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Conversational Threads

Shannon Gifford on Intl. Patterns

carolfresia | Posted in Patterns on

Because there’s been some interest in learning more details about the international patterns that Shannon Gifford wrote about in Threads, No. 118, I’ve invited Shannon to visit and answer questions. She’ll be checking in here from time to time, so please post any questions–she’s got lots more info. up her sleeve than even appeared in the article, so this is a great opportunity to find out more about the wonderful, cosmopolitan pattern options available.

Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your time and expertise.



  1. MarshaK | | #1

    After I read the article on the International patterns, I was quite interested to get more information, so I visited some of the web-sites that were listed as where single issues could be purchased. I could not pick up anything that would let me know how to go about contacting these companies for the information. On one site there was a 'click for English' but nothing happened. What was I doing wrong?


    1. carolfresia | | #2


      Which website were you trying? In some cases you have to search around by trial and error. Let me know which magazine you're searching for and I'll see if I can get you there. Remember that working with these can be an exercise in international relations--sometimes you have to go by feel if you don't know the language. Once you have the patterns in hand, it all becomes a lot clearer, though--and there are multi-lingual people here on the forum who can help you out, too.


      1. MarshaK | | #13

        Hi Carol,

        One of the web-sites that I had looked at was http://www.marlofashionmagazines.nl.  I was just curious to see if they had more information about the magazines' contents, and of course how to order a single copy. It's so difficult to know what you are getting through mail-order, especially if it is in another language, even if I can recognize a few words here and there. I am very familiar with Burda's WOF and have seen copies of Ottobre in the Chapters bookstore. Not having any children, this one is of no interest to me.

        Perhaps as time goes on these magazines will become of more interest to more sewers and will be available through American and Canadian distributors. Well, we can hope, can't we?


        1. carolfresia | | #17

          Hi, Marsha,

          You can email the people who run Marlo's site, and they'll answer in English. They're a small, family-run operation, and the service is good.


          1. MarshaK | | #18

            Thanks Carol, I'll give that a try.


    2. ShannonG4d | | #3

       If you are near a metropolitan area, check the yellow pages directory for an international bookstore near your location.  Since many of these publications do not have American distributors (or English versions of their publications), this might be the best bet for finding copies to study. Around the World in New York City was a very helpful bookstore when I was looking for individual issues to study.

      Also, larger libraries, particularly university libraries, might have copies of some of the pattern magazines in their collections.  Universities that offer degrees in design or costuming would be your best bet.  You probably won't be able to take the magazine home, but you can at least look through it! 


      1. bellefille | | #4


        I got a subscription to Ottobre at http://www.ottobredesign.com   Just click  IN ENGLISH, and you can order the English version.  I'm quite sure you can get just one issue, and you can go through all their issues page by page online to see which one would be the best for you!  I personally find that they expect you to have quite a bit of sewing expertise (or a great book!), but the patterns are so today, or even tomorrow, that your kids will be cutting edge!

        Linda 03052

        1. ShannonG4d | | #5

          Ottobre is a great resource for kids' things, isn't it? 

          If you want adult clothing, and are willing to test the waters without instructions, Marfy (http://www.marfy.it) also has an English version to their site.  Their patterns are cut beautifully!  But be aware that ALL you receive is the pattern, pretrimmed to one size.  There will be no instructions, no photo of the design.   It's "adventure sewing" at its best:) 

          There was, at one time, another great Italian pattern company, Paolo B/Cartomodella.  My understanding is that they are no longer in production.  However, if you go to http://www.italyfabrics.com , they have a few of the remaining patterns available for purchase.  I made pants from this company, and the cut is superb.  Somewhere in the sewing room is a muslin for one of their jackets, too.  I need to pull that one out and play with it some more!

          The New Zealand bra/lingerie patterns have a website: http://www.sewing.co.nz/  and their service is impeccable.

          Burda has a website (http://www.burdamode.com), in German, but the photos are excellent. They have an American distributor (http://www.glp.com) which will sell individual copies of issues if they are not sold out.

          As for the remaining magazines (Modellina, Patrones, Diana/Elena Couture, Mrs. Stylebook, Knip Mode), none of them currently has an American distributor.  The sources listed in the article are the best for those particular publications.  Unless, of course, you have a pal in Germany or Spain or Japan who could pick one up for you.....

          The envelope patterns, Neue Mode and Burda, each have a variety of American distributors.  Check http://www.sullivans.net/usa/default.htm

          for a list of stores that carry Neue Mode.  My local Joann Fabrics carries Burda; perhaps yours does, too.


          Edited 3/24/2005 10:00 am ET by SHANNONG4D

          Edited 3/24/2005 10:01 am ET by SHANNONG4D

          1. bellefille | | #6


            Thank you!  What a lot of great information!  I went to Italy Fabrics already--nice stuff!  Just trying to decide which one of those patterns I "need"!

            Linda 03052

          2. kjp | | #7

            Shannon,   I loved your article!  I am a devoted Burda subscriber & have learned to sew with my own methods & ignore directions.  I never realized they had such a great website (I wish it was in english).  Wonderful photos!  I think I will try some of the others when I have the time to find them.  karin

          3. ShannonG4d | | #8

            Thanks for the kind words!

            I, too, love Burda WOF.  I have about 6 years' worth taking over the shelves in my sewing room:)  Either myself or my daughters have made at least one item from each issue.    We call the day when WOF comes in the mail "Mother-daughter bonding time".....it's a bit of a battle to see who will get the book first!LOL

            If you like Burda, you'd probably enjoy Patrones or Modellina.  The styles are similar in tone.  Again, the instructions might be considered lacking by American standards, but an adventurous user could figure out the construction issues.


          4. kjp | | #9

            Fortunately, my son doesn't fight me for my issues - but it's such a treat when they come!  I subscribed some years ago & just restarted it in the past couple of years.  I love having any pattern style I could need at my fingertips - it takes much less time to trace off a pattern than it would to drive to the local fabric store and back :)

            I will try to track down an issue of both Patrones and Modellina - they sound great.  I am really enjoying Burda WOF's new "basics" feature.  As a mom and a teacher (presently of elementary phys. ed!), I don't wear much "couture" fashion.  I live in a very upscale part of NJ, though, so I like my casual and night out with the girls clothes to be very fashionable.  I wish I hadn't needed to go back to work this year so I could have more time to expand my sewing skills.  I am finding that what I learned when I was young needs much revision with the wonderful new fabrics - mesh, knit, stretch wovens.  I'd love to see articles on working with some of them (seam treatment, creative ideas, interfacing, lining, etc)  hint, hint.... :)  karin

          5. SewNancy | | #10

            I first purchased Burda WOF magaazine at Borders and then when the price went up to $8 I decided to order a subscription.  I also found copies of it in NYC at Paron fabrics at one time.  I have never seen the others anywhere.


          6. ShannonG4d | | #11

            Oddly, the Borders bookstores in my area don't carry WOF!  I've asked....they don't seem interested:(

            There are still a few things I'd like to explore in this area.  There are a few pattern companies and magazines that were not available at the time I was doing the research, or they were temporarily out of publication, or they were brought to my attention too late to be included.  I'm sure this will become a life-long passion; it was MUCH too much fun!


          7. SewNancy | | #12

            The question I have is, why are the American companies so stodgy?  If they are showing young fashions they simplify the pattern so much that the younger sewer can't help but make a homemade looking product and then, why would they want to continue sewing?  The Vogue easy patterns have the same problem.  Few design lines and methods that scream homemade.


          8. auntsewer | | #31

            I accidently found a US distributor for Mrs. Stylebook! The web site is a little tricky so here goes!


            The site is in Japanese and English. you will need to search under magazines with the following :


            Please type the four words above exactly if you want to find the magazine,

            This site assumes you know the content, however, it offers subscriptions and single issues, and prices in US dollars.note: the cost of the magazine was adjusted .20 (twenty cents) due ti the exchange rate from the yen to the dollar, however shipping was the same.

            I have used them for another fashion magazine, and there service was fast and accurate.




          9. carolfresia | | #32

            Thanks so much for providing this link.


          10. Ukie | | #33

            Hi everyone,

            I am looking for La Mia Boutique subscription website. Could anybody help me, please*

      2. MarshaK | | #14


        Unfortunately I am not close to a major city, or university library as you mentioned, the nearest city is Edmonton, about 100 miles away. So, quite a lot of my shopping is done by mail-order, or when we go down into the States on vacation, but that has been only throughout the western states. No where near New York.

        In another post it was mentioned to ask a friend in Germany or France to look for these magazines, that's a great idea, one which I can do as I have  pen pals in Germany, France and the Netherlands. I could send them copies of Threads in exchange.


        1. HeartFire | | #15

          try http://www.oprny.com/ their web site is not the greatetst, but they are very helpfull on the phone, they have subscriptions to many european fashion magazines - I"ve delt with them myself and was very satisfied

          1. carolfresia | | #16

            Judy, thanks for the link to oprny.com. It's useful to know that, even if you don't see it on the website, you can call and order.


          2. MarshaK | | #19

            Judy, Thank you for the info, I'll have a look at that web-site. MarshaK.

          3. rekha | | #24

            I can add to the other sites for the magazines Shannon has cited http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.journaux.fr/liste.php%3Fsousfam%3D21%26collec%3D0&prev=/search%3Fq%3Delena%2Bcouture%26num%3D100%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26newwindow%3D1%26rls%3DGGLD,GGLD:2005-02,GGLD:en

            It can be translated to english as you can see and you can get Diana Couture, Elena Couture, and Burda

          4. carolfresia | | #25


            Thanks for that link. That's where I ordered Diana and Elena from for the article, actually, although I didn't bother to translate it (OK, I admit it, I didn't know you could automatically translate a whole site!). The service was good, by the way, and surprisingly quick.

            Bear in mind that titles are listed only when they have them in stock; sometimes you won't find them in their lists. However, there's a way (I forget--probably when you order) for them to notify you when the latest issue arrives. You can thus easily keep up to date.


          5. rekha | | #26

            I wasn't aware that you had been to the site. Just out of curiosity I'd like to know how you go about selecting which international pattern companies to write about considering the language barriers

            Re language translation, when a page is translatable (I'm unsure what criteria google use) an option for tranlation of non-english URLs is provided. That is how I was able to use the site, but 2-3 years ago when I was doing a Spanish language course I ran into this http://www.smartlinkcorp.com/ which allows you to download free the software for translating several languages

          6. ShannonG4d | | #27

            I chose to research and write about as many companies as possible, within a given period of time.  I was already familiar with almost all of the companies reviewed.  The others were located by referrals from other sewing friends or by searching the internet with keywords associated with sewing (pattern, sewing, dressmaker). I am sure we did not completely exhaust the subject!

            I used BabelFish to translate those things I couldn't figure out myself. (http://babelfish.altavista.com/)  That handled everything but the Japanese characters.  I have a Japanese friend who translates those items that I cannot figure out myself.

            There were other companies that did not make the article for various reasons.  One excellent magazine had temporarily suspended operations shortly before the research began.  Another excellent pattern company, sadly, closed during the time I was writing.  We did find a few companies that catered to specialty markets (children, craft, quilts), but chose to focus on those that dealt with adult garment patterns. 

            If you have access to other currently available pattern companies, I'd be interested in knowing about them.


          7. rekha | | #28

            >>If you have access to other currently available pattern companies

            In fact, I was keen to find out from you of any Indian/Pakistani/Sri Lankan formats for pattern designs. I understand that the Indian ones are really frequent articles in women's magazines, but nothing as an enterprise in its own right. Having said that I know that till at least 30 years ago every household did their own sewing; in fact, girls were trained in all aspects of home economics.

          8. ShannonG4d | | #20

            Judy, thanks for the link!

            Looks like their "international" section isn't yet up and running, but it's nice to know it will be there someday:)


          9. autismmom | | #21

            I was thrilled to see an article about these magazines. I discovered Burda a long time ago when I was in Italy. There used to be another Italian magazine called LA Mia Boutique that also had patterns to trace.
            A friend just brought me back a copy of the Japanese magazine Mrs. Stylebook. This one has me confused. So far I can't figure much out from the pictures. If anyone can shed any light on how this one works , I 'd love to know. Mary

          10. ShannonG4d | | #22


            Stylebook can be a bit confusing, particularly if you don't read Japanese!

            Here's a brief rundown of how it works:

            First, the photographs have text near them which contains a page number (in English numerals).  That page contains the drafting information for that particular design.

            When you look at the drafting information, you'll see a faint outline of a sloper in the background.  There are directions in the magazine for drafting the Stylebook sloper, but if you have a personal sloper or moulage, you can use that as a base.

            You'll see a second, darker outline over the sloper, with numbers all around and through it.  The numbers indicate how far from the sloper the line is to be drawn.  For instance on a skirt draft, you might see "3.5" at the side seam; that would indicate that the side seam line is drawn 3.5 centimeters from the sloper side seam.  Another area might have "B" over "6" (in a symbol that looks like a fraction), which indicates that this particular line should be the Bust measurement divided by 6.  It takes a bit of time to decipher what they want to do, but the process is pretty logical.  It is definitely not a beginner project!

            Since the process uses a sloper that fits to draft the garments, overall fitting is much less of a challenge.  The only fitting issues I've encountered have been those of personal taste. 

            Of all the international patterns that I reviewed, Stylebook was the most challenging to work with.  But I find it to be the most interesting as well; I've learned a great deal about pattern drafting in general just by studying the diagrams for each piece.

            On http://www.sewingworld.com , under "Patterns, Fitting, Alterations", there is a "Stylebook draft-along" thread. At present, a skirt from the latest issue is being tackled.  There are a couple of participants who can translate the text, so this is a golden opportunity to learn to use the book!


          11. autismmom | | #23

            Shannon, thanks for the advice. I will check out sewing world. Mary

        2. Alison | | #29

          Kwik Sew has excellent patterns for sportswear esp for children. I could measure my son before school in the morning , cut out the pattern acording to the measurements and his outfit would be finished when he arrived home. Perfet fit every time. Correct ease every time and no fabric wasting.  I could not say this for another large pattern manufacturer where I had to take out 2 inches of fabric on each leg as it looked like a dress. 

          1. MarshaK | | #30

            Hi Ali,

            I'm not sure if this message was meant for me or not as I don't do any children's sewing, I had just mentioned seeing the Octobre magazine in the book store. But I do agree with you that Kwik-Sew patterns are easy to sew with, I especially like the Jeans pattern, I've worn one out completely and the second one isn't in too good a shape. In the past 5 years I must have sewn at least 50 pairs of jeans in a wide variety of fabrics, and colors, just for myself. Yes, I live in jeans, most of the time. The only alteration I had to make to this pattern was in the leg length, had to add a few inches as I am 5'11' tall. I use a Kwik-Sew pattern to sew my husband's shirts, for work and casual wear. He hasn't purchased a shirt other than one to wear with a suit in a long time, sometimes he will even come into the fabric store to pick out his next new shirt.


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