5 Helpful & Inspiring Sewing Books

If you’re crazy about buying sewing patterns then you’ll love learning with these inspiring and helpful sewing books. Here are some of the most adorable books which have really shaped me on my sewing journey.

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1. Vogue Sewing

Vogue Sewing is the perfect book for beginner sewers and also an incredible guide for the more advanced. It guides you through the basics of pattern tracing, adjustments, cutting fabric, sewing techniques, machine advice, shaping, finishing and much more. Even after years of sewing I always find this book useful and am continually learning something new.

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2. The Burdastyle Sewing Handbook

I love the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook because it starts with advice on sewing tips and techniques and then guides you on how to cut out their patterns. This is perfect because it also comes with five basic patterns including a top, a skirt, a dress, a coat and a bag with instructions on how to create them in a few different variations. Such an inspiring way to indicate just how creative you can be when you start playing with fabrics, notions and altering the patterns slightly to give it a different look and style each time.

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3. The Colette Sewing Handbook

The Colette Sewing Handbook is another beautiful book guiding you through some of the fundamentals of sewing, plus useful cutting, fabric and sewing techniques. It also includes five patterns including the Meringue skirt, Pastille dress, Truffle dress, Taffy blouse Licorice dress, all with step-by-step instructions and information on how to alter them to make the perfect fit!

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4. Couture Sewing Techniques

Couture Sewing Techniques takes a deep dive into the art of sewing and how to master a number of techniques to make your garments look couture and professionally finished. I’d definitely recommend this book for those wanting to advance your skills with some simple and effective methods from stitching, facings, closures, sleeves, fitting, pockets and much more.

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5. The Dressmaker’s Technique Bible

The Dressmaker’s Technique Bible truly is a bible for everything dressmaking and sewing. This would be the perfect book for beginner sewers and something you can revert back to at any time throughout your sewing journey. It has definitions of a huge range of sewing techniques including picture diagrams on the best method of mastering these techniques. Plus, it’s also a great size to take with you to sewing lessons or to fit in your bag or next to your machine.

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Books I want to buy

I’ve absolutely loved collecting these beautiful sewing books that you can refer back to at any time throughout your journey. Plus, here are a few books that I’ve been spying on and would love to buy next.

If you’re unsure if any of these sewing books are for right fit for you, then why not check out your local library first. Otherwise, I always find Book Depository quite amazing on price and delivery.

  1. Love at First Stitch – Tilly Walnes
  2. The Beginners Guide to Dressmaking – Wendy Ward
  3. Gertie”s New Book for Better Sewing – Gretchen Hirsch

What’s your favourite sewing books? I’d love to know!

Erin xx

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Learn to sew – Pattern Review

Right after I got my sewing machine sorted, which was the first step to starting my sewing journey, I started Googling. Thankfully one of the first websites that I landed on was an online sewing community called Pattern Review.

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This website became my sewing bible and lead me down a interesting journey reading up about patterns, finding people’s sewing blogs, learning about fabric types, good patterns, bad patterns, patterns that would suit my body type and much more.

If you’re starting out sewing, you’ll probably go out and buy a few well-known commercial patterns and one of the best things about this website is actually seeing what they look like finished. Plus, you can read about what people thought of the pattern, what problems or challenges they faced and if they recommend it themselves.

Even now after years of sewing, I still use pattern review to see what people think of the pattern before I make my purchase. Also, if you’re new to sewing, you can stick to the patterns that have been recommended for beginners only. You can identify these by their easy labeling such as, Very Easy Vogue. However, it’s still great to get feedback from what other thought worldwide.

While you’re on Pattern Review if you find someone who is a similar shape and size and if you love what they’ve created, then click on their blog and see what else they’ve made. Chances are, you’ll be overwhelmed with ideas and inspiration for things you can make for yourself. Really, the opportunities are endless!

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If you love Pattern Review as much as I did, you can purchase a yearly subscription and become a member yourself, which unlocks everything on the site. As you start to create and finish your own projects, why not take photos yourself and jump online to post your findings as a beginner sewer. You’ll be amazed at the incredible people you connect with, who will encourage you to keep learning. They can also offer you help and advice when you need it.

I can safely say that I’ve created some incredible friendships with women over the years from all across the world. They’ve never ceased to inspire, encourage and help me grow.

Learn to Sew – Buying your first machine

The reason I’m writing this to start my “Learning to sew” blog posts is because working in the sewing and embroidery industry for almost three years, it became quite apparent that this step (the very first one) was often the most detrimental to someone’s experience in sewing.

It was more often than not, people would go out and purchase the cheapest sewing machine, that looked fancy but probably wasn’t even computerised or easy-to-use. These machines mostly came from larger retail stores. In Australia we have Spotlight or Lincraft. Some even came from Target, Kmart, online on eBay or other stores that were difficult to go back to and ask for advice.

While larger retail stores are getting better at classes and offering more for its customer, it’s unlikely that you can call up and speak to a staff member who can answer your questions about ‘why your bobbin thread and needle keeps getting jammed and how to fix it’.

I was once browsing through patterns at one of these larger retail chains, while an elderly couple was standing next to me in the sewing machine section trying to figure out what the difference was between a drop-in bobbin and a front-loading bobbin. The husband went in search for a staff member, who ended up being a 15 year-old-girl. She most likely worked there hoping to save up for a first car or to spend on her hobbies (which didn’t seem to include sewing). To answer their question she had to get out a large book, showing all of the different machines, listing a number of different comparison charts, but none offered an answer to this simple question. When she couldn’t find the answer she went in search for another staff member, hoping they could help.

I had to stop myself from just yelling out the answer. However, knowing that this poor lady was probably buying her first machine and wanting to enjoy this hobby while in retirement, I decided to approach her when the staff member walked away.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Did you do know that there are a few sewing machine stores around the corner, that specialise in Brother or Janome (since those were the machines she was looking at) and could offer you a world of advice. They also do classes and ongoing support. You might even find you’ll get a better machine for this price (pointing to the dodgy, non-computerised machine to which she was looking at buying).” To say they were thrilled was an understatement. Especially since they had already been there for nearly 30 minutes and were still clueless. They walked straight out and hopefully in search for a better deal and better customer service.

The fact is, this is very common. People come up with an idea to start a new hobby but don’t actually purchase their products from a store than can offer long-term support. With everything now being online people are only searching for the cheapest, easiest purchase, instead of investing in something that’s a little more expensive, from a store that will give them the best customer experience.

My Advice

If you’re interested in learning how to sew, before you rush out and make an impulse buy or order something off eBay without even thinking, please research the following:

  1. What do you want to use your machine for?
  2. What deals do your local sewing and retail store offer? Are these machine suited to your needs?
  3. Do they offer any second hand machines that may be better suited to you while you learn?
  4. What in-store support and advice do they offer?
  5. What after-sales support and advice do they offer?
  6. Do you get a free sewing machine run-through or can you enrol in sewing classes, if need be?

Some of these stores may even be online! Some may be interstate or a 30 minute drive away. But when you do your research and ensure you’ve got your money well spent, with a company you can call up and ask questions, then you’re on the right track.

Also, why not check out the store reviews. See what people say about their after-service customer support.

The cheapest deal is not always the best deal

Once you have researched these things, then it’s time to make your purchase and decide what machine is perfect for you. My previous boss also used to always say, “The cheapest deal, isn’t always the best deal!” So if you’re wanting to only spend $300 on a machine, really think about what you will get for your money. If saving up an extra $200 will get you a quality machine that lasts forever, then it’s definitely worth the investment! Sometimes these deals will even get you a starter sewing pack, thus making it the best deal.

Ongoing support and advice is a MUST!

You might not think you need this because hey, YouTube is your best friend. BUT when all it takes is one phone call or one email to solve an awful sewing machine issue, then it’s worth doing some research first. The girls in the office where I used to work (a local family owned sewing and embroidery machine store) used to get hundreds of emails and phone calls each day. It just goes to show that genuine help is priceless.

Support your local sewing/fabric stores

This to me, is a big one. Even recently, I’ve seen so many local fabric and sewing machine stores that I absolutely loved having to close their doors because of large retail chains popping up around the corner, killing their business. This is awful to see but the truth is… we’re not supporting them! So how can they survive!

These mum and dad stores with years and years of experience and knowledge in sewing, embroidery, fabric selection etc., can offer advice and support and teach you things you never even dreamed of learning. Many of these stores provide classes and even free sewalongs where you can go and enjoy the company of other people who share in the same interest. These are the stores that you need to support when you’re wanting to enjoy, learn and continue with this awesome hobby.

Plus, the worst part is, retail chains who end up dominating the industry are often expensive. I used to love getting my buttons from my local Bargain Box Fabric store for only 10c – 20c each but now having to pay $8+ for 10. If only we had supported them more while they were in business!

My Sewing Machines

I first learnt off a Janome 6260 sewing machine and a Janome MyLock overlocker. These are the only two machines that I used for over 5 years while I was learning how to sew and I’m proud to say they are still running strong! As long as you service your machines regularly and take good care of them, they can last a life time.

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Through learning and loving this hobby, I decided to upgrade to a newer computerised model, which was the Brother Innovis NV1100. I haven’t looked back!

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Plus, if you get to test run some of your mum’s machines (like I do, yay me), who has even more money and skills, you realise what’s possible when you invest in a good machine! She has the Brother Dream Machine, which pretty much does everything except sew the garment for you.

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Sewing on Buttons

I used to think sewing buttons on, especially for work shirts would be tedious and painful. However, after creating a number of work shirts I soon discovered some really useful tips and tricks for getting them done quickly.

Mark your button holes

Mark with pins or an erasable pen where you want your button holes to go. For a work shirt I measured 2 inches apart but each garment will be different so just follow your pattern instructions. Attach your buttonhole foot, which comes with your machine. Pull down the buttonhole lever and select your buttonhole setting.

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Download your user manual

If your machine is like mine and doesn’t display the buttonhole settings on the front of your machine, you can simply download the user manual from the manufacturer website, such as Brother Australia. This is a really great way to store your user manual.

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Steps to button your shirt

Once you’ve sewn on your buttonholes with your machine, make a slit in the button with a seam ripper. To avoid slitting through your button hole put a pin inside the buttonhole (at the end) so that you don’t accidentally rip too far.

Once you’ve opened your buttonhole slits, line up your shirt closed by placing a pin at the top and bottom of your shirt. Now put a pin through the centre of your slit, like shown below. Do this to each buttonhole, making sure that your shirt sits flat and there is no bunching in the fabric as you go.

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This now means we can use the pins to mark where our buttons will be placed on the shirt so they won’t be misaligned. Once you have the shirt sitting nice and flat with the pins, you can then unbutton the the shirt (pins), as shown below.

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This gap created by the pin will mark where you will sew the buttons. Another nifty trick is to place sticky tape over the button, as shown below.

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Place the button in the gap left by the pin, as shown below.

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Remove the pin and sew the button in place with a needle and thread or you can use your optional buttonhole foot.

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This method just makes it so much easier to ensure all of your buttons are lined up perfectly. Once you’ve finished, remove the sticky tape from your button and you’ve successfully buttoned a garment!

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Now it’s your turn! Why not whip up a shirt or blouse! I’m sure everyone would love to see you in a new pink flamingos and cactus shirt! (hehe) 🙂

Happy sewing!

Erin

My Sewing Archive

It’s crazy to think I’ve been sewing now for a little over five years. I first started my old blog back in 2012 and that was to showcase learning how to sew, discovering new patterns, testing and trialling different fabrics and making heaps of mistakes! However, without going through that process I never would have been able to learn what fabric types I liked the most and what pattern styles suited my body shape. I was also able to learn the basics of sewing including how to cut a pattern, how to following instructions, how to use my machine and importantly, how to modify patterns to suit my own figure. Even though I still make mistakes, I’m more confident in my pattern and fabric choice to be able to create outfits that I’m proud of wearing.

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So I thought I would showcase some of my first sewing projects, some I wore, and some I basically took straight down to the local op-shop. However, I feel that no matter what, it was a great learning experience being able to discover a fun and rewarding hobby.

Luckily, I even made a glossary of what these patterns were and can now look back and indicate what patterns I would love to resew in my current sizing.

I believe this process of learning how to sew is a really important one. You might start off with smaller patterns including children’s clothing, toys, quilts, tops and dresses like I did. Either way, you have to be patient and keep persisting in achieving what you want out of this hobby. I started out on a Janome 6260, which is still running strong and now I’m sewing with a Brother NV1300, which I absolutely love.

These days there are some really great resources available to help everyone excel at this hobby. Some of the beautiful books that helped me learn how to sew included the Colette Sewing Handbook, Vogue Sewing, The BurdaStyle Handbook, Love at first stitch and so many more! Plus, there are endless pattern companies out there to suit all types of body shapes. When I first started sewing I actually found it difficult to find a modern, young style of pattern but now we’re spoilt for choice, with indie pattern companies popping up everywhere. With the addition of Craftsy online learning and Youtube it’s so much easier to learn how to sew without spending anything (apart from fabric and notions of course)!