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Imagine you would move several times a year. You would have to pack up yours and your families entire wardrobe, your other belongings, your sewing machine. Imagine in addition, that when you move, you move by foot, there is no big truck coming to pick up your things but you and your family will be carrying it. Imagine on top of it all, that the weather is actually pretty hot, since you are living in a semi-desert! What would you do? Probably you would start having as little as possible, to avoid having to carry around all these things every time you move. And maybe it actually would be best to dress you and your family in next to nothing! And that is exactly what the semi-nomadic Himba do, who live in the North of Namibia, an African country that is located in between Angola and South Africa on the west coast of the continent. Yet, do not think that wearing nothing means there is no style or concept of beauty.

Many groups of Himba have retained their traditional lifestyles of cattle herding, moving with the rains to find fresh grazing grounds. And with that many of them, especially women and children have retained their traditional way of clothing: in their infancy, Himba children usually do not wear clothes and their heads are mostly shaven. Yet, already from birth, they are adorned with beaded necklaces which have all sorts of symbolic meanings. Once they get older they will wear leather loin cloths or mini-skirts, made from soft goat or cattle skin and plait their hair in a distinct fashion depending on whether they are girls or boys. Adults don’t wear much more, yet, they are richly decorated with necklaces and bracelets made from metal, leather and shells and even more intricate hair styles. Clothes, jewelry and fashion are not ends in themselves but all have a spiritual meaning or practical function. For example, the thick metal bands around their feet are said to serve as protection against snake bites.

In this world, without garments and fabrics, women have found a most unique way of covering their bodies, to both decorate it and to protect their skin from sun and weather: they cover their entire body, including their thick braids and often even their leather skirts in a thick mixture of butter fat, ocher and aromatic herbs that gives their skin a fascinating earthen-red hue. Words are not really apt to describe the special beauty of this people, but there are plenty of pictures available on flickr.

Sewing for others?


So I’m walking home with my kids and husband after a visit to the coffee shop and park when I get a phone call from a friend. She asks me if I can make a dress for someone she works with. She needed the dress by this weekend for a ball she is attending; the fabric was already bought and cut out by someone that ended up not being able to make it. My first reaction is to say no. Surely my sewing isn’t good enough to be charging someone for making a garment, is it? I’ve always avoided making clothes for others, especially for money for this very reason. After a little encouragement from my husband I agreed to make it.

The dress was to go under an evening dress to act as a slip, very simple. I made it up in an evening, leaving the hem and straps to be adjusted when she tried it on then finished it off in an hour. So quick and easy and she was pleased with the result. I’m wondering why I was so scared and I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. I may even do it again!

So I have some questions for you.

• Do you sew for others?

• What kind of things do you sew?

• How do you do it, from home, in your job?

• If you don’t but would like to what is holding you back?

• Do you have any advice for those wanting to start?



As a novice I am always impressed by people’s skills when it comes to sewing. Smocking mystifies me, I think it adds so much to an outfit with (what I’ve heard) not too much effort. This smocked fan is absolutely breath taking. It was made in a class by the author’s (Liesl Gibson of Disdressed and Oliver+S) grandmother. Someone left a comment directing people to this Etsy store full of smocked jewelry.

To learn how to use smocking, we have two great member produced How To’s. One shows how to smock jersey another shows how to faux smock.

Finding Forgotten Gems in the Pattern Archive


Finding Forgotten Gems in the Pattern Archive

Even though it’s still summer in the Northern Hemisphere, August is the time when my sewing brain starts thinking about fall fashion and what I’d like to make over the next few months. So I’ll take a fresh look at all my pattern envelopes and magazines at home, sift through my fabric stash, and start putting them together based on what I need in my wardrobe. I like to scan my patterns so I can look at them in an online album whenever I find inspiration, but BurdaStyle makes this even easier by having everything about the pattern online already!

With a new pattern every week, it’s easy to become focused on the new and forget about all the great free patterns in the archives, so a few times a year I also like to browse through these patterns past to find ones I’d forgotten all about! Sometimes even just seeing the versions sewn up by other members is enough to make me see a pattern in a whole new way. This weekend I sewed the Marcel sleepmask, which was one of the very first BurdaStyle patterns, for instance. And knowing that my closet is severely lacking in trousers and skirts for Fall, I’m now also eyeing up Nichola, Ellen, and Marie.

So go on and have a look through the archives and see if you can find some forgotten gems!

The most controversial piece of fabric: the veil in fashion.


The most controversial piece of fabric: the veil in fashion.

What comes to your mind when you think about headscarves? Female oppression? Religious extremism? At least in Germany, the controversy about female Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in school has turned this little accessory into one of the most contested pieces of cloth. Yet, this controversy is not new: Just to give you an example, already when the French colonized Algiers in the 19th century, French soldiers dragged women from villages into towns where they had to publicly take off their headscarves. What for the French was a symbol for the liberation of oppressed women, was for Algerian men AND WOMEN a symbolic rape.

Mind you, in Europe, it was not only fashionable but also convention for women to wear headscarves until the 1970s and men would not leave the house without their hats. Some people of world fame still appreciate headscarves not just for their practicality against cold winds and rain but also for their style: a 2007 issue of the British Vogue called Queen Elizabeth II of England, “as glamorous in her brogues and headscarf as she is wearing the crown jewels.”

But not only old queens can look glamorous in headscarves. In fact, where Muslim women have a bit of room for experimenting within their religious dress code, a fully covered body including veiled hair cannot just look incredibly sophisticated but also creates an aura of female mystery. What it looks like to “show the beauty of the flower while covering the flower” shows us Turkish fashion designer Rabia YalÁin who made her debut as at New York’s Fashion week last February. Autumn and winter are coming and why not get inspired by a tradition that searches for and reveals the beauty of a woman in a completely different way than we are used to.

And while you get your patterns and sewing machines ready, just remember for a moment all those women in this world, for whom it is not a question of choice what to wear.

Alison Kelly: Introduction


I decided I wanted to become a fashion designer by default; having always a strong interest in art, my mother being an extraordinary painter (who also taught me to sew), my father, an English major with an obscure sense of humor in language as well as in illustration, I graduated high school planning to become a sculptor, painter, or jeweler. I moved to San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico, to study fine arts at an international institution and became entranced by silver-smithing. A year went by and I realized that body adornment was extremely important to me, having always worn clothes that had been altered to my liking, or as a teenager, made by myself, I decided I was keen to study fashion design. True to my wandering nature, I enrolled myself in another international program which landed me in the morosely beautiful city of Florence, Italy. Our design rooms were perched upon a striking yellow ocher building which nested at the base of Ponte Vecchio on the river Arno. Learning to drape changed my perspective on fashion design completely. With a few props & tools there are endless patterns and forms to create, it’s incredibly addictive.

To bring my message to you in less than 1000 words, I will sum up the meaning of this explanation by saying that sewing & design changed my life. And created what is meaningful in my life now. To be able to create a unique piece of clothing is invaluable, and being able to wear this creation and interact with the world while in it is incredibly fulfilling, a unique experience unto itself. I have had my own line since the day I graduated from college. I moved to Los Angeles upon getting my BFA and set up shop in a tiny little closet above the stairs in my apartment. I would scour the garment district for old bolts of washed silk and jersey to make limited edition, 1-off collections and bring them around to stores where many buyers placed the limited collections on consignment. I also did many "punk-rock flea markets, and other more upscale flea markets where I’d sell t-shirts and dresses to boys & girls for $20 each.

The popularity of these mini-collections became an issue at a certain point; the buyers always wanted more, yet I had used up the entire roll of a vintage washed silk print and it was gone. Forever. As much as I loved the exclusivity of 1-offs, I decided it was time to transform the line into a wholesale collection. I moved to New York City in the winter of 2006 and while searching for an apartment, I auditioned, much against my own will at first, for Project Runway, the hit fashion design competition series. I found out I had been cast as a contestant in May. Everything changed.

Venus Zine's 4th Annual Craft-Off


Want to win a Singer Sewing Machine? Well here is you chance! Venus Zine has partnered with Singer to bring you the 4th Annual Craft-Off. To enter you need to have a great DIY gift idea which costs less than $40 to produce. The best ideas will be pulled from the submissions and their creators will be featured in the winter issue of Venus Zine. Submission’s are due by the 18th of September, so get crackin!

Melbourne Spring Fashion Week


I know that many of you live in my neck of the woods so I wanted to let you know about Melbourne Fashion Week. It runs from the 1st to the 7th of September and has over 100 free and ticketed events showcasing the latest and hottest Spring-Summer fashion and a few events on the program have caught my eye. The Gorman Organic Ship Shop is made from a 20ft used shipping container, constructed from recycled ply and other sustainable materials and it moves!! There are no plastic bags and no cash register. You try on then buy online at the ship shop and have your purchase sent to you. All of Gorman’s clothing is organic. The Ship Shop will be docking in the City Square all week long. I’ll be taking a trip into the city to check it out.

The other event that I’m interested in attending is the RAW Sustainable Fashion Parade. The parade will promote sustainability in fashion with the use of organic, vintage and recycled fabrics. Australian designers will demonstrate that fashion can be stylish and sustainable. It will be held at FIX Docklands on Friday the 5th of September from 9 till 11pm and costs $15. Of course I’ll have to come up with a fabulous refashioned outfit by next Friday, I have a few ideas and will show you what I come up with. Would anyone care to meet up with me there? I’d love to get together with some of you so email or message me if you are interested.

I’m still working on the Jorinde jacket for the sewalong. My second muslin is almost done then I can get started on my final piece. I’m taking it slow and making sure I (hopefully) do a good job but more on that next time. I also have a new mini challenge planned for the very near future so keep you eyes peeled for that.

Ready for a Hong Kong Finish


Here at BurdaStyle, we love learning new sewing tricks to help us execute our projects as well as beautifully as possible. Sometimes, of course, the fancy techniques can be a bit much, but it’s nice to have the confidence and knowledge to make a really high-end garment once in a while.

Uni- or Unique-forms, Dress Codes From Around the World


Uni- or Unique-form

It’s “back to school” and millions of students are pulling out their school uniforms. And curiously, no matter what continent or country, no matter the diversity of styles and clothes around the world, school uniforms are uni-form: in the choice of darkish colors and a somewhat European designs.

How can that be, you ask, that school uniforms in Africa, look the same as in Asia, as they do in Latin America, Europe and elsewhere in the world? The answer is simple: thanks to a certain colonial influence, many school systems around the world were modeled after the European school system not just with respect to their curricula but also their fashion.

Take the “traditional” Japanese school uniform: the boy’s secondary school outfit, the gakuran, which sports a dark jacket with stand-up collar and buttons down the front, is modeled after the Prussian army uniform worn in the 1870s when Japan was looking to Europe for ideas to build its education system. Today, school uniforms have become a Japanese fashion item inspiring fashion parades to show off latest designs. Especially the sailor fuku, the naval uniform worn by girls is well known thanks to its appearance in Japanese cartoons known as mangas. Nevertheless, the super-short skirts that you may have seen be worn by Sailor Moon, the High School Girls or in Gonz·lez IÒ·rrituís Film Babel are likely to be fiction rather than reality: there is a minimum length for skirts in schools and teachers do enforce them; although, I wouldn’t vouch for what happens outside school.

In the US school uniforms, especially in public schools, have not just a shorter but a less inspiring history. Uniforms or strict dress codes started to b introduced in the 1980s to “prevent kids from shooting each other over designer sneakers”. Whether it helps is difficult to say but, it has sparked some strong reactions not just in children but also in parents who feel their freedom of expression to be violated. But do dress codes and uniforms really have to infringe on rights? Maybe a uniform design contest could turn a nerds uni-form into a unique-form and a fashion statement · la Japan.

And in case you are looking for a new supplier, you can have your new batch of school uniforms hand tailored by HandCrafting Justice and give mothers in Mexico and Laos the opportunity to send their children to school, too.

Donate your unwanted fabric!


Despite our best intentions, sometimes we end up with fabric in our stash that just screams “what was I thinking?”. Rather than let it take up space (either in our homes or gasp a landfill), why not clear some space and donate it to a good cause at the same time?

Reading through the Dutch site Naaipatronen, I’ve just learned about Stichting Toekomst Rwanda (Future Foundation Rwanda), a charity set up by a Rwandan refugee in The Netherlands to help underage mothers and children still vulnerable in Rwanda. They’re taught skills and given homes, and just because they’re on the other side of the world doesn’t mean they’re very different from us BurdaStyle sewers – when asked, they said they wanted to set up a sewing studio! So in October the charity is taking several sewing machines and a seamstress to train the girls but they’re now in need of fabric and haberdashery donations to take along to them!

So have a look through your stash and if there’s anything you can spare, send it to Stichting Toekomst Rwanda, Weipoortseweg 89, 2381 NJ Zoeterwoude, The Netherlands or get in touch through info@stichtingtoekomstrwanda.nl.

And with all that new-found space in your sewing room, you may just have to go fabric shopping!

Pattern Free Headband for Back to School


What is the perfect accessory to accompany your new back to school clothing? Why, a headband of your own design! How many scraps do we acquire as seamsters & seamstresses that end up in the garbage? More than we care to recognize. And while we can collect scraps to make lovely quilts, as featured this week on BurdaStyle, it’s always fun to learn a quick & simple way of making something new & fashionable…it less than an hour! So how do we start?

Deciding which alterations to make on the Jorinde jacket


I am so glad I am making a muslin for the Jorinde jacket. It seems the pattern needs to be changed in many places for it to fit me properly. I’m pretty short (5’2”) and have found that the jacket doesn’t fit quite so well in length especially between the armhole and the neck, the armhole is a little too big which feels uncomfortable when I lift my arm. To remedy this I will shorten the front and back pattern pieces between the top and bottom of the armhole and also at the corresponding location on the sleeve cap. Doing this will also raise the hemline but I may raise it a little more to sit just on or below the hips.

A few other alterations I’ve decided I will make will be to shorten the sleeves; they’re about oh 6 inches too long! I’ll also change the shape of the collar; I’m not quite fond of the shape it is in the pattern. I’ll sketch out a few ideas before deciding. The back of the jacket is also a little ‘poofy’ so I need to come up with an alteration to fix that and I’m undecided about whether to keep the pockets as they are, change them or not have them at all. Suggestions please!

I’ll be making a second muslin this week to test out these alterations before starting on my final jacket. I’m using the book Fast Fit to help me with my alterations, it’s a great resource for easy pattern alterations for all figures. I’m also going to be researching interfacing and lining a jacket.

There’s still time to take part in the sewalong!

How to Find a Local Sewing Group


How to Find a Local Sewing Group

“How can I find other sewers near me?” It’s a common request on the forums here and one I used to ask myself when I was learning to sew. As helpful as visual how tos and online sewalongs are, sometimes you just need someone to physically show you what to do to get that “Eureka!” moment in your head.

I found a great sewing and costuming group here in London on meetup.com, and there are a lot of other sewing, craft, quilting, and stitch & bitch groups all over the world listed here, too. Our particular group gets together once a month or so for a chat and coffee, and we all bring what we’ve been working on for help and advice (or just a bit of “ooh that’s nice!”) and discuss local stores and suppliers. There’s a great mix of ages and abilities, from retired, expert Saville Row tailors to absolute beginners, but everyone there has a shared passion for sewing. If you’re in the US, it’s also worth finding out if there’s an American Sewing Guild (ASG) chapter near you. Who knows, you might discover that one of your neighbors also has a secret passion for fabric and patterns!

Where does the Tie come from?


How to knot the tie?

Curious girlfriends, wives, daughters, and you -millions of guys, who wake up to tie a thin piece of silk, leather or even wool around your neck each morning have you ever wondered why you are wearing a tie?

In 1818, Emil De LíEmpese suggested that the tie is useful against colds, stiff necks and tooth ache so it could in fact be practicality. But considering the discomfort that many men seem to be experiencing, especially during the hot summer months, another explanation seems more likely: a man’s vanity.

Read this: In addition to covering the buttons of a shirt and giving emphasis to the verticality of a man’s body it adds a sense of luxury and richness, giving him instant respectability. Above all, it is the ultimate symbol of individuality. - Show me your tie and I will tell you who you are!

Are we surprised? Not if we know the supposed origins of the tie: The beginnings of the tie are associated with French King Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King”; for no other reason than he expected his court and country to circle around him like the planets around the sun. This very king created a new fashion, copying the idea of wearing neckerchiefs from Croatian mercenaries who fought during the Thirty-year war that shook Europe in the 17th century. Yet, that style of tie has no much more in common with our modern tie than the name in French (cravate) and German (Krawatte) which shows a striking resemblance with the French word for Croatian: Croate.

It took 200 years and an industrial revolution to evolve to our modern tie. In the 1920s the long, thin, easy to knot tie was designed to last through an entire workday without coming undone. The comfortable, yet robust piece of fabric kept it’s knot until its wearer loosened it by that typical pull of the index finger.

Today it is not just the office clerk, the traditionalist or the manager who is wearing a tie. It is even my ultra-cool New York brother-in-law who has discovered this style of sophistication.

And all those who always wanted to know how to tie a tie, you can get some detailed hints and tips at how to tie a tie. Want to make a unique individual tie? Try our Osman tie pattern.


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