Sewing book reviews…

I ought to be completing a tax return.. but I ah, I would rather just drink tea and read sewing books.  I have quite a stack of books that drift, somewhat heavily, between the sewing machine and my bedside table.  A few are library books and will need to be returned (sob!) and some live with me.

In the tradition of the ‘Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to..’ series, this is a reliable resource, and these little babies can be bought for under five bucks, if you put the time in.. they are fairly hefty, so keep that in mind if you’re shopping online, and make sure the spine is still in good shape.  There were/are a number of editions out there, this one is from 1978.

The majority of the content is based around garment sewing, with sections near the end of the book on upholstery and other home furnishings, I’ve only referred to this for garment sewing.

I confess I’ve not read this baby from cover to cover, but use it as a go-to if I have a problem, or need more info… So here’s a bit of a run down, which is by no means exhaustive.

Fabric ‘A to Z’ not really comprehensive, but enough of an introduction to many often used fabrics, with fabric content, construction and ideas or recommendations for use.

As you might expect, detailed graphical instructions for plenty of useful techniques you probably did not pick up in high school…

And while I’m still to try my hand at bound button holes (check out those diagrams above) this section on pattern fitting has proven invaluable.  I have had a few minor though frustrating issues with bodice fitting, these pages are great!  Figure out where the pulling of wrinkling is coming from with their guide, then follow the instructions for remedying the issue, for your bodice, sleeves, skirts, pants..

I picked this up at the library, bit of an investment to purchase, it is a double up in much of the content as the Reader’s Digest Guide, but in more of a work book format, more reflective, and critiquing the readers’ use of techniques, with problem solving parts in the various chapters.

See inside, good illustrations.

These draping-on-mannequin illustrations feature throughout (that’s what fashion designers do I guess).

On my journey to identify and understand more fabrics, I also picked this up from the library. And it’s great!  Chock full of technical info on many many fabrics, uses, care, construction, finnishing recommendations for garments, this book is at the top of my wishlist.

Again, super heavy, and not for bed time reading (as much as I enjoy it, I just can’t hold it in one hand!) the only critique I have, is that I have not found crimplene, or terylene when I needed more care and style tips, sigh.. but it does cover many other vintage fabrics, so perhaps I’ll need to look elsewhere for those obscure, and no longer produced materials.  That and the garments used to illustrate just what you may make with a certain fabric are mostly poorly styled and somewhat dated.  But I can let that slide on account of the wealth of information this one book contains.

This little beauty was $1.50 at the op shop, so I couldn’t possibly turn it down.

If only for these amazing home decor ideas!

And the groovy 70s fashions…

Love those trousers!  And of course dresses…

And not just for the ladies.


It would be awesome if this book came with these patterns, it has all the detailed instructions you need to make all the outfits photographed, plus useful techniques.  Another really great resource!

Finally, I splashed out and ordered a copy of Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, wohoo!

This book does come with patterns, yehaa, and all the typical vintage and couture sewing techniques you need to make a beautiful job of the garments in the book.

Love it.  Gertie, (you must have seen her blog?) goes over the basics for retro sewing, the tools you need, fabrics, sizing, pattern making, fitting and shares much more knowledge on sewing lovely garments.

Loads of beautiful illustrations and diagrams, it’s a joy to read.

I can’t wait to try out her patterns, I’m keen on her separates, the pencil skirt in particular, and the wiggle dress looks fun, she’s even thought of including a number of variations on the patterns, so you really can personalise them for the season or just your own taste.  Oh, and she’s included metric measurements in all her instructions, how often do writers thing about us non American sewers??

I probably could have carried on fine with the older sewing books I have, but Gertie’s book brings many techniques (and fab patterns) together for me.  And it’s cool to find a contemporary book that is all about sewing vintage style.  Love it.

1 Comment

  1. The readers digest book is an absolute gem of a book – I found mine so useful – I learnt how to do welt pockets with it!
    The Gertie book looks interesting- i’d love to see it at a LP if that ok!


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