I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of sewing books at our local second-hand bookstore that supports our Humane Society. It got me to wondering, do people still buy sewing books or do we all now look for our answers online. So I asked our readers here in the sewing chat group…
“Do you buy sewing books still, or just use the internet to look things up? Do you have any favorite books you refer to often and would recommend – and why? Is it for beginners, intermediate or advanced? Thanks.”
I was pleasantly surprised at all of the answers, and even photos of bookshelves full of sewing books. It turns out that many of us still love our sewing books and some (you know who you are) have accumulated quite a library of books that are either a helpful reference, a sewing inspiration, or a wonderful learning tool.
Here are the ones they especially picked out as essential reading and the books that every sewer should have on a shelf in their sewing room.
Our reader's recommendations for the Best Sewing Books
(in no particular order)
All-in-One Quilter's Reference Tool: Updated
How big is a twin-size quilt? How many squares can you cut from the amount of fabric you have? What’s the best way to sew a mitered border? The Quilter’s Reference Tool gives you fast answers to these and dozens of other quilting questions. Now this indispensable guide from top quilters Alex Anderson, Harriet Hargrave, Sharyn Craig, and Liz Aneloski has been updated to include more answers, more techniques, more quilt settings, and more blocks than ever before. This is the must-have answer book for quilters all around the world—more than 100,000 sold!
Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing
This edition of the Complete Guide to Sewing has recently been updated. However, the newest version does not include any information on tailoring. I use the older version for teaching sewing and constume construction classes, tailoring and special topics classes. Pictures and sketches are clear and written directions are easy to follow. This version does not have much serger/overlock information but does cover many other seam finishes. Information on fit and pattern alterations is very clear. Beginners or advanced seamstresses will find this book a “must” for their reference collection!
Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear
( I own this one, its excellent for learning about pattern drafting and grading)
Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear was first published in 1975 to provide a straightforward introductory book for students beginning courses in flat pattern cutting. The fifth edition continues to offer an introduction to the principles of pattern cutting, with a range of good basic blocks and examples of their application to garments. However, the great expansion of casual wear, cut in jersey or stretch fabrics, has led to the growth of ‘flat cutting' with no darting to create the shape and this edition devotes a whole section to this type of cutting. The sections on computer-aided design and grading have been updated. The size charts of body measurements have been revised, reflecting the changing shape of women's bodies.
Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking
Fancy making your own clothes but have no idea where to start? Tired of overwhelming sewing manuals and frumpy projects? Love at First Stitch offers a refreshing approach to dressmaking for modern makers, taking you from the basics of threading your sewing machine through creating gorgeous garments that you’ll love to wear. Let Tilly Walnes inspire you with her jargon-busting tutorials, down-to-earth attitude, and adorable dressmaking style, showing you that making your own clothes is so much more enjoyable than buying them.
The Colette Sewing Handbook: Inspired Styles and Classic Techniques for the New Seamstress
Five simple fundamentals can help you perfect any sewing project: a thoughtful plan, a precise pattern, a fantastic fit, a beautiful fabric, and a fine finish. With these five core ideas, The Colette Sewing Handbook shows you how to start sewing the wardrobe of your dreams.
Includes five beautiful patterns for modern classic pieces, including a scalloped-hem skirt, flutter-sleeve blouse, sweetheart neck sheath dress, asymmetrical flounce dress, and a lined dress with gathered sleeves. Each project will help you put the fundamentals into practice as you sew.
The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques
This is the only sewing book you'll ever need. Every tool and every technique you require for making your own home furnishings or clothing is closely and sharply photographed, carefully annotated, and clearly explained.
The Tools section begins with the basic toolkit, opening up into everything you could possibly need – every type of cutting tool and machine foot is shown. This section also includes information on patterns – how to measure, how to use, and how to adjust them. Gallery spreads appear throughout the substantial Techniques section and showcase darts, zips, pleats etc, as well as showing key stitches. Plus, you can bring your acquired and refined skills to fruition as you make some of the 25 home decor and clothing projects at the back of the book. With The Sewing Book on your shelf, you've got every sewing question covered.
Knits for Real People: Fitting and Sewing Fashion Knit Fabrics (Sewing for Real People series)
Unsure how to sew the new knits so they’ll look great and fit better than ready-to-wear? Knits for Real People helps readers sort out the differences in fabric types and explains the fitting and sewing techniques for each. Photographs of knit fashions from McCall’s, Vogue, and Butterick pattern companies provide inspiration throughout the book and illustrate the many types of knits. The many techniques explained include: layout, cutting, and marking; seaming techniques using sewing machines and sergers, including the use of the differential feed feature; creative embellishments, including piping, flounces, “peepers,” and decorative serging; neckline and edge finishes, including bands, collars, and bindings; sleeves, hems and closures; and fitting techniques for tops, pants, and activewear. Knit fabrics are very popular in fabric stores and this book helps people take advantage by teaching how to fit patterns for this versatile material.
Fit for Real People: Sew Great Clothes Using Any Pattern
Presented in a new edition that adds updated pattern industry news and revised rules for selecting pattern size, this easy and practical fitting system requires no measuring, no drafting skills, no muslin mock-ups—and it works with all brands of tissue paper patterns. Real people of all ages are featured in photographs that explain the steps of cutting out pattern pieces, pinning them together, and adjusting the fit. Special attention is paid to tricky challenges such as accommodating a full bustline, adjusting sleeves, or reworking a garment to make it more flattering, as well as alternative fitting methods such as draping and computer design. Metric conversion charts, charts for comparing pattern company bodice measurements, and a history of American dress design (Just where did size 10 come from?) make this book a versatile reference.
Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised and Updated
Sewers who have ever longed to create clothing with the distinctive look of haute couture will love this book. They'll learn the finer points of hand sewing, shaping, and finishing for a high-end, professional look. This book is for all sewing enthusiasts who appreciate fine workmanship.
Vogue Sewing, Revised and Updated
A trusted classic since 1975, Vogue® Sewing has remained a consistent bestseller and sewer’s favorite. Now it’s been fully revised and updated, with the latest information and all-new photographs and illustrations, introduction, and page layout. From choosing a machine to mastering couture techniques, it covers everything stitchers need to know to make professional and fashionable garments. It’s certain to remain the premier sourcebook for sewers everywhere.
This technique-rich Vogue’® manual contains comprehensive instructions for understanding pattern markings, selecting fabrics and notions, hand-stitching and mending, pressing, and measuring to fit. Everything’s beautifully laid out, with charts and detailed explanations.
Sewing For Dummies
People are always looking for ways to cut expenses and be creative and stylish at the same time. Learning to sew is a great way to arm yourself with the skills to repair and create clothing and furnishings for yourself and your family for little to no cost. But learning how to sew and how to choose the tools and supplies to begin sewing can be confusing.
Now, you can turn to this hands-on, friendly guide for the most up-to-date information, the best techniques, and fun projects for learning (or brushing up on) the art of sewing.
More Fabric Savvy: A Quick Resource Guide to Selecting and Sewing Fabric
America's best-selling quick guide to selecting and sewing fabrics is now completely revised and updated. More Fabric Savvy brings over 100 new tips, over 400 new color photos and drawings, the latest new fabrics, and entirely new and useful features, including a handy guide to stain removal. From Sandra Betzina, the dynamic host of HGTV's Sew Perfect, this easy-to-use reference belongs on every sewer's bookshelf.
The Serger's Technique Bible: The Complete Guide to Serging and Decorative Stitching
For fast and professional edging, hemming, seaming, and decorative stitching, you simply can't beat a serging machine. This all-skill-level book is the perfect guide to make sure you get the most out of your new machine (or out of that old serger that you've never got the hang of!). Photographs and step-by-step instructions guide you through the essential techniques, showing you how to set up your machine, how to adjust the settings to get the best results on a range of different fabrics, and how to edge your fabrics quickly with perfect results. Try out different feet for your machine to help with gathering, attaching piping, elastic, and beading. Within the chapters there are troubleshooting tips and quick fixes for skipped stitches, snapped threads, and uneven stitching. The quick construction section will take you through a range of projects to help practice and perfect your skills.
Singer Sewing Reference Library
A series of sewing books by Singer in all sewing-related subjects, many available now on the user books market on Amazon. Great way to build a comprehensive library of sewing reference books. Look out for these in thrift stores too.
Your best sewing book recommendations?
What are your favorites? Got any books you turn to time and time again for reference when you have a sewing question? Or are there books you just love to flick through when looking for inspiration? List your personal recommendations in the comments for us so we can all build our sewing library too. If nothing else, a shelf full of sewing books is a great place to hide some more fabric!
I wish there was one on how to assemble your patterns. I have tried & have not been able to assemble the Tina top. Part of it I get but not all pieces seem to fit.
Roberta Carr’s Couture Sewing book and her videos are great. Her sewing weeks were wonderful and watching her videos is just like being in one of her classes.
My sewing “bible” is the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. Will check out the “sewing for Real People” ones….
I have a book because it is simply so very fun: Sew What! Fleece. It has tips and ideas for using fleece in fun and funny ways. It’s also full of details about how to use fleece, what tools will help, and lots of other stuff.
The only part I don’t like is the project for a skirt made out of : camo fleece. Not what I would do!
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Of course, as a sewing book publisher, I am thrilled you still love sewing books. Thank you for liking the Palmer/Pletsch books on fitting and knit sewing. Some of our books are called “evergreen” titles which means that they get updated over the years and become a new edition. Our fit and pant fit books are in that category, because we do hands-on teaching and learn so much from our students and better ways to do things evolve. In fact, the most recent edition of Fit for Real People was a major update in 2007. Marta Alto and I have continued our 4-day workshops for 9 more years and our next fit book will focus on tissue-fitting. Don’t hold your breath as it will take two years! We’ve started it but you can imagine finding women to fit as examples, the photography, the art and fine tuning the technical writing. But, I love it! I think these skills evolved when I was a debater in high school. (My partner and I were the Montana State Debate Champions.)
It is so exciting that the internet has brought sewers together to share, learn, and discuss thanks to these ladies who bring you So Sew Easy. Love this site! Pati Palmer
This is a nice list of books. I’ve read all of them except the All-in-One Quilter’s Reference Tool. I will definitely check that one out the next time I’m at the book store.
Hi everyone, since I no longer sew for my Mom and me, I have turned my love of sewing into making doll clothes for the American girl doll. Would love more free patterns for this project. normasdollboutique Norma