Reading between Patterns


Having written about clothes as language in a previous blog, I cannot but have to tell you about the “language” of African textiles, probably most of you my dear readers visualize something brightly colored when thinking of African clothes, and probably the least of you (just like me) would expect that many of the intricate patterns that adorn African textiles actually carry a meaning.

Let’s stop in Ghana first, a little cocoa producing country on the West coast of Africa, famous for its fearless Asante warriors and the bright stripes of kente fabrics. The geometric patterns and colors of their ceremonial dresses made up of hand-woven cloth have a variety of different meanings: they can symbolize democracy, wealth, family bonds, ingenuity, Ö

Let’s travel on to Mali, a landlocked country a little North of Ghana, one of whose mysterious sounding town, Timbuktu – was the intellectual and spiritual centre for the distribution of Islam in Africa in the 15th and 16th century. Here we find women crafting Bogolanfini (“Bo-ho-lahn-FEE-nee”), which translates as “Mud Cloth” hand woven cotton textiles that are dyed in a laborious process of applying various plant juices / teas and mud. The symbols, colors and patterns of the cloths reveal not just a person’s social status, but also character and even secrets. They can signify a proverb or even tell a story: a rusty color is said to represent strong and supernatural powers, zig-zag patterns are the “Iguana’s Elbow” and represent good fortune, something that looks like the clubs in a card game represents the Calabash Flower and symbolizes prosperity. Check out the site of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to find out more about the process of Mudcloth making, and even make your own virtual mud cloth. You can learn more about weaving and African patterns here and if you have a little time to spare check out the rest of the beautiful pages on Africa history at African Voices.

And then, why don’t you experiment making your own meaningful pattern using the Shibori Techniques.

Pictures ©

Featured Member: Annika


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

I grew up in a small town called Sundsvall in Sweden. Nowadays I live in Umeå, an equally small town further north.

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

The first thing I made was a midnight blue, asymmetrical absolutely smashing evening gown for my Barbie. In my teens I sewed a little for myself, and I took it up again a couple of years ago, all thanks to BurdaStyle. My grandmother was a source of inspiration. She sewed clothing for me when I was a kid.

3. What role does sewing play in your life?

I have a busy professional life, and sewing helps me relax and distracts my mind. And it is very nice to create something with your hands. For many years I tried different crafts, like embroidery, crocheting, but it was all too monotonous for me. Another aspect is the question of consumption. I try to sew more and buy less. I think of sewing my own clothing as ”slow consumption”, (you know, like slow food, only clothing). First there is the shopping of fabrics – fun! Then there´s the entertainment of sewing – more fun! And then wearing your own unique clothing – even more fun!

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

My favourite things is collecting fabric and planning projects in my head. And sewing them of course. And putting the scissors in a fresh new fabric. My least favourite thing is transferring the pattern to the fabric. I do it on the floor, because I don’t have a big enough table, and it makes my back hurt.

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

A collection of stylish and personal office clothing in eco-friendly materials, for myself. Or something for my husband, a button down shirt maybe. Or for my little brother, who is a very picky customer. That would be a challenge.

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

I come to BurdaStyle for patterns, inspiration from all the member’s creations. I’ve recently started to read more and more ”how to’s”. I also read the blog and the forum. Basically everything on BurdaStyle is of interest. The forum is a bit difficult to navigate. I suspect that some interesting threads are buried. Maybe change the forum so you more easily find recently written replies?

7. What is your motto?

When it comes to sewing, my motto is: ”When in doubt, baste!”. I’m a painfully slow and cautious sewer, and I almost always make a test piece in some old fabric, before starting with the real fabric. I wish I could be more daring, and just whip something up.

Annika’s great creations combine the perfect amount of color and style to create a balanced stylish look. Great Job!

Designer's Block


…We all experience it. Sometimes, when I’m sewing, it seems as if somethings just out to get me…I’ve stitched the wrong sides together or can’t figure out the best way to line the dresses I am to send out in 1 week (ahhh), or I just can’t get into the groove. When this happens, the world is not over as it seems. You just need to escape for a bit. Take a field trip, either mental or an actual journey, for 15 minutes, and all will seem better… Inspiration for me comes in all shapes in forms, including an awakening conversation, or the way the street lights shine and glow on the street at night after its been soaked with rain, books (I was given Taschen’s Fashion History, which covers18th century to contemporary fashion and always excites my imagination)…and walking. I love to walk out my front door into the streets of New York and just drift.

Many times, when I have slipped into an unconscious stroll, answers will strike me “Aha! That’s how I’ll line that dress, it’s not as complicated as I thought…” and so forth. I love to go to vintage clothing shops, like Malin’s on North 6th & Bedford avenue in my neighborhood, there’s always something there to spark my interest. The owner, perpetually silhouetted in 1980’s flare, is so kind and always fun to chat with. The dog park always makes me smile, then sad, because I really want a Shiba Inu (but I’ll get one if I keep working hard). And films, I love films, last night I watched “The Red Shoes” (1948) by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger- stunning. I have been asked by a well known American magazine to design a t-shirt for a giveaway…my head has been swimming with ideas and now it’s time to go to the drawing board.

What do you do to let out some steam or become inspired?

image courtesy of flickr

New BurdaStyle Member Pattern


As you all know, we asked you to nominate other member’s creations to be turned into BurdaStyle patterns. You spoke we listened, after so many great entries, MadisonAF23’s Kangaroo Pocket Dress was the favorite and it will be turned into a BurdaStyle pattern. Thank you for all who submitted, your choices were fantastic. Congratulations to MadisonAF23!

Sewing for a good cause


Christmas is a mere 6 weeks away. ‘Where did the time go?’ I hear you ask, I keep asking myself the same question. I’m yet to get started on my handmade Christmas gifts but I do have a shopping trip planned for next week to stock up on supplies and get down to business. We don’t give a lot of gifts in our family, since we live in Australia and all of our relatives live on the other side of the world in the UK it seems silly to spend so much on gifts and their postage costs. This arrangement suits me fine since we have more than enough of what we need, although it is nice to receive a few surprises on Christmas Day. I think I’ve said before how expensive Christmas can be and how carried away we can get with gift giving so we plan to give our girls only a few gifts this year and focus more on the time we spend together rather than the actual gifts themselves.

This brings me to think about those that do not have families to share the holidays with or those parents that cannot afford to buy their kids a gift. I have a loving family with whom I can spend my time with and the ability to give my children a gift or two. It’s that simple, my family is important and I am lucky to be in the position I am. I do not have a lot of spare time on my hands but this year I will be making a few extra gifts to give to those less fortunate and I urge you to do the same.

I have started up a thread in the forum for us to discuss this topic. I would like for you to give details of charities you know of that need gifts for Christmas, there are charities such as the Mirabel Foundation here in Melbourne which assists children who have been orphaned or abandoned due to parental illicit drug use who are looking for gifts to give to these children. I would also like to know about charities helping out adults too.

Please take the time to sew up a small gift; you really will make someone’s Christmas special by doing so.

Hats Matter - Mad Hatter


The hat is back, at least if we want to believe the words of a German journalist who identifies the hat as the perfect accessory not only to withstand the winter cold but even the financial crisis. In his words, hats identify you as being your own master, non-conform and independent from the Wall Street Crowd. As campers may know, 85% of body heat leaves through the head and thus combined with its protective function against things falling from the sky, hats are an essential tool for risk management.

Whether pure fashion or function was the reason for the first person wearing a sort of straw hat depicted on an old tomb painting found in Thebes (a city in Ancient Egypt) it is hard to tell. The Phrygian cap (Phrygia is another ancient kingdom located what is now Turkey) was given to freed slaves as sign of their liberty. The ancient Greeks wore the first hat with a brim, known as the Pestasos.

Hat shapes, materials, decorations and techniques have since then achieved a mind-blowing diversity, check out for the spring 2009 hat fashion. Most fascinating is the production of Panama style hats made from palm in Mexico’s Becal region: since the weather is hot and dry palm fibers become brittle very quickly. In order to keep the palm from breaking, the Mayans produce the hats in dark man-made underground caves that are cool and humid enough to keep the palm flexible.

It doesn’t need to be that difficult and uncomfortable to make a hat, you could start with a cloche hat or a baret as a fantastic addition to the shawl that is featured on the front page – you can google various How Tos on the web.

Thanks Schickchick!


To show us her appreciation, Schickchick sent us two of her amazing bags. It was such a sweet, generous gesture and we were very touched by it. In the picture above, you can see each of us holding our favorite bag. Thank you so much Schickchick! To get your own bag like this and much more, visit her Etsy store: Shades of Gray. Thanks again, you made our day!

Featured Member: Verypurpleperson


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

I’m originally from Jakarta, Indonesia. Earlier this year, I got married to my present husband who’s been living in Tokyo, Japan, for about 10 years; so my son and I moved to our new home here. We’ve been living here for about six months now.

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

I think it was patchwork owl and cat dolls that I sew entirely by hand about 12 years ago. After that, I did take a fashion course for a year. When graduated, I got a job as a fashion stylist in a magazine. Since then, I stopped sewing because I was busy with the job and couldn’t find the time nor the spirit to sew again.

3. What role does sewing play in your life?

I’m almost obsessed with it. After moving to Japan, suddenly I have more than enough time for myself. So about 4 months ago, I bought a sewing machine and started sewing again. I sew almost everyday now, sometimes I have to force myself to stop and take a walk outside or do something else. Since I started sewing again haven’t bought any new clothes and I don’t think I want to. Sewing also gives me the chance to make nice outfit for my five year old son.

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

My least favorite part is when I make mistakes with the buttonholes and have to unpick them, hate those tight zigzag stitches that I have to unpick carefully one by one.

One of my favorite parts is taking pictures of the process. I love taking pictures of fabric pieces after they’re just being cut. Then I know that they will somehow transform into something that we can wear. It’s almost magic to me, and I am part of the magic.

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

A jacket for my husband and more clothes for him. Menswear is more difficult than womenswear or kidswear because the lines and look are so different. Making dresses is easier, I can add ruffles or lace or embroidery to make it interesting, but men’s clothing has to be simple, the details are subtler. It’s a nice challenge, though.

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

Since I found Burdastyle, I visit it everyday to check on other’s creations, reading the how-tos, and of course downloading the patterns. I also like to download the instructions that come along with every pattern, just to read it and learn the technique. I learn so many things from this site. The only thing that I think should be improved is the usability of the site. The forum is a bit confusing now, and it’ll also be nice if we can have date on every post, and maybe some announcement on the front page when our favourite members have just posted a new creation.

7. What is your motto?

If you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up

Verypurpleperson has the cutest collection of clothes I have seen in a very long time. From upcycling to menswear her creations are incredible! Her provides a a great step by step look at all her creations.

Holiday Gift Ideas!


It’s time to start thinking of the holidays, all the food, family and traditions. We have taken the Handmade Pledge this year, which if you aren’t familiar with it, it is a pledge to buy handmade during the holidays and request others get you handmade gifts. It’s pretty cool. We have compiled a list of simple gifts. You are sure to find something for everyone here!

We will be adding to the list each week, You can also easily spot the gift ideas by the little present icon in the corner of the technical drawing on the pattern list.


Holiday 2008

Lynne Shawl

Night Gown

<a href=“;&quot;&gt;Men&#8217;s Cardigan

Bow Tie

Hat and Mittens

Quick and Easy

Daisy Bib

Tory Wall Organizer

Layla Oven Mitts

Layla Apron

Sabine Pillow

Charlie Bag

Carolina Toiletry Bag


Marcel Sleeping Mask

A Bit More Advanced

Allie Robe

Thai Fishermen Pants There is also a How To to help you out

Corinne Yoga Pants

Pete T-shirt

Osman Tie

How Tos

Silk Flowers can be used to make a brooch or on hairpin or on a necklace etc

Ruffled Party Necklace

Fabric Scrap Quilt


Make a Fascinator

Fancy Towels

Doggie Jacket

Fabric Origami

Hope that helps! We will continue adding to the list up till the holidays so keep checking back!

Simple Yet Stylish Clothing


First off I want to thank everybody for their comments last week! Your answers were so informative and I appreciate very much the input I’ve received. It seems unanimous that most of us savvy sewing designers want to dress simply in really nice t-shirts with smart detailing and thoughtful sculptural elements, clothing that serves a purpose yet it’s stylish and special. I was concerned that my entry had come off a bit dark (or you’d think I was giving up a dream) but I was so pleased to see you all excited about my new found utilitarian viewpoints and felt elated hearing that many of you share quite similar thoughts. I do not want to ever stop making beautiful dresses that I dream of at night, or avant-garde puffy sleeved jackets or over the top skirts- I just want to strip these ideals of beauty down to their true meaning and find a medium in which I am fulfilled and the product is economical. I think art serves a very important purpose in our lives and I see more and more blogs, websites & publications celebrating the creations of the d.i.y. community everyday. I was asked to create a How-to for Foam magazine which I am contemplating what I’ll do for it now- but but in the mean time check this out: Foam Magazine I think the BurdaStyle community is very forward-thinking and right on track with a sustainable and progressive future ahead indeed. Fashion is outrageously over-priced and outrageously expensive to produce & I will never stop designing. I don’t want to be limited though, by the high price one pays to produce these lovely creatures- so I am taking the path of less resistance and rethinking fashion, one step at a time.

Hi Alison – I am new Burda Style member, and am based in NYC. I love your voice in the blog posts. I wonder if you would consider writing about your favorite fabric stores? I am dying to know some of the hot spots that are not Mood… Thanks!
Lee Ann (thewestover)

I will embellish Lee Ann’s request but there is one store I must mention now:

Metro Textiles: 265 West 37th Street Suite 908 New York, NY 10018 Phone: 212-209-0004
(Outrageously inexpensive gorgeous fabrics and cool appliques, completely affordable)

Make your own advent calendar


Christmas is upon us; in fact December is only a matter of weeks away, gulp! If you like to count down the days until Santa visits to place your presents under the tree then you most probably need an advent calendar. Personally I’m not a fan of those filled with chocolate that you buy from the store, I prefer something handmade. If you’re like me then why not make yourself a stocking advent calendar. Make 24 mini stockings and fill them with little treats for each day. Check out my

“>how-to here and download the ”

“>pattern here.

This project can be embellished in many ways, use stitching, appliqué or fabric pens for the numbers. Sew on ribbons, trims or bells, use your imagination and come up with your own unique stocking advent calendar.

I’ll be posting more Christmas ideas in the coming weeks. In the meantime check out the Christmas sewalong in the forum, join in and show us what you’re making.

CRAFT: Upcycling Contest - Win a Sewing Machine!


Need a new sewing machine? SINGER® Sewing Company and CRAFT Magazine are holding an upcycling contest. The winner’s project will be featured in the SINGER® ad in the February issue of CRAFT Magazine and will receive a SINGER® Curvy™ Sewing Machine with a retail value of $399. You find more info here. Deadline is November 14th, so hurry!

Silk Pajamas for Christmas: Finished!


Remember a few weeks ago when I was telling you all about my plans to make my friend some silk pajamas for Christmas? Well, I followed my own advice, took my time, and I finished them earlier this week! You can see my creation here but we’ll all have to wait a bit longer to see them on the recipient herself!

I’ve already made a few Marcel sleep masks with fun embroidery on the fronts and a hoodie for my nephew, so now I’ve only only got two or three more presents to sew up before I have to ship them off. I’ve been so tempted to add in a silky bathrobe for myself now that we have our new pattern! Working with the silk for the pajamas reminded me just how luxurious silk feels, and I was really jealous that I had to give these away and not keep them for myself! I’ve got some silk leftover from other projects so perhaps it’s time to fit a “me gift” into my Christmas sewing plans, too!

Congratulations the Winner of the Recycle Mini Challenge


Congratulation to Marina_Glory! Her awesome Recycled Flannel Shirt-Dress/Skirt has won the Recycle Mini Challenge. He ingenuity set her ahead, but there were two who were very close behind. Erdroren’s “All I Need Is Uggs… Liz’s Recycled Fleece Liz” came in a close second and Prudencerabbit’s “From Coverlet to Esther—RECYCLED” was right behind Erdroren. Marina_glory will receive a copy shop printout of a pattern of her choice, a $25 fabric voucher and of course, lots of goodies from BurdaStyle. So congratulations to all, this was such a great challenge with absolutely incredible entries! These entries have certainly inspired me (as I’m sure it has others) to think outside of the box. Congratulations once again!

Campaign Clothes


Finally, the elections are over! Am definitely not going to discuss election outcomes, but have you noticed the importance of clothes and fashion? Palin footed quite an enormous bill to refill her wardrobe, justified by McCain as “she needed the clothes.” Mind you, McCain and Obama are not exactly shoddy when it comes to the choice of their suits or shoes and Germany’s current chancellor (Angela Merkel) had an obvious make-over on her way to her position. Clothes sometimes even seems to eclipse what somebody actually has to say or how else do you rate an article in the Guardian (one of England’s most important newspapers) headed: “Why does Hillary (Clinton) wear such bad clothes.” Obviously, clothes and accessories are part and parcel of the political repertoire but also a balancing act to create a presidential identity while complying with expectations of a wide variety of voters (and journalists.) Some think it snobbish and irrelevant to speak about somebody else’s clothes, but the majority seems to assign huge importance to the topic.

On the other side, it is not just our politicians who give implicit statements through their appearance, but also us voters who often quite explicitly advertise as walking billboards their political and other preferences to the rest of the world. Not just “Mama can be for X candidate” even “Baby” can express its support to his or her favourite be it a politician, rock bands or sports clubs, a specific political view or state of mind. Obama with his grass-roots campaign has inspired some creative t-shirt designs as you can check out at red bubble. Bottom line: clothes are not just things you hang on your body but language – to describe yourself and your views, and herein lies the importance of a fashion designer, whether professional or amateur.


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