Tracing Burda Patterns the EASY Way

In my earlier sewing survey, I've had several readers ask me about Burda Patterns and particularly about tracing Burda patterns from the magazine and still staying sane.  If you are British or European you will probably be very familiar with the Burda Style monthly sewing patterns magazine and the maze of patterns all printed on top of each other in all of the different sizes.  There are other magazines and some pattern books that do exactly the same.

How to trace Burda, vintage and other patterns the EASY way by So Sew East

Burda patterns – harder to follow than a map of the underground


Or perhaps you have a vintage pattern that you don't want to cut, or one you might want to make in several different sizes.

So how do you best trace out your own pattern from the many on the same page, and still keep the page intact for future use?

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

I've tried many different ways, including some which have been unsuccessful – especially my Bad Karma dress, where I cut the two shoulder pieces far too small and didn't have enough fabric left over to correct it.  Burda makes it even more complicated by including no seam allowances so you have to add your own at the time of tracing too.

Here is my tips for making your own pattern from the maze and adding your seam allowances at the same time.  All while keeping the original intact and unharmed.


Equipment needed:

Clover Double Tracing Wheel

Massage Table Paper (sometimes called Medical Paper)

Saral Transfer (Tracing) Paper – Red or blue

Large flat firm surface – large table or smooth hard floor.


Tracing Burda Patterns the Easy Way

1 – First carefully undo the staples in the center of the magazine and remove the pattern sheets.  Identify which sheets you need from the pattern instructions, and which piece numbers, and in which color.

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

2 – Use the sizing tables to identify your pattern size.  (Burda Style Size Chart) Note – your pattern size will usually NOT correspond to your usual dress or clothing size. Measure yourself carefully, note the measurements and compare to the sizing chart.  Most sewists report that Burda patterns make up much larger than the sizing chart suggests as they include quite a lot of additional ease for alteration and fitting while you sew.

You can measure the pattern pieces at strategic points such as bust, waist and hips now to confirm your best fitting size.  We will double check this later on.

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

3 – Check the pattern sheets for the pattern pieces for the design you will be making.  Do spend some time to correctly identify all of the pieces.  You may find it useful at this stage to use a highlighter pen to run along the lines of the pattern pieces so you don't lose sight of them again later in the maze!  Double check and highlight carefully to make sure you are selecting the correct lines for your size.

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

4 – Prepare your tracing paper.  The Saral Transfer or Tracing Paper comes in a handy roll which is 12 inches wide by 12 feet long.  However you might find the pieces you want to trace are wider than 12 inches, especially for a full skirt, so let's unroll the paper, find the middle and cut it into two lengths.  Place these side by side with a small overlap, with the transfer side DOWN and then tape them together on the back side.  If you tape on the transfer side, then it won't transfer!  Now you have a big sheet about 23 inches wide by 6ft.  You can roll it back up again afterwards – this stuff will last you for years!

I use the Red Transfer Paper for tracing patterns to the white paper, and I love the White Transfer Paper for tracing directly onto dark fabrics or for transferring pattern markings or stitching lines onto fabrics.  If you have a light fabric you can use the red paper to mark – both will wash out – but if in doubt or you have an expensive fabric, please test them on a scrap first.

5 – Find yourself a large flat and hard surface like the dining table or a hardwood floor.  Now we need to make a sandwich.  On the bottom goes your white paper from the roll – I like this Massage/Medical Table Paper that I got from Amazon.  It's not expensive, you get a lot on the roll and it's strong enough to make a decent pattern that you can use to check fit (see later).

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

6 – Now on top of the white paper place the transfer paper with the transfer side down, and on top of that line up your pattern sheet face up.

7 – Set your Clover Double Tracing Wheel.  A standard seam allowance is 5/8th of an inch, but if you have a preference you can set the width differently. If you are working in a knit you might only want a narrow seam, for a hemline you might want to leave a larger seam allowance.  The Clover Wheel has adjustable widths from 3/16th to 1 and 1/8th inches.  I'm setting mine to a narrow seam for this knit pattern.

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

8 – OK we are ready to trace.  Just double check that all of your sandwich is lining up so that the pattern will fit on your medical paper.  Then use the tracing wheel to mark along the pattern lines.  One wheel will exactly follow the line of the pattern and the other will run along the outside of the pattern to create your chosen seam allowance.  Both lines will transfer to the white paper underneath so you get the full size and the stitching line on your new pattern piece.

Remember NOT to add a seam allowance to lines that are cut on the fold!

Tracing Burda patterns, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

9 – Also use the tracing wheel on the single setting to mark any pattern markings such as darts or notches.  You can use the end of a knitting needle or something similar if there are other markings such as circles.

10 – Open up your sandwich and admire your new sewing pattern complete with automatically added seam allowance and pattern markings.

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

11 – Adjust your sandwich and trace the rest of the pattern pieces.  It's pretty quick once you get going.  Write the pattern number/issue number/front/back etc on the new pattern pieces to help you identify them.

12 – Now we want to quickly test that we have the correct size before cutting out your fabric, and with this medical paper which is much stronger than the usual pattern tissue paper, you can 'tissue fit' the pattern to your body to see approximately how it might look/fit.

You can either use the pattern pieces as they are and make up half the garment, or make copies of the pieces you need two of, and make up a complete mock up – its up to you.  Pin along the stitching lines, pin any darts or pleats and try it on.  Match up center front to your belly button, center back to your spine.  If its not a bad fit then you have the correct size traced out.  If its massive or too small then you know that you need to trace out a different size pattern or grade from one size to another.

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

This will also allow you to test waistline placement, dart placement, neckline placement, approximate skirt length etc.  All before cutting into any fabric, finding it's terrible and having to start all over again.

This paper is strong enough that you can even sew together along the stitching lines you traced with a long basting stitch to test the fit, and then unpick it again afterwards to use as the flat pattern on your fabric!

My pattern is a t-shirt made in a knit fabric so it is supposed to be fitted, but I think its a little too snug around the bust, and I'm also going to lengthen the arms a little, lower the neckline and probably take some off the length.

I hope you found this useful and will be digging out all your old Burda magazines with some new enthusiasm ready to make up your patterns and get to work on some styles you really couldn't be bothered with before.

I'd also love to learn if you have any other tips or techniques that you use tracing Burda patterns or for duplicating patterns – do share in the comments below.

Authored by: Deby at So Sew Easy

Underground photo credit: OwenBlacker via photopin cc

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33 Responses to Tracing Burda Patterns the EASY Way

  1. RMendHammer says:

    Great feedback!

  2. dgturner2 says:

    Some great comments and suggestions. I have made garments from the pattern booklets associated with The Great British Sewing Bee. They are also multiple sizes similar to the Burda booklets. I use a Frixion marker (or you can use a Frixion pen) to highlight the size I want to make and then it is erasable if you want to make another size. Very convenient.

  3. Carmen says:

    I also grew up with Burd patterns. In school we learned the there are different seam allowances depending on where you add them. Maybe 1/4″ under the arm, but the other sides were around 1/2″. The bottom hem had an even larger size, maybe a whole inch or more.

    I dont use highlighter on the master. While it helps if i only plan on making one garment from the magazine, i often use several and then It becomes confusing again.

    I just use the tracing wheel and follow the specific lines identified for that pattern piece

  4. Karen says:

    I grew up using Burda patterns, so is no problem for me. I use rolls of greaseproof paper, pencil & ruler. Paper over the pattern sheet & trace outlines & all markings. Instruction booklet shows shape & all markings. Then cut paper patterns. Takes time but worth it.

  5. Emmanuella McHatton says:

    Growing up my mom made us kids Burda style clothing all the time, and we just estimated the seam allowance. Used a single tracing wheel.

  6. leni says:

    If you have a newspaper’s close to you, you can ask them for unused “leftover” rolls of paper – I got 3 rolls and I found the paper strong enough for fitting as well and the rolls were FREE =)

  7. Jules68 says:

    Brilliant, just wish my local sewing supplies shop would sell the carbon paper and the double wheel thingy. I use Burda Patterns all the time and can only buy proper pattern paper that I can trace them on, then use a ruler to add the seam allowances. Its really time intensive.

    • Deby Coles says:

      I have to order almost all of my sewing supplies online, including fabric, so I know how you feel. I got everything from Amazon for this and it’s been well worth the investment.

  8. Meriyem says:

    Thank you so much ! I just got a bunch of vintage BurdaStyle magazines as a gift and I was so lost . Now at least I’ll be able to make more than one garmnent out of every pattern.

  9. Really good tip using the double tracing wheel. I have my own Penelope here she is more like me at 16 than at 62 but you have given me some ideas to imrove her. Thank You

  10. Vesna says:

    Deby, thanks for sharing this great info.

  11. Ashford says:

    Your tutorial just improved my attitude about sewing. Pattern tracing will no longer be so tedious and time consuming. Thank you for spending your time to share your experiences.

  12. shelavkla says:

    Thank you so much. I just started sewing again, for my mature body, lol. I found the Burda Magazines a couple of years ago and started purchasing on line, not at any of the fabric stores in my area of the US. The highligher is a great idea, as for the tracing wheel I have taken and put a piece of foam and taped the two together with masting tape for a fast fix, this will work until I can get a double tracing wheel. really enjoy seeing the clothing that you make, your a great inspiration.

  13. Natasha In Oz says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial at the Say G’day Saturday linky party.

    This week’s linky party has just started so I hope you can stop by and say g’day!

    Best wishes for a great weekend,

    Natasha in Oz

  14. I had NO idea about the double tracing wheel! i sew with Ottobre and usually eyeball LOL

  15. Robin says:

    What a great idea using tissue paper for a fitting. Thanks for coming by and partying with us at Fluster Buster’s Creative Muster.


  16. QMM says:

    I’ve used many a pattern in my 75 years of living and about 60 years of sewing but never this type. You are very skilled, obviously. I guess it is all in what you get used to. Great job.

    • Deby Coles says:

      Wow -sewing so long! You must have made some beautiful clothes over that time. I only wish I had gotten into sewing much earlier in life. I have so much to learn and perfect.

  17. BeBetsy says:

    We both sew and this is a great tutorial!

    Thanks for linking up with us this week at BeBetsy BRAG ABOUT IT Tuesday Link and Hop.

    We’d love it if you would link back to BeBetsy at the bottom of your post.

    See you next week!
    Sharon and Denise

  18. Gemia Carroll says:

    Thank you for this! I hate to receive patterns that are one sheet. It makes me very upset, but this might help ease the pain a bit. I have a book that came like this that I will get to use now.

  19. Lorrie says:

    Great idea to use the double wheel. I didn’t even know that was available!

  20. JennyLynn says:

    I have used large rolls of wax paper from Costco or wrapping paper from the dollar store to make mine. I like your method better than mine which means folding the pattern, which then becomes tricky.

  21. I had no idea you could buy a double tracing wheel. All of this time I have been using a ruler to add seem allowance!

    • Deby Coles says:

      I just love this method – I still sometimes can’t be bothered with those damned Burda sheets – they give me a headache. But when there is something I want to make, this is the best way to make a pattern I think.

  22. Shirley says:

    What a fantastic idea!

  23. MammaNene (@mamma_nene) says:

    I’ve sewn a lot with Burda magazine, when I was younger! We used to transfer using carbon paper to big sheets of paper my father took home from the office, already printed on one side but still usable on the other, the ones which heve lot of holes on both sides, from the old printers…definitely not suitable for tissue fitting!!!
    Tx for sharing, Deby!!!!

  24. robynsewsthisandthat says:

    Love it! I have in the past, used heavy gauge clear plastic sheeting from the hardware store to trace my patterns. I am looking for a faster more permanent way to tranfer patterns as lately the marking are coming off some of my well-loved pattern tracings. I like the plastic because it’s durable but, I don’t like sharpie marker getting all over my hands and projects. 🙁 Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Phoebe says:

      You just need to change the kind of markers you use. Try permanent markers that are made for writing on CDs?

    • shelavkla says:

      Tracing over clear plastic is a good idea, I talked to a lady that used plastic table liner because she had 3 girls. She said that she could trace all sizes without harming the paper pattern,

  25. The idea of “tissue fitting” is awesome! I’ve never heard that before. Thanks for sharing!

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