Books for absolute beginners?



Guys, I wanted to get your input on something.

I’m thinking about putting together a list of my all time favorite sewing books. But I thought it would be helpful to get your ideas on some of it.

What do you think are the best books on sewing for true beginners?

Someone emailed to ask me this a couple weeks ago. I have a few favorites, but I thought it would be interesting to hear from you. I think my book is great for people who are pretty new to sewing clothing, but I am imagining books for people who have barely touched a sewing machine. I’m thinking of people who might like a very clear description of the absolute basics.

Any tips?

[image above: via Etsy Labs on Flickr]

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 98


To be honest, I was pretty much an absolute beginner when I started sewing and I learned a bunch from your book! I had a sewing guide from the 1950’s and it was too overwhelming. Now I use that guide when I make vintage clothing from vintage patterns. But, I found your book to be super helpful and very easy to follow. It is the one book I suggest to all of my friends who want to start sewing. What I think makes it different from the others is that it is not overwhelming and you can track your progress by the garments you make. Being able to track your progress as you begin something new is super important as it keeps you motivated. SO, honestly I like your book the best! (I PROMISE I am not trying to suck up, I was truly impressed by it!)


Ooh, what a great question. For me, it would have to be the Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp. I’m also keen on both books by Eithne Farry but she has a gung-ho approach to clothes-making which won’t teach you much but will give you confidence to at least start trying (her attitude is pretty relaxed but she insists you need to pre-wash material before cutting so I finally decided that if that’s one of the few things she insisted on, as a laid-back seamstress, it must be important). I quite like “Design it Yourself Clothes” by Cal Patch but I’m not sure it’d be great for absolute beginners. And “Sew What Skirts” was another relaxed tome, that made me want to get cracking, without having to worry about whether I knew everything beforehand.


I didn’t mention your book because you already had, but of course I have it, and like the way things are explained properly but you don’t shy away from making stylish, structured, clothes – no boxy skirts or blouses !

Miss Crayola Creepy

I also used the Sew Everything Workshop book and it was very helpful to me when I first started sewing.


I was going to suggest Diana Rupp’s The Sew Everything Workshop as well. It has a variety of projects and answers a lot of REALLY basic questions about using sewing machines (I used her explanations to figure out how to thread my 1971 Kenmore), hand stitches, zipper installation, and more. I think it’s a great resource if you really don’t know where to begin, and 3 years after starting to sew I still look at it from time to time for a clear explanation how to do something.


Connie Crawford has one of those books – I mistakenly bought an earlier edition off ebay. The issue with it is the cost – it is meant as a textbook, so it runs a bit pricey:


I am a complete beginner and I have Sew step by step, which is a Dorling Kindersley book. It starts right from the beginning, how to thread a needle etc. It mostly gives techniques for individual bits of clothes and actually goes up into quite advanced stuff, ruffles, sleeves, gathers etc. It’s good to keep as a reference in case you forget how to do something, but doesn’t give patterns. (Though it does explain how to use a pattern.)


I agree with the sew step by step answer! I have that and it’s really great for breaking down bits…like how to do various pockets – a great reference book when I can’t figure out what something is or how it’s supposed to look. My sewing teacher recommends this too!


“Me and My Sewing Machine: A Beginner’s Guide” by Kate Haxell
Its really solid on the basics. Plenty of pictures. Simple and comforting.


I just started sewing as an absolute beginner last year. I learned through a combination of sources – online (Sew Mama Sew has a million tutorials aimed at beginners), books, classes. I have several books I refer to but the best catch-all book was The Sewing Book by Allison Smith. Taking your intro to your machine class where you bought it will get any beginner over the hump of looking at the machine as a scary contraption.


I’m also a beginner and I have bought this: “The Sewing book – Alison Smith”.
I think it’s pretty great because it gives you the basics and also some advanced stuff. It has some little projects for you to make too.
The images are pretty clear and easy to follow. It’s a good reference book but it’s also nice for a beginner. It has some many options that sometimes can be overwhelming.
So, a great book for a beginner and for an advanced seamstress as well (because it’s a reference book).

I don’t have your book yet (shame on me!) but it’s definitely in my wish list!

Link for the book:

Mrs Napalm

Alison Smith’s book is my sewing bible!

Rachel B

As an absolute beginner, I liked the One-Yard Wonders books. I liked having patterns for every project. I didn’t have the confidence to eyeball or use a rotary cutter at first.

Lisa G.

I have no ideas on books for absolute beginners, but I’ll say that “In Stitches” by Amy Butler, while not advertised as a beginner’s book, tells you every little thing that you should do for the projects, without assuming that you may know anything without being told.

Marliese Thomas

I was fortunate to learn from family and great class teachers. Really, practice is the best teacher – making mistakes. Even so, I found “101 Ways to Use Your First Sewing Machine” by Elizabeth Dubicki pretty solid for covering the basics and using simple projects to reinforce those skills. And the cute high heel on the cover doesn’t hurt!


I sewed when I was younger (one summer when I was 12!), but I seem to have data-dumped all my know-how. So for Christmas, I asked for some sewing books and put “Sewing Basics” by Sandra Bardwell on my list– and I’m SO glad I did!

She covers absolutely everything everything, from the ground up, without sounding condescending – just matter-of-fact. I’m reading through it page by page, not skipping chapters, because having done so gives me the feeling that I’m getting a real foundational understanding of fabric, the machine, threads, everything.

As a knitter moving into sewing, I’m finding it invaluable.

And *then*, I’m busting right into your book! Because I really, really, really want to start a Ginger skirt and can’t get stuck just making practice tote bags!


My all time favorite beginner sewing book is SEW Everything Workshop The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner’s Guide by Diana Rupp. It’s easy to follow and it comes with some really great patterns. She also has a beginner’s sewing class on Craftsy that is pretty good!


I loooove the Reader’s Digest “New Complete Guide to Sewing”. It is easily my most used sewing reference guide. The simple explanatory prose and clear illustrations are so helpful when I’m stuck! It is also quite well-indexed, so if you’re reading through your pattern and you get stuck on a certain step, you can easily look up “sleeves” or whatever, and it will give you lots of options.

Just yesterday, I pulled it out because my charmingly curt Burda instructions just said “miter the corner” and I had 100% forgotten how to do it. The pictures and explanations got me back on track in a jiffy. I think a tool like this would be really helpful for a beginner trying to make sense of pattern instructions. If I recall correctly, there is also a section in the beginning about getting started, reading patterns, understanding the symbols, etc.


I second this recommendation! I remember using my mom’s edition from the 1970s when I was learning to sew growing up, so when I started sewing again as an adult I went straight to the bookstore to get my own copy. I was disappointed by the current edition, though, and searched ebay to find one identical to my mom’s! It’s been so helpful.


THIS. I went for the old version cause everyone said it was better, and it is big and has great pictures! and you can easily get the old editions of abebooks or ebay for cheap! I found one at my thrift store, too. If anyone wants my second copy, I’d part with it for the cost of shipping!


Any edition of the Readers Digest “New Complete Guide to Sewing”. This is a great reference book.


Agreed!! My mother-in-law gave me an old edition of The Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing, and I use it all the time.


100% agree. This is my sewing bible, I always have it out next to my machine.

Claire (aka Seemane)

I agree too! I have an old and a new edition of the Reader’s Digest book and it’s very thorough :)


What are the differences between the Old and the New versions? Why did you purchase each and do you use the different versions to help you with different things? Why does everyone say the Old one is so much better??


Yup! I cannot live — well, OK, will not sew — without my Reader’s Digest Sewing Guide! It’s my number one reference book and has never failed to answer any sewing question I have.

I’m a bit of a sewing book junkie! Some of my other faves include the Bishop Method Guide, Gertie’s Guide To New Vintage Sewing (I may be messing up that title slightly) and anything by Sandra Betzina, who is fab fab fab. Threads Magazine is also a great resource!


What worked for me: an absolute beginner sewing class using Bernina’s Seams Inside Out bag, which gave me confidence in sewing all different types of fabric, plus a zipper, a button, and a curve. Followed by open studio nights where I could bring my own project and receive aid when needed, and borrow a machine so that I could get started without much up-front investment. Sorry, I know that’s not a book–but I think encouraging people to look for local classes is critical in overcoming the “someday I’ll sit down and learn to sew….”.


I dont know if you can still find copies of these but Simplicity has/had a great beginners sewing manual also the old Vogue sewing books are great. Anything by Sandra Betzina is also very good.


For absolute beginner’s – I would suggest the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing – incredible information from tools to alterations. I have a couple of different versions of this book – the older ones have more information than the newer ones. I also refer to your book a lot – especially for the invisible zipper tutorial and I love that it’s spiral bound.


I also like the Sew Everything Workshop book by Diana Rupp. I think it does a great job with the absolute basics and the projects are simple and short (pillow covers, household items, etc). I like how it includes paper patterns in the book which most of the larger textbook style sewing books do not include.

However, I never tried any of the clothes patterns in the S.E.W. book because they appeared to have a boxy fit. I think sewing clothes can be a little more intimidating for beginners. For learning how to sew clothes, I absolutely love the Colette Sewing Handbook patterns, instructions and inspiration it provides which is very unique.


Hi Sarai,
Not a book as such but Tilly’s Learn to Sew series is pretty great. Clear, simple and approachable :)


Not a book per se, but the instruction manual to your sewing machine.

Sandy Woerner

I think that would be a great idea. I haven’t really sewn an item in years (since my 28yo daughter was a baby/toddles). It would be great to have a refresher on the basics, since I feel that I have lost a lot of knowledge and techniques over the years not to mention there are numerous changes.

Diane @ Vintage Zest

I didn’t learn from a book when I started last April, so it would awesome to look into a book. I have no idea what some of the parts on my machine are called, but I have used all of my feet and created some garments already. Yet, I do not know the times that you need to change tension, I just sew by trial and error. Is that ok?

Sometimes I think, this is totally improper and educated seamstresses would be shaking their heads at me. They would see the clothing on my blog and be able to nitpick all the errors! And then I remember that my late grandmother learned how to sew the same way, by trial and error and she made BEAUTIFUL things.

So I like to think of myself as street smart rather than book smart, kind of like those chefs who are self-taught rather than those who have attended culinary school.

In my real life, I am definitely more of a book smart person thought. :) So, hopefully I can round up a few books and get a bit more bookish. :)


Definitely the SEW everything workshop – especially with Diana’s Craftsy class. She assumes nothing. After that I was ready to tackle your book!


I always recommend the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. The illustrated instructions are great – clear, and with enough picture and steps to really guide you through sewing.


I didn’t start with garments, and that was the right approach for me… I started by working my way (partially) through Sew What! Bags, and it was awesome for a true beginner. I also highly recommend the SEW Everything Workshop book. I think a list of this type of book is a great idea, because the truth is that whichever one appeals the most to the person in question, will be the most helpful to him/her. :-)

Lisa G.

Yes, the Sew What series is very good for beginners.


A beginner’s book is absolutely awesome, I have known the basics of sewing and have been practising for years! Then two years ago I bought a sewing machine and was completely lost. A few months ago I was reading a sewing magazine and read about your website; I was estatic. finally a person who knows what they are talking about and makes it super simple to follow instructions! I have not read your book yet and am planning to purchase it in the near future, however, if your looking for something to help beginners why not add a video supplement?
I always have questions and I learn better by visual example combined with reading. I think this will help beginners so much more then just reading.( I know, I am still a beginner). Good Luck!!!


My old and trusted Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing will always be my bible :)


Me too! I bought the 1978 edition online when I started sewing almost 2 years ago and it’s awesome! Lots of info, pictures, details. Whenever I have a question, I check the book and I find an answer!

sweary sewer

i recently came across a copy of the readers digest guide to sewing in a charity shop for 99p. it is exactly what i need as a year old sewing addict. i wish i’d found this a year ago.


I truly truly love your book and have recommended a lot of times because not only covers all the basics, it also explains the whys and whens with a lot of emphasis in getting good habits. I think than when you end the book you have a fairly good idea of how to properly sew a garment from zero to a decent finish.

If you have never ever touched a sewing machine I really recommend trying to find someone –friend, aunt, neighbour, teacher- that demonstrates you the first steps of machine sewing and working.
If that is impossible for you I agree with the Doctor – as I always do ;-) – and recommend “Me and My Sewing Machine: A Beginner’s Guide” by Kate Haxell as it is devoted only to understand how a machine works and the basic seams – but your book already covers most of that and in the end you get more knack for your money. Really, I think that it is more money savvy to spend your dollars in a short class of some kind with a good teacher by your side.

I also love both Allison Smith the Sewing Book and the Reader’s Digest “New Complete Guide to Sewing” as both are very complete, with lots of photographs and detailed step by step instructions and up to date, being Allison Smith’s The Sewing Book my personal favourite, but in no way I would consider them beginner’s books.


I think having some book recommendations for absolute beginners is a great idea, especially if the books (at least a couple anyway!) you recommend are still in print. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have someone extoll the virtues of some sewing or fitting book, only to find that it’s out of print and cost prohibitive.


I don’t know why it lists my name as bronte! Damn auto fill! (I was recently googling the bronte sisters. Maybe that’s why.)


I learned to see almost entirely from books, and I started with Sew U by Wendy Mullin and Eviana Hartman. The series is aimed at beginners and provides modern seeing advice–by that I mean they refer to up to date inventions like the serger and other tools :)


I also have the sewing book by Alison Smith which a couple of people have already mentioned here. I think it is a brilliant book because its simple to understand which helps beginners, but it is so comprehensive in what it covers, it is great for more advanced people. I think it is a book that I will keep refering to forever because it is so good. It is a book that will last, so probably a great choice for a beginner. My sister is new to sewing and I recommended your book to her because it teaches you step by step and the projects start easy and get harder. A combination of both books is ideal for a beginner.


If your sewing machine comes with a manual, I think that’s a great place to start! Particularly because most people should start by learning the basic stitches and functions of their machine on some scrap fabric.


When I was starting out there were two excellent books, which I constantly referred to The Reader’s Digest Sewing and Knitting book and The Dressmakers Technique Bible by Lorna Knight!


My all-time favorite beginner book is Sewing Basics by Patricia Moyes. I was lucky enough to take her classes at San Francisco’s Sewing Workshop, and her book reflects her super-clear, very accessible teaching style. I still use it!


I have that book and love it! I have wanted so much to take a class from her.


Such a great topic!

I may be dating myself here but my all time favorites are the books that I used the most growing up when I was learning to sew:

1. Third edition of The Vogue Sewing Book, 1975
2. First edition of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, 1976

For inspiration, I love the Time Life Book series: The Art of Sewing, 1976

I see these all books available used quite frequently so they should not be too hard to locate.

Truly Myrtle

Great idea – although I’d love a list on great books for advanced techniques and pattern drafting.. can you do one of those too?
For absolutely beginners I’d suggest they check out the free course on Craftsy – Sewing 101 I think it’s called.


I’ve just started out with sewing my own clothes, so my mum bought me the Simplicity Fabric Guide (Ultimate Fiber Resource) book. It’s really good at explaining cloth construction, fabric descriptions, techniques relating to fabrics (like determining grain, pre-shrinking), fabric care etc. I use it often, and it’s been a real help.

Elle C

I like Sew Everything Workshop, the Singer Sewing Library Series, the photos are so clear and so close up, your book (not just saying that), the Built by Wendy books. I know a lot of people love the Readers Digest sewing book, I never warmed to it, I do have it though.


I’ve been reading the threads above, and alot of people have loved the Reader’s Digest Guide. Can you tell me what about it that you didn’t like?


I got out my sewing machine manual and learned everything my machine could do on scraps of fabric. Then when you read through pattern instructions you know what the stitches are and what your machine does and how to do it. You have a base for learning techniques written about in sewing books. I personally like books with patterns. I have yours and some others they are great value from beginners up. First I read them all the way though pattern instructions included suck all that info in then get on with making something from them.


I reviewed the Reader’s Digest Step-by-Step Guide: Sewing and Knitting a while ago. What is valuable to know about this book is that it has been republished a number of times (and renamed too) and has gotten smaller and less detailed each time, so getting on older edition is not only cheaper but extremely worthwhile. I picked up the 1993 version and love it to pieces. It has everything in there! I supplement it with the Alison Smith book which is also fantastic. I love the real photos and more modern pieces. But if I had to choose between, I’d pick the Digest!

My review is here:


I must weigh in on this one!
My new favorite to recommend to beginners is Threads Sewing Guide.
Otherwise I think Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide is terrific for sewists at all stages.

Haidi Collins

If I had to start again, I would buy your book and Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide. Your book because the illustrations are beautiful and clear and the instructions translate to the patterns very well. I would buy Claire Shaeffers book because she is a true master. The book is a bible, there is a wealth of information in this book that every sewist, beginner to advanced, should know.

Tiffany Simmons

I just took out “Sewing Machine Basics” by Jane Bolsover from the library and it seems to be a good beginners guide ( Good illustrations and it comes with some basic patterns.
I’m not a beginner myself, but it’s been about 15 years since I learned to sew and only sewed sparsly in the mean time. I’m looking it over to see if I’ve forgotten to do anything important when I sew.


I also wanted to say that Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp was an awesome book. This book got me to start sewing. She is an excellent teacher.

Sarai, I would love to hear what sewing books that you recommend to advance one’s sewing skills.

Sarah Diama

While not a book, my favorite resource for beginners is material from 4H sewing groups. It is great! it’s written with school age/high schooler ages in mind, but I’ve passed mine along to adult newbies and if you can a hold of it, it’s worth it. Ps, if you’re near a 4H center, don’t miss the fashion reviews, simply amazing and inspiring.

Brandy Rheuark

I have only been sewing for about 2 or 3 months now and everything I’ve learned has been self taught through books I’ve purchased or ones I get at the library. My routine over the last several months has been to pick up a stack at the library, sit down and look through each one, and if it grabs my attention or I feel like I’m learning and understanding then I continue to use it, or buy it (how I ended up with yours!). If I look through it once and its too complicated or too “textbook method” then I take it back the next day.

A few that I really like are:

The Sewing Machine Classroom, Charlene Phillips
— A perfect introduction to the very very basics that moves at a reasonable pace

The Ultimate Sewing Book, Maggi McCormick Gordon
— I use as a “reference book” to look up things I’m stuck on. Great detailed step-by-step photographs.

The Dressmaker’s Technique Bible, Lorna Knight
–The link is for the newer edition. The one I have is a little dated so the pictures are a little funny, but the basics don’t really change. Again great step-by-step instructions for different methods – specific to sewing clothes, as well as good explanations of why you might choose a specific technique or method or what garments commonly use them.

The Vintage Pattern Selector, Jo Barnfield
–Although the actual techniques and patterns in this book are a bit more advanced, what I love about the book as a rookie is how it breaks down all the trends and techniques that have emerged from 1920-present in fashion and dressmaking as well as how they are still incorporated in the fashion trends of today. Each section breaks down things like buttons, bias cutting, the little black dress, etc. Truly inspirational and good to know more about what influences style that we don’t even think about; however, the beginning sewist will most likely need to set the CD-ROM aside until after they’ve practiced a few more of Colette’s desgins. I know I am! ;)

I’ve probably looked through 50-75 books that cover either the basics of sewing or the basics of dressmaking… and those listed above in addition to yours are my go-to books. :)

I also have a few that I think are great for starter or mini projects (Zakka Style, I Love (Heart) Patchwork, etc…. but I feel like I’ve already written way too much. I just feel very passionate about helping someone like me filter out all the not-so-helpful stuff. It can be so discouraging!!


My first sewing book was Home Decor Sewing 101 (from the editors of Creative Publishing). As a beginner, I found the information invaluable as it taught all of the basics that one would need. The projects are simple, thoroughly explained, and provide mini-lessons on only a few concepts at a time.

The first project I tackled on my own was a pair of pillowcases. The book explains how to make bias tape; measure, make, and apply hem bands; add the bias tape; as well as suggests finishes for the inside. One can get good practice with sewing straight seams and not have to worry about fit. After almost 9 years of sewing, I still refer to this book when I need to make pillowcases.

Although I do very little home decor sewing now, I would recommend this book and its projects without hesitation.


When I was a beginner I turned to the Sewing Bible by Ruth Singer. I’d read about it on Liesl Gibson’s blog and it really came in handy.

Oh, and don’t forget blogs! It’s a wonderful time to start sewing!


my favourite is the sewing bible by Ruth Singer.


I’m relatively new to sewing, I got my first machine last year. My Mum and Grandma both refused to teach me sewing as they hate it! So I’ve taught myself through a combination of online blogs (All the bloggers make such a difference to us newbies!! So thanks) and books. While last year I purchased a couple of sewing books that weren’t too useful, for christmas I picked out ‘Dressmaking’ by Allison Smith which I understand is a truncated version of her larger sewing book. It is absolutely fantastic. I read it from cover to cover and it sits next to my sewing machine. I use it all the time to double check what I should do before I do it. The reason it is so good is because it has step by step pictures for absolutely everything. All the basic techniques you’ll need as well as advanced ones and then also things like a picture of each type of fabric and what it looks like up close. It also has about 24 patterns at the back with step by step pictures and instructions of how to put them together which I’ve also found helpful when putting other patterns together that don’t have good instructions. Note though that it is only about dressmaking which is all I intend to sew at this point.
Some of the things I found most intimidating when starting was fabric choice and buying patterns and pattern instructions, not the actual sewing! I may be weird but there you have it and this book covers all that as well as your sewing techniques better than other books.
Sorry for blabbering on, I just think this book has really helped me with moving from an absolute beginner to just a beginner and I think I’ll continue to get use of it as I go on to be an intermediate sewer (practice, practice, practice).


For a complete beginner, I would suggest three books, in addition to your book and the machine manual, Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover; Sewing Basics by Sandra Bardwell and an oldie but goldie, Sewing Basics by Patricia Moyes.


I believe that if you are an absolute debutante having too much information from the beginning it is more confusing than helping. That’s why I think books like Allison Smith the Sewing Book and the Reader’s Digest “New Complete Guide to Sewing” are a must in any good reference library but not so good for a beginner. They truly cover everything but sewing its much more than construction, its about understanding all the necessary processes to get a professional finish and you don’t get that with these books.

There is a very good vintage book for beginners called The Bishop method of sewing construction which I like very much. It’s similar to the Colette sewing handbook as it works by projects, from beginner to intermediate guiding you step by step in the construction of each item with lots of photos. As it works with projects it only teaches you the construction needed for each item and not all the possible finishes. But it includes chapters about materials, marking, cutting, pressing, and adapting the pattern… really covers all the basics. The strongest point of this book it is that insists a lot in good fundamental things like the grain of the fabric, good marking and cutting, pressing, staystiching, understitching, linings and facings…I don’t need it anymore but I still keep it with love.


I agree. As a beginner, some of the hugely comprehensive sewing books might feel overwhelming. I would think a beginner’s book would have to balance providing accurate essential skill building information with ease of understanding and a bit of gentle “hand holding.”


Hey, I’m not really a beginner sewer anymore but I’ve only recently started blogging about my sewing and one of my first posts was to review a book about choosing fabric, called ‘The Fabric Selector’ which I have found invaluable. The review is here
I think the range of fabrics can be really overwhelming and dazzling for beginners and this is a great little pocket sized guide.

Despite the Internet being a wonderful resource for seamstresses, I think books still absolutely have their place still.
The other book I have found useful has been an e-book version of The easy guide to sewing linings, by Connie Long. It’s very expensive in paper format at over $100 but I found it for about $14 as an E-book. I realise its not truly a beginner book but I just wanted to share it!


I think the new Merchant and Mills book would be an excellent choice for a beginner. It’s very practical, but also inspiring. It contains a series of projects designed to build up skills, ending with garments, but all of them are things you’d actually want to own and use. It also has introductory sections on fabrics, equipment and so on. It’s focus is on learning to do simple things very well.


The thing that annoys me about this is that it comes packaged in cellophane, and none of the bookshops I’ve seen it in have an opened copy to browse. As their sewing accessories are pretty expensive, I don’t want to commit to the book until I know it’s worth the money.


I am guessing that’s because of the loose patterns included in the book. You could try asking if you could look inside, or you could look at Amazon and see if there’s a preview feature there.

Mary Ellen

I taught a 4H sewing group, and the material from the K-State Extension Center is really good. The projects are pretty cutesy, but they are great for introducing skills and building on them, and the kids in my class liked them and won prizes at County Fair with them. I’m thinking that your local State University Extension Center would be a good resource.

I am also teaching my granddaughters to sew, and the book I use with them is “Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids” by Lynda Milligan and Nancy Smith. The reason I’m suggesting it here is that I learned to sew at a very young age and was propelled on a lifelong course of passionate sewing because of that. This book is a great way for Mom’s and kids to learn together.


The best book I’ve found that explains, well–everything–is Clothing Construction by Evelyn Mansfield. It gives the most solid foundation of any sewing book I’ve read. There is a lot of information in it, and it’s not the sort of book you can breeze through, but it’s worth the time.


I was an absolute beginner in May when I got my first machine, and I read “Sewing for Dummies”. Obviously not the first choice of everyone on here, but it has a very relaxed approached and it taught me a lot!

Mary B

I have used my dog-earred version of the Vogue Sewing Book for probably 30+ years. That and their companion book for knitting, are my two go to resources.


I love The Sewing Book by Alison Smith. It has great step-by-step photo tutorials for countless techniques.


I learnt to sew with Diana Rupp’s Sew Everything Workshop (a step-by-step guide for beginners). Really excellent book and one I always refer back to.


Although not really a book for beginners, I found the Vogue Sewing really useful when I was starting out sewing, it has such clear descriptions in it for pretty much every technique I’ve ever used and probably ever will. It’s always at hand when I’m working on anything.


im always looking for great books about making your own patterns

Mary Ellen

I like “Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified by Cal Patch.


I am currently a rank beginner and am buy, checking out from my library, and taking from my mom and grandmother’s library. Some of the ones I like have been listed above (Readers Digest), and others I found didn’t work for me.

These are three of the ones I really like:

1-2-3 Sew: Build Your Skills with 33 Simple Projects. I like how it tells you what you learn making something, then build upon that with something else.

McCall’s Easy Sewing Book from 1962. This has the clearest explanations and examples I’ve seen; I love their section on selecting patterns to make you look taller, slimmer, broader shouldered, etc.

Sewing 101: Master Basic Skills and Techniques Easily through Step-by-Step Instructions from Look, Learn & Create


‘The Sewing Book’ by Alison Smith (

When I took up sewing, I wasn’t a complete beginner (I hadn’t sewn since I was about 10, which was some time ago…. :| ) as I’d tried myself a few times and watched others, but I am certainly no master of the basics.

That’s why I like Alison’s book – it’s great reference for a really broad range of techniques and topics (the guide to fabrics is awesome). It’s good if you know what you want to achieve but don’t know the best way to go about it. For example, last weekend I stitched a jersey lining into a (itchy as hell!) woolen beanie, and I looked up Alison’s book to decide which hand-stitch would be the best.

The photographs are the real winner here – very clear. Which is good because some of the explanations can be ambiguous.

But for absolute, rank beginners, nothing beats watching and learning alongside a person experienced in sewing.


The Singer Sewing library series is what I used when first starting on garment sewing. Love the clarity of the photos and explanations . The Vogue Sewing book or Readers Digest come in next. For today’s sewing, just browse the internet or join a good forum like patternreview and they’ll point you the right way.

gabriel ratchet

i learned to sew some 45 years ago in the local 4H program and went on to earn blue ribbons at the county fair. i still remember making a sewing box by covering a cigar box (courtesy of my grandfather, but not an uncommon item at the time) in fabric that matched my apron project and modeling them in the 4H “fashion show.” Project Runway, it was not! but if you want basic and comprehensive skills for the absolute beginner, the 4H curriculum is hard to beat…

Marti Bell

I have a lot of books. I started sewing when I was 10 in 1957 and I had no books then, just my mother and the patterns themselves. I bought myself a VOGUE SEWING when I was a teenager and I thought it was the last word. It was lost when a moving van was stolen and I never thought the later editions were as good. Now I recommend THE COMPLETE BOOK OF SEWING: A practical step-by-step guide to sewing techniques, published by DK Books. Like all DK publications, the illustrations are superb. It covers nearly every area of general sewing one needs to know in 317 pages. Beyond this one needs specialized books on specific subjects. You can ask me about those too.


I loved Stitch by Stitch by Deborah Moebes. I think it made sense to start at the beginning where you learn to thread the machine and wind the bobbin and sew in a straight line and then go to making bigger and bigger projects. I guess it appealed to me wanting someone to hold my hand a little bit while I was learning! Stitch by Stitch was like having someone there. She has a friendly tone in her writing and the book makes a lot of sense.


It’s taking a while cause I’ve been thinking about this. For an absolute beginner the Alison Smith book is good as is your own book Sarai. But I have used the Readers Digest book for years. Everything is in there well indexed. By today’s standards I guess my old version is kind of staid but its the one I go to when trying something new.


Even though I have been sewing off and on for a few years, I find that the Burda Style Sewing Handbook and the Colette Sewing Handbook used together have the best information, where one lacks the other picks up.


Your Collette Sewing Handbook basically took me from having a go to understanding the concepts and definitions of sewing. Also I read it cover to cover the first night I got it due to the readable style and nice layout. I just supplement it with youtube vids and feel its all I’ll ever need. Thanks for asking, my friends and fam are surely sick to death of hearing about it :)


While not as sophisticated as the other titles listed, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sewing by Missy Shepler is a great beginners book.

Cynthia Farris

I am looking for a book that was for beginners by simplicity. It had pictures for every step in the book.

Karrie Smith

Besides all those great books, I found it really helpful to re-read my sewing machine manual every few months when I became more familiar with the different fabrics and terms. I didn’t realize how easy the tension on my machine is to change, and the lady’s at the Viking Store in my local Joann’s scared me to death when my Mom was buying me a free-motion foot for my bday. She was told not to buy it because the women said the foot would mess up my tension and I would need to get my machine serviced. It’s second=hand information, but my mom knows enough about sewing to pass on that message correctly. I didn’t use that foot for a year because I was afraid to mess up my simple machine.

The library is a good place to start and just check out a bunch of books about sewing. You can also find some sewing books under the “quilting” section. Sewing is in the 500’s and quilting is in the 700’s, plus check out the oversized book section for the big books that are too big to fit normally on the shelves.

Hope this helps!

We’re sorry, comments for this post have been closed.