Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

My Favorite Sewing Books

DONNAKAYE | Posted in General Discussion on

Clarelle had asked me for a list of my favorite sewing books awhile back.  I’m just now getting around to it.  I’ll be including these over a series of postings, since my list is quite lengthy.

1)  My favorite book — aside from the the Bishop Method books, of course — is DECORATIVE DRESSMAKING by Sue Thompson (1985, Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa.).  ISBN 0-87857-579-0 (hardcover) and 0-87857-580-4 (paperback).  I bought this book the year it was published and have yet to glean everything there is that’s in it.  It is an endless inspiration to both my sewing, construction and design.  This is some seriously good stuff, a lifetime of learning.  In my humble opinion, one of the first REAL books that came out for serious home-sewing designers.

2)  Another:  LOOK YOUR BEST IN CLOTHES THAT FIT: How to Alter Patterns and Ready-to-Wear by Marie Kehr, Bishop Method of Clothing Construction.  Also published in 1985.  Marie Kehr was one of my mom’s fellow Bishop Method teachers.  Published on plain paper, spiral bound, nothing glamorous, but a real gem.  ISBN 9-934904-20-0.  This book was self-published.

3) And:  THE COMPLETE BOOK OF SEWING SHORT CUTS by Claire B. Shaeffer.  Yes, Claire B. Shaeffer.  Published 1981 by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., N.Y.; also distributed in Australia, the UK and Canada.  First paperback printing 1981.  This is early Claire Shaeffer par excellence.  I love this book.

4) Believe it or not: SINGER: THE PERFECT FIT, from the Singer Sewing Reference Library.  Their alterations are very well done, full color photographs.  Although alterations are primarily given in slash and spread, any more experienced sewer can easily translate the slash and spread alterations to pivot and slide (my preference).  I like the visuals and the attention to detail in this book, and they utilize the K.I.S.S. method.

5) My FUN book: Kerstin Martensson’s KWIK-SEW METHOD FOR SEWING LINGERIE (Master Pattern Included).  This is when I feel like making some sexy little underthing myself.  Oh, I know I can buy it cheaper in the stores, but I love to wear undergarments and nightgowns I’ve made myself.  Although some of the techniques I would do a little differently, there are other techniques that I’ve learned from this little treasure that I’ve learned to like better than what I was previously doing and still use to this day.  This is pure girlie play things.  First printing, 1978, ISBN 0-913212-07-5.  Perhaps self-published through Kwik-Sew.

6) A COLLECTION: BISHOP METHOD OF CLOTHING CONSTRUCTION COUNCIL, INC.  Self-published by BMCCC, chaired at the time by Holly Espen, in February, 1981.  There were a number of these that came out at various times.  This is just one of them.  Talk about Pulitzer ideas for sewing, and straight from some of the most recognized Bishop teachers of the day:  Louise Trammell, Shirley McKeown, Julia McCombs, Fay Hammershmitt, Audrey Childress (my mom), Pearl B. McIntosh (my mom’s peer), Kitty Rotruck (my mom’s teacher), Pat Swenson, Frances Babbin, Dorothy Martin, Ruth Schwartz, to name only a few.  You’ll have to search far and wide to find (i.e., steal) this gem from someone.  Like taking candy away from a baby.  Another one you’ll spend a lifetime of learning.  230 pages of pure Bishop creativity — and common sense.

7) FITTING FINESSE by Nancy Zieman.  Self-explanatory.  A must-have referenced for any well-stocked sewing studio.  The big plus:  She uses pivot and slide.  I love it.

8) SERGER SECRETS: High-Fashion Techniques for Creating Great-Looking Clothes from America’s Top Serger Experts.  A Rodale Sewing Book.  Contributors: Mary Griffin, Pam Hastings, Agnes Mercik, Linda Lee Vivian and Barbara Weiland.  Edited by Susan Huxley.  MUST reading for anyone who owns and uses a serger in their garment design and construction.  I’ve learned so much from this book I don’t even know where to begin.

Okay, those are all the goodies I’m posting this time.  I’ve got tons more that I’ll keep pulling out and bringing to my office for these mini-reviews!


  1. Clarelle | | #1

    Thank you so much, Donna,  for taking the time to review these sewing books in such detail.   I think I will start a collection with which ones I can find.   I am sure others will find this of great interest too.   K.

  2. DONNAKAYE | | #2

    Okay, I guess I'm replying to myself, but here are two more books on my A-list, both by the same author.  If you're a serious sewer/designer, you should have these on your shelves.

    1)  HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN DRESS PATTERNS: A Primer in Pattern Making for Women Who Like to Sew (Profusely Illustrated), by Adele P. Margolis.  (1959, Hanover House, Garden City, NY).  It even gives the old Library of Congress Catalog Card Number, 59-11604.  Well, I don't think there's any desigin on the planet you couldn't do with this book in hand.  It was a gift to my mom from Pearl McIntosh, one of her fellow Bishop teachers, with Pearl's handwriting on the dedication page.   Mind-blowing and very, very thorough.   I've used this book so often the binding is coming apart.  Oh, well, time to get a replacement!  Guess I need to get on the ball and produce more transcripts so I'll have enough $$ to buy more -- yes -- SEWING BOOKS!

    2)  THE COMPLETE BOOK OF TAILORING by Adele P. Margolis.  (1978, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY).  This one had both the Library of Congress number and the ISBN: 0-385-11106-1.  Looks like she wrote it in 1964 or thereabouts but it wasn't published in final form until 1978.  Mrs. Margolis probably should have titled this book, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Tailoring."  And I mean everything.  This is traditional tailoring at its best.  If you're really into creating an art form, this is the book for you.  Not for the faint of heart, nothing in it can be considered "Quick Tailoring."  I attended a Bishop class many, many years ago in New Orleans (when I could still be called a "youngster," or, more appropriately, a "young upstart") where the instructor had incorporated some of Mrs. Margolis's techniques (I don't think she knew that I knew!).  It took me the six-week course to complete the tailored (uneven plaid) blazer, but I can tell you this, that was the sharpest, most professional looking garment I had ever made and have ever yet to make again.  I dream at night of pursuing the challenge all over again, because I enjoyed every finger-pricking minute of it.  This is the queen of tailored blazers, for all you yuppies out there.  You could hang it up in any first-rate RTW store and get the big bucks for it like they do (if only someone would recognize my label!, that is).  I mean, it's that good.  A lot of the techniques are reminiscent of Claire Shaeffer.  When I'm in the mood to create a masterpiece, this is the book.  It's also great for gleaning bits of information even if you don't want to bite off more than you can chew.  450 pages, with a generous 10-page index.  And, yes, "profusely illustrated."

    About the author:  Adele P. Margolis (from the back flyleaf) "is a nationally acclaimed sewing expert.  She attended the Anne Burrows School of Design...Mrs. Margolis has been a dressmaker, tailor, and patternmaker and has taught all of these subjects at her own shop and at adult education centers."  Mrs. Margolis authored a number of other books as well.

    If anyone wants to email me privately, I'll give you a rundown on the tables of contents from both books.

    Happy sewing!  Guess I have to get back to my real court-reporting life for a little while, producing boring deposition testimony for an upcoming trial down hee'ah.


    Edited 8/27/2007 9:57 am ET by DonnaKaye

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All