I remember when I first started sewing and wondering which ones were the best sewing books for beginners like me. I was equally excited, overwhelmed and disappointed by the small selection of good sewing books on offer at my local bookshop. There was never a big selection, and I've found that even bigger bookshops in Brisbane don't seem to carry many more than a couple of different titles. Usually their sewing for beginners books aren't particularly recent, or seem to be a little dated and targeting the blue rinse brigade (in other words, not me!). It was very hard to choose a ‘how to sew book' that would be suitable for my beginner skills.
In fact, when it comes to finding good sewing books, Australia doesn't seem to have too many options. Which is one of the many reasons I'm a big fan of both The Book Depository (yay for fast and free international shipping) and Amazon US (not a fan of the insane US shipping fees though 🙁 ).
Thankfully though, since then I've found some great sewing books that not only will answer any question you've ever had when learning to sew but are completely worth the small purchase price and a space in your sewing library. In fact, some of these sewing books are on my list of essential sewing tools, and I cannot live without them.
Unfortunately, some of these titles are getting hard to find at brick and mortar bookshops, so to help ensure you can get your own copy I've tracked them all down at either The Book Depository, which is where I buy almost all my books (gotta love that super-fast free international shipping, hey? 😉 ), or Amazon US.
1. The Sewing Book by Alison Smith
The Sewing Book is easily one of the top sewing books available today. Written by Alison Smith and published in 2015, it's a hefty and comprehensive book that covers a wide variety of techniques and projects suitable for a beginner all the way up to advanced sewing enthusiasts. Unfortunately, it's getting very difficult to find in Australia now; however, you can still get it from The Book Depository for less than 50 Aussie bucks (and free international shipping!).
If you're looking for one of the best learn to sew books for beginners, then don't go past this gem!
Definitely grab a copy if you can find one locally, or get your copy from The Book Depository now.
2. Sewing Happiness by Sanae Ishida
I recently borrowed Sewing Happiness from my local library and immediately fell in love with it. I ended up having to order my very own copy after I had borrowed the library's copy for three weeks, then renewed it for another three. It was pretty clear I needed this title in my sewing library. What makes it so good, I hear you ask? Quite simply, it's just a beautiful book — both in its photos, styling and simple and thoughtful projects, as well as the personal essays on sewing and growth that Sanae has included at the beginning of each chapter.
Although this book is technically not Japanese, it definitely takes its simplicity and styling cues from them. I love its big nod to Japanese sewing books, and the fact that it's written in English (and not Japanese) means it's a much more accessible beginner sewing book.
Do yourself a favour and get your own copy of Sewing Happiness now. You won't regret it, I promise!
3. The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick
This lovely book comes courtesy of Sarai Mitnick from Colette Patterns and focuses on dressmaking techniques, not home decor sewing. The structure of The Colette Sewing Handbook is a little different to other sewing books, which I really like. It takes the sewing beginner on a journey rather than putting all the technical information at the beginning of the book and the patterns and step-by-step instructions towards the end.
Each chapter covers essential techniques then incorporates those techniques into the chapter’s sewing project. All the projects are for women's clothing and includes full-sized patterns at the back, so it's perfect if you're new to dressmaking. The Colette Sewing Handbook covers all essential sewing techniques in an easy to understand way, and the projects are classic and feminine.
I think this is one of the best sewing books with patterns on the market today, and you can buy it here.
4. You Sew, Girl by Nicole Mallalieu
Written by Melbourne-based stitcher and sewing teacher Nicole Mallalieu, this book is a favourite of mine. It’s marketed as the ‘ultimate guide to sewing with confidence and style,’ and I have to agree. Nicole's projects include a few bags, hats and accessories here, as well as instructions for seven pattern-free clothing pieces.
Her instructions are clear and easy to follow, too. There aren’t too many Australians writing sewing books these days. The only other Australian sewing and craft author I can think of is Pip Lincolne, but unfortunately her wonderful Sew La Tea Do is out of print. (If you see it in an op shop or secondhand bookshop, snaffle it up!).
You Sew, Girl is one of the best books on sewing for beginners available in 2018. You can buy it here now.
5. Seams To Me by Anna Maria Horner
Seams To Me was one of the very first sewing books I bought when I was a beginner. It explains everything clearly, and most of the projects are very simple and straightforward. It was published in 2008 so it's starting to get a bit harder to find this title both in-store and online. Seams To Me mostly focuses on homewares and accessories, although there are some basic clothing patterns too. In my experience, getting started on simple bags, cushions and other homewares is a great confidence boost before moving on to clothing patterns where measuring yourself, adjusting fit and using some tricking techniques can get beginners unstuck.
6. Dressmaking Step By Step by Alison Smith
When you’re ready to move on to sewing your own clothes, I can highly recommend Dressmaking Step By Step by Allison Smith. She includes some easy projects suitable for beginners, before moving on to some slightly more advanced projects such as classic jackets with collars. There are lots of photos clearly illustrating each step, and there are plenty of classic projects that won’t go out of style.
Usually the best price of Dressmaking Step By Step can be found by clicking here.
7. Essential Sewing by Tessa Evelegh
I picked up a copy of this book just recently, and it’s inspired me to wear more dresses again. It has a good range of clothing patterns, as well as projects for the home such as curtains, roman blinds and a laundry bag, among others. It includes a pattern from Tilly Walnes (of Tilly And The Buttons fame) and two Simplicity patterns.
This book includes some of the best sewing projects for beginners available in sewing books on the market in 2018. I think it's one of the best beginner sewing books, too.
You might be able to pick up a copy from QBD, if you're in Australia, otherwise your best bet to is to buy it from Amazon.
8. Sew What! Skirts by Francesca Denhartog and Carole Ann Camp
This was my first introduction to pattern drafting, and I discovered just how quick, simple and easy drafting a skirt pattern can be. The projects are fun, and there’s quite a large variety of skirt types covered in this book.
Sew What! Skirts is one of the easiest and best pattern making books for beginners in 2018. It’s an accessible introduction for skirt pattern drafting and sewing, and so there’s not too much technical information.
This is quite an old title but you can still find it by clicking here.
9. Love At First Stitch, by Tilly Walnes
I have to confess, I don’t have this book in my collection, yet, but as it’s written by sewing blogger Tilly Walnes, and it’s won a couple of awards, then I can’t say it will be long before it ends up in my library. Tilly has also just released her latest Tilly and the Buttons book, which covers everything you ever wanted to know about sewing with stretch fabrics (such as knits). It's entitled ‘Tilly and the Buttons: Stretch' and can be found at the Book Depository now.
10. The Sewing Machine Classroom by Charlene Phillips
This is another book that isn't in my library (yet!); however, I've included it here because it's a very popular book in the sewing community. It's one of the best sewing machine books for beginners, as it covers everything to do with using your sewing machine, to troubleshooting problems and do basic maintenance as well.
So that's my list of good sewing books for beginners, and I'm sure there's something on my list that will suit you! If you're just starting out, please remember that you don't need to be the best seamstress to enjoy making something for yourself to wear (and enjoy). In fact, learning to sew can be about treading lightly on the environment, too.
Of course, if I've missed your favourite sewing book for beginners, then let me know in the comments below — thanks!