Sew Everything Workshop – Diana Rupp
If you want a good general introduction to sewing – from threading your machine, to different fabrics, to your first projects – this is the one to choose. Diana has a relaxed yet enthusiastic style and explains everything really clearly, whether you’re inserting your first zip or messing about with your machine’s different stitches. I loved her introduction – I’ve read it several times now and I always come out wanting to be her best mate.
The book is spiral-bound (invaluable for flitting back and forth between instructions) and includes some paper patterns to have a go at. The book was published in 2007 so some of the dressmaking projects may seem dated now, but there is plenty in there to try. This book gave me my first project – a lined tote bag – and I’ve since been back and made a few more things.
Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes
Another book for beginners, but more focused on dressmaking. There are seven projects for that progress you from absolute beginner sewing straight stitches to an intermediate sewer inserting invisible zips like a pro. Each project (a hair band, two skirts, two dresses, some pjs and a shirt) teaches you a new skill, and there’s even some simple pattern drafting in the Clemence skirt.
Tilly’s patterns are known for their clear and thorough instructions, and this book is no different. It comes with double-sided pattern sheets (so you’ll need to trace) but they’re printed on durable paper so they’re easy to get back in the wallet. I like the patterns themselves – Tilly’s style focuses on 60s and 70s vintage which is more my era, if I had to pick one. They feel more modern than 50s styles so it feels like they’ve got a bit more mileage before they start looking dated, if that makes sense?
Tilly’s writing style is very friendly too – again, after reading this (and her blog) I want to be her friend. She’s the perfect partner for your first forays into making your own clothes.
Sew Over It Vintage – Lisa Comfort
It’s no secret that I am a bit of a Sew Over It fangirl. I’ve got so many of their patterns it’s kind of embarrassing. Anyway, Sew Over It Vintage is a little bit different – there are no patterns because you draft them all yourself!
You create the patterns based on your own measurements, and Lisa even takes you through drafting your own bodice block that you can manipulate to make several different tops. This does get a bit complex, with some maths and (what feels like) algebra thrown in, but the steps are broken down so it’s easy to take it slowly.
The work is worth it – the sewing projects are lovely. As the name suggests, they’re vintage, but with a modern twist. I’ve made the box pleat skirt and a simple top to go with it from the bodice block, and I’m keen to have a go at the kimono dressing gown.
There’s also a number of ideas to refashion your clothes as well as accessories and home decor projects.