Ramblings...

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This week I came into the office and Alden was bragging about her upcoming trip to paradise. Well, not really bragging, but I’m green with envy that she’s set to fly away from gloomy old New York city to the white sandy beaches of Saint John this Thursday to soak up some rays in the Caribbean with her family. So what is more suiting than to design a lovely summer dress for her trip? She used Nayantara’s Patternless Drawstring Jumper Dress How-To to make it, it is so simple and lovely I had to share it!

Over the weekend I spent some time with my sister trying to find a dress for her to wear to a wedding she has this weekend. I kept thinking of the post I did last week on Our Patterns into Top Trends and thought it was a shame she couldn’t sew (she’s learning, she’s made curtains), I would’ve helped her but the clock was ticking and we really needed to find something that day. We scourged young designer boutiques to Bloomingdales and we couldn’t find the right piece. The young designers tended to make only 1 size (small) and the top designers in Bloomies sold their frocks for $500 and up, a price my sister couldn’t justify paying. We ended up in H&M and she found a silky beige cocktail dress that was perfect on her, as was the price: $48.

On another note, has anyone read any inspiring books lately? I just finished The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James and found it fantastic. It’s a story of a young, spirited, independent American woman confronting her destiny, whatever it might be. Isabel Archer is asked to join her Aunt in England and it is only through disappointment and loss, James seems to say, that one can grow to complete maturity. To top it off, one of my favorite directors, New Zealander Jane Campion made a film of it. See it. And all of her films.

Sewing Green

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So what was in my Easter basket yesterday? Betz White’s latest title, Sewing Green! Even if you’re an occasional repurposer, you’ll love the projects inside this book – in addition to felting recycled sweaters to make items like the gorgeous scarf that graces the cover, there are also water bottle cozies, lunch bags, reusable sandwich wraps, and capri sun pouches that are sewn into a car shade. Not only are all the projects ‘green’ but they’re very creative and downright cute, plus Betz includes tips on how to deconstruct your old clothing to use for new purposes. Don’t believe me? See for yourself – Betz is currently on her month long blog tour which gives you the perfect opportunity to get a few sneak peaks of her book and maybe even win your own copy!

Our Patterns into Top Trends for Prom

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It’s Springtime here in New York and it’s gotten us all giddy over our own prom and graduation memories. This month we are focusing on looks specifically for prom, graduation, evening and formal wear. We’re excited to offer some new gown designs and accessory ideas, but for now, we’ve rediscovered these simple dress options for you to make for yourselves relatively quickly and easily, to personalize your formal wardrobe.
1. Cate

Cate is a lovely option for a prom/evening dress sloper. Laurenfortgang used Cate to draft a long, strapless floor length dress, see it, along with simple instructions, HERE. Nuiwida23 made her junior prom dress in pink from the Cate pattern. See her lovely dress HERE.

Not sure about strapless? This blog tells you HOW to wear it.

2. Kyla

Kyla is the perfect sloper for drafting a chic prom or evening dress. Our member Scriptandserif also created a HOW-TO for another sexy version of a lycra bandeau dress that you can wear 7 different ways!

Danigreenpeace made a lovely version of the Kyla dress. Click HERE for some inspiration on incorporating a non-stretch material into the dress.

Teachoue created a HOW-TO for a Yacht Club inspired strapless dress that’s absolutely adorable. Click here for Gedwood’s HOW-TO for a simple A-line dress pattern drafted from the basic sloper.

3. <a href =“http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/show/3852&#8221;&gt;African Dress

The African dress is a very simple halter dress. The allure of this dress is all in the fabric. If you have a beautiful print or bold graphic waiting to come to life, your wish shall be granted using our elegant pattern.

Cut out + Keep has a halter dress step by step tutorial too.

Need more instructions? The Green Girls offer a How-to video on making a halter dress in ANY size.

4. Heidi

The dress has adjustable cap-sleeves and tucks instead of front and back darts. You can easily change the tucks into style lines for a more formal fit or leave out the pockets for a more elegant version but hey, you can have somewhere to keep your lip gloss!

This gorgeous pattern has also been turned into the Heidi prom dress variation pattern. Here’s the How-to.

5. Envelope Clutch Bag

No prom or evening out can be complete without a clutch. You can make one in the same fabric as your dress or in a fun metallic vinyl as pictured above! Check out this pattern to make your own!

Threads has a simple clutch tutorial for your enjoyment as well.

If you were any thinner you wouldn't exist

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A few weeks ago, I watched the Machinist, a film directed by Brad Andersen (the title is a quote from the film). Trevor Reznik (played by Christian Bale) has killed a child in a hit-and-run accident and haunted by this accident, has not slept, nor eaten properly for a year. The film is striking. What is most haunting is a skeletal Christian Bale who lost 60 pounds (4st 4lb / 27 kg) through a crash diet of coffee and apples. By the end of the film, Bale weighed 121 pounds (8st 9lb / 55 kg) (in comparison, for his role as Batman he weighed about 190 pounds (13st5Ib/86kg).

I am not interested in Bale’s figure, whether skinny or muscular- I am interested in the character Trevor Reznik: a traumatized young man who suffers under a severe eating disorder that he monitors accurately by noting down his weight losses and pinning them on his bathroom wall. The film is not about anorexia but it cries out: man can suffer under eating disorders as well. Trevor Reznik is a special case, being responsible for the death of a child and fleeing prosecution. But there are many other boys and men, who slip into anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders not because they are guilty of something but they suffer under social and psychological pressures. Surveys suggest that at least 10 to 16% of people who suffer from eating disorders are men, but hardly any of them are adequately treated. An example is Thomas Holbrook who after he had to stop running became so concerned about getting fat, that he started a strict diet on cabbage and carrots and walked for six hours a day.

It is difficult for women to acknowledge their condition and seek help; for men, the fear of being diagnosed with a “girl’s disease” and having to undergo therapy in places which mainly cater for girls create great barriers to get the treatment they need. And many doctors don’t realize by themselves what is at stake. Social pressures, a job that requires a certain size or weight (athletes, jockeys, models, etc) lack of self-esteem, a traumatic experience (as in the Machinist)… Everyone has his own story to tell, and his very own history to deal with. What they all need is attention, that most of the male share doesn’t get.

Featured Member: Sushi

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1. Where are you from and/or where do you live?

I am originally from St Johann in Tirol, which is a small place in the alps in Austria. The last 5 years I was living and working in Dublin, Ireland, and recently moved to Utrecht in the Netherlands.

2. What was the 1st thing you made? How did you start sewing?

The first thing I made was an apron – and it was the last thing I made for a long time. When I was about 10 and in secondary school we had to learn cooking and all the basic handicrafts like knitting, sewing etc. additionally to the usual subjects. For our cooking classes we had to sew an apron – using a pattern. I didn’t like tracing patterns at all – not to mention sewing by hand. Though I was always dreaming of becoming a fashion designer and filling journals with my designs when I was little, I swore myself to never touch needle and threat again. Years later when I was already in Ireland I picked up a Burda magazine in a shop and I so wanted to start sewing that I bought a sewing machine and started again. I also attended some pattern drafting classes for a while and learned some of the basics of pattern drafting. This and a lot of exercise taught me patience and now I love spending hours sewing.

3. What role does sewing play in your life?

Sewing is very important to me as it allows me to express myself creatively. It is such an amazing feeling to be able to realize one’s ideas. When I moved to the Netherlands I decided to take a few month off to spend more time on sewing and being creative. I am glad I took that chance because now I am sure that I want to pursue it further and I am currently applying for a place on a fashion design course. I also recently set up a small shop on dawanda (WunderMaedchen).

4. What is your favorite and what is your least favorite thing about sewing?

I love buying fabrics and notions and just everything I can use for sewing and I spend hours arranging them on the dress form. When I finally have all pattern pieces cut out I really enjoy sewing them together – it’s so quick and easy (I always admire people who have the patience to knit…)

I guess the least favourite thing is still the copying of the pattern pieces. It’s a lot more fun when I can draft them myself. And I always seem to be fighting with button holes – but I am blaming my sewing machine for this..

5. If you could make something for anyone who would it be and what would you make?

I guess you just discovered my weak point. At the moment I pretty much only sew for myself – except for the few pieces I offer on my online shop. But my boyfriend is pestering me for a while now to sew a coat for him. So I guess that will be next on my list.

6. What are you looking for on our site? What do you think should be improved and what do you really like?

I spend a lot of time looking through the creations. They are so inspiring. And also uploading some of my own and getting such a nice feedback on them helped me to be more confident in what I do. Naturally I like the free and cheap patterns on the website and the ‘How tos’ provide inspiration and sometimes help me to solve a sewing problem I encounter.

7. What is your motto?

I don’t really have a motto but I guess something like: think positive, dare to dream and nothing is impossible would be descriptive for my approach towards life.

Between her wonderful pictures and fabulous creations it’s pretty easy to fall in love with Sushi. Check out her store and browse through her favorite creations

A Label That Sticks

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I recently met a young man aspiring to be the next cutting edge custom designer. I asked whether he had come up with a name for the label and if he’d reserved a domain for his website. His response was “No, someone has already claimed the domain”. “And what’s that?” I asked. “Perfection” he states.

This conversation got me thinking about the importance of branding in fashion. As we know, one learns an art through experience and thus, one probably won’t have achieved perfection in their first year of business, one should hope, otherwise, there would be nothing left to work towards. The aforementioned designer had a very interesting surname I urged him to utilize, assuming in a couple of years he’d realize the faux paus of “Perfection”. He wouldn’t budge.

The first step in branding is identity. You should be able to write a solid paragraph explaining the qualities of your brand and your target customer. Who wears your clothing? How old is he/she, what do they do? The foreboding economic climate should not only push us away from flippant excessiveness, but bring us closer to carving out our own niche. I keep hearing over and over, that now is the time to use your creative powers to offer something to people that is special, stirs an emotional connection, and is of wonderful quality. Choose a name that is one, meaningful to you, and two, catchy or unique. If you want to stand out, avoid generic names like “Quality Fashions” or “Designs by Alison”, those names are a dime a dozen and do not stand out amidst the myriad of “Designs by…” websites.

Once you’ve settled on a name it is time to begin branding your product. Your logo is the defining source of brand identity and should be memorable and utilized in all of your packaging and promotional materials (i.e. look-books, line-sheets, hang tags, mailers, letterheads). This is a great article on logos. My sister Megan is a very talented graphic designer and gave me the most amazing Christmas present, a shiny black box she made herself full of Dahl letterheads, envelopes, business cards, mailing labels, stickers & hang-tags! We always use the same logo. This logo is on every single invoice, order form, website page, hang-tag and label. What changes season to season is the decor surrounding the logo. This season Megan designed a bold, Gothic floral motif (pictured above) and we used this throughout the look-book & line-sheets. These days the web is bursting with printing companies which allow you to upload your own artwork and create personalised business cards and stationary. I love MOO, you can create these cute little business cards the size of a piece of gum and the print quality is high. Zazzle is another site of a slightly lesser print quality but their prices are great.

Retailers love, and often demand, hang-tags and signage that offer a glimpse into the soul of the label. For the launch of Dahl, which debuted shortly after my stint on Project Runway, my sister designed hang-tags with the Dahl logo and a promo of me in one of the looks (I was against it at first but it helped define the brand). The image showed a glimpse of the creator behind the label and also how they wear it.

The good news? Now, more than ever, independent designers are very desirable. Yay! People are seeking something special that is not mass-produced. They want pieces that have some sort of story or narrative, they want to have a personal experience with the designer. With places like Etsy or your own website, you can have your own virtual shop for just pennies. Just make sure you follow the branding checklist so your label will be one that sticks.

Start a Local BurdaStyle Sewing Club!

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[Updated 7/1/2011 – For information on how to start a club or connect with one of your own, please visit this dedicated blog post.

Badges to promote your BSC can now be found directly on site. Download them here.]

Several members have expressed the wish to meet with other sewing enthusiasts near them. So we thought it would be great to help initiate BurdaStyle Sewing Clubs!

A BurdaStyle Sewing Club (BSC) is a group that meets regularly to discuss sewing related issues. Each one is uniquely tailored to fit its members, and each leader is given control over what is discussed, taught and created.

Festival Style with Fire Mountain Gems

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Try this quick and easy bracelet DIY for summer! It’s a fun project to wear with all those summer outfits.

Weekend Sewing

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It seems as if I am always adding crafty books to my sewing room. My latest favorite – Weekend Sewing. From the moment I opened this book, I fell in love. I’m thrilled with the variety of projects included in Heather Ross’ first title – there’s a little something for everyone (even kids) and for every sewing skill level. To top it off, there’s even full size patterns (because I really dislike having to enlarge patterns on a copier)! So far I’ve made Kai’s shirt (for toddler boys), however, I’ve picked out several other projects I want to make including the everything tote, guest-room slippers, town bag (a perfect excuse to try some leather), Saturday-night silk jersey set, and summer blouse… I can definitely see me getting a lot of use out of this book!

Be sure to check out Heather’s blog, Weekender, which answers some frequently asked questions, contains sewing errata, and a project gallery related to her book. While you’re there, be sure to check out her Blog Book Tour schedule.

African Body Shapes and Western Influences

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Before I do anything I’d like to thank Rachel for her wonderful blog on the Ruff last week – great job!



The first time, I ventured to Ghana, a country on Africa’s Westcoast, I drew a lot of attention: little kids called me “Obruni, obruni” (white lady white lady) or ran away horrified by this strangely pale person. I was invited to my neighbour’s house, and wherever I visited people made me eat lots of very delicious food: beans, plantains, fish, maizeporridge, peanut and palmoil soup, snail, spinach, cocoa fruit, freshly plucked oranges. “No thanks I am full” was not an option. My work colleagues to whom I am greatly indebted for sharing their wisdom with me, soon solved the mystery. Food is a symbol of wealth and in their unconditional hospitality Ghanaians will serve all they have to welcome a guest.

But I think there was something more to it: I arrived overly skinny and probably looked to them, like a girl that just arrived from a rural village, who never had enough to eat, worked hard and was not particularly healthy. So my hosts, for whom a well-fed (and I mean well-fed) woman is a symbol of maturity, fertility, strength and wisdom, took it on to feed me with Ghanaian “royal jelly”, as my work colleagues called it.

Big is beautiful, not just in Ghana but in other countries in Africa: Burkina Faso, another West-African country, staged a Large Lady contest in 2003, to counter the obsession with thinness of the Miss World competition. But just as the Miss Skinny cult, this attraction for bigness has its dark downsides: girls as young as seven, with traditional thinking parents were and sometimes still are, sent to “fattening houses” where they are being force-fed to obtain the desired plump shape (and the associated health problems) – note, at least traditionally these fattening houses had the much more holistic purpose to train a girl in the tough job of marriage and being a mom.

But all this is changing, at least in South Africa: more and more young black women are dissatisfied with their body image. The reasons are deep social and cultural changes, the desire to be “modern” wearing “modern clothes” rather than the traditionally wide dresses; and a sense of emancipation to be able to decide the destiny of one’s own bodyshape, after men (in their role as fathers, husbands etc) had for centuries prescribed the ideal body shape. Even in Europe, anthropologists have related changes in body ideals away from female curvaceous forms towards more androgynous figures (for example in the 1920s and 1960s) to female emancipation.

A Look at Sewing Lounges

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Has anyone ever partaken in classes/workshops offered at a sewing lounge? This week I’m focusing on 3 sewing lounges in 3 countries: Australia, England & the USA. Aside from sewing in a supportive community, sewing lounges offer tutorials on how to actually navigate through commercial pattern instructions (something we all know can be exhausting) and always offer beginner classes.

The Studio London
“‘These Gals are getting London sewing’ Amy Lamè BBC London”
Based in London, England, The Studio London offers an array of classes & workshops designed to fit any budget. Run by fashion designer Libby Rose and the multi-talented Beth Nicholas, they “offer this studio space for sewing and craft enthusiasts to learn and flourish in a fun, supportive social hub with lots of handy tips for aspiring designers”.

The Studio London is currently bringing their expertise on the road to events & festivals, for more information click their link above or you can email them here: thestudiolondon@googlemail.com

Make is a New York city based workshop extraordinaire created by Diana Rupp, a creative writer and fashion designer who has also written the book SEW. Make is a craft school, design studio, podium for displaying your handy-work, supply source, etc. offering classes in, a-hem, shoe making, jewelry, fashion, embroidery, knitting, letter-press and more. It sounds like my college curriculum and it sounds like I may enroll in a class. For class schedules, click their link above or send Make an email: info@makeworkshop.com

Next we travel to Melbourne, Australia, to Thread Den, a “a one-stop shop for sewers who do not own their own equipment, or just need a space to work”, a platform for classes, and rooms of vintage patterns and clothing for sale. Thread Den was created by 4 unique individuals all possessing a passion for sewing. “All our classes are facilitated by local designers and craftspeople currently working within the fashion and textile industry”. If you’re in Melbourne you’re right in time for the re-launch party at Thread Den this Saturday the 4th April (12:00pm – 3:00pm). If you’d like to learn more about Thread Den, click on their link above or inquire here: adam@loveydoveydesign.com

Photographs 1 & 3 provided by The Studio London Thank you!

Do you know of a sewing lounge or group in your area? Email me and I will include it in a future sewing lounge feature: alison@burdastyle.com.

Featured Member: CandyJoyce

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1. Where are you from and/or where do you live?

I am originally from a small town called Braintree in Essex, I moved south about 6 years ago to study fashion at Winchester School of Art and now I live in the Dock City of Southampton in Hampshire, UK.

2. What was the 1st thing you made? How did you start sewing?

I first made a quilted tea cosy shaped like an elephant when I was about 10. I remember thinking I was the bee’s knees when I proudly gave it to my mum. I imagine she still has it in the loft or a cupboard somewhere. I think the first item of clothing that I made was a fairly awful blue and yellow corduroy top with a big ruffle down the front. If I can find either of these things I will definitely upload them so everyone can have a giggle.

3. What role does sewing play in your life?

I did a degree in menswear and designed and made an entire collection for a catwalk show at Graduate Fashion Week and also got chosen to show in Barcelona. I loved it but it was quite intense and I didn’t really sew for a few years afterwards. I started again when I inherited my Nan’s sewing machine. I am now slowly converting the spare room into a studio and have been designing a lot more. After a boring day at the office I love being able to come home and do something rewarding and creative. I would like to work in fashion design, ideally with my own website or shop with my friend Anna. Anna and I can be talking about anything together but the conversation will always come back to sewing. We have set up an Etsy shop (everythingforever) and getting my first order through there was amazing so for that to be my daily job would be really uplifting!

4. What is your favorite and what is your least favorite thing about sewing?

The part that stumps me is when I have to make decisions: I feel like I could make the same garment about 100 times with little variations. I will get excited about 3 different types of buttons or get torn between two colours of fabric and hate the moment when I have to choose. This indecision also creeps in when I am pattern drafting which makes the whole process a bit long and painful. I also think that someone should have invented a better way of attaching the pattern to the fabric for cutting out as pins are such a pain. It sounds like I generally hate the whole process but I do love pretty much everything else from having the beginning idea (or fining an awesome pattern on Burda) through to sewing, doing the finishing touches (I love making buttonholes) to wearing, selling or giving the finished garment away as a gift.

5. If you could make something for anyone who would it be and what would you make?

For me it would be making cool clothes for “normal!” people. I’d love to develop a collection for a concession in a store like H&M. It would be awesome to walk down the street and see people wearing something I’ve designed.

6. What are you looking for on our site? What do you think should be improved and what do you really like?

I stumbled across BurdaStyle by accident and was so amazed and grateful at the service you provide. Free (or really cheap) patterns for everyone. Hooray! I really like seeing so many other people making things and offering their knowledge to others, I think that people are really getting into sewing clothes and home wares for themselves again which is great because sewing is a skill that shouldn’t die out. Having the ability to comment on other peoples creations and to receive comments is great. It would be good to have the option to receive an email if someone posts a comment on your garment or sends you a message. And as suggested above, a gallery of the first things that people ever made would be fun!

7. What is your motto?

It’s not mine but it’s a sentiment that I quite like:

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

- Henry Ford

Follow CandyJoyce on her blog, her Facebook group and make sure to check out her awesome Etsy shop. Also make sure to check out her top ten favorite BurdaStyle creations

From Dark to Light: A How-To

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This past weekend was lovely. Not only was my best friend visiting from LA, but the weather was fine and Spring was in the air. I was thinking of ways to turn up the volume within my own wardrobe. After having seen the Christian Lacroix Autumn/Winter ready-to-wear show, oh my gosh the tights are to die for, I needed to make a pair of my own ombre tights. Here’s a little How-To I created for them.

Last Friday I submitted my first round of sketches for the partnership I am working on with Caress and have included my favorite design in the collage above. I think this will be a great project to document as I will be going through a typical design process, from sketches, to actual patterns & garments being produced at my factory, to styling the final photo-shoot. I have already gotten some feedback from Caress and I have learned one important lesson: for an ad campaign it is important to use bold, bright colors. I designed a dress of multiple layers of dusty rose and beige chiffon and learned that these colors will not “pop” in print. I’ll have to rethink my color choices for that look…

Find all your Sewing and Pattern Making Supplies at the New BurdaStyle Store

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As some of you may have noticed, last week we launched an online store. In our new online store, we compiled tons of helpful products, books, and fabric . The store was designed keeping all skill levels in mind. Pick up helpful notions, check out our pattern making supplies and browse our reference library to further your techniques, all at the new BurdaStyle Store.

Amend The CPSIA Rally

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Planning on being in the DC area on April 1? Here’s your chance to attend a rally to amend the upcoming CPSIA Legislature (you can read more on CPSIA and what it will mean to you here). Be sure to check out the AmendTheCPSIA website for more information on the day’s events and speakers, attendance information, and how you can participate even if you’re not in the area (via live streaming video).

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