goodness I'm not the only one who thinks that if it's more than $3-4/yard it's expensive! The most expensive fabric I ever bought was the ivory jaquard I bought for my wedding dress, I think it was around $25/yard, and several yards were needed. My mother sewed it up and it was beautiful. :-)

    I sure hope that white blouse (in the same pic as the blazer you liked) is in the magazine, because I desperately want to make that! So did any of the magazines look like they had fewer patterns crammed onto each page than Burda? I've been wanting to buy a subscription to a magazine, but don't know which one would be the easiest from a tracing standpoint, while still having lots of cute patterns. :-) Thanks for the opportunity!

  18. That Modellina pattern tracing page is horrendous!! I thought Burda used to be complicated!!

  19. What fantastic souvenirs! I'm kind of ashamed to say that the most I've ever spent on fabric was no more than $10/yd. There's no way I could ever shop for fabric in Italy!

  20. seam allowances - a sore spot here! The most I ever spent on fabric was about 30EUR/m (at 50% discount!) for some lovely wool to make a sewaholic minoru... I traced the pattern, added the seam allowances, cut it out, sewed it up, tried it on... and I had made a tent! I was used to sewing with Burda magazines and Japanese patterns :(

  21. I have been trying to get my hands on some Italian sewing magazines (without spending big $) so pick me !!! :) perche io parlo l'italiano. Sounds like you had a great trip and I loved those photos of the sewing notions in the grocery store. The most I have spent on fabric is probably around $ 40 per yard, maybe for a suit which I figure I will get lots of wear from and will last a long time.

  22. Sewing magazines = no seam allowances, for any of them.

    And I want to enter the giveaway! I think the most I have spent on a fabric is around $45 per yard? It was a blue snake print lycra spandex for a skating costume, so I only bought a little bit, but the colors ran in the wash and it was not a good use of the money. I was in love with it when I saw it, and I still wear it, but I have since learned my lesson and stick to the $20/yard or less for skating fabrics now. Even som good quality silks and wools I only go to about $30/yard at the most, and then only on a splurge. Not even close to the crazy Italian prices.

  23. None of the European pattern magazines have seam allowances; you always have to add them. HTH!

  24. The most I have ever spent on a yard of fabric was $10. Pick me!!

  25. I'd love to get my hands on that Modellina issue if sending it to Israel is okay! From reviews on the blogosphere, La Mia Boutique sounds like the best, most stylish magazine of them all, but it's really hard to acquire outside Italy. I didn't even have luck on eBay. I'm fairly happy with Burda though. The patterns repeat themselves a bit, so having collected 3 years' worth of issues, I don't buy every new issue anymore, only if something really catches my attention.

    By the way, they sell Burda in various languages over here, so I had the chance to find out that the different editions contain the same patterns but differ a lot in the extra content. The Russian edition is full of ads, for example. The French edition has more articles about fashion which is nice. It's funny that the extra content in Italian has recipes!

    1. Oh and the most I've ever spent on fabric was $18 a yard. I bought a couple of yards of Liberty lawn for that much, and another time 2 yards of gorgeous peacock blue dupioni silk -- which I haven't cut into yet because I'm still waiting for a special occasion that requires a special-occasion dress. Boo.

  26. I spent $24 for 1/2 yard of pink silk charmeusse!!! The worst part is that I couldn't sew a thing with 1/2 yard (not even a complete panty...grrr!). ahhh and the worst worst worst part is that i"m not even sure is it's real silk (it looks like polyester to me...grrr!).
    I would love to participate in your lotteria!!! (that's italian for raffle heheh)

  27. This makes me want to send my dad out to buy me some German sewing magazines! Such neat finds! Enjoy and I can't wait to see some of the makes!!!!

  28. I'll throw my hat into the ring - I took two years of Italian in college. I ain't scared. (Although I couldn't count to three in Italian if you had a gun to my head, so it might not do me that much good.)

    And the most I've ever spent on fabric is $28.30 a yard for this fabulous Italian (I think it's a sign) wool sweater knit from Gorgeous Fabrics. ( But since it was so expensive I'm too scared to actually cut it...

  29. $30/metre in Italy for houndstooth wool suiting (I think). The most I ever paid. In everyday life, I'm a bargain fabric babe too, usually sourcing at second hand stores and I never buy anything that isn't on sale. However, I don't buy a lot of souveniers, but I always try to buy fabric when I travel. I have yet to cut into that fabric which I bought now 3 years ago, and I will not be cutting into it until I have a working muslin of the 70s pattern I have in store for it. I just need some motivation for the work involved! I would LOVE to win this magazine. Thanks for the giveaway!

  30. Please enter me in the giveaway. The most I ever spent on a yard of fabric is $36 a yard on a silk jersey. The most valuable fabric I've bought was a black wool/cashmere blend melton coating that I got for $25 a yard. It was 50% off! It is for a coat for my husband to be made this fall.

  31. I would like to enter the giveaway! I recently spent $44.00 a yard on burgundy velvet for a men's smoking/tuxedo style jacket. So hard to cut into!

  32. I've missed the deadline, but I just wanted to say that I have the English version of that Burda magazine, if you want to see what the English instructions are for any given pattern. I'll bet that they're about as helpful as the Italian though - I can never make head or tail of the Burda instructions!

    I spent $25 per yard on some silk jersey, which I intended to make a wrap dress out of, but then thought that the print would be too much in a dress. I still love it, but I need a new plan for it.

  33. you got the best la mia boutique in ages! italian women are the main readers of burda...that's probably why you have recipes...and unlike then US, italian sandwiches are pretty basic in terms of ideas on how to make them are very welcome....especially if you plan to make them for a gathering ;) you don't need to enter me, i live in Italy now. if you need any help with Italian let me know


Thank you for taking the time to tell me your thoughts! I appreciate reading them and I try to reply to most, if not all, comments, especially when they are questions. I ask that you keep your comments polite, and if you're a spammer, don't bother because your comment will just be deleted! Also, if you're commenting on a post that's more than two weeks old, it will be moderated.