My dad's wife wants to learn how to sew, and she wants to make clothes.
I want to get her a good basic book on sewing and garment
construction...so I need your recommendations!
My dad put me in charge of locating the best sewing machine for her,
and it needs to come from Sears (where he works - can you say "employee
discount"?) I think I will also put together a small kit of favorite
tools as well. I am going to put in a seam ripper, tailor's guage,
flexible measuring tape, chalk pencil and flat head straight pins.
Anything else that is an absolute must? I'm more in to quilting and
craft sewing...so I could be out of the loop on anything that is
essential to the garment maker!
Thanks for your advice!
The Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing. It's listed at about
23 dollars on Amazon.com but you might be able to shop around since
there are so many holiday sales/discounts right now.
I don't have this particular book, but I do have their Complete Guide
to Needlework and can say that all their "complete guide" type books
are excellent quality, good diagrams, etc. My needlework book was one
of the few craft books I took with me when I moved here (Sweden) from
North Carolina in 1994 so you can see that I value it!
(Naw, they don't bribe me to push their books, I just like them!)
I second Erin re the Reader's Digest book. The original was written
mainly by Lucille Rivers, who pioneered sewing shows on PBS. In my
book, she has no equal, even though she was not given much credit for
writing this book.
As for other essentials in the kit, I opt for a package of waistband
interfacing, an air-erasable pen for marking, and a package of trouser
I prefer the older edition of the Reader's Digest book published in the 70s.
IMO, it is better in describing in detail many things the new edition leaves
out. DD bought one at Half-Price books for about $5.00. That is "My Bible"
on sewing, although I have a large library of different types of sewing
books, DVDs, videos, etc.
As for sewing notions, I think the other posters covered those fairly well,
except a nice selection of various color threads, regular sewing needles and
a thimble. You know things do need basting many times.
As for the sewing machine, I'd strongly suggest your Dad take his wife to
the store and allow her to choose the machine herself, maybe with a
companion(you) going along to point out some highlights of the different
models, if she knows nothing about sewing. The old adage of choosing a car
for someone else also applies to sewing machines.
He could take her to a nice restaurant for lunch/dinner, give her a gift
package with a card saying something to the effect, "We're going seine
machine shopping at ------, and ---- will join us at the store to point out
the differences in the models, so you can choose the one you want."
I have the needlework book and the RD sewing book. They are both
great. I buy every copy of the sewing book I come across to give
to new sewing enthusiasts. The Vogue sewing book is supposed to
be very good also but I don't have one of those.
I'd suggest two possibilities: Reader's Digest sewing book, or
Simplicity's Simply the Best Sewing Book, which is home dec oriented, but
has a good basic section on fabric, fabric handling, etc, and may be
easier at first. The other book I'd recommend is Connie Crawford's Guide
to Fashion Sewing. It was written for her students at FIT who had to learn
to sew on the way to learning fashion design, and the format is drawing
and a few sentences, another drawing and a few sentences. This adapts
ready to wear sewing techniques to home sewing machine capabilities,
so it's slightly different instructions than you'll find in sewing
books, but it produces more professional results with less effort than
the instructions in most patterns. It's the book I wish I had had when
I was learning.
Are there lessons available in her area? Even a few to start with
can help immensely if someone has never sewn before.
You can usually pick up a "beginning sewing" kit this time of year
fairly inexpensively. In addition, she'll need a decent iron and an
ironing board, a good pair of "dressmaker shears" (it's a style, sometimes
also called "bent handled trimmers" in a small form) -- I like KAI --
they're light, sharp and fit the hand well. However, if she's left handed,
she'll want true left-handed scissors, which KAI lefties are not.
I'd also like to see her start with a sleeve board and a pressing ham,
as good pressing techniques during sewing make a much, much better looking
result. Good pressing can salvage mediocre sewing, while mediocre
pressing just makes good sewing look mediocre, as you know from pressing
quilt blocks. But the forms of garments need a curved surface and a
narrow surface in addition to an ironing board for pressing. A clapper
is the third tool I think is definitely needed, but that only needs to be
a piece of smoothly sanded hardwood, though the point presser/clapper
combinations are quite nice.
Some URLs of what I'm talking about:
Most of the sewing machine stores offer Basic Sewing lessons. I have
taught private basic sewing to some who have taken the group lessons and
said they still didn't understand what they needed to know. So maybe a few
private sewing lessons would be in order. Sometimes Hancock Fabrics, and
Joann Fabrics have a bulletin board and there might be someone posting to
teach private lessons. You might also check at craft stores for a bulletin
board. Even better, one of her friends who sews might be willing to help
her learn. It's just an idea that might save her a lot of frustration!
Barbara in cold, damp SC
I hope I don't start a ruckus with this, but left-handed tools are
useless for the most part. For one thing, many of them are not of good
quality. One of the advantages of being left-handed is learning at a
very early age to be versitile. I once treated myself to a pair of
left-handed scissors, and I ended up cutting everything wrong by the
width of the blades, because I was watching the wrong side of the
blades as I cut. I immediately went back to right-handed scissors, and
other tools, as well. Being left-handed is not a disability; most of
the students that I had were right-handed, and I simply taught them to
watch my demonstration in front of me. My left-handed students stood
beside and in back of me.
I used to teach sewing at my local Hancock Fabric store. I found that
people who bought the cheapest machines were the most likely to be
frustrated - by their machine. When asked, I would tell people to buy
as much machine as they could reasonably afford. I just looked at the
Sears web site. All the machines I saw there under $118 were the types
that frustrated my students the most. The 51-stitch and the 63-stitch
machines were loved by all my students who had them. Please let us
know what they got. ;)
He picked the 16231, which is NOT under $118! Hopefully it won't
frustrate her. I love my Kenmore machine, and have always owned
Kenmore machines. I hope someday to get a Bernina or Husqvarna....but
I will always keep my Kenmore workhorse!
Thank you everyone for all of your suggestions. I got her a starter
sewing kit along with an assortment of needles and some flat head
flower pins. I'll be shipping those off to her shortly. I hope my
father remembers to get the book for her though....
Along with what everyone else has said, I'd also suggest a book about
fabrics, such as Sandra Betzina's "Fabric Savvy" or Claire Shaeffer's
"Fabric Sewing Guide". Both are great for describing fabric and how to
Marie in Mississippi