Learning to Sew

by on May 31st, 2017
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My mother is a talented seamstress. Everything she sews has a professional look from the curtains on her windows to my childhood Halloween costumes. She hems pants, takes in shirts, and replaces zippers with ease. But she did not transfer any of these skills to me. Since I live half a country away, I cannot have her “help” me with her projects, so this year, I decided to learn to sew and these books helped immensely.

Need help demystifying the sewing machine? Marie Clayton’s How to Use a Sewing Machine is your best bet. The book goes over everything you need to know about the machine, from adjusting tension to picking the right needle, to changing the stitch size. Plus, there is a great section on sewing jargon. Nicole Vasbiner’s Sewing Machine Secrets is also a good choice.

If you are ready to sew some stitches, Shea Henderson’s School of Sewing is a great place to start. sewingHenderson walks you through twelve beginner projects step-by-step, each teaching you a new skill. With this book alone, I learned French seams, boxed corners, and bias tape through making a pillowcase, a draw-string bag, and an apron. This book was used in a four-week sewing class at a local craft store and I left the class much more confident, tackling all the projects in the book.  For more on basic skills, look to Carolyn Denham’s Merchant & Mills Sewing Book.

sundaysewsFor learning about clothing, I turned to Theresa Gonzalez’s Sunday Sews. All the projects in this book, from tank tops to dresses to skirts, are simply-designed and intended to only take a few hours to execute. I was so worried to make darts, pleats, and armholes, but Gonzalez’s directions are well-illustrated and easy to follow. Sewing her Tessa Tank was a piece of cake.

I also enjoy the easy, adaptable patterns in Lotta Jansdotter’s Everyday Style. There are only five patterns in the book (skirt, dress, shirt, pants, and coat), but you can change each pattern to fit the season and your needs. This book really helped me understand how fabric choices transform a piece of clothing—both color and weight. Other books on sewing clothes include Tilly Walnes’ Love at First Stitch and Michiyo Ito’s Simply Sewn.

If you want to expand beyond clothing, try Anna Graham’s Handmade Style. Although you’ll find a fewhandmade-style dresses and tops in her book, Graham devotes most of her book to bags, tech cases, and home goods. Her picnic blanket sews up like a breeze and looks lovely. Sanae Ishida’s Sewing Happiness also has some beautiful accessories.

No matter your sewing abilities, whether you are like my mother and can create your own wardrobe, or like myself and never threaded a sewing machine, the Iowa City Public Library has what you need to inspire your next sewing project or teach you a new skill.

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