Book Review: Four Sewing Companions
These four books take a positive, reassuring approach to sewing. They attempt to address the trepidation of getting started with garment sewing while offering plenty of troubleshooting guidance. Professor Pincushion’s book is for the absolute beginner and written for a younger audience. The other three books also provide the basics; all even offer tips for choosing essential sewing equipment. However, they are geared to the next level and experienced sewist as well.
Professor Pincushion’s Beginner Guide to Sewing
by Tova Opatrny (C&T, 2022)
The author, known as Professor Pincushion on YouTube, makes this an inviting book for young sewers. The book’s lighthearted tone is helped along by the colorfully illustrated Pinny the Straight Pin character, who comes to life through text bubbles.
The book is divided into 10 chapters that cover the basics. Chapter 1 starts with sewing tools and supplies. Subsequent chapters introduce the sewing machine, explain how to identify and choose fabrics, and work with printed or downloadable commercial patterns. Each chapter is broken down into easily digestible bits of information. Included are five sewing projects: scrunchie, upcycled T-shirts, a T-shirt bag, pajama shorts, and a new T-shirt.
The author readily states this beginner book scratches the surface of sewing information. It does not touch on all-important how-tos for installing zippers and making buttonholes, for example.
Still, there is plenty to learn, and grown-ups can take away many good tips, too. There’s a section on how the right and left sleeve are different, recommendations for differentiating between scissor types, and how to test sewing machine settings when working with knits.
by Sanae Ishida (Sasquatch, 2022)
This book walks through how to sew non-tailored clothes for yourself without a commercial pattern.
The author first shares her long journey to accepting her body and developing body positivity; this eventually led her to make clothes that fit her as she was.
Her garment-making process starts with recording body measurements as the basis for making three foundational patterns, or slopers. Test garments are next, to refine the fit. Adjustments are transferred to the sloper patterns and only then are they built upon to create the garments featured in “the Projects” section.
Those loose- fitting garments consist of tops, dresses and tunics, bottoms, and outerwear. Each garment project lists supplies and materials, including fabric recommendations. Then it provides drafting steps; construction steps; and a variation on the garment, plus modifications.
Stress-Free Sewing Solutions
by Barbara Emodi (C&T, 2021)
In her second book, Barbara Emodi offers a collection of workarounds, unconventional approaches, and practical solutions to help take the pressure—or the crying—out of sewing. Nine of the book’s 12 chapters provide techniques for solving problems with sewing particular sections of a garment. Chapter 5, for example, details solutions to the common problems with welt, bound, and flap pockets that remain even after you’ve carefully followed a pattern’s installation instructions. The author calls these types of problems FAILs, or followed-all-instructions letdowns.
Throughout the well-organized book, she shows sewing mistakes, walks through why each happens, and how to avoid them. Sewers of every skill level can benefit in so many ways from this easy-to-understand troubleshooting guide.
Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes
by Joi Mahon (Landauer, 2022)
This handbook covers a lot of ground. It starts with sewing basics and works through fabrics, patterns, fitting, sewing garments, and nailing garment construction details. The author focuses on fitting in her work, so it’s no surprise the strength of this book is in the chapters “Achieving the Right Fit” and “Ultimate Pants Workbook.” The fit chapter includes the best explanation about ease of all the books reviewed here. It devotes 24 pages to making and adjusting a muslin fit sample for your body. Similarly, the chapter on making pants details how to create and adjust a classic trouser pattern before creating different pants styles.
Clear photos and illustrations make what could easily be too much information more digestible. You’ll find this book a go to reference when it comes to taking measurements, troubleshooting fitting issues, and more.
Photos: Mike Yamin
I'm fairly new to sewing, just a few years under my belt. I can vouch for all of these books because I have them! I always find the answer I need, and I also love to pair good books with Threads "Learn to Sew" series for learning the basics and not-so-basics. Excellent choices of books for beginners!