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Reference Books for home sewing library

CCCVickie | Posted in General Discussion on

Hello I have just come across this page and I can already tell it will be a blessing!

Can anyone give me advice on to what books I should have in my sewing library that are absolutely essential. I am a beginner sewer with a Bernina machine and serger. I know little to nothing about stitches and styles.

I have made clothing before, but when you take a Mastery Machine class at a Bernina dealership, you quickly realize just how little you know!

Please give suggestions on books to buy for knowledge, thank you!



  1. Crish | | #1

    IN MY OPINION:  If you can have only one book - Clare Schaeffer's Fabric Guide

    Next choice - Clare Schaeffer's Couture - this is my fantasy book because of the super descriptions/explanations/illustrations of internal construction. 

    After that there are lots of good ones but you need to identify what  type sewing  you want reference for. 

    Please don't think I'm a shill for Taunton Press but I have to say that I have yet to be disappointed with something they have published.  Their illustraions are exceptionally clear.  Their series on individual clothing items (pants, jacekets, blouses, linings, etc) is very good.

    Edited 5/18/2002 7:54:01 PM ET by Crish

    1. CCCVickie | | #3

      Thank you Crish for your insight into reference books. You gave some good places for me to start.

      My reference for sewing would be in garment construction.

      Thanks again for the help.


      Edited 5/16/2002 2:12:29 PM ET by CCCVICKIE

  2. carolfresia | | #2

    Vickie, one standard reference book that I've used a lot, in particular when I was starting out, is the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. It's got a little of everything, with multiple approaches to many techniques, and clear illustrations. Another one I like a lot for garment contruction techniques is Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry. And before I ever even imagined I'd eventually be a Threads editor, I collected nearly all the "Easy Guide to Sewing..." books by Taunton.

    There are also lots of books on fitting and specialized techniques you'll probably want when you get back into sewing a little more. And always feel free to post any questions you have here--this is a knowledgeable community of people with a wide range of experience.

    Welcome to Gatherings!

    Carol Fresia, Assoc. Ed., Threads

    1. CCCVickie | | #4

      Thank you Carol for your help, I will heed your advice and begin my journey into the sewing world. Have a great day!


  3. Guest | | #5

    I like Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savy.

  4. ShannonG4d | | #6

    I second the recommendation of Claire's books; everything she does is first class.

    Oddly enough, the best construction books are older ones, like the Bishop Method books from 30 or 40 years ago.  The information is not dated at all....still good, sound advice and techniques.  It would seem that a more updated basic construction book is about due (Taunton, are you listening?).  The current vogue seems to be publishing books that deal with one facet of sewing; construction of one particular type of garment, for instance, or use of one particular type of fabric.

    I find Adele Margolis' books to be useful, as well.  "Make your Own Dress Patterns" is a real gem, and opened my eyes to the possibilities of design in a readable, easy to understand style.   Another favorite is the "Terry Fox Collection"; Terry Fox is a British designer who does amazing garments.  Her construction methods are first-rate.

    Also, look at books outside your particular sewing "discipline".  I find Jinny Beyer's books to be a feast for the senses, and she always has techniques that I find useful.  Her "color" book (can't remember the exact title) is fabulous! 

    If I had to choose five books, here would be my list:

    Claire Schaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide

    David Coffin's Shirtmaking

    Adele Margolis' "Make your Own Dress Patterns"

    Kenneth King's "Designer Techniques"

    Jinny Beyer's Color workbook for quilters (can't remember the exact title)

    Shannon Gifford

  5. JeanEsther | | #7

    Lots of great books out there. For general sewing, I love Singer's The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing. For shirts, David Coffin's Shirtmaking is tops. For fabric info, both Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide (fabulous and complete, but can't take it to the store and look up something quickly) and Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savvy (quick charts, but incomplete) are indispensable. I also like the Taunton Easy Guides To Sewing Pants, Tops & T-shirts, and Skirts (the last two particularly good on what goes with what figure types). Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques is great for fun stuff to try. Also fabulous is Fine Machine Sewing by Ahles--good tips. Connie Long's Sewing with Knits is great. Fitting and Pattern Alteration is very good.

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