My sister asked me to write about the basic sewing reference books that I use over and over again. There are a lot of great sewing books available but today I’m going to share my top three books. Not surprisingly, two of them are vintage and the third one is the book I’ve been using for eons. Fortunately, they are all still readily available (just click on the name of the book).
I cut my teeth, so to speak, on the 1976 edition of Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. By that time my grandmother had become quite ill from her cancer and I was having to learn new sewing skills on my own. If I didn’t understand the pattern instructions (which are written with the assumption that you have basic sewing skills), I turned to the Reader’s Digest sewing guide. I think of it as an encyclopedia for sewing–I just have to look in the index for whatever problem I’m encountering and can usually find the solution for it. If you can only have one resource book, I’d recommend this book.
Listeners to the Grandma’s Sewing Cabinet podcast will recognize this second recommendation as the book I’ve been reading…slowly but surely. I have the 1963 edition but you can also get the 1968 version for dirt cheap on Amazon.
While this book can be used in the same way as the Reader’s Digest book, for some reason, I think of it more as a “textbook” that will teach me how to sew step by step by step. It starts with a discussion of how to choose flattering patterns, fabrics, and colors and takes you clear through to tailoring. The book finishes with home decorating information.
If you want THE classic sewing reference book, then you need to get your hands on Constance Talbot’s Complete Book of Sewing, published in 1943. She also published one in 1949 that I haven’t seen.
What I love about this book is that it was written before all of the modern shortcuts became the norm. It is just good old-fashioned sewing advise…including how to repair and reuse garments (it was written during World War II as people were recovering from The Great Depression, after all).
This is a vintage lover’s dream and I want to thank Carolyn for bringing this book to my attention.
What are your general “go to” books for sewing basics?