In the world of YouTube, if you’re learning to sew you might be tempted to run away from the books, but let’s talk about some sewing books for beginners that are actually helpful.
First a story. I got my first sewing machine when I was about 10. After a couple months, I gave up on it and stubbornly decided that sewing by hand was where it was at. Troubleshooting the stupid tension made me fly the white flag.
Also, I probably should have changed a needle once in an…ever.
So if you’re looking to help someone who is just getting started with sewing or you’re a beginner yourself, these books will help you or your protege get to the next level.
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Sewing books for beginners: getting started books
For what it’s worth, this is not me just scrolling through Amazon reviews so I can write an article about sewing for beginners. These are all books I’ve personally read and used. I know they will help you because they helped me too!
On to the books!
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S.E.W. Sew Everything Workshop
It is NOT a dry textbook-like manual with boring pictures of how to thread your machine.
Diana writes just like your best friend who’s hanging out next to you walking you through the basics.
You’ll learn about how to set up your sewing space. Next, she’ll talk about tools that worth having, yes threading that machine, practice tips, and learning to read a pattern. The photos are extremely clear and easy to understand.
Interspersed throughout the more lesson-like text are little boxes with pro tips. It’s almost like she can sense you getting nervous. You’ll appreciate when she swoops in to give you the troubleshooting advice and encouragement that you need.
After that there’s 25 projects to build your sewing skills. Projects range from garments to accessories to home decor to gifts. They’re all rated by skill level and they spell out the techniques you’ll be exploring.
There’s patterns included in the book, but there’s also some dead easy drafting projects. My kids’ stuffed dogs have been the happy recipients of multiple versions of the Canine Couture Coat!
Love at First Stitch
Tilly Walnes, the face behind Tilly and the Buttons wrote a similar user-friendly guide to garment making.
Love at First Stitch is centered on garment sewing, and all the projects have a little vintage flair that’s just sweet.
The pictures are beautiful and do an excellent job of explaining what’s going on in each step.
There’s a brief section on basic machine setup and terms, then you dive straight into the projects. Woven into each pattern are more full tutorials on basic techniques like how to put in an invisible zipper and I love that there’s variations for each pattern included. This is so helpful for beginners to start looking at patterns and thinking about what you can add or take away to make it your own!
There’s little tips along the way that help you deal with the little finer details that we all run into in the course of a project. Watch out for tips for things like matching seams, pressing darts and pressing gathers. There’s also more fun mini-articles like “How to behave in a Fabric Store” and how to make sewing into a lifestyle.
Bend the Rules Sewing
Amy Karol is a fun writer, and the philosophy she lays out in Bend the Rules Sewing is one that will serve you well as your skills increase.
She starts with her grandmother’s quote:
You have to be good enough to know when you can bend the rules
So with this sense of adventure, Amy lays out some basic techniques and then has you use them in a series of simple projects. There’s basic curtains and an apron, and an easy lap quilt. There’s also projects to make for kids. The Swing Smock was one of my favorites I made when I was a beginner (note my wonky wonky topstitching).
The tools section is excellent as it lays out descriptions of sewing tools, why you need it, and then tops each one with fun hand illustrations.
And I’ll throw in there that I learned how to make continuous bias tape with this tutorial! I had no idea at the time that that technique is one of the most useful things you’ll learn as a sewist!
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Sewing books for beginners with a fabric emphasis
More Fabric Savvy
Walking into a fabric store as a sewing beginner is a deer in headlights moment. There’s so many different kinds of fabrics to learn about! When you’re just starting out you have no idea how to pronounce half of them, let alone what they are.
Enter Sandra Betzina.
There’s a couple of editions of Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina, and they’re all good. The most current edition is All New Fabric Savvy. Think of this book like a compact fabric encyclopedia
Fabrics are listed by their names, and each has a full two-page spread.
In each entry, you’ll see an example garment beautifully sewn with that fabric. After that, there’s everything you’d want to know about that fabric including advice on pre-treating, cutting, marking, and interfacing. There’s also recommendations for needle, stitch length and presser foot choices and how you should finish and press seams.
And while you can’t physically feel the fabric, this book will teach you buckets.
Tilly and the Buttons Stretch!
Tilly and the Buttons Stretch! by Tilly Walnes is such a great primer for learning to sew with knit fabrics.
The projects all build on each other, and there’s some of the clearest photos and text about sewing knits with a sewing machine and sewing knits with a serger.
Just like Love at First Stitch, this book does a fantastic job showing a base pattern and giving you ideas for how to hack it to the next level.
And this book is a not just for beginners book either. There’s more sophisticated techniques like ruching, and a twist neckline, as well as some tips for more difficult knits like stretch velvet and sequins.
Fabric-by-fabric One Yard Wonders
The premise of the One Yard Wonders series by Patricia Hoskins and Rebecca Yaker is so good. They all show you how to make simple projects for things like baby, home, garments, toys and accessories all under 1 yard. As far as sewing books for beginners go, I can’t think of a better framework for success.
If you’re a beginner, I know the looming doom of messing up a lot of fabric is constantly hanging over your head. Getting over being terrified of fabric is a real thing. But if all you need for a project is one yard or less, things become less intimidating.
Fabric-by-Fabric One Yard Wonders goes an extra step beyond the other books in the series by dividing the book into chapters by fabric type. You’ll see a detailed description of the fabric type and how to sew with it, then several projects to make with that fabric.
So as you’re learning about a fabric type, you’ll get hands-on experience with working with it. There’s projects for fabric types like various cottons, home dec fabrics, flannel, corduroy, oilcloth, fleece, knits and wool.
My one criticism of this book is that there’s 101 projects. That’s massive! And while there’s definitely something for everybody, you have very little chance of sewing your way through the book.
With that in mind, I’d say, browse through it, pick your favorite project from every chapter and go from there!
The one catch-all to rule them all among sewing books for beginners
Vogue Sewing is a classic book that’s been printed and reprinted so many times, and for good reason.
Now, this one might be an outlier among sewing books for newbies because there’s a lot of advanced stuff in it. I will still recommend it for beginners because it answers just about every sewing question that pops into your pretty little head.
Patterns don’t always do a good job of explaining techniques in detail, so it’s wonderful to have a basic reference book like Vogue Sewing in your sewing library.
At some point you’re going to want to know about different types of seams and darts and basic fitting alterations. Vogue has you covered there.
And because it’s Vogue, there’s a great section that walks you through reading a commercial pattern and picking the right fabric for your pattern.
On a personal note, the illustration on collars has saved me multiple times from sewing in a collar upside down!
So those are my recommendations for sewing books for beginners. These are all grow-with-you kinds of books that will serve you for many years to come in your sewing journey.
Check out the video review of the books!
More things to help you learn to sew:
- How to start sewing with a plan
- 4 pro ways to sew a t-shirt neckline
- Best stitches for knit fabrics, no serger required
- 11 helpful sewing tools you can’t live without
- How to sew your own raglan tee
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.