Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is a seamstress only as good as her library?

I have some great sewing books in my collection. Some REALLY great ones. I'd say that about 50% of what I've learned about sewing in the last 5 years is from those books. And the other 50% is a mix of the internet and calling my mother.
I have 18 sewing books now, and counting. Most are vintage, and some are new, which reflects what I sew. I love getting stuck on a vintage pattern (What the hell does this thing mean by telling me to 'Fell a seam'?) and running over to the bookshelf and pouring through the many appendices until I find the right instructions.

Here are a few that I highly recommend if you can find them:

McCall's Complete Book of Dressmaking by Marian Corey, 1951.
You might recall me mentioning her as the author of Adventures in Sewing, which was published regularly in McCall Fashion News booklets. I love this book just because of the pictures. Swoon.

 Art of Dressmaking - Butterick, 1927.
There are several being sold on Etsy at the moment!
It's one of the few vintage sewing books that I have that mentions lingerie sewing and plackets for underwear and there are lovely photos that illustrate how to do everything!


The Vogue Sewing Book -Vogue Patterns New York, 1970-1978, all editions have been good.
There are so many clear illustrations and instructions that it's almost like having an experienced seamstress in the room.

You can find a whole bunch of them for sale here.

 The Reader's Digest Complete Guide To Sewing.
You can find them often at thrift shops or online here. This one is also very full of colorful tutorials and pictures, and covers just about everything.

The Singer Sewing Book By Mary Brooks Picken, 1949.
There are a handful for sale here. I love this book for the beautiful illustrations, the expert descriptions of techniques, and the nifty little diagrams.

Here are some of the better illustrations that go along with some of the techniques taught:

The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard.
You can read all about a project I used one of her techniques for here. I love this book. Once I got up to intermediate sewing and had most of the basics mastered, this book made me up my game and really took my sewing to a professional level. You can find this new and used on Amazon.

How about you? Where does your sewing knowledge stem from? Would you be lost without your sewing library? Lost without a female friend or relative who was a strong sewing influence? Lost without the internet to look up a how-to...?


  1. Hmm... maybe the modern seamstress is only as good as her library. I would hazard a guess that most of use modern seamstresses were taught to sew when we were little, may have dabbled as we got older, drifted away, only to come back recently(ish). For us, a library is invaluable. For people like our grandmothers, sewing was every day. My grandmother, for example, is an INCREDIBLY skilled seamstress and designer who had dreams of going to design school in NYC. Alas, she could not (her family didn't think it proper, nor, with 6 children, did they have the money). Her skills are beyond amazing and she doesn't possess a single sewing book.

  2. @Tina
    Tina, thanks for your input, I think your opinion is very true. You must be so proud of your Grandmother!

  3. I have a couple of vintage sewing books. In fact I have the Singer Sewing Book but mine is a 1951 edition. It has the same pictures as yours though. I recognised the page about shirring and smocking immediately. I do find them quite useful and the pictures are gorgeous. I have gotten a few modern sewing books out of the library but I never find them very helpful.

  4. I have quite a few needlecraft books but I really need some proper sewing books! I have several vintage sewing books on my Christmas wishlist so fingers crossed :)

  5. I already have so many, but a few of these have now been put on my list! Thanks for the info xxx