I do not think THE perfect sewing book exists. Maybe that is my justification for owning so many reference books about sewing, but there are so many different levels of sewing ability and so many topics to cover that the one perfect book seems to be elusive. That said, there are lots of great sewing books, and I think Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner’s Guide with 25 Fabulous Original Designs, Including 10 Patterns , by Diana Rupp is one of them. If you are a beginning sewist I would suggest you take a look at this book. I think it might also be a good reference for someone who is beyond the absolute beginner stage, but has not had many classes or much training and still has lots of questions.
Here’s what I like about this book:
- Lots of good prep material before you even sit down at the sewing machine. Chapter 1 is Gearing Up, and covers organizing a sewing space, assembling a tool kit, and shopping for a sewing machine. I particularly like her comment on page 19 regarding the right kind of machine for basic sewing, “You need something as solid straightforward, and plastic free as you are“. Hits a nerve with me – plastic in sewing machines is evil.
- Great pictures, and lots of them.
- The “tip” callouts are actually useful tips, and generally next to a picture of a technique. For example, on page 37 she includes her “Curve Tip: Pssst! You’ll get much better results if you move the needle up and down with the flywheel when things get tricky. It gives you more control than if you use the foot pedal alone.” Nicely done. I always tell my students they could sew an entire garment turning the flywheel by hand. Slowly and tediously, but still….!
- I love her Ten Fabric Commandments on page 65. “1. Only buy fabric you love.” Right on.
- In Chapter 4, Laying and Cutting Out, she does a great job of covering the basic information included in commercial patterns. This is something every beginning sewist struggles with, and I think Diana’s coverage of this topic is particularly informative.
- I love, love, love the way the projects are presented. On the first page of every project she lists the difficulty level, materials, tools, amount of yardage needed, techniques that will be employed AND where each one is defined (sweet!!), the seam allowance used, and the pattern pieces needed. GREAT overview of the project clearly outlined right up front. Seriously – this alone makes the book worth the purchase price.
Things I would do differently:
- I think a glossary of sewing terms in one concise location would be helpful. She does define a lot of terms, but they are sprinkled throughout the book (and indexed so you CAN find them), I just like central glossaries.
- Not enough fitting information. Many (most?) people who attempt garment sewing are frustrated with how their completed garments fit. I get that it is a whole topic worthy of a separate book, but she skimped too much in this area.
- I would not have included some of the “fashion garments” (i.e. the Girly Go-To Dress) in the projects section. IMHO, there are much better designed dresses available commercially, and WAY too many figure variations on real bodies to get much real success with this kind of project in a book for beginners. See #2 above.
I found Diana’s projects to be reasonable. I am a tough critic in this arena – I think most projects included in sewing books are stoo-pid and ugly – and with the exception of the Lucky Scrap Scarf – her projects are definitely well above that bar. One caveat: I did not use any of her patterns so I have no idea how well drafted they are. I will leave that task for someone else. 🙂
Overall, this book is WELL worth the price and would be a good addition to most home sewing libraries. If you own it or have used it, I’d love to hear what YOU think. Post a comment and let me know!
Link to purchase S.E.W. from Amazon
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