How I Trace BurdaStyle Patterns

I won’t call this a tutorial because I don’t think it’s detailed enough, but I thought I would post how I trace patterns from the Burda magazines with a couple of tips that I hope may be useful.

I have tried to photograph this for someone who has never traced a Burda pattern before.  There may also be a couple of useful tips even if you’ve traced loads of them and know what you are doing. If I can add anything that might make it more helpful then I’d be happy to either edit this post, or add an extra post in the near future covering those items.  Any comments – positive or negative, or other tips – are welcome.

Please note, I make use of a Clover double tracing wheel throughout these instructions.

I have found it is the best way for me to trace Burda patterns and it is one of those sewing tools that I just could not be without. I was planning to do a “five or ten favourite sewing tools” post sometime in the near future, and this tracing wheel is definitely in my top five.  It only costs about £7.00 in the UK and I’ve already bought a spare one in case this one breaks because I hate the idea of it breaking and then having to wait days for a new one.

I’ve noticed that in the Burda instructions they suggest that you add the seam allowances on the fabric.  I hate that idea!  I much prefer to have the seam allowances added to the paper pattern because if I wanted to make the pattern again I wouldn’t want to have to go back to the instructions to find out what seam allowances to add.  If they are on the paper pattern, then it’s just the same as having a “normal” commercial pattern.

(Click on any photo for a larger version.)

Starting from the beginning.  When you remove the pattern sheets from the middle of the magazine and open them up you might be a little daunted.

The first thing to notice is that there is a little pair of scissors marked on the sheet.

Cut the sheet in half here and then find the piece of the sheet you need.  On the paper sheets in the middle of the magazine there is a little box for each pattern, like this one:

This is fairly self-explanatory, I hope.  For this pattern I have happened to pick the one pattern that really stands out on the patterns sheets because it is the one used in the magazine for a tutorial.  This means that the pattern pieces are highlighted pink, and usually (always?) don’t overlap each other on the pattern sheet.

Now iron the pattern sheet with a cool iron. I’ve found that it really isn’t worth skipping this step because it makes it much harder to trace.

This is where I love the double tracing wheel.  Because the pieces here are so easy to pick out and follow I don’t bother tracing any of the lines with a pen and just use the tracing wheel with the wheels 1.5cm apart (as shown in the earlier photo).

I put a piece of fabric, such as an old sheet folded in half, beneath the pattern sheet so that the tracing wheel has something to sink into.  If you do this on a hard surface, without fabric beneath the paper, you may find that the wheel doesn’t mark a clear enough line.

I want to trace a size 40 so I just roll one wheel along the line markings for the size 40 and, using the right amount of pressure, press down so that while one wheel marks the tracing line, the other marks the 1.5cm seam allowance needed.  For a line that is cut on a fold, I just tilt the tracing wheel slightly so that only one wheel leaves an impression. The tracing wheel will let you trace up to a 3cm seam allowance.  If you need more than this – such as for some hems, etc, – then you will have to resort to a different method. I usually just use a little ruler and mark dots 4cm (or whatever required) from the traced line and join them up for a cutting line.  I tried to get a photo of a traced pattern piece, but it didn’t come out very well.  I’ll put it here anyway as I think it is just possible to make out some of the double traced lines.

I did get a closeup photo of part of a traced line.

The dotted line on the right is along the size 40 line on the pattern sheet, and the dotted line on the left is the added seam allowance.  I think you can also see here where I’ve measured and put dots for the 4cm hem allowance.

At this point I always add the pattern details, plus any pattern markings needed.  Now this is where that little line drawing shown above comes in so handy.  In fact, I’ll add the photo here again:

I have been tracing Burda patterns for a good couple of years now and it was only a few patterns ago that I noticed the markings on the pattern pieces on these little line drawings.  They are the markings that you need to add to your traced pattern pieces before you remove them from the main pattern sheet.  I have no idea how much time I wasted pulling the tracing back from the sheet, then following each line on the pattern sheet to try to find all the necessary markings.  Then I’d lose a load more time trying to find a marking I’d missed when I came across a reference to it in the instructions. The little numbers show which pieces join up with which.  I don’t always bother with these where it is obvious without them, but they can be immensely handy sometimes.

Finally, here is the traced and cut out pattern piece (it’s on my ironing board, not a fabric I would use).

And this is when I realise that I have missed taking some photos that may have been useful.  Oh well, I’ll continue anyway and hope that you can make some sense of this without them.

If I am tracing a pattern that isn’t as clear on the sheet as the pink one, or perhaps has more complicated pattern pieces, then I prefer to trace first with a pen, then use the double wheel to add the seams allowances.

First though, I want to mention another tip.  Again, this is something I only realised recently and not knowing it probably cost me loads more time.  Each pattern sheet has guide numbers across the two long edges.  These numbers line up vertically with the number on the pattern piece they refer to.   Here’s an example:

See the green number 21 at the bottom of the photo.  If you follow the ruler up, then you’ll see the corresponding green number 21 on the pattern sheet.  This number is inside the green pattern piece 21.  In the past I’ve had to ask Mr RTS to find pattern pieces for me on a sheet because I just couldn’t see them no matter how carefully I thought I was looking.  That doesn’t happen any more :).

For this pattern, I traced the lines with a pen first, before adding the seam allowances.  This was mainly because I really struggle to see the green lines through the tracing paper I use and using a pen feels, to me, a little more controlled than using the double tracing wheel.  If I am using a pen, then I trace onto a hard surface.  I did remember to take a photo of part of a pen-traced pattern piece.

The flower fabric underneath the tracing is for the next step.  After tracing, I then use the double tracing wheel to add the seam allowances by running one wheel along the traced line and letting the other wheel mark the seam allowances, like so:

I hope it is clear where I have crossed the lines over to give me an obvious cutting line.  Again, I use a folded piece of fabric to give the tracing wheel something to sink into.

One last tip.  For the above pattern, Burda had only marked the curved sewing line for the fly front for the size 36.  They usually write something in the instructions along the lines of “mark for other sizes accordingly” (really, really helpful).  Again here’s another thing that didn’t occur to me until a little while ago – if you trace the line for your size (in this case it’s the middle drawn line at the top right I’m referring to (marked “center front slit”), then carefully slide your tracing across to the line for the size 36, and you can simply trace the sewing line that Burda have provided.  Then slide your pattern piece back to your own size and continue tracing.  I think this is probably one of those things that would be easier to explain in person, but I hope this makes some sort of sense.

For the actual tracing, I use a variety of papers.  I have some packing tissue that is a very good size for a lot of pieces.  I have two different packs of this. One is bright pink and, although it is pretty strong, it is useless for tracing red lines, and difficult for green.  I only have it because it was left over from real packing.  The second pack of packing tissue is horribly thin and I don’t use it often.  I did use it for the skirt traced above in this post because chances are I will only make one of these skirts.  It’s a style that I don’t wear very often so I’ll risk the paper tearing because I only want to use it once. If you have somewhere near you that sells packing materials it is well worth taking a look at their packing tissue though because a pack of, I think, 500 sheets only costs about £7.

For the second traced pattern in this post, I used proper tracing paper.  I bought a big roll of it from ebay.  It’s as wide as the Burda pattern sheet, and I think it cost me about £21 for 25M.  It’s easy to see through and pretty strong. The only reason I don’t use it all the time is because I’ve got the packing tissue.  It is also possible to buy sheets of Burda tracing paper.  This is very nice to use, although it isn’t much stronger than the tissue you get with commercial patterns.  It comes in a pack of five sheets, each of which is, I think, roughly the same size as a Burda pattern sheet. I would probably use this more often, I just haven’t got around to buying more of it.

After typing all this, it occurred to me that other people have probably posted their own tracing tutorials on their blogs.  It’s been quite a long time since I’ve searched for how to trace Burda patterns because I do it the way I’m used to.  If I’m now just duplicating information that has been out there in blogland forever, then I apologise – but I’m posting this anyway because it took me ages to write 🙂

The very last thing, I promise, the two patterns I traced for this “tutorial” are two of the patterns for the January part of my Burda Challenge so that’s all four January patterns traced – yeah!!  I still have the pattern for the trousers to go with the tunic to trace, but have decided not to bother with that until I have made the tunic.  If I don’t like the tunic, I won’t want the trousers so there’s no point in tracing that pattern yet.

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18 Responses to How I Trace BurdaStyle Patterns

  1. Amanda says:

    This is super helpful. Thank you!

  2. prttynpnk says:

    You are a Goddess! I muddled thru my first pattern tracing over the weekend and I know I will do even better with these tips!
    thank you so much!!

  3. amaryllislog says:

    I have never seen a double wheel like you show in your first photo. You are ruining all my excused for not sewing a Burda pattern, thank you!

  4. Sassy T says:

    This wqas really helpful for me. I don’t have a tracing wheel but your other tips are great. Thanks.

  5. This is so useful, thank you! My first Burda Style mag is due to arrive tomorrow but I remember my mother cursing over the tracing back in the day, so thank you for allaying my tracing nerves.

    • I really hope you enjoy your first Burda mag and I’m happy that my “tutorial” (such as it is) may be helpful. I believe that back in the day every pattern for every garment was printed in black – I know I would have been cursing!

      (BTW – I love the name of your blog – and have subscribed via google reader)

    • Your handle is awesome XD

  6. Diann O'Flaherty says:

    Thank you so much for this very clear tutorial! You are a wizard! I just got my first Burda magazine from the library and thought I’d make a pair of draw string pants. Turned to the pattern sheet and nearly had a heart attack!! I’m going to see if I can source the packing tissue later today. Again, many thanks. Diann

  7. Pam Elcock says:

    I have made patterns from the Burda Magazine since the end of the 60’s so have probably made hundreds of garments AND I have a huge collection of magazines , although I only buy a few every year now.
    Over the years I have had an immense amount of pleasure sewing for all my family and friends.
    Your information about the tracing wheel was very useful (although I do not usually add seam allowances onto the paper pattern) and I thought that I would pass on some information that I have found useful .
    I use grease-proof paper to trace the patterns onto which I buy from the butchers! So find yourself a friendly butcher and speak nicely to him and he might sell you a packet which will last you ages and is strong and a good size.

  8. I do this too but with Carbon paper sandwiched between.

  9. JuliaM says:

    This double tracing wheel thing… is a total revelation! How did I not know this existed?! Thanks for the post 🙂

  10. Brax says:

    this is brilliant. I bought my first two Burda magazines a few weeks ago and have yet to actually tackle the tracing of them. Since the ones I bought are also in German which I speak very little of this is a very helpful post. Thank you for taking the time to write it all.

  11. Many Thanks, Great Explanation.

    Sorry, but I did not understand what do I/we have to do when you say:
    “gain here’s another thing that didn’t occur to me until a little while ago – if you trace the line for your size (in this case it’s the middle drawn line at the top right I’m referring to (marked “center front slit”), then carefully slide your tracing across to the line for the size 36, and you can simply trace the sewing line that Burda have provided. Then slide your pattern piece back to your own size and continue tracing. I think this is probably one of those things that would be easier to explain in person, but I hope this makes some sort of sense.”

    Just a suggestion, why don’t you make a video on how to trace Burda patterns? I can’t find one that explain as you are doing here.



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