Sewing Books: Five Favorites + Five New

Image of a woman standing in front of  library shelves with books. She wears a pair of reading glasses and holds a book titled The Goth Bible. She wears a black top, green skirt, and black boots.
Who Rules the World? Librarians!

When I am not spreading the gospel of sewing and make it goth/alt, I work as a librarian. I spend my days helping high school students discover the wonders, power, and joy of literature. The stereotype of the librarian who shushes students and spends her days reading is just that—a stereotype. I spend most of my days happily teaching research, creating ways to entice students to come into the library, working with teachers to support their work in the classroom, and playing book matchmaker to the whole school community.

What is not a stereotype is how much librarians love reading. I love all books—from deeply serious nonfiction to totally silly comic books with a special love of fiction. And because reading shares my heart with sewing, it is no surprise that I have my own share of sewing books (and have developed collections in two schools to include more sewing and crafts titles). Since tomorrow, March 2, is Read Across America Day, I decided to highlight my favorites sewing books and pick some new ones to celebrate this date.

Five Favorites

Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking, Tilly Walnes

Image of a woman standing in front of a wall covered in vines. She has long black hair with pink tips, and she wears an above-the-knee black dress with short sleeves and a white Peter Pan collar. She wears black shoes.
The Megan Dress

This was one of the very first sewing books I bought. I had been sewing for a while, but I wanted to improve on the basics. Tilly Walnes is the sewist behind the blog Tilly and the Buttons. This is a great beginner’s book. Walnes helps newbies as they take their first sewing steps. It is beautifully and plentifully illustrated. The patterns that come with the book are great wardrobe builders, and all projects are carefully explained with lots of images. Two of my TNT patterns, the Megan Dress and the Delphine Skirt, come from this book.

Master the Coverstitch Machine: The Complete Coverstitch Sewing Guide, Johanna Lundström

This book is a great resource when working with a coverstitch. If you have no idea how to operate this beast, Master the Coverstitch Machine will get you going. It covers machine parts, tools, and features, how to thread your machine and other general maintenance, basic seams, and sewing. There are lots of very useful tips from coverstitch experts and projects for your coverstitch that are worth the price of the book. You can find a lot more about the author Johanna Lundström by visiting her website The Last Stitch.

The Palmer/Plesch Complete Guide to Fitting: Sew Great Clothes for Every Body, Pati Palmer and Marta Alto

Somewhere in my sewing journey, I realized that I would have to do more than just pick my size from the envelope to get clothes to fit. This book is an amazing fitting resource. It explains the The Palmer/Plesch method that uses the paper pattern as the basis for fitting. I have never used it as intended; instead, I sew muslins and then use the guidance of the book to figure out how to improve the fitting. The book covers all possible issues with bodice and skirts, but if you sew a lot of pants, then you will need Pants for Real People

Sew Everything Workshop, Diana Rupp

Image of a woman siting on a gray couch. On the background, you can see three sewing machines with cat print covers. The woman is holding cat print pillows that match the machine covers.
Kitty Pillows

This is THE very first sewing book I bought. I actually borrowed it from my local library (libraries rock!!!!!) and loved it so much that I bought my own copy. This is another great book for those who are starting to sew. Well explained and illustrated, this book is full of beginner projects, from pillows and stuffed animals to pajamas and cropped pants. I recently used this book to sew some cat pillows.

Stretch!: Make Yourself Comfortable Sewing with Knit Fabrics, Tilly Walnes

Image of a woman standing in front of a few trees. She is looking away from the camera. She wears a crimson crushed velvet dress.
Joni Dress

Another great book by Tilly Walnes, this one focuses on how to sew knit fabrics. Same bright and colorful aesthetics, great instructions and illustrations. The patterns are easy enough to allow any knit fabric novice to sew lots of great knit garments—including the super versatile Freya Sweater/Dress (the dress version with a pleated detail) and the gorgeous Joni Dress.

Five Newbies

Ahead of the Curve, Jenny Rushmore

Jenny Rushmore is the force behind Cashmerette, a brand that has been serving curvy sewists with patterns, classes, blog posts, and now, this book (and she saved the MyBodyModel app!). I bought this book because I want fitting advice specific for my curves. It is full of clear illustrations of before-and-after fitting photos that help readers see and fix their fitting issues. After reading the section on fitting for a full tummy, I have been able to identify issues that have plagued me for a while and how to fix them. An investment worth making.

Building Patterns: The Architecture of Clothing, Suzy Furrer 

If you’ve ever searched the print version of this book, you know it is ridiculously expensive. Imagine how happy I was when I learned that I could get the updated e-book for less than $40! Suzy Furrer is an amazing pattern drafting teacher. If you want to see her in action, head to Craftsy and get her series of classes on pattern drafting. I want to expand my sewing and start drafting my own clothes; this book will be a great complement to the Craftsy classes I’ve already taken.

Draping: The Complete Course, Karolyn Kissel

Draping is the next frontier for me. While I have experimented with pattern drafting, I have never tried draping. This book is over 1,000 pages of draping instruction. It looks intimidating, and it might be a bit too advanced for someone who has never done any draping before, but at $2.99 for the e-book on Amazon, I could not pass on this deal. Instructions are very clear, and so are the many pictures that illustrate every chapter. With all the money I saved on this book, I’m looking into buying a dressform.

Make, Sew and Mend: Traditional Techniques to Sustainably Maintain and Refashion Your Clothes, Bernadette Banner

I am a huge fan of Bernadette Banner. I’ve watched hours of her YouTube videos; it soothes the mind while providing lots of historical and sewing knowledge. I bought this book specifically for the hand sewing instruction, and I quite enjoy reading in her writing the same wit from her videos. This is a great option for the beginner sewist interested in a more traditional approach to sewing. The mending section has been a great introduction on the topic.

Zero Waste Fashion Design, Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan

If you are a fashion or pattern designer, this book should be in your collection. If you have a personal interest in zero-waste fashion, this book might be too much. I was expecting something less academic, but I love the historical background, the many interviews, and the beautiful garments that illustrate the book—and prove that zero-waste fashion can be fun and wearable. Not sorry to have bought it 🙂

Celebrate Read Across America Day

What is your favorite sewing book? Did you find anything on this list that has peaked your interest? Let me know in the comments.

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