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Last Updated: December 7, 2019

Best Sewing Books

BEST VALUE

4/5

EDITOR'S PICK

4.9/5

BUDGET CHOICE

The cover of the book 'The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques'
4.2/5

You know what every good hobby begins with?

A good book.

The best sewing books can help you learn as you start your sewing journey, and keep you excited as you advance.

You should be able to pick up the book a novice and walk away a master. And once you feel like you’ve mastered the craft, you should have plenty more to keep you challenged.

What you need is this:

A complete guide to sewing.

Books that share all of the techniques that you’ll need, all of the patterns you could dream of.

The best sewing books will nurture the love for sewing within you from the start until the end. A little variety doesn’t hurt either, as a good sewing book should last until it’s pages are worn out.

These are the 5 best sewing books I have on my bookshelf.

Product Quick Compare

The Sewing Book

4.9/5

4 / 5

The cover of the book 'The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques'

First Time Sewing

4.7/5

4 / 5

Shirtmaking

4.8/5

4 / 5

The cover of the sewing book 'Shirtmaking'

Couture Sewing Techniques

4.6/5

3 / 5

Singer 9960

Vogue Sewing

4.9/5

4.9 / 5

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1. The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques

Our Rating: 4 / 5
Author: Alison Smith
Pages: 400 pages
Complexity: Beginner to Advanced

The Sewing Book is one of the few sewing books with patterns that also teaches basic sewing techniques. The abundance of information provided in this book is paired with great step-by-step illustrations and instructions for what feels like every sewing technique there is.

In my opinion, this is the best reference book for sewers – it’s so good it should come with all sewing machines.

Claiming to be an encyclopedic resource, The Sewing Book more than lives up to that title. Covering everything from fabrics to pattern reading, there is no stone left unturned in this book.

No other book can teach you to thread a needle and also how to perfect your hand sewing. The number one thing to love about The Sewing Book is that it is the most complete sewing book on the market.

If you’re looking for day 1 help, this book will certainly provide it. With excellent instructions for how to operate a sewing machine, how to do basic stitches, etc, The Sewing Book makes it easy to pick up and get going. Some of the intermediate level tutorials can serve as a great inspiration for your early projects, as well. If you don’t know, The Sewing Book can even teach you how patterns work in sewing books. Reading a pattern is usually seen as a simple process as it mostly requires following the line drawing, fabric suggestions, and thread, but there is more to it than that. The Sewing Book can teach you how to follow patterns with perfect precision, even for more difficult techniques.

The only issue you might have with The Sewing Book is it’s organization, which can be spastic at times. The book will often jump between subjects quickly and without much transition, which can be intimidating for some beginners. The Sewing Book also lacks depth on many topics, leaving it a bit empty for some people’s tastes. However, this can be seen as more of a feature of the book than anything else. The Sewing Book’s goal is to provide a variety of knowledge meant to cover the basics of all kinds of sewing. If you want a complete, in-depth guide on a specific aspect of sewing, this is not the book for you.

What I liked

  • Encyclopedic reference book
  • Thorough guides on many elements of sewing
  • Sewing patterns and guides included
  • Great step-by-step instructions

What I didn't like

  • Lack of coherent organization
  • Does not offer a complete view of many aspects of sewing
The cover of the book 'The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques'

2. First Time Sewing: The Absolute Beginner's Guide

Our Rating: 4 / 5
Author: Editors Of Creative Publishing International
Pages: 128 pages
Complexity: Beginner

First Time Sewing is the best sewing book for people who are just starting out. It’s only downfalls are that it can’t teach you absolutely all of the techniques you might use, and that it assumes you have some familiarity with sewing machines prior. As long as you know the basics of a sewing machine, though, this book provides step-by-step instructions to get you through the early phases. Many of First Time Sewing’s readers continue to use it as a reference book even later on after they’ve stopped being beginners.

Amongst all sewing books, this one stands out because of it’s educational nature. This book can teach you all of the basic techniques needed to see your projects through, and can serve as a great reminder of basic techniques when you need one. Unlike other books, First Time Sewing spends the bulk of it’s time focusing on the fundamentals and vocabulary of sewing. As it’s name would imply, First Time Sewing is meant to help you through those early days of sewing to help you quickly jump from rookie to veteran.

If you are the sort of person who still isn’t comfortable threading the needle, First Time Sewing offers you a wealth of knowledge. It becomes the best for beginners because – unlike other books – it is well organized and created with the desire to be an instructional guide. First Time Sewing is best used starting from page 1 and going until your finished, taking you through many sewing patterns and techniques along the way.

With November soon to end, First Time Sewing should certainly be something to think about for the holidays. It is the perfect way to share your love of sewing with someone special, or any sewing beginners in your life. Of all of the sewing books on the market, First Time Sewing is the most complete guide to sewing basics that exists. The only better teacher than this book would be having someone with all of it’s knowledge right by your side.

What I liked

  • Simple, easy to follow and understand explanations.
  • Step-by-step instructions to basic techniques
  • Great for beginners

What I didn't like

  • Will not help someone who's learning the basics of a sewing machine
  • Not useful for intermediate or advanced level sewers
The cover of the sewing book 'Shirtmaking'

3. Shirtmaking

Our Rating: 4 / 5
Author: David Page Coffin
Pages: 192 pages
Complexity: Beginner to Intermediate

Shirtmaking, as the name would imply, is about one simple thing: making shirts. Because of this, it doesn’t provide much information about sewing at large. You will not find guides for operating a sewing machine, reading a pattern, or anything of that sort. Indeed, this book won’t even discuss any sort of button that you wouldn’t like to use for a shirt. This book isn’t about those things. This book is about making shirts.

This makes Shirtmaking unlike everything else on this list. You will only want it when you’re trying to learn the specific skill it teaches. It does rival the more general books on this list in terms of length, though. This book goes into admirable depth about it’s topic, teaching you everything you could want to know. If shirtmaking is interesting to you, than Shirtmaking will certainly be of interest.

There is something to learn even if shirtmaking isn’t for you, though. Shirtmaking’s depth on it’s topic can provide you with questions that are applicable to whatever garments most strike your fancy. If you haven’t yet developed a sort of expertise with one type of project, Shirtmaking could help to get you started. What you will learn with this book can also be applied directly to other sorts of projects, as it can take you from having never made a shirt to experimenting with finer details.

Shirtmaking is a journey that is worth taking for anyone that loves sewing. An incredible deep dive, Shirtmaking is absolutely fascinating. Shirtmaking can certainly surprise you. For example, many of Shirtmaking’s words are spent discussing construction of a shirt. While there are many general constructions that we’ve become used to, it’s surprising to learn all of the little things that we might not notice. These details apply to more than just shirtmaking, of course, but might not be unveiled in a less specific book.

Besides it’s narrow focus, the only downfall of Shirtmaking is that it sometimes lacks an identity. Shirtmaking wants to be both a book on the history and philosophy of shirtmaking and a book on how to make shirts. It sometimes confuses these two desires, leaving historians bored and sewers a bit confused.

What I liked

  • Deep dive into shirtmaking
  • Great tips for constructing garments
  • Looks into the more intricate side of sewing

What I didn't like

  • Narrow topic, isn't for everyone
  • Sometimes lacks instructional tools and clarity
Singer 9960

4. Couture Sewing Techniques

Our Rating: 3 / 5
Author: Claire R. Shaeffer
Pages: 256 pages
Complexity: Intermediate

Written by a true fashion historian, the contents of Couture Sewing Techniques should be no surprise. Filled to the brim with advanced level techniques and ideas, there is a lot to love about this book. While it certainly isn’t for beginners, many long-time sewers treat Couture Sewing Techniques like gold.

Because of it’s nature, this book has difficulty being seen as one of the best books overall. However, it stands out because of it’s focus on high-fashion techniques that can raise the quality of your craft. If you’re looking for a way to make your sewing look professional, you will find it in here. By using Couture Sewing Techniques advice, you will find many ways to make the small alterations that make some work standout.

The biggest lesson you will learn from this book is to always construct to fit. This sort of philosophy of sewing can only be found in one other book (listed below) in this amount of detail. Even if it doesn’t improve your work by much, this book can improve your feelings about your work significantly.

While this book, because of it’s title, naturally focuses on hand sewing, these techniques can still be applied to a sewing machine. You might have to apply some thought to the book to make sure that it works for you, though. It’s writing is very accessible even to a beginner reader, but it doesn’t dumb down the technique at all. This is both a weakness and a strength – it requires more tact on your end, while also showing all the parts of sewing that fashionistas care so deeply about.

The biggest knock against this book is simply that it isn’t a great instructor. To some people, it might appear as more of a coffee table book than anything else. If you’re looking for instruction of similar ideas, Vogue Sewing is much better served for that.

What I liked

  • Great philosophy of sewing
  • Goes in-depth on advanced techniques
  • Deep passion about fashion

What I didn't like

  • Unclear instructions
  • Sometimes too rigid in it's ideas

5. Vogue Sewing, Revised and Updated

Our Rating: 5 / 5
Author: McDONALD
Pages: 450 pages
Complexity: Intermediate to Advanced

Vogue Sewing is more love letter to sewing as a craft than reference book for craft sewing, but it serves both functions extremely well. This book isn’t for beginners to learn techniques from and it’s not going to offer many clear tips and tricks. However, Vogue Sewing teaches sewing techniques and history that show how sewing can go so far beyond what we do at a sewing machine. Breaking down advanced techniques, full of thoughts on hand sewing and other concepts, Vogue Sewing captures a sense of fashion that other books don’t provide.

Don’t be scared away – a beginner could still understand the ideas found in Vogue Sewing. Vogue Sewing, however, is more concerned with the passion for the craft than other sewing books. Vogue Sewing would rather discuss why to make some garments and why to make them in some specific ways than break it down step by step. One of the primary issues people have with this book is that it fails to share clear illustrations or step-by-step instructions. These guides are often eschewed for greater context.

First published in the 1970’s, Vogue Sewing is affiliated with the magazine of the same name. It should come as no surprise if you’ve ever picked up an issue of Vogue that Vogue Sewing is dripping with fashionable garments and the concern that goes a long with it. Because of it’s long history, Vogue Sewing has almost become a book about history. Vogue Sewing covers garments that were popular in decades past in the same detail it does garments that are popular today.

While it might not be the most practical book, there is something very special about Vogue Sewing. Any other sewing book with patterns might serve as a better instructional guide for a lot of things. But this is not one of those sewing pattern books. Vogue Sewing is just as concerned with making you ask “is haute coutoure all hand sewn?” And Vogue Sewing is happy to let you know the answer is yes – haute coutoure garments must be sewn by hand.

What I liked

  • Deep dive into shirtmaking
  • Great tips for constructing garments
  • Looks into the more intricate side of sewing

What I didn't like

  • Narrow topic, isn't for everyone
  • Sometimes lacks instructional tools and clarity

Best sewing books buying guide

What you’re looking for out of a book on sewing will vary depending on your needs. Because of that, it’s difficult to say for certain which books are the best for you. However, there are a few things to look for that will tell you if a book is going to be worth your time or not.

Beginner, intermediate or advanced

The first thing to look at is which readers the book was published for. Most sewing books will tell you upfront if they are meant for beginner, intermediate, or advanced sewers. If you’re just getting started, picking up something advanced might not be for you. Of course, it might not hurt either. Consider if the type of projects the book is advertising is something that you would be interested in.

Projects that you're interested in

Projects are also something important to consider. When we discuss books for sewing, we’re usually discussing pattern books that go beyond narratives or essay-style instruction. These books certainly have a place, but most people prefer projects and tips that they can follow along with. The perfect book will have enough projects to spend some time on, making them feel more worth it. Having a lot of projects can sometimes be a bad sign, though, as the quality of those projects might be in question.

Where a book finishes on our list has quite a lot to do with it’s writing. Although a pattern book will often be full of graphs to go along with it’s projects, it should be easy and exciting to read. Books like Vogue Sewing are great because they’re a great read, and they give you the steps to follow along. The perfect book will provide you not only with a tutorial on how to do the projects within, but it will also provide you with the inspiration that you need to complete those projects.

Great books should be full of the little tips and tricks that you need, as well. While the bare necessities might only call for patterns, many publishers and writers like to pack their books with tips that can help you just a bit more. This attention to detail is important because it shows that the book cares for it’s mission. The books you buy should be the ones that are authored with passion.

Don’t forget that buying doesn’t always need to be the first way to go. Many intermediate level sewing books can be found at your local library and many of them won’t have much use beyond that. The books that you do buy should be those like The Sewing Book which will be useful well beyond your first read. Those are the books that will be handy to have around for years to come.

Similarly, books like Vogue Sewing are a safe buy. Sewing has been a popular, beloved craft for longer than any of us can remember. Because of that, it’s literature persists throughout time. Books such as Vogue Sewing with a long history have earned that history with consistent, high-quality. Look for books on their third or beyond edition as a sign that they’re worth your money.

We’ve put together a short buyer’s guide to make your choice easier. First…

The verdict

There are many sewing books that could be considered the best. Vogue Sewing finishes highest on our list because it’s dripping with love for sewing and fashion, while still providing tips and tricks and plenty of projects. However, The Sewing Book more than deserves it’s title. The Sewing Book might be the best encyclopedic sewing book, while Vogue Sewing stands out as the most passionate of the best sewing books.

Any of these books could help you a long your sewing path. For even the most advanced sewers, there are beginner tips that they might have never heard. The literature surrounding sewing can be overwhelming because of it’s volume, but there’s a lot to love in there. Whatever it is that you need for your sewing books, you will find it on this list.