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Weekend Sewing


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


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


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:

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:

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:

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:

Featured Member: CandyJoyce


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


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


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


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).

When the Ruff gets Romantic


Hey everyone,

This week MerryK’s post is taking a brief hiatus (don’t worry she will be back next week) but we are still bringing you a history of fashion inspired blog piece, written by our awesome intern Rachel

It’s no secret that fashion repeats itself; rarely are trends and styles born unique and completely free of historical reference. How apparent the particular influence the past has on renewed fashion varies from trend to trend and often can go unnoticed. But many times a style is revived that can be dated back to its very invention.

Although in today’s industry, womenswear generally reigns high above menswear, there was a time when the two were equal, a time when menswear was just as risky and just as forward, a time when lace and ruffles served as symbols of a fashion savvy man. This attitude, however, dates back centuries ago.

During the late mid-sixteenth century, the ruff was developed in western Europe and soon became a wide-spread necessity. To this day it serves as one of the most recognizable details of the period. Although both men and women eventually wore the ruff, it was made popular by men, which can be said by much historical fashion. As all fashion is developed, the trendy form of the ruff was a result of a purely functional garment. It began as a way to protect a mans doublet, which can most be associated with a modern day mens jacket, from becoming dirty since washing these elaborate garments was extremely rare and often impossible. It started as a small removable ruffle controlled by a drawstring around the neck of a man’s shirt that itself could be changed and washed. As time went on, it evolved into a style, later becoming a completely separate garment that ruled the fashion scene. At it’s peak, the ruff could extend a completely impractical foot or more from the wearer’s neck. As all trends do, they continue to the extreme and then cycle in the other direction or disappear altogether. It seemed to fall out of fashion by the end of the sixteenth century and was pretty much absent by the mid-seventeenth.

Since then, a ruffled neckline may have made a comeback or two but one only needs to scan the runway to arrive at the conclusion that these updated versions of a historically menswear style is an important must have for the coming seasons. Although this style has become decidedly feminine and romantic and only the bravest of men would sport such a look today, historical menswear continues to inspire modern fashion and will forever serve as a reference for the best kind of trend innovation.

Check out our mock ruff



Photos courtesy of Tommy Cole

Spotlight is the first in a series of profiles on emerging, independent and established designers.

I spent my last 2 years of college in Boston, Massachusetts, earning a BFA in Fashion Design from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. It was there that I met Roy Caires, co-founder of ALTER and creator of the clothing line This Old Thing?, which is made up of one-of-a-kind, reconstructed vintage pieces.

Roy and his partner Tommy Cole have always held an interest in fashion and retail. I remember while in college I admired Roy’s keen aesthetic and was not at all surprised that he worked in avant-garde designer Alan Bilzerian’s Newbury Street store. Roy and Tommy’s eye for an amazing find has led them from trunk sales of vintage clothing to opening shop without investors or any formal business training- they’ve achieved their success with persistence & tenacity, and of course, good taste.

ALTER is based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, on a quiet stretch of road adjacent to the East River overlooking Manhattan. Far from most subways and a little out of the way, Franklin Street has become a mellow stretch of residential brownstones, clothing shops, cafes, bars & restaurants. Roy was kind enough to share with us his story below.

1. When was ALTER conceived?

The original Alter (the men’s shop now known as ALTER 109) was conceived on February 2nd 2007, which is Ground Hog’s Day. We thought it would be funny and easy to remember the opening of our first shop on this day. The women’s store (ALTER 140) was conceived on 08.08.08 another day of ironic coincidence.

2. How did you manage to set up shop in the beginning (i.e. overhead, inventory, materials)?

Alter was created, designed and executed by myself and my partner Tommy Cole. When the shop first opened it consisted mainly of vintage pieces that we hand-picked and curated ourselves from special wholesale rag houses that we have been fortunate enough to get into and work with. We also carried a few Cheap Monday jeans and our in-house line This Old Thing?.

We have grown quite rapidly since ’07 and currently house about 40 or so designers from all over the US, Canada and even Sweden. We constructed the shop with our own hands using vintage tools, found objects and materials from our neighborhood of Greenpoint. We turned found wood into our cash wrap and redesigned tables, bookshelves and other common fixtures found in the trash into unique sculptural pieces for display. The overhead was low to begin with as we did all the work ourselves and with what very little money we did have, we purchased a few key denim pieces from Cheap Monday which has now become our largest and sought out label.

3. When did you begin to sew, did you study fashion design formally?

I was formally trained at Mass Art in Boston, Ma., where I received a degree in Fashion Design. Tommy is a self taught photographer and graphic artist who I taught to sew when we first had the inclination to start our own line 4 years ago. In 2005 we began selling This Old Thing? to a few select shops in NY, LA and TX. It was then that we had created a stock of vintage garments with which we would work from. Many items we didn’t have the heart to cut up so we kept them as inspirations. This pile started to get out of control so we decided to create one-day-only pop-up shops to make some extra cash. We did these in Boston (our hometown) as well as in Brooklyn at the space now called Public Assembly (formerly Galapagos).

The popularity and quick success of our this new endeavor gave us the idea that we should combine all of our retail knowledge (15 years between Tommy and I) that we have ever had and make it official with our own permanent shop. So hence the first ALTER came to be.

4. Do you follow a design philosophy or is your process more organic?

We are very organic in our approach to fashion, merchandising and buying. It all comes from our gut. We do not have a specific design philosophy but do approach things in hopes to create a fresh view on retailing, styling and curating.

5. What do you find advantageous about designing & selling your collections in Greenpoint, Brooklyn?

We enjoy our neighborhood and working in it. It is a small community filled with great people who are enjoying what we do. Our customer base is very fashion conscious and savvy and look to us to give them clothing that they can wear all the time at an amazing price.

6. Do you have a muse?

We don’t have a specific person who we would call our muse. We respect and look up to many different people/ companies from all different disciplines. We try to meet our eye for great, fun and wearable fashion with the needs of our customers.

7. What is your favorite restaurant in Brooklyn?

Diner in Williamsburg… amazing food in a low key atmosphere.

Alter 109 (Men)

109 Franklin St.

near Greenpoint Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11222

tel: 718.784.8818

ALTER 140 (Women)

140 Franklin St.

near Greenpoint Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11222

tel: 718.349.0203

Do you have any tips for a spotlight feature? I’d love to hear from you:

Featured Member: NattyJane


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

I was born and raised in Berkeley and Oakland, California. I spent the last four years in Santa Cruz where I received my bachelors in mathematics from UCSC, but I couldn’t stand being away from the Bay Area and moved back as soon as I was done. Now I’m working part time as a lifeguard and living with/ taking care of my 90 year old grandma.

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

My mom is the person who got me started in the world of sewing. My mom is an artist and I owe my creative, crafty, and artsy side to her. When we were little, my mom would work on all sorts of craft projects with my sister and I including sewing projects. I remember making shirts for my teddy bears, sachets of lavender, and simple bags. A few years ago I started to make my own handbags. I mostly used canvas which I would first paint and then sew into a bag. I didn’t think I could make clothing until a few months ago when I decided to finally try a pattern. Now I’m using patterns and making up my own and I’m completely addicted.

3. What role does sewing play in your life?

For me sewing plays the role of a creative outlet in my life. I can turn on some music and get lost in a project for hours. It is a wonderful way to relax and let my mind wander.

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

My favorite thing about sewing is coming up with the project idea. I love looking for fabric and buttons and I love writing down ideas in my sketchbook and thinking about how I can make the ideas a reality. I have an interesting mix of approaches when it comes to sewing because on one hand I have a mathematical mind that wants to plan out measurements and make sure things are in order, but on the other hand I enjoy diving right in to my creativity and seeing where it takes me. My least favorite thing about sewing is cutting out patterns and following directions. For example, I didn’t start using buttons until recently because I absolutely didn’t want to read how to make the button holes in my sewing machine manual (I finally broke down and read it though and found out they are rather easy. I guess that’s a lesson to myself, instructions help!).

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

I’d really like to start making things for the people I love most. I think that hand made gifts come from the heart and can show how much you care. My best friend has been pestering me to make her a romper so maybe I should start there (I just have to figure out how to size things for someone other than myself).

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

I absolutely love BurdaStyle because I can share my creativity and explore the creativity of others. It’s a great website for sewing knowledge and inspiration. Plus it’s another way to stay in touch with my sister. She lives in another state, but Burda allows us to share our latest projects and ideas with each other. I also really like the patterns that you can print at home (although maybe not the piecing together and cutting out part).

7. What is your motto?

I recently found a fortune cookie fortune floating around my room that read: “the lovely things of life are as necessary as the air by which you live.” I don’t normally pay much attention to fortune cookies, but this message got me thinking about the lovely things in my life and sewing is definitely one of them.

NattyJane has 17 wonderful creations that always catch my eye. Check out where she gets her inspiration from on her favorite top ten

Is It Tuesday Already?


My best friend, whom I met while living in Mexico in 1998 is visiting from Los Angeles and there’s much to do. My primary sketches for Caress are due this Friday (yikes!) so I found it natural to meander into some high-fashion. We popped into Alexander McQueen and wow! The current collection has these silky, a-symmetrical gowns with incredible embroidered birds and daisies that look as if they are painted on, stunning. His tailoring and dart placement is otherworldly and the slope of his shoulder pad is perfection. It is so interesting to feel these garments, most of the pieces are seamed with boning, have built in bustiers and padding in wild places.

A Matthew Williamson shop has finally opened (right next to McQueen) and talk about vibrancy! I visit these stores as an art historian would visit the Met: to look and be inspired, my Louvre being Barney’s. I have recently become obsessed with prints and embellishments and found no lack of pleated chiffon appliques, sequence and beading.

As to quench the thirst for designing my own prints, an immense passion, I tried out Spoonflower knowing the low price wouldn’t necessarily reflect quality: they print exclusively on a stiff, rough cotton and don’t offer color matching (though it’s great for quilts or upholstery). I washed the first batch in cold water and lost about 30% of the color. You get what you pay for. Has anyone else tried Spoonflower? I have a hunch though these errors shall improve in time:)

Now back to the drawing board.

Getting To Know Your Fabric Cuts


Even though I’ve got a few quilts under my belt, I don’t consider myself a quilter (I still have so much to learn before I earn that title), But, something happens when spring hits and I suddenly have the desire to piece together small bits of fabric and make something that I can snuggle with when the nights are still a bit chilly. With the flowers blooming and the grass turning green, that urge is coming back. However, this time I’d love to try something new and since I’m out of the loop, I have no idea what a Jelly Roll consists of, let alone a Honey Bun. Want to learn the difference too? This blog entry by Simplify will help you learn all the ‘sweet’ cuts!

Video: How a Dress Form is Made


Ever wondered how a professional dress form is produced? Have a look at this great video on the Science Channel – How It’s Made: Dress Form. Thank you wzrdreams for posting this on Facebook! Click here to start watching.

Time for bow-ties


Now that the Melbourne Stitches & Craft Show is over i have a little extra time to sew. My first project was to make some bow-ties for the Sewalong. I chose a number of pink and black fabrics from one of my favourite fabric stores, Amitie Textiles, here in Melbourne. I particularly love the fine stripes! I had thought of embelishing some of them but i think that the fabric speaks for itself, so simple yet so striking. All i need now is to take a trip to the fabric store to find the correct size sliders, those i bought a while back were too small. I’m thinking of making some more snazzy bow-ties too. They’re so quick and easy to make and so addictive! Have you had time sew up a bow-tie for the sewalong? Don’t forget that they will need to be with us by May 4th after which they will be auctioned off to help the American Cancer Society.

More Bow Ties Coming In!


You gals rock! In the last two days we got 4, yes 4 bow ties! We got three awesome pink ones from Fatmouse in Biloxi, MS: one in Burlap, one in Seersucker and one in Elvis Print. We also got a wonderfully soft black bow tie made from bamboo by mecb in Portland. Keep up the great work!

Learn about our pledge of 150 bow ties to the American Cancer Society and send your own in your own by May 4th!

Get everything you need for a bow tie right here!


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