Friday, July 29, 2011

Sewing Book Reviews. . .

Dear readers,

I'm in the middle of sewing a skirt, a top, and a pair of shorts for J.  In addition, I've made (oh, horror!) a myriad of home decorative projects!! Yes!  I won't torment you with those - but I did make them from my Japanese fabric scraps.  I've bought the following books over the past six months, along with a short summary of my findings:

1.  Patternmaking for Fashion Design (1st ed.).
Recommendation to buy:  Yes, if you have already taken a patternmaking or sloper (basic block) class.  

This learned book by college professor Helen Joseph Armstrong is excellent, but I do warn you it is a textbook; therefore in my opinion it is best utilized for someone with patternmaking experience or at least has a basic block to start with.  I have fairly comprehensive reading skills, and simply would not have understood it without instruction.  I bought the first edition, on the advice of our instructor at the time.  It tells you how to manipulate darts and how to take your basic block and create designs of your own.  In other words, it frees you from patterns once you have a block of your own.  I enjoy having the extensive technical expertise.  

I have seen the criticisms on Amazon and other reviews, wherein it appears that the editing of the book (in terms of grammar, etc) must be improved.  But, I tell you, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.  I'd bought the book for the technical skill and craft of pattern-making by an experienced instructor - I blame the grammar on the editors. For what I wanted it for - it was excellent!  I hope to start keep using it for a long time to come.

2.  Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing:
Recommendation for buying:  Yes, with the caveat, only if you don't have a previous edition or want a newer or more modern feel. 

I have heard (and read) from various bloggers and sewing sources - this was a comprehensive source of sewing knowledge.  So, when I saw a new edition, with pretty pictures -- I immediately purchased on sale.  I agree, completely comprehensive source.  If I had known this resource was the best - I think I would have bought this (and only this!) to start out with as a basic beginning sewer.  

3.  Threads Sewing Guide:
Recommendation to Buy:  Yes, for all - I think the intermediate to advanced sewer would enjoy it. 

I am an intermediate sewer (I think I am), and I did find that this was somewhat duplicative of the Reader's Digest source, but that this book had some unusual techniques, and explanations of the techniques in the book that I have not seen before. 
Examples include:  tailoring and lining techniques in detail, more pattern alternations, fundamentals of couture sewing. . . this resource is an excellent complement or companion to the Reader's Digest guide. 

This book is a luxury item, and if you can afford to splurge - you will enjoy it.  It is well-written, contains beautiful pictures.  It is not a necessity; rather the book is a sewing indulgence. 

4.  Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry (vintage).
Recommendation for Buying:  Perhaps if you can find a copy for the right price (mine was less than $5.00 at the Chamblin book mine in Jacksonville, Florida).  

For the price I paid and the age of the book - I loved this book - and this initial purchase actually spurred me on my book buying spree of the Threads and Readers Digest materials.  I learned some new techniques I had not seen before.  Specific surprises included:  
Excellent discussions on the pros and cons of buying commercial sewing machines and sergers. 

The use of sewing guides.  I never have used them before but am 
definitely thinking of using the ones that came with my machine; yes, I've heard of other bloggers' lamenting the use of these guides - but I realize even with the best machines I don't sew that straight. 

The ingenious uses of the sewing awl.  The different methodologies explained made me go out and buy one to try.
A guide for seam allowances - although now I have the Armstrong book that discusses this in detail; I found it helpful.

Well, I only wanted to summarize - lots of reviews on these materials are available - but these mentions are from my own viewpoint?

Does anyone have any other recommendations?  I have Susan Khalje's book I really adore on Couture Sewing (the older addition) and other books I don't treasure as much as these. 


  1. Ooh, thanks for reviewing these! I've seen that Reader's Digest book and wondered about buying it. I haven't read anything lately, but I will say that I'm watching the Palmer Plescht Pants Fitting DVD I bought and LOVING it! I haven't gotten through the whole thing (and haven't started the Sewing DVD) but she's awesome showing you how to fit tissue in her pantyhose and how to make the alterations. So much better than just reading about it in the Pants Fitting book that goes with it.

  2. Wow you've got some excellent books there - you are really going to be raising your sewing skills with these! I have got the new Threads Sewing Guide and have just started to look through it - so far, I really like it.

  3. Thanks Sister! Yes, I love the FFRP. I have not seen the DVD but know I'm thinking about getting it. My next goal is to make a pants sloper. There is an ASG (American Sewing Guild) conference in LA in the next two weeks (Aug 18-22) in LA - I hope to attend and get to take a workshop with JStern on Jeans (similar to pants, I think). You have such a great resources in your area!

    Eugenia - Thanks! I don't know what happened with this spree - all of a sudden I "needed" new books!