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Burda Fitting?

Josefly's picture

Burda Fitting? (post #28917)


I'm about to cut out a dress by a Burda pattern. trying to fit my DD. She has narrow shoulders, and Nancy Zieman recommends measuring across the chest from arm crease to arm crease. A 14-inch measurement corresponds to a size 14 pattern. A 13 1/2 inch would use a size 12, and a 13-inch measurement would use a size 10, and so on for every 1/2 inch smaller, smaller sizes going down from size 14. I thought I would try this method, since nothing else has really worked for her or for myself, either, for that matter. But this is my first experience with Burda. Does anyone know if this same pattern-size/chest measurement correspondence applies to Burda patterns? Or should I just go by bust measurement?

woodruff's picture

(post #28917, reply #1 of 47)

Josefly, the key to using Burda is NOT to choose a "size." Burdas have a size chart in the pattern somewhere, often on the pattern sheet itself, sometimes on the instruction sheet. What Burda wants you to do, rather than choosing a "size," is measure the body at the areas marked on the chart (including the neck, which no other pattern company concerns itself with). Then, you look at the chart and circle the size number that is closest in these areas. The chances are that you will be several different sizes, one for the bust, another for the waist, and so on.

When you trace your pattern, what you will be doing is gradually moving from one size line to another, which will give you a fairly customized pattern that corresponds to the body you're sewing for.

By the way, it's OK to trace between the size lines!

SewNancy's picture

(post #28917, reply #2 of 47)

I am narrow in the shoulders and a D cup. I love Burda WOF and have had great results. I know that Sandra Betzina says to use bust measurement in European patterns. But for me, I use the upper bust measurement and do a fba. i also sometimes have to also do a narrow shoulder adjustment too. I don't add to the front in the hip area as the fba usually takes care of that.

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #3 of 47)

Thanks for your info. My daughter lives across country, and fitting her is going to be tricky, and on top of that I'm using unfamiliar patterns, so I'm grateful for advice on Burda fitting.

I've been reading Sandra Betzina and Nancy Zieman for their pattern-fitting suggestions, and Zieman's tip on front chest measurement intrigues me--but doesn't specify whether it applies to patterns other than the major American patterns. (I took measurements from my daughter during a recent visit, and neglected to get the high bust measurement, but did get the front chest one.) According to the Burda measurement chart inside the pattern, I should use something between a 12 and 14, based on bust measurement. But using Zieman's tip, I would use a size 10, at least for neck and shoulders, and then adjust for bust and waist, etc., from there. I think I would have to begin increasing size at the underarm. The back neck width supplied on the pattern chart won't help me, I don't think. And I can't just measure the pattern and compare it to front chest measurement, since I don't know if there's ease involved -- seems like there would be, but how much, above the bust?. I guess I could lay out the Burda Pattern and compare it to a similar, same-size American pattern in the area above the bust.

I'm thinking, though, that I should just get the high-bust measurement, and try the corresponding pattern size for shoulder/neck area, as you've suggested. (It may actually be the same as if I went by the front-chest tip.) I can see I'm going to have to adjust bust, waist, armscye, and sleeve, probably. Well, I've been wanting to learn to fit, so this will give me a good opportunity. I'll start on a muslin soon. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

HeartFire2's picture

(post #28917, reply #4 of 47)

What you are referring to - the change of a 1/2 inch per size is referring to how the pattern is "graded" that is a term used in drafting for making a pattern a larger or smaller size. this will vary a bit from company to company, and generally, certain size ranges have a "1/2 inch grade" smaller sizes may have a 1/4 inch grade (ie the width and length will change up to a 1/4 inch per size - but certain parts of the pattern may change less amounts) larger sizes such as size 20 and up will have a 1 inch grade - they will get one inch wider for each size.

Mostly all size changes are 1/4 inch in length even when its a 1/2 or 1/4 inch grade. (I hope I'm not getting you too confused).

If you look at the multi sized patterns you can get a feel for this by seeing how far apart the different size lines are spaced - the 1/2 inch will be divided by the number of seams - one front and one back will have 1/8 inch added to each seam, that is a total of 1/2 inch all the way around the body. If you were to purchase a pattern in the smaller size group and a larger size group, you would see the difference in the amount of 'grading' done .

But, this doesn't answer your question or help you any.

What you need to do is make the garment in muslin first, and pin fit the areas so it fits her correctly. Patterns are drafted to the 'average' size and each pattern company has its 'fit model' none of us are that ideal so we have to learn to adjust the fit.

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #8 of 47)

Thank you for taking the time to answer. I think I was looking for some magical solution that would give me at least a starting place, and Nancy Zieman's front-chest measurement sounded like the ticket. I think I can follow directions to make pattern changes to adjust bust, waist, hips, but the shoulder area has always been the most confusing for me, is always an issue for me and my daughter, and I'm not sure about sleeve and armscye adjustments that may be involved. I'm going to jump in and tackle it though.

This forum is populated with the most encouraging people - I'm so grateful!

woodruff's picture

(post #28917, reply #9 of 47)

"...but the shoulder area has always been the most confusing for me, is always an issue for me and my daughter,"

Roberta Carr, a Burda instructor for many years, emphasized that Burda was so good about skeleton size, which is different from the "soft stuff." She said that, alone among pattern companies, Burda had you take the neck measurement, and the neck measure was also the shoulder size. You might need a larger size for the bust, but for most people, the thickness of the neck was well-correlated to the size of the shoulders.

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #13 of 47)

Good. It looks to me from the size chart in the Burda pattern that the neck is measured in the back only, I suppose from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, at the place a jewel neckline would be? I'll get that measurement from my daughter, and see how it compares to her other measurements. Thanks so much.

woodruff's picture

(post #28917, reply #16 of 47)

"It looks to me from the size chart in the Burda pattern that the neck is measured in the back only"

Noooo! Look again. The diagram of the figure clearly shows a dotted line running all the way around the neck, about where a close necklace would lie. And the size chart gives a series of lengths to choose from that are clearly a lot longer than the back of the neck alone.

You have to take the measurements shown on the figure diagram, and relate them to the numbers on the chart.

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #18 of 47)

Whoops. Yep, you're right. I hadn't looked at the actual neck measurements, just at the drawings, and the neck measurement line on the front didn't have an identifying number relating it to the size chart, so ... oh, well. Thanks for the correction. Guess I would've noticed something awry when I compared measurements.

However, now that I'm measuring my own neck, I find it difficult to know where to measure. I know it's supposed to be where a close necklace rests, but my closest necklace (16 inches) rests at the exact point where my neck circumference matches the length of the necklace, of course. And the Burda chart relates that to a size about 5 sizes larger than usual. I guess that's the wrong place to measure! I hope this brings a smile to everyone's face...I'm feeling like a complete idiot!

So I'll go with a measurement I can be sure of.

WandaJ's picture

(post #28917, reply #27 of 47)

Are your referring to the same Roberta Carr that authored a Couture Sewing Book? Her book was so easy to follow, unlike some of the others out there. If so, what has become of her? I have not, for years now, been able to track her on the Internet.


woodruff's picture

(post #28917, reply #29 of 47)

That's the lady, Wanda! At intervals, I do a web search to try to find out what happened to her, but it's as if she dropped off the face of the earth. You'd think that if she were deceased, her dates would appear in references, but no--nothing. Very odd for someone who was important to the sewing business.

SewNancy's picture

(post #28917, reply #30 of 47)

I agree. Her Couture book, while the fashion pictures are dated, there is information there that is no where else and wonderfully easy to understand and use. Her bound buttonholes and the finish for the facing are just fabulous. The book is available on Amazon and you can get a used copy for not too much. Definitely worth adding to your bookshelf.
I haven't seen anything on her for a while either.

dreaming's picture

(post #28917, reply #31 of 47)

This is all really helpful, and the part on muslins. I have very good sewing technical skills, but my fitting skills are very weak. Also, someone said, we don't see ourselves accurately. That's also where the accurate measurements come in. Also, some style/design books suggest taking a good look at ourselves in underclothes, or ballet leotard (something I would generally avoid), and check out our PROPORTIONS. I have been reading French books on that (readily available in this French province, at the libraries). For example, though my waist is "large", my very big hips, etc. give me "shape". So, no more camoflague inside tents for me. Curves here I come, and fitting, you can't get me down!!!!!! Thanks so much. Also for humour, always needed!!!!!!!

SewNancy's picture

(post #28917, reply #32 of 47)

The July issue of Threads did an article on making your own croquis. Talk about seeing your body as it really is! I have seen this before, but never done it. I set up my digital camera on the tripod, used my self timer and took some pics of myself in a tank and tights. I followed the directions and now if I see something that I like I draw it on a tracing of my figure and at least I don't waste my time sewing something totally unsuitable for my figure, but I can try out patterns I like but am not sure of. It is a really big help. I also, per another article started a design notebook with pictures or drawings and fabric samples to go with each piece. I sew alot, but didn't seem to have real outfits, per se. This really focuses me and I hope not to waste time in sewing things that don't go togeher. Or I look in my closet and see what I need to make an outfit and put that on the list. So far, I haven't finished too much, but I have altered the patterns and cut out a couple of muslins. I am going to cut out a few more muslins and then sew them at the same time. Then on to the real stuff.

dreaming's picture

(post #28917, reply #37 of 47)

Nancy, sorry re: delay, also didn't get notification of message, and senior doggie was under the weather. What better thing to up morale than sewing, and sewing friends. Interested in your croquis, sounds very helpful. Also, that you are making lots of muslins, and then will sew. When I was somewhat (?) thinner, I adored cutting out about 5 or more outfits, and blissfully sewing after. But, even then, fit was a real challenge. I am going to make some muslins soon, and also work with the Lutterloh system, where you up-size a diagram, according to some formulas, using your measurements (German). I also have had bronchitis, not  100% better yet, so a little "behind myself". However, the quest for fit continues. I peeked at a book a friend bought me, on toiles, but think the muslin idea is better for me. Feel I'm too curvey to trap myself in anything that tight, for one thing. Like you, I don't want to waste my time sewing "duds". I really like comfy sports wear, with some kick to it, or designer and/or vintage/vintage look. I get a lot of vintage patterns at church-run thrift shops, where I also find gorgeous exclusive fabrics (mind you, small pieces sometimes, imagination is coaxed). That's one of my passions, the looking. Also, I find fabulous, often older sewing books. These books also contain some VERY helpful, and lesser known, fitting/alteration ideas. So, I read them like "novels". So, the search goes on, for that elusive things called FIT, me and my curvey self, with narrow upper chest. I am also finishing up some UFO's, some years old, of lovely fabrics. Since this is after the fact, I am adding gussets. Barbara Deckert has article on this, I think in Threads archives. Also, similar mini-articles by her monthly, in Sew News' Q & A. Happy sewing!!!!!! Glad you love couture sewing (yummy), and gorgeous fabrics, and lovely fit. Me too!!!!!!!

HeartFire2's picture

(post #28917, reply #38 of 47)

Bobbie Carr is alive and well, she did have a bout with cancer a few years ago, and has slowed down since then, but I saw her last year.

woodruff's picture

(post #28917, reply #39 of 47)

Good to know! Thanks.

WandaJ's picture

(post #28917, reply #40 of 47)

I am glad to hear that she, one is alive, and that she is doing better. Thanks for the update.


HeartFire2's picture

(post #28917, reply #12 of 47)

I'm not sure what you need to do with the bust area - is your daugter large busted? (witht the small shoulders.

does the pattern shoulder seam hit at the shoulder or is it a dropped shoulder? do you have problems with the angle of the shoulder or just the length?

probably the easiest way for me to tell you to adjust the length of the sholder without messing up the sleeve or bust area is to cut along the sewing line of the pattern from the tip of the shoulder down the armhole area just to the end of the armhole - but don't cut it all the way off, just leave a tiny bit of paper attached (at the underarm side seam), (you've cut loose the seam allowance) Now, just angle the seam allowance that you've cut loose in towards the neck edge the amount you need to shorten the shoulder.

Where you put it will not match up exactly with the previous line of the shoulder seam - just blend them together so you get a straight line.

Clear as Mud????

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #15 of 47)

My daughter's not full-busted, and neither am I. She's 35 1/2 inches (regular bust measurement), and barely a B cup. But somehow the shoulders are always too full, there's just too much fabric across the front of the chest, above the bust. She doesn't like to wear a bra, or if she wears one it's one of those very soft things, and as a result, her bust point is relatively low--about 1 1/2 inches below the bust point shown on McCall's patterns, for example. Then she has a large waist and hips, compared to her bust. It appears to me that her dress will be a size 10 in the neck and shoulders, tapering to a 16 at the hips, except that with this full skirt, the hip size is not so much of an issue.

The dress is a sort of shirt-waist style, with a waist and gathered skirt, a narrow band collar, a little bit of puffed gathering at the top of the sleeves. It's Burda 8000
(,1000003-1275114-1128998-1005105,enEN.html if you want to see). So the sleeve seam is at the shoulder. I don't believe the slant of the shoulder seam is a problem, but I've never sewn on a Burda pattern before. I need to compare the slope with the American patterns I'm more used to, I guess.

I want to make sure I don't take out anything in the back, because she seems to need the width there. I'm also concerned about the vest, and the gaposis that usually happens when I try to fit a sleeveless vest on myself. I don't know yet if this will be a problem with my daughter. Am I crazy to try to sew long-distance for her?

Your instructions for altering the shoulder width without changing the armscye are very clear. I assume I will ease the back shoulder to fit the new front shoulder seam, in order to preserve the width in back.

It's so great to have contact with people who've sewn with Burda patterns before, and who have so much experience with fitting. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

HeartFire2's picture

(post #28917, reply #17 of 47)

first, Yes, I think your nuts if you are trying to fit this long distance and are not sure what your doing, but, having said that....
It sounds like your daughter has a 'hollow' chest. Those of us flat chested women that don't have any cleavage!!! LOL I'd rather be flat chested than have to heavy a bust.

With the high neck line on this dress, I wouldn't worry about altering for the hollow chest - it's important on lower cut things, but not as big a deal on this.

Ok, you do need to shorten the back shoulder the same amount as the front. The back shoulder can be about 1/4 inch longer than the front shoulder (its built in on some patterns but not all - this extra is in place of a shoulder dart, but its just eased in and is usually about 1/4 inch.

The back - does she have prominent shoulder blades that she needs the extra room across the back? - is that the level where she needs it? In that case, what you would want is to have a back shoulder dart and make it wider (lengthen the shoulder seam, which adds the room where its needed in the back- this will pivot out the top edge of the back armscye - you could pivot it from the level of the notch)

Or, I suppose its the same if you don't shorten the back shoulder length any at all, but if you have more than 1/2 inch extra you may not be able to ease the extra in nicely and then you could turn it into a small dart.

From looking at the picture, I can't tell if its just front waist darts or princess line. Princess line is easy to fix the hollow chest, but front waist is more difficult. But on the other hand, if she has a low bust point its much easier to just lower the front waist dart points to where they need to be.

I hope I'm not overwhelming you with too much info here.

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #19 of 47)

Yes, I am nuts. But happy.: ) And just stubborn enough not to be defeated by a pattern alteration!

So I'll keep in mind the possible need for a back shoulder seam dart. And hopefully I won't have to take so much out of the front shoulder seam...I think Nancy Zieman points out that a 1/2 inch reduction would be a about a 10% change, which is a lot...

Thanks for getting back to me...all suggestions are eagerly received.

HeartFire2's picture

(post #28917, reply #20 of 47)

The average shoulder length on women is 5 1/4 inches so I guess 1/2 inch would be 10% (for what that's worth) anyway,
The best book I can recommend on doing alterations to patterns is
"Fitting and Pattern Alterations. A multi method approach" by Liechty, pottberg &Rasband. you can find it on amazon and it will show you all the alterations I was talking about, its a really great book. it shows how to slice and dice a pattern.

On another note, I'm really excited, I just bought a Euro pro treadle sewing machine on ebay - it looks like its in perfect condition . I learned to sew (many yrs ago - though my kids aren't quite as old as your daughter)on a treadle machine!

Edited 10/5/2006 10:25 pm ET by HeartFire2

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #24 of 47)

Congratulations on your treadle machine. What fun. My mom had a peddle machine in the '40's, but a neighbor had a treadle, and it was fun, and surprisingly easy to learn to use.

stitchintime's picture

(post #28917, reply #5 of 47)

Hi Josefly,

From my experience, the Burda patterns are much more fitted than the American ones and have less ease so I suggest you go by the bust measurement and then you can make the narrow shoulder changes as in Nancy Zeiman's book.

I've actually experimented with both methods you are describing and it seems to me that it's 6 of one or 1/2 dozen of the other. Either you start with fitted shoulders and increase the bust or start with the bust and narrow the shoulders. I have found Nancy's method easy to follow and the note in the section on narrow shoulders (p.37) says "The altered armhole is the same size as the original armhole. It may appear slightly higher but will fit correctly." 

I also find that if I have a RTW item in my closet that fits, I measure the finished garment (as suggested in a Threads article) and use that as my guide when trying to get my pattern to fit.

You can always get your daughter to measure her own high bust and send you the measurement.

As I've learned from many years of reading Threads there is no one right way to do things. Experiment a little and see what's easiest for you. If you have to make 2 muslins instead of one you will only increase your knowledge and benefit from the effort.


Edited 10/4/2006 8:46 am ET by stitchintime

SewNancy's picture

(post #28917, reply #6 of 47)

I agree, if you have never made Burda before, then a muslin is a must. It is certainly cheaper than using the fabric as a muslin! Not all Europen patterns are the same, I am making a Neue Mode jacket and it is definitely different than Burda, even though they are both German. Even the big pattern companies are different from each other.

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #7 of 47)

Thank you. This is exactly what I wanted to know. I suspect also that there is not much difference in going with high-bust compared to front-chest measurement.

Since this is Burda, I'll make my first attempt using the regular bust measurement, and adjusting for narrow shoulder. I expect, as you suggest, that I'll have to make a couple of muslins.

I was encouraged by your message. :) I do have a lot to learn about fitting, even though I've been sewing for many years.

Bernie1's picture

(post #28917, reply #11 of 47)

FYI Neue Mode is made for a younger figure. Burda is not. I had to lower the bust dart on my NM pattern significantly, but haven't had to do that on Burda. That's why it's important to take as many measurements as you can.

Burda's fitting system is a bit different than when Bobbie Carr was using it, I think. They seem to have modified their sloper.

Josefly's picture

(post #28917, reply #14 of 47)

Yes, I'm going to get that high-bust measurement before I do any cutting. I'm thinking I really must do at least one muslin, send it to my daughter, get her comments, before I do any cutting on the fashion fabric. And I'll get the back neck width, too. Your point about the bust point being lower on Burda patterns is great...I'll keep that in mind.

Thanks so much for your messages. I'm e-mailing to myself all this great info I'm getting, so I can put it in my sewing file and refer back to it.

Edited 10/5/2006 1:47 pm ET by Josefly

WandaJ's picture

(post #28917, reply #26 of 47)

In response to your statement about having a lot to learn about fitting, even though you have been sewing for many years...I ask the question for all of us who engage in the pattern-fitting dilemma 'what did we miss' either at the foot of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or school teachers in home ec courses.

All of us seem to have a great ability when it comes to garment construction, but something is lost in the area of fitting, and for some, like me, I can't seem to get it straight in my mind what changes go where and what corresponding changes need to be made.

What did I/we miss along the way?