* Prices may differ from that shown
Never has the title of a book been more apt - this is indeed THE Sewing Book and it is the most useful and comprehensive book I have in my collection (and that's saying an awful lot.) I am a self taught seamstress, and with the help of this book, I was able to learn all of the basics and beyond, and turn my hobby into a steady income. The author, Alison Smith, trained as an art and fashion textiles teacher and now owns her own store and sewing school, so she is well qualified to instruct us, and her background as a teacher shows in her clear tutorials in this book.
The Sewing Book is a large hardback book, though not unwieldy, and the large pages mean that there is plenty of room for clear photgraphs and diagrams, which are a godsend in sewing book. It is 400 pages long and is essentially a text book for any serious sewer and amounts to nothing less than a bible for beginners. It covers techniques for everything from home furnishings and accessories, to couture. It has three sections - Tools, Techniques and Projects.
Tools - This section is as you would expect, a comprehensive list of the tools you'll need to start sewing. Starting with the basic sewing kit, and moving on through all the gadgets, with whole double pages dedicated to scissors, pins and needles and threads, you'll be in no doubt as to what you might need for any project. Each page has clear, full colour photographs, so you can find out just what that weird thing that you never use in your sewing kit is, or walk confidently into a haberdashery and know what it is you're looking at. It then moves on to fabric, and I still find these pages invaluable, as it takes you through wools, cottons, silks and even interfacing, detailing the thread and needle choice, pressing instructions, seam suggestions and uses, all accompanied by a picture. The final part is patterns, and again, this is something I come back to constantly. Beginning by teaching you how to read and understand patterns, it then introduces you to how to properly measure a body and then how to alter patterns in all the different areas possible.
Techniques - This is the largest section of the book, over 200 pages, and my word is it thorough! To mention every single technique covered would make this review enormous! The parts that make up the techniques section are:
- Stitch Essentials
- Darts, tucks, pleats and gathers
- Facings and necklines
- Waistlines, belts and tie-backs
- Sleeves and sleeve finishes
- Hems and edges
- Linings and interfacings
- Professional techniques
I don't think there is anything you could hope to learn about sewing that isn't in this section. It is simply indispensible, and while other books cover similar material, none is as precise, as well thought out and as detailed as The Sewing Book. Every technique is accompanied by photos for each step, so even if the wording confuses you, the pictures make it clear what needs to be done. My only gripe, and it is small, is that sometimes it is not always clear which side is the right side and which is the wrong side in the photos, but the accompanying text usually clears up any doubts. The author almost takes you by the hand and leads you through each technique carefully and slowly, so as you always know exactly what you're doing. I never once felt lost while using this section. If you ever do get a bit overwhelmed by the terminology, there is a clear and concise glossary in the back to help you out. Starting out, I was nowhere near able to attempt some of the techniques but as I progressed as a dressmaker, I was able to tackle more and more of them. In a rather handy touch, each part of this section is colour coded at the top of the page, and all the fabric used in the tutorials is the same colour - so the headings in the belts section are orange, and all the belts are made using orange fabric. So over time using it, you come to be familiar with these colourings and can navigate this huge section a little better!
Projects - This is the weakest section of the book. It is clearly here so as you can build on what you've learned in the book right away, without having to buy additional patterns or books, but the projects lack flair, in my opinion, and are rather generic. Luckily though, there is plenty of scope for you to personalise and adapt them. There are 18 projects in here, some of which seem a bit dated, and none are so terribly original that you couldn't find them elsewhere, but don't discount them completely, even if you don't like the look of them immediately. The quilted book cover, apron, placemats and kimono dressing gown are perfectly lovely in their own right, and could be even better in pretty printed fabrics. There is also a few baby projects, a man's tie, and a great couple of pages on sewing aids, such as a scissor case, needle case and pin cushion. Again, the patterns feature the same combination of clear, precise instructions and helpful photographs and I feel that they'd be suitable for most beginners.
Following all of this is a really helpful illustrated section on clothing and home decor terms. If you've ever wondered what an empire line dress is, or a wing collared dress shirt or an oxford style cushion, this will clear everything up for you. The book finishes with the glossary I mentioned before and an index.
To sum up, this is a valuable, essential book for anyone who is just starting to sew, aiming to improve their technique, or perhaps a quilter who is moving onto dressmaking - everyone really! It is exhaustive and I have never encountered any instruction in a pattern or problem with a design that this book hasn't helped me out of. It comes with a dust cover, which I discarded, and is quite heavy. Sometimes I have problems getting it to stay open at the page I'm using, but that is such a minor concern. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in sewing, and in sewing your own clothes in particular. it is well worth the money spent and continues to be a fantastic guide to the world of sewing.