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Books about Learning to Sew:

posted Feb 28, 2016, 2:52 PM by Amie Ridley   [ updated Feb 28, 2016, 3:01 PM ]
So recently my lovely siblings and husband got together and bought me a sewing machine for my birthday.  And it has been so much fun to start sewing clothes for the girls, and presents for others!

The first thing I learnt to sew was the worlds most basic skirt, found here: http://www.danamadeit.com/2011/04/a-simple-skirt-a-simple-tutorial.html

Pretty soon I had got the hang of that and needed a new challenge.  So I did what I always do when learning something new...  Logged on to the library website, searched the catalogue, and requested just a few books.  OK, I actually requested every book under sewing that looked interesting, and like it might be helpful.   

What I learned next was this:  There is a vast difference in the skills required in many of these books, and most of them are for experienced sewers.  What's a newbie to do?  I didn't want to head out to evening classes and I'm not a big fan of learning stuff online, although I'm sure there are some fantastic tutorials out there.

Thankfully, I came across a few books that were written for newbies like me.  So if like me you're at the confident but not that confident stage of learning to sew, might I recommend:

"Love at First Stitch" - Tilly Walnes
"Wild Things" - Kirsty Hartley
"The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe" - Tessa Evelegh

So first up, "Love at First Stitch" - Tilly Walnes
This is the book to go for if you really are starting from scratch.  Tilly went through a very similar quandary in her own journey into sewing.  So once she got the hang of it she started running tutorials, and then wrote the book she wished she'd had when she was learning.

This means it goes through everything!  But she also breaks it up so that you can skip bits you are confident with, and just read the bits you want to learn better.  It's so well laid out, easy to read and written in a very friendly style.  It's like having your own personal tutorial you can pick up whenever you want.  Projects are staged - so the first project involves sewing straight lines and ironing.  Simple.  Then you move onto pattern reading, and sewing a basic curves with a pair of comfy PJ pants (I know from experience they are easy to make and comfy to wear).  It builds on the skills you have learnt and adds in new skills at an easy pace, taking you step by step through each one.

And because it's a real, physical book, it doesn't run out of battery, and can be post it noted at will.  It also comes with all the patterns for the items within the book, and if you like a retro clothing vibe, you could pretty much make an entire personalised wardrobe from this book.  

Also, Tilly talks about something in her book that I haven't yet come across in other sewing books.  And that is the ethics of cheap, fast, fashion.  It's just a short bit so you can skip over it if it's not something you want to delve into.  But be warned, I guarantee you that once you have made your self or your loved ones a few clothes, you will start to wonder how $5 T-Shirts are even possible without some serious imbalance somewhere...


Next is "Wild Things: funky little clothes to sew" - Kirsty Hartley
I love, love, love this book, and have made quite a few items from it already.  What I love about this book is that Kirsty takes simple shapes to sew, and then makes them incredibly fun!  These are kids clothes that are straight out of storybooks - bright colours, animal pinafores, and whimsical scene dresses.  Fun, gorgeous, and best of all, pretty straightforward to make.

The premise behind this book seems to be simple shapes, remade multiple ways, with a heavy helping of whimsy.  And because it's based on simple shapes, it makes the whole lot rather easy to get your head around.  It inspires fun and confidence this book, and I am so in love with it I am buying myself a copy.  I can't do without it, not when I have so many nieces...

If the full on whimsy is not you however, you can take the basic shapes and just make a variety of well constructed kids clothes.  See that owl hoodie?  It's fun, I love it.  But you could also just make a plain hoodie in some fun fabric from the same pattern.  And it's true of all the other clothes too.  Fox pinafore?  Awesome,  but it could just as easily be a sweet pinny made from funky fabric you found in a fabric sale.

Oh, just a warning there.  You thought yarn stashes grew without warning?  Turns out fabric does the same thing.  Oh my poor hubby, having a wife who both crochets and sews...  I don't have a car in my half of the garage.  I have stash shelving!


So onto "The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe" - Tessa Evelegh
Based on the fantastic Great British Sewing Bee TV show, this book goes through just about everything you could ever want to sew.  From simple T's and Skirts, through to Coats and Suit Pants (for the seriously committed sewer), it covers it all.  Which sounds scary, but it's not because:

a) they grade each project according to difficulty, so just go for the level you feel you are at.  And then when confident, level up baby.
b) they cover all the fiddly bits in well laid out break out boxes to help you with things you haven't come across before
c) it's friendly - seriously, it keeps the overall encouraging tone of the TV series which is all about a love of sewing, and sharing that love.  And it encourages you to try new things and then holds your hand as you do it.

I would still probably go through "Love at First Stitch" first, but once you've got that down, this book is a great resource as it shows you how to sew many, many items.  And of course comes with all the patterns to make said items.  

And if you haven't seen the TV series, its well worth a watch.  There have been 3 series and it looks like a 4th might be on the way.  There is a camaraderie that exists in this show that you don't often see in other competition shows.  And it's that passion for a shared hobby that comes out in the writing of the book also.

So... Happy Sewing!


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