Since May this year, I have been writing monthly sewing articles for my local newspaper, in a bid to get the community sewing.
I thought I would share my latest article with you; you may find it useful too. Note this is aimed at beginner sewers!
Also note that I am not the most knowledgeable person about sewing books, for I only own a handful. I would like more, but can’t justify the purchases just yet. For example, I haven’t actually made a single thing out of Tilly’s book yet!
Sewing: What to Read
With so many books available, all claiming to help you learn to sew, it can be difficult choosing which to buy. I have compiled a short list of my recommended books to help narrow the choice down.
You can buy specialist books for every area of sewing; quilting; toy-making; dressmaking; soft furnishings; childrenswear, etc. To begin with, it’s worth purchasing one or two key books, which cover a range of techniques. You can then explore different areas to find what you are most interested in.
Last year I purchased Alison Smith’s ‘ The Sewing Book.’ I call it my sewing bible; it is a very comprehensive guide to sewing. It’s my go-to book when I need to learn a new technique, or jog my memory for a technique I haven’t used in a long time.
It gives you all the information you need to know, from the basics – the tools you need; how to cut fabric properly; different stitches – to hundreds of techniques; all with very clear photographs and instructions. It also has a quite a few good projects, so you can get started practising your new skills. I really love the glossary at the back, for there is a lot of sewing jargon to remember.
I have not read through the whole book – and don’t plan to. It’s not the kind of book you can read before bed; but it makes an excellent reference book. It’s one of the pricier books, but if you can get it on offer you will be laughing. I have also seen it in the library so it’s worth trying it out there first.
Here are two books that are more ‘project-heavy,’ but they are beautiful. They’re written by the queen of pretty sewing, Cath Kidston. I own both ‘Sew!’ and ‘Make!’ but there is another called ‘Stitch!’
Sew! comes with free pre-cut fabric, buttons and a Cath Kidston label for you to make a floral shoulder bag, so it is good value for money. It also comes with a full-sized pattern sheet; you do not need to bother with enlarging patterns and templates, which I have seen in other books. The book details some techniques at the start of the book, which are useful, but nowhere near as comprehensive as those in The Sewing Book. The projects in this book are nice (mostly homewares and bags), and apparently they are suitable for beginners to advanced sewists. However I have made up a few of them myself and found the instructions quite vague in places, so they may not suit a real beginner.
Make! is similar; again it demonstrates a few techniques and has lots of projects for you to try. It comes with a free cotton tote bag, pencil and an embroidery skein, so you can get started beautifying the bag – provided you have some fabric. This book is not so much about sewing from scratch, but adding designs (mostly embroidered) to ready-made items. An example is ‘flower-trimmed pajamas’ – you are not taught how to make pajamas, but how to embroider little flowers onto your own plain pajamas. I personally prefer Sew!, but if you are interested in needlework, and decorating things you already own, Make! is worth checking out.
If you would prefer to actually make your own pajamas, I would recommend Tilly Walnes’s new book, ‘Love at First Stitch.’ Tilly was a contestant on last year’s The Great British Sewing Bee, and she writes an amazing blog called Tilly and the Buttons. Her book focusses on dressmaking, and it’s brilliant.
Tilly writes in very simple terms, and I think the layout of the book is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s laid out in a very sensible order; she begins at the beginning. Meaning, she takes you as a beginner dressmaker through the basics, starting with a simple scarf project, and as you work your way through the book you learn more advanced skills to make more advanced garments. You finish with an impressive dress, featuring pleats, darts, lining, and a belt. If it’s dressmaking you want to do, I urge you to buy this book!
There are loads more books out there – of course I haven’t come across them all myself. These are just a small pick of the best, in my opinion.
If you would prefer not to fork out on new books, but have access to the internet, I would recommend you join Pinterest. It’s a fantastic resource for finding websites offering advice, explaining techniques, and even giving free tutorials, patterns and templates. It’s a must for all creative people, but be warned – it can get addictive!
I own more books than those few; I had to stop somewhere. So for you, I will write up a bit about the others I have.
The loveliest book I own is Handmade Glamping, which is a beautiful book of gorgeous projects. Oh, I’m just flicking through it now… the things are so pretty!
It’s not strictly a sewing book as it dabbles in many crafts – there’s a fair amount of crochet in there, and other projects like this clay bunting!
So it’s ideal for those who don’t just sew. I haven’t learnt to crochet yet – I did give it a go many years ago, but didn’t have the patience at that time to progress. I should use this book to learn, shouldn’t I? There are beautiful things in there. I think I’ve made it clear this book is pretty?!
I also own Sewing: In No Time, and Quilting: In No Time.
I would say these books are aimed more at the intermediate sewer; the instructions can be a little vague. Nevertheless, I have made quite a few of the projects and they’ve always turned out well.
The cushion here was the inspiration for my ribbon offcuts cushion, in fact! (This is from Sewing: In No Time.)
And an example of one of the projects I’ve made from Quilting: In No Time is another cushion. I have made a few of the patchwork cushions – they’re great!
Finally, I have one little book full of different embroidery stitches. It’s one of those classic books you will always refer to – a bit like a dictionary.
I don’t do much embroidery work, but it’s a very well written book, with clear diagrams, so I will always hold onto it as it is difficult to remember how to do every type of stitch! There are also quite a few cute templates in the back, which will be useful.
And that’s it for my tour of my little library!
Do you have any recommendations of books for me? There are a few new ones out by The Great British Sewing Bee stars – but you know, I don’t want a whole collection of books that have a good chunk taken up by techniques that I already know. I do own the sewing bible, after all! So I’d like books with good projects in, that I can’t just find online. Hmm…