What’s gone wrong with Burda?

Pile of Burda mags

I’m very fond of Burda magazine. I’ve been subscribing for a few years and, despite my Vogue addiction, I probably sew more Burda patterns than anything else. Last year I had a look at whether Burda’s patterns are getting easier. I’ve accumulated quite a few more issues since then so I thought it was time to bring the stats up to date. Or maybe I am just avoiding cutting out my current project, which involves a single layer layout and endless tailor tacks.

So here’s the average dot rating for each issue of Burda I own, right up to November 2013. I have only included women’s patterns in the stats: no children’s or menswear.

Burda ratings to 11/13

That graph looks pretty flat to me. I fed the numbers into OpenOffice‘s linear regression function and it agreed with me; the regression line gradient is zero. Burda still isn’t dumbing down, whatever it might look like when we see issues covered with the ‘Easy’ banner.

As I was going through my collection I noticed I had a lot of issues which I’d never removed the pattern sheets from. I started counting the number of patterns I’d actually used from each issue. I have only counted patterns which have produced a finished garment; there are a few more I’ve traced but never made up. The most I’ve ever made from one issue turned out to be a meagre two patterns, but that’s not the surprising thing.

Patterns made from Burda

I haven’t made anything at all from issues published in the last year. This despite my last five or six projects being Burda. It used to be that I’d find a ‘must-sew’ pattern about every three issues, but apparently not any more. I just renewed my subscription so I’ll definitely be getting Burda for another year, but when it comes up for renewal next time I’ll be checking whether the hit rate has improved.

I don’t know if Burda has changed or fashion has or I have; I’ve been unthrilled by recent Vogue pattern collections too. Everything currently on my sewing list is a repeat of a pattern I’ve made before.

Anyone else feeling underwhelmed by this year’s pattern releases?

30 thoughts on “What’s gone wrong with Burda?

  1. I think if you’ve been uninspired by the recent offerings that’s okay since you have a bounty of inspiration yet to sew. It be’s like that sometimes. I’ve definitely had drought seasons with the pattern companies and then they will issue a few patterns that make me drool, my head spin and make me running to purchase a few.

  2. I think as we get older we tend find our style and don’t need to make new and shiny as often. and certain season work better for each of us than other. That doesn’t mean the magazines aren’t useful to us. there are still styling, color palettes and other details

  3. Interesting analysis. I do the same thing with my own issues and have begun a quest to force myself to trace/make something from each issue, even if it’s only a detail from a sleeve or neckline. I keep track of how many I’ve done and must admit I still have quite a few to do. Of course it doesn’t help that it is so much harder to trace them now than it was before 2010. I don’t know why it’s so important, but maybe something to do with getting my money’s worth from my subscription.

  4. Ooooh, now I really want to play with graphs and charts and numbers too! This looks like fun – can you tell I am also avoiding cutting out fabric? Yeah, I am back to sewing for other people and that makes me feel lazy.

    Anyway, I found your analysis very interesting – especially that the average difficulty hasn’t changed, even though it seems like there are more simple tops and baggy dresses than there were in the past. Also very interesting to note which issues you have sewn from, and how much. Funnily enough I actually have been sewing a lot from the February and March issues this year, and actually I made a few tops from the May issue as well. And I have something planned from June. So I guess I am still getting value from my subscription? I have to admit that normally I am all over the fall issues, but I haven’t really been inspired by them this year – them or the major pattern companies. It just feels like so much blah. And pajamas. Why are there so many pajamas?

    Back on topic – what I think would be really interesting is to track which issues I have sewn from and also which issues I want to sew from. I know I can’t produce garments nearly as quickly as I would like, but there are some things that just go on the permanent “to make” list. That might be a more telling graph than what you have actually made – because then you can really see if you have lost interest in the magazine, or if you just have put priorities on other projects.

  5. I also have been collecting and sewing from Burdas for a number of years (7 now). I go back to the earlier editions and there are still things I want to make up from them (2009 was a particularly good year).

    Something I do notice is that the fashion is very forward – in other words – the styles I see in Burda take about a year or two to trickle ‘down under’ – so it takes a while for my “eye to adjust” – to see enough of the same thing worn on the streets for the patterns not to seem that crazy.

    Burda’s point of difference is the high fashion looks – and even if I don’t sew from an issue I still enjoy it more than any other coffee table magazine I might buy… I do wish they would carry more basics but that is not their target – I guess they figure they’ll leave the pattern companies to cover that base.

    This year I have found more I want to sew than in the last 3 or 4 – because the fashion trend towards mid century romanticism is a style I really like, closer to my personal aesthetic.

  6. Interesting! I have to say the last year of Burda has been a bit flat, IMHO. But for me there have always been issues where I would sew any number of things vs those that I say “meh” and move on. So far I think it is still worth my subscribing. I agree with you about the more recent Vogue designer releases too. Not as much interesting or challenging.

  7. I don’t sew Burda because those mess of lines and tracings drive me nuts. But I very much enjoyed your graphing and numbers based analysis. Often the numbers show us that our initial perceptions are flawed.

  8. I am exceedingly fond of Burda and sew more from the magazines than anything else. I haven’t enjoyed the boxy styles recently, but there is usually something at least every second issue that I like and want to sew.

    Your graphs are very telling. I rarely sew from the current issues either, but I’ve always thought that was because I’m in the southern hemisphere.

  9. I love Burda magazines and Vogue, but recently have been learning to self-draft. This is liberating in terms of being able to ‘see it and sew’.

  10. Good work on graphing it all out. They’re not dumbing down in terms of ease, they’re dumbing down in terms of style. i.e. they’re dumbing down the pattern drafting effort they go to in each issue.
    Knipmode’s been doing the same (which is why I stopped subscribing in 2012-their last clever styles were published in September 2009..) and Patrones too, sadly. The older issues for all these mags had more clever designs (rather than more difficult designs) and more runway-type stuff that took a bit more thinking (although not necessarily more effort) to create… Maybe we’re just at the level where we need to start draping/drafting and putting together the clever styles ourselves. Jenny, Emily and I spent Saturday draping the pants block from the duburg book and you know what? That’s the most sewing-related fun I’ve had all year. It required effort and thinking and multiple aha moments and it was just fun. Not to mention the fit looks awesome.
    Having said that, burda have had a couple of ‘clever’ drafts in recent issues. Just not very many (the draped trousers next month, the wrap/bow front pattern magic type dress in August, the minimalist jacket in August, the wrap type maxi in Feb..)..

  11. Oh and another thing I meant to add-the styles they list as difficult now are much easier than the styles they listed as difficult in 2007 or 2009. I.e. a single welt pocket style gets a difficulty of 3 dots vs 2-2.5.. I just felt like this was popping up on and off-dunno if it’s happening off the board..

  12. I have been making Burda patterns for quite a while. My first issues are from 1998. After subscribing for a few years, they really started to pile up. I started subscribing every second year, which keeps me in current-enough styles without overwhelming me.

  13. My love of Burda waxes and wanes – this time last year I was ecstatic! Aug – Jan were fabulous (at least in my eyes). September and December were especially fantastic. I think I could be happy only sewing out of the September issue if I had to. This year is underwhelming. I still love Burda though. My ex used to laugh at me… I was so ridiculously excited to get this weird, dumpy magazine every month! He called it “Big bad Burda.”

  14. I have not made anything from burda magazines since 2009, but i have been buying them religiously every year. I really have not been wowed by any pattern enough to make it. Either that or i am just plain lazy when it comes to tracing

  15. Very interesting analysis, but I tend to agree with Carol S. above that once you’ve found your style, and you definitely have, there’s simply less need to keep trying pattern after pattern (especially with the tracing involved with Burda) to get a new garment you can count on loving.

    Of course fashions change, but your wastage diminishes. You start to notice repeats/variations/references, so you’re simply less excited.

    Apart from that simple element of ennui as fashions cycle, you also might not have the same high quality of inspiration we had in the 70’s, etc. When Vogue issued YSL Designer patterns, I just made those up, one by one, because I loved what his house was doing. Same with Ralph Laurent Vogue patterns at one time. On the other hand, I loathe almost all the designers they buy from these days, apart from Donna Karan, and Vogue has dropped off my charts altogether.

    I can see from window shopping that Burda is faithfully following the young European trendies, reflected in the windows of Promod and Zara, but right now, it’s not a great original season (decade?) for clothes. When Burda resorts to pushing antique ‘hippie’ fashions I wore in 1975, I weep for them. Patching our bellbottom jeans and wearing swirly maxi skirts felt really new then, now it just looks like a costume party.

    As for difficulty, I’m not sure there spread isn’t about the same, although I don’t have a chart to check. Styles might be simpler these days, influenced by the reduction of production costs in factories overseas.

  16. Burda is my still my favorite pattern company, although lately, it’s been harder to maintain that love. I love Burda, because the plus size patterns are more stylish than most other patterns. That said, I usually stick to the classic patterns and stay away from the more trendy styles. I don’t see myself ending my subscription. I agree with Carol S. I’ve found my style and I’m quite happy making pants from 2008.

  17. Since last year I’ve made myself make at least one pattern each issue from the Burda mag to justify the purchase. It’s surprising how many times a blah issue has turned out a nice garment once I’ve given it a bit more thought. But I think if you’ve been buying the mag for a while there is a lot of repetition but a newcomer might think it’s wonderful. I still get excited when a new issue arrives – whether a nice pattern or a laugh I always get a reaction to something in each issue!

  18. I’ve temporarily stopped taking any pattern mags or buying patterns. As I have so many unused ones, and can draft, it was a bit of an indulgence. The main thing I noticed about Burda was the amount of rehashes. I once wasted some time making a classified index of my magazine patterns based on things like ‘sleeve, set in, raglan, kimono, dolman’. That showed up how little variety of drafting shapes there was across a few years. Lots of slight changes to make a ‘new’ style instead. But, how would you focus a pattern mag or pattern company? Many sewing sisters complain of limitations in size/cup size, others want ‘easy and quick’,yet others want to see more high fashion or complex catwalk designs. Would there ever be a concensus?
    Many of us fall for a pattern based on nothing much to do with the pattern – the fabric used, the way it is styled in the photoshoot, aspirations or dreams wafted by us, the ‘this’ll look great when I’ve lost 8 kilos’ element. . ,

  19. interesting post. I never use Burda magazine patterns because I find the tracing impossible. Not difficult, impossible! I just can’t find the pieces and lines. Anyway, my feeling that there are no new patterns, if you look around there are so many pattern repeats and and envelope pattern just seems less trouble. Also in the Burda mag the photos are not very useful for assessing the style. Although there is a jacket in one of the recent issues. Pattern # 106 in the 8/2013 issue. trying to convince one of my friends to trace it for me 🙂

    1. I agree totally with you – I find it IMPOSSIBLE to trace Burda patterns. If I want to make one, I buy the pattern from their site and download. I then spend ages cutting and sellotaping the pages together. Much better.

  20. After only sewing Vogue patterns for yeeeeeeears, I finally bit the Burda bullet in 2010, and I’m glad I did. I’ve been trying to sew at least one garment from each issue in 2013, and it *is* a bit of a challenge to find something from every issue. There are a couple issues where every 2nd garment is in my imaginary sewing queue, and then issues where nothing – and I mean NOTHING – appeals to me. But so far, I’ve not regretted my subscriptions, although I like Claudine’s idea of only getting one every other year. I may consider than when this subscription comes up for renewal. Your graph is interesting. I always like seeing data like that.

  21. Interesting analysis, I ❤ numbers and the story they tell. Especially that that they have redefined what is hard…
    Do you think that maybe they always rehashed, we just hadn't been staring at it for 10 or 20 years? When you are a young 20 something everything is new fresh and looks novel. When you see it the second time around 2 years later is isn't that novel anymore.

    I personally let my subscription lapse. I can't stand the tracing, and I can get the individual patterns online and store them on my hard drive until I'm ready to sew. I have found that its easier to maintain the love when I have documented the line drawing sheets. I have so many issues that I often remember that Burda did a particular pattern at one time (or 3) and I have it, but I can't remember exactly what issue.

    I love my Burda pants, fit is absolutely perfect.
    But, for design and dazzle, I still go for Marfy because they still manage to be novel and refreshing every year.

  22. Totally agree. Completely underwhelmed by Burda & the Big 5 this past year. Most of the patterns Ive purchased this year have been from previous seasons. I have hit a few newbies this year, but the majority are older. What are we to do?!

  23. Great topic! I have great respect for you gals that sew clothes only from the magazines. I simply just DON’T have the patience to trace and add seam allowances. Whenever I do break down and sew up something from my limited mag collection, it’s usually a success. I like the fit through my shoulders (fitting is always tricky when I use Vogue Patterns). When I was taking the subscription (@’09-’12), I noticed a recurring fashion story: The Urban Jungle, or the Military Urban Jungle. The trends felt repetitive to me. Seriously, though, however you make the tracing nightmare work for you all boggles my mind:) I stand in awe of your patience!

  24. I bought a Burda magazine on Ebay just for one pattern and cut it out. All those lines were giving me a headache and I couldn’t be phaffed with all that tracing. Wouldn’t normally bother with Burda but I love this pattern (it’s a jacket). Respect to anyone who can made sense of all those lines. I had toyed with tracing it but knew I would not be making anything else from the mag.

  25. I love this post. Data! Graphs! What more could a girl want.

    Like you I haven’t really been inspired by the Burda offerings recently, but it suspect it’s just an off patch and they will be back to form soon.

    I bought one of their offshoot magazines last week (is it called classic?) and that had a couple of nice things in it.

  26. Hi Catherine, I have never made on a comment on your blog before but I felt that I had to after this post. I have been getting Burda since 1974 when I had a sewing teacher who happily taught me how to draft and make the patterns. Since then, I have rarely used a commercial pattern. I kept every issue from 1974 to the end of 2005 but in 2009, I needed to move to an apartment and I really needed to down grade my belongings.Reluctantly I gave away all of these Burda magazines to a fashion student who was thrilled. Some issues I never used but in all those years when I was ill or just plain down in the dumps, I would get out my Burda magazines and cheer myself up. I would also find a pattern that I decided I liked after all, sometimes many years old. Do not part with your Burda as you will grieve for them like I do.

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