Just sew stories

favourite-sewing-booksContinuing the sewist theme of this week, today I wanted to share some of my favourite sewing (and one knitting!) books. When, like now, I have run out of decent lengths of fabric and payday is still a few days off, I love to delve through my stash of sewing books and start sketching ideas for the next month’s sew-nanigans. These are a mixture of new and old favourites for your delectation that inspire me, that I use all the time, and that I find enormously amusing!


Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes

love-at-first-stitchThe sewing blogs have been buzzing with reviews and raves about this book, penned by Sewing Bee series one contestant and blogging sewist Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons. I love Tilly’s blog, but our personal styles are very different so I wasn’t sure whether to buy this book or not to begin with, thinking that I might not actually want to make any of the patterns. What won me over was the concept: teaching dressmaking techniques through a series of projects with increasing difficulty. My approach to dressmaking could easily be generously described as ‘making it up as I go along’ (and less generously as ‘slapdash’), so the idea of a sewing class in book form to help me formalise my skills was very appealing.



love-at-first-stitchWhen the book arrived I curled up in my (homemade) pyjamas and started reading. And around two hours later I realised that it was dark outside and I hadn’t eaten any dinner. No other sewing book has made me chuckle quite like this one, thanks largely to Tilly’s conversational and friendly writing style. And despite my initial scepticism, there is a lot of scope for making up Tilly’s patterns to suit my own style. Once payday rolls around (come on Friday) I will be stocking up on fabric to make a start!


How To Use, Adapt and Design Sewing Patterns by Lea Hollahan

sewing-patternsThis book was a recent impulse purchase. I went into Waterstones during a sunny day out in Chichester with Chris’s mum and Chris’s brother’s girlfriend, and we spent a happy hour or so browsing through a mountain of cookbooks. I went in planning to buy another book entirely that turned out to be quite disappointing in the flesh, but after foraging through the fashion and crafts section I emerged with this one. Thanks to this book I have not only drafted my own bodice blocks, but also used them to create my very own jacket pattern. I yearn to create my own patterns, and this book took all of the fear out of the drafting process. There are also detailed instructions on altering commercial patterns to get the perfect fit, and a technique that I am dying to try that involves using yarn to mark out designs on a dress form.




Pattern Magic 2 by Tomoko Nakamichi

pattern-magic-2This book, and its predecessor Pattern Magic take pride of place among my collection of Japanese pattern books. While not all of the patterns are what I would call ‘wearable’ necessarily (skirt with a crater in it anyone?), these books exemplify dressmaking as origami, engineering, and high concept art. One of my favourite sections of this book revolves around wearing different shapes – circle, triangle and square – and I have had endless fun creating a pattern for a ‘square’ jacket/pullover that I have now made up in navy blue neoprene. I am still adding the finishing touches but watch this space for the completed garment.

I would also recommend the Drape Drape series of books for fans of the Pattern Magic style. The garments are far more wearable, but still focus on the important details of the pattern and the behaviour of the fabric to engineer a fascinating garment.




Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha

simple-modern-sewingsYet another Japanese book, and this one is far more typical of the genre, featuring gamine models in layers of simple linen garments who like leaning against walls and looking at their feet – no doubt where many fashion bloggers (guilty!) have taken posing advice from. But that said I really like the patterns in this book. They are simple, they are pretty modern, and the steps are easy to follow. Another benefit is that the sizing is pretty generous for a Japanese book. I say generous, I still have to take the largest trousers size they have going, but considering that the standard size in Pattern Magic is super teeny tiny the fact that the existence of size 12 is acknowledged in this book is an improvement. I find with many books by the same author or in the same genre that you need a bit of imagination to look past the ‘kawaii’ (unless that is your thing) to see how to make a garment work for you.




Knitting Wildlife by Ruth Herring and Karen Manners


A bit of classic 80s comedy to finish, this lovely book was a gift from Michaela of Michaela Knits. Produced for the WWF Knitting Wildlife contains instructions for creating a range of vibrant jumpers sporting images of tigers, polar bears and pandas, along with slogans like ‘Save The Whales’. I wouldn’t have the skill/outrageous fashion sense to make one of these jumpers, but the absurd fact that they exist and that someone probably has made a bulky purple cardigan with ‘Extinction is Forever’ emblazoned across the back and worn it with pride gives me a warm glow inside. By far and away the best part of this book is the celebrity models, all looking so young and sporting amaze-balls 80s hair. See if you can guess who!

knitting-wildlife-liz-hurleyA far cry from Versace and safety pins!


“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.


It was hard enough choosing just five books for this post, so maybe I should save the rest for another time. Does anyone else hoard sewing books? I’d love to hear which your favourites are!

What do you think?