Ottobre Design Woman magazine review - yes, no, maybe?

A while ago I subscribed to Ottobre Design Woman magazine, a Finnish sewing magazine that produces a monthly kiddies edition, and a biannual womens magazine with sewing patterns similar to Burdastyle. The kids patterns looked great, but I couldn't find a lot of info about the womens patterns. For about $35 I took a gamble, and got the two back issues (Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter) from 2012, as well as subscribing to the 2013 issues.

I must admit I was pretty meh about them when they arrived - I received the back issues first, and then the Spring/Summer 2013 issue, and just this week Autumn/Winter 2013 arrived. Looking back through all of them today in preparation for this post I think there has been a bit of a direction change since last year. The 2012 issues are decidedly dull and frumpy, with the occasional glimmer of style, but this year seem to be a lot more stylish.

Apologies for mediocre photos....

The nitty gritty of these patterns are this - sizes 34-52 (European sizing), all patterns printed on a couple of crazy sheets in the middle of the mag (like Burdastyle mag) in a big colourful mess. The garments are modelled on a mixture of body shapes and sizes, and ages. There are no seam allowances other than hems, and facings/plackets. There is a good mix of knit and woven patterns, suited to a variety of figures. The winter editions have quite a few coats, and each edition has a couple of tees, jackets, trousers, skirts and dresses. The style is simple, conservative and modern. The patterns seem to have a lot of ease based on the photographs, so reading the finished garment dimensions would be important. They make the assumption you will have an overlocker/serger, so most of the construction instructions for the knit garments are very overlocker oriented. They do some weird things - like designing patterns for very unusual fabrics that would be very hard to find (like fabrics with different weaves in different parts of the fabric to use as alternatives to seams - I have a pic of this later) or having the modeled garment missing some of the design details of the main pattern (like bust darts!) and some of the photos are not that great. The line drawings have most of the back views, but not all them.

Spring/Summer 2012:

I was excited initially with this issue - the cover is lovely, and the first few patterns, whilst not my style, were lovely, but the rest was very beige, bland and blah. There are a couple of slip patterns (a full slip and half slip) but construction is very much reliant on an overlocker.

Slip pattern, stretch fabric
The knit tops are for the most part loose, shapeless and dated, and I really don't understand why there are 2 coat patterns but no shorts in a Spring/Summer issue! This dress below is a bit smocky for my liking, but what I do love are the little capped sleeves - they call them 'bias cut wings' and its a detail I really like. The armhole is finished with bias facings, then these cute little rectangle wings:

Oh and of course I adore the beehive.

The only other pattern out of this issue that I might one day consider are these cropped pants, which (despite the most beige styling ever) are actually a really cute slim fit.

Autumn/Winter 2012:

This issue has 6 coats/jackets! The knit tops are a bit more basic but classic with neckline gather details. Again the styling is a bit frumpy though with most of the garments swimming on the models in the photos, and some truly awful fabric choices. I do like the pleated cuff details on this dress:

And this is about the only garment I really would consider making - but its the one designed for a fabric that has 3 different weaves in it! Granted they do have marks on the pattern where you can seam different fabrics together - I just question why they would even bother having this as the demo photograph (its also the version where the bust darts are left out - why??!). I think the funnel neckline is very cute and 60's.

Spring/Summer 2013:

Much more stylish than the previous season! The t-shirt pattern has been used for 3 different designs - kimono sleeves, loose through the body and tighter around the hips to create a sort of blousing effect. I do like the colour blocked version. The drop waist dress is frumpy but the top half could be a very nice basic 3/4 sleeve tee (if you weren't in a monogamous relationship with the Renfrew that is).

This dress is interesting - it has 2 sleeve options, but what is interesting is the darts come from the armscye. This is a good example of too much ease - this dress swims on this girl! Again I do like the colour blocking though.

This shirt is cute with the unusual colour blocking detail - its a bit Ziggy Stardust but I really like it.

These trousers come in 3 lengths including shorts, and have interesting welt pockets closed with zips. I also really like the sleeveless shirt (and the one below) and would consider adapting the pattern to make a pussy-bow blouse.

Autumn/Winter 2013:

I think this is my favourite issue. It has a couple of good basic knit t-shirts (set in sleeves and raglan), a couple of cute shirt patterns and a slightly more sensible coat ratio compared to last year!

This knit wrap dress is lovely - the raglan sleeves would make it very easy. I'd definitely like to try this. 

I'm just not part of team Peplum, but this is a cute on-trend shirt, and I do like the collar.

This jacket is a knit pattern, from a slightly felted wool crepe knit. It has some interesting seam details and darting, and looks very simple. In a lighter knit it could be a lovely cardi and I think you could experiment and even make it out of a denim that has a reasonable amount of stretch as I think the knit they used is very stable.

This shirt is very sweet and has a concealed placket. I was a bit gutted as this issue arrived about 2 days after I purchased the Named Patterns Tyler shirt to make up, but I'm a bit consoled by the fact the Tyler shirt has raglan sleeves and is very different to any other shirt patterns out there. There is another shirt pattern designed for silk and lightweight fabrics, with bishop sleeves and a gathered shoulder yoke that could be very nice too:

The skirt pictured above is a bit strange. The waistband is made of a knit, with little pleats made to fit the wearer, and the skirt is a woven. The only time I have seen clothes constructed like this is maternity wear! 

And finally one of my other favourites - a raglan sleeve knit dress. This lace one actually reminds me a little of the construction of my wedding dress. 

I'm yet to make anything from these magazines. I think that I'm only just at the point where I can look beyond the crappy styling of many of the pattern companies, and see the potential of the line drawings. I think this is a big part of why some of the independent pattern companies like Colette and Sewaholic have found such success - you can imagine yourself in the garments they make and so they are so much more inspiring. I doubt whether I will order any more Ottobre Woman magazines - I have a huge number of patterns in these four already - for the number of patterns they are excellent value for money if you are after simple basic designs. I hope this has been useful for anyone wanting an idea on the styling of this pattern company though - they really need to improve their marketing department!


  1. Thanks for the review. Can't say I'm inspired to buy though I think their kids patterns are a bit better.

    1. Yeah I don't blame you! I think if you were trying to build a catalogue of patterns from scratch they'd be ok, but just ok! I will make some things from them though, you never know they might be diamonds in the rough!

  2. There are some interesting pattern options but like the Burdastyle I haven't the patience to figure out the crazy map-like spaghetti junction of the printed patterns.

    1. No me neither! At least they are colour coded - I think Burdastyle are in black and white! One thing I've found handy with patterns that have a lot of lines (including Colette) is to go over my size with a highlighter before tracing, makes it heaps easier!

  3. I made the "mistake" of getting both the kids and women's annual subscription last year and was also verrrrrrry disappointed. I sincerely doubt I'd make any of the women's patterns, they do indeed feel very beige and frumpy. I do love the kids patterns though!

    1. Hey thanks for coming by! I feel I must justify my $35ish bucks and make something truly awesome now out of these mags! Stay tuned! :)

  4. I actually really like Ottobre. Just ignore the styling and go straight to the line diagrams. They're great for basics and the fit is awesome. They're also drafted for grownups (i.e people that don't need padded push up stuff XD). The instructions are awesome too-the first pair of pants I made was from them and the fit was perfect.

    On a separate note, how's the tyler coming for ya? I adjusted it according to measurements before cutting out and it still looks hideously huge.. Kinda gave up half way because it was annoying me and I had work to do and more interesting things to sew but I guess I'll come back to it at some point.

    1. Thanks for the message! I've popped by your blog and left you one back, but going ok with my Tyler fit - will do a post soon, cheers!

  5. I know you posted this a few months back, but wanted to drop a note. I subscribed too to the Ottobre, both kids and women. Have yet to make anything for myself though. I bought one of the back issues for their halter top shirred swimsuit, can't wait to try it out for the summer!
    Made a pair of leggings for my inbetween regular and plus size. She is 8 but wears size 10/12 (as the plus size clothing is too short in length). Anywho, made her size 10 leggings and they fit perfect! She loves them and asked for more. I like how their clothes are actually fitted, with buttons and zippers, versus most indie designers online who sell shirred and peasant type clothing.
    Hope you have had a chance to make a pattern or two for yourself and justified spending the money on the subscription :)

    1. Hi Milca! That's great you've made some ace things for your daughter! I think their kids stuff looks really cute! I've made a shirt, and some shorts (which I've not blogged yet). I'm really happy with the shorts fit because it means that likely other ottobre trousers will suit me. Stay posted!

  6. I only ever take notice of the line drawings- the photos are never a good indication. My fave Otto Woman are the older issues.

  7. I purchased my first Ottobre kids magazine in May of this year, mainly to make some staple pieces for my tall and skinny 10 year old girl. I was having to make lots of adjustments to the American patterns to fit her, then decided to try a Burda kids pattern it was a near perfect fit. So I made her a bunch of shorts #34 from 3/2014 along with #33 top, #35 dress (2 of them) and #30 tunic top/dress with #18 leggings. Needless to say I became an Ottobre addict quick! Bought the kids 3/2012 and have so far made #13, 27 and 28. Since the kids patterns were going together so well, I decided to order the womens 2/2012 for myself. Although I've only made #3 dress, I do plan on making a few other garments from that issue. While I don't find their womens styles to be very fashion forward like Burda, I do like that they do offer many staple pieces and that they tend to fit me better. I also think Ottobre instructions are easier to comprehend than Burda but you have to know basic garment construction to understand either! Takes a bit of getting use to. Planning to purchase 5/2014 for women soon and HEAVILY anticipating the childrens 6/2014 issue.

    1. Hi Teresa - that's great you've found a great brand for your daughter. Their kids stuff looks super cute! I do go back and flick through my issues from time to time - I think you're right - good basics!

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