Book review: Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

Now, I have the proper old school copy of this, and I’m fairly sure I stole it from my Mum many moons ago! I find it is synonymous with good sewing techniques, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Often found in charity shops (my second copy for classes was just £4), this hefty tome is clearly laid out & quite formally written with wonderful illustrations liberally sprinkled over every page. I find illustrations are vastly easier to follow than photographs, and as everything from basic pattern cutting, fitting and cut to sewing up & finishing is covered the sheer amount of them is immensely reassuring. There’s even a section in back which covers Children’s clothes & upholstery.

Written with the firm understanding that the reader knows at least the basics of sewing, the complete novice should not be daunted as this really is useful for all levels of sewing ability. The basic stitches chapter clearly illustrates how to sew by hand & machine, whilst the seams chapter will have you running up simple garments in a trice. For people wishing to refine, check or relearn techniques there are more advanced instructions, covering the often varied ways of doing one task for example; there are instructions on how to work button holes in over ten different ways, which are then repeated for various weights of fabric.

Whilst this book does cover pattern cutting, tailoring and upholstery it really focuses on sewing techniques, and these sections are by far the weaker chapters. My suggestion if wanting to pattern cut, would be to purchase Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear and start from scratch. It is a discipline which will either entrance or infuriate you but is does deserve more space than the Complete Guide to Sewing gives it. The same for tailoring, which is a skill one cannot simply learn from the scant 20 pages it is given here. I’d grab a copy of Classic Tailoring Techniques for Womenswear by Cabrera & Meyers & hole up for a couple months!

Written in a very no-nonsense style, it really should be the cornerstone of every seamstress, fashion student, designer or, in this case, costumiers bookcase. This is something the beginner can grow in to but also makes a great reference book for the more knowledgeable sewer.

Happy stitching!

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