Sewing Vloggers

Friday, January 28, 2022

Three Contemporary Sewing Books,, Reviewed

I love books, books on any sort of creative endeavor even more. When we moved from NY state, it was time to face the reality of a lifetime accumulation. I had always wanted to learn all I could about any sort of art or craft that gained my attention. My personal library ran the gamut from macramé to haute couture and everything in between. I had some of the original Fox Fire books and really loved those. I had the whole Time Life saga of crafts. Those were fabulous in depth studies into almost every craft practiced in America that could come to mind and some I never heard of. If it was a sewing book I had I probably had it. All those bound small books published by Australian Smocking and Embroidery about heirloom sewing, embroidery, children's clothing , the A-Z series , I had them all and still do most. I know they are quite valuable today and are treasures of incredible skill with a needle. Quilting? Don't even ask about all those! They so inspired and taught me. All of these books fed my brain and my creativity long before the internet existed.  I read and re-read them all. I could go on an on as there were so many more on so many subjects that I dabbled or played in seriously over the years. They gave me much pleasure. 

When I lived in NY I worked in a wonderful library with wonderful people, the best job I ever had, for 7 years. Various reasons presented that told my husband and myself that it was time to move back "home" from our 13 year retirement in the beautiful wilderness of northern NY. I sadly left my library work and friends but donated some of my acquisitions there. I could not bring all those books to my potentially smaller new sewing space. Many books were donated to and greatly appreciated by a large quilting guild in Northern NY. Others, at the end, were sold in our yard sale. I brought with me, back to NH and what turned out to be a nice large space, one shelf full of books, just those that applied to sewing in one form or another.  I did keep all of those A-Z Australian Smocking and Embroidery books, such a delight to peruse, but the rest were strictly sewing related. 

I currently have probably every great sewing tome written over the last fifty years and some wonderful vintage ones as well in that collection. In the past 15 years I think the only new book I purchased was Claire Shaeffer's Chanel jacket book which she kindly autographed for me. However,  in the past 6 months I have purchased 3 wonderful books that I will share with you. 

I gave thought as to why I hadn't purchased any books in so long. It did seem that every blogger out there was writing a book of some sort in the dawn of the blogosphere. I saw them all as they came into my library. It was project book after project book., pretty simple projects. Some had patterns for the ever present rectangle based designs that we still see indies popping out today. They were all pretty much beginner based as well. Often they showed ill fitting clothing as well as poorly made garments or they even had just plain wrong information.  I mean, can  you iron before you put it in a book? You know who they are. It's all documented in the archives of Pattern Review but that is all old news. What is good to know is that some books have stood the test of time and newbie sewists are still finding them right now and enjoying how great they are, like the Singer sewing series. 

The three books I have purchased over the last 6 months are really good.  They are based in niche sewing but as per my usual , when the bug bit, I researched deeply before I laid out my money. Here is what I found worth every penny, were highly rated by others who read them, and in my opinion were the best of the best in their niche. 

This is a book on how to sew knit fabric, EVERYTHING on how to sew knit fabric, by knit expert and pattern designer, Linda Lee of the The Sewing Workshop.  She describes all the different types of knit fabrics out there, not an easy thing to do, and how to sew each one.  By that I mean she suggests needles, thread, techniques,  prepping the fabric, hem treatments, etc etc etc.  

The pictures and text are very clear, logical and easy to understand. I have been referring to this a lot and find her techniques really give me a quality finish without a lot of fuss. I highly recommend this book as a basic knit reference book for every sewist as well as a wonderful gift for a newbie or return sewist just starting to dabble in the world of knits. It has helped me tremendously.  Also, Lee has  videos on sewing knits,  other fabrics and her designs available nearly every week on youtube.   While there is a fair amount of selling her patterns and fabrics, there is always some great sewing info to learn as well as a lot of inspiration.  I recommend this book highly as well as her videos. She knows her subject and is not stuck in old methods of sewing knits as most knit books tend to be. She is not afraid of a raw edge or using notions to help her garments to look their best, like lots of fusible tapes and such.  

I have seriously gotten into mending lately and thoroughly enjoying it.  It is a vast landscape of techniques, as varied as the garments we wear. There are many books out there. It seems anyone who can do a running stitch has suddenly decided to do a mending book. I was getting tired of looking for something  with more substance but also more broad in it's approach. Many mending books were very specific, particularly to sashiko or what some called sashiko but wasn't even close.  Frankly, there are some awful mending books out there but there are some beauties as well.  After looking at tons, I have found this book by Australian Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald to be the best mending book out there.  Why?  

 This book covers so many techniques from speedweving (yes, that's the correct spelling) to Scotch darning to Swiss darning, sashiko and lots, lots more, far more than I can describe here. Lewis-Fitzgerald encourages creativity and the use of products on hand to mend if possible but goes deeply into all the tools necessary to do great mending, discussing types of scissors, threads, yarns, and so much more. As she teaches you can tell she's tried it all and she tells you why and why not to do things a certain way with a certain product or tool. She explains why the often obvious tool or thread may not be the best tool or thread for a specific textile. She is a great teacher and her book sparks. She generously offers resources in her book that other authors would be too insecure to share, IMO.  She has done all of her own photography and did it very well. One of the biggest reasons I like her book compared to others is that it has such a logical learning  sequence. She makes it effortless to understand this craft and what can be achieved.  

I have learned so much from this book already. If you are catching the mending to save the planet trend or just want to keep up your garments that you have worked so hard to sew and get fitted properly, this book will teach you how. You will learn how to maintain them in top form as well as how to repair the stupid mistakes we all make. Haven't we all slashed a beautiful bodice with our sergers or maybe a sleeve off? This book even discusses dyeing possibilities to make your garments last. I am really excited about this topic and the contents of this book and highly recommend it. There is no mystique here. It is all clear  and understandable and builds from her initial discussion of her philosophy of mending and saving  the planet.  From there you gradually move to quite involved mends and lots of great resources toward reaching that end. Generosity, skill and experience are her hallmarks. 


Sashiko stitching has really grabbed my attention. I would like to learn to do it well.  It's nothing but a simple running stitch you say? You are right, but try executing it beautifully. Like all fine crafts that have endured for centuries, it has many fine points and subtle technicalities that require lots of practice and learning. This book will teach them to you. There are tons of mending books out there regarding sashiko that are more "boro" stitched garments. In those you see patches layered on the garment and rough, uneven excuses for sashiko stitching  done with what we called "in and out" stitches when I was a little girl. Just like necessary quilts in the dawn of the quilt age. these garments were necessary and their style expresses their purpose and need. But also, like today's quilting, Sashiko has developed into a beautiful artform and that is what I wanted to learn, not the charming patch style. I will say at this point my work is looking more patch style but I am trying to practice daily. This book will teach you beautiful sashiko and how to achieve it.  Again, there are some excellent teachers on youtube to help on this journey as well. Watch the Japanese experts first to see what to strive for in your journey. 

This book provides you with MANY templates for stitching beautiful and sometimes elaborate designs. This sewing sport can get really complicated and challenging.  I  pledged to keep at it and get better.  This book is beautiful  and the subject is actually beautiful in it's simplicity. Anyone can do this stitching. This book will inspire you. At my local quilt shop they had a lovely exhibit of completed sashiko samples and a pillow and a bag and all the tools needed and this book and others. Everything was beautiful, really beautiful. This book and its content shone above the others.  It is one of those books that is a treat to look at, one to savor with a cup of nice tea or glass of wine. If you are looking for a sewing book that will tell you something that you never knew, inspire you greatly, and just be a joy to read, this is it. Enjoy. 

So here I offer you three great books to add to your sewing library. Is this an honest review? She just likes them all so much? Frankly, I pour over my book purchases carefully before I plunk down my plastic. I walk away from what doesn't make my reading time worthwhile.  At this point a sewing book has to be something that will teach me what I don't know.  It has to be written by someone who really knows far more than me and is very good at expressing that knowledge. I need clarity in text and pictures. I despise books that jump around and do not follow a logical sequence. Above all I like to LOOK at the book, turn the pages, see my passion being expressed by another person who is as passionate about fiber arts as I am. I like a book that I can savor. If you are of a like mind, you will enjoy these as well. I hope this helps you toward your next book purchase. I believe all of these were available digitally as well. Happy Sewing!...................Bunny


  1. Great Post, especially modern mending.....Will be adding this to my book shelf

  2. Thanks for your review of these books. Like you I'm being more discerning regarding what I add to my sewing library since it's overflowing with good information already. Of the three you mentioned the Linda Lee book on knits appealed. Do you own the threads book on Sewing with Knits by Connie Long? If so, how does it compare? Trying to decide if I need to add one more book on sewing with knits to my library. Thanks for any info you can share.

    1. No, I don't, Carolyn. I can tell you it is not about bodies. There are the needed instructions for doing a the necessary adjustments, divided by length and circumference alterations. She also gets into dealing with ease really well. It is not a book with bodies showing different fit problems with knits and how to fix. It focuses very specifically o the fabrics and how to sew them. It is very updated on those fabrics with discussions on French Terry, ITY knits, and a lot others that I knew nothing about. The book is really about the actual sewing of the knits and extremely helpful in that regard. I think you would find it different enough from Long's and a bit more contemporary, worth the investment.

    2. Just my opinion, but I was less impressed by Linda Lee's Sewing with Knits. I'd suggest checking it out from the library first. Which I did, and then decided not to buy it.

    3. That is one of the ways I do my research as well. I do miss working at the library. Part of my job involved processing every new book that came in so I got a front row seat on most new sewing books that came out. I also had the hammer to nix them when we did our weekly sayonaras from the catalogue.
      As far as Lee's book, I have sewn, by choice, mostly woven and natural fiber garments most of my life. I am definitely not the most knowledgeable person on the subject of knit fabrics and her book answered the questions I had, clearly. I learned a great deal from her book, which maybe tells you a lot about my level of knowledge, but for me it was a great addition to my library. I find it a great and easy to use reference. We all have our different needs when it comes to seeking knowledge and I hope you have a book on knits that works for you, or perhaps even better, don't even need one.

  3. I sympathize with having to cull the library. My poor overstuffed shelves could use some relief, but so far I've had little success when I do give it a go. I can say the same as far as culling fabric - why can't I get rid of that fake tiger fur? The patterns were easiest to thin out.

    I agree with your opinion on many of the sewing books put out in the last 10-ish years. Thanks for the book reviews. I think I just heard my shelves whimper.

    1. You're welcome, Gail. I think the trick to doing a library purge is finding the right people to appreciate your donations. I know that meant a lot to me. The Director of the library trusted me when I said that she really needed to add this to the catalogue and she did with all of my suggestions/donations. It also made me feel like I left something behind for our community. Other donations went elswhere where they were appreciated. Now tiger fur, I'd be hoarding that for a special moment, too! ;)

  4. Hi found your blog by random & picked it because of the post title of sewing book reviews! Super happy to see my current favourite - and much used- book here, “ Simply Sashiko” ! I have done quite a few sashiko projects thanks to the brilliant clear instructions in the book, and just gave a copy to my best friend, instead of lending her my copy all the time!

    1. Ooo, thanks for the validation. You are way ahead of me! It is a beauty of a book.

  5. I too love books and have groaning bookshelves. I have the knit book by Linda Lee and agree its very good regarding sewing with knits (I feel she is a master sewer).

    Your review on the other two was very compelling and two areas I have an interest in. So, yep, I have them on order. So, thanks, I think. Seriously, I love your blog and appreciate the inspiration and knowledge I take from it.

    Hope you are staying safe and warm. Jean

  6. I just ordered the book on knits from Linda Lee - it looks great!
    I'm an experienced sewist and ya can't have too many sewing books. Thanks for the review. I love your blog.



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