March 7, 2007

I'm Begging You!

My Friend Jess, who is blogless but occasionally posts in comments, wants to learn to sew clothing - for herself. She is young, cute, hip, trendy, childless (although she has two dogs). Currently she is living in Kansas - which is far from where I am to help her. She knits and can follow a knitting pattern and before her hubby got his marching orders (career Army) that had them leaving California - she started quilting. We have discussed quilting and while Jess and I both love the look of it - it's too matchy-matchy for both of us. So - here's where I'm needing all your help. If you could only have one fitting book, what would it be? Does it have pictures? Is it easy to find the answer? I like Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina - but I don't like her pictures. They are always drawings and it's hard to know if that really is the problem that I'm having. How about a basic technique book? You know, the one that shows different seam finishing, talks about straightening fabric and laying pieces out "on the grain." Again, does this book have pictures? Are they clear and make sense? On the 'net who has the best helpful information. What blogs would give her helpful information - that's not too in depth, but not geared toward a total moron? I'm sure you all know what I'm getting at. Jess' birthday is around the corner and I would like to put a care package together for her. I know she'll read this entry and hopefully there will be tons of comments she can read too. Jess recently asked me in an email for an easy skirt pattern. All my favorite skirts have zippers and waistbands - maybe not the best for someone just starting out. We want success here folks! She's looking for something with an elastic waistband. So, again, what's your favorite easy skirt pattern. Something that will give sewing satisfaction so she continues to learn. Currently she's looking at making some cute summer skirts from quilting cottons. I personally like to use quilting cottons for summer skirts - they don't have to be lined, are generally quick to make, and I always feel great wearing a cute skirt that nobody else has. So - I'm begging you - please post a comment. Let me know what the one reference book is that you refer back to time and time again. The one that helps you figure out layout and the best seaming. The one that leads you toward different ways to insert elastic to get a smooth waistband. Which fitting book shows you if the bust is too tight, or how to adjust for wide hips and/or full thighs (those are my problems). I would also like to ask if you do visit and don't necessarily have a favorite, would you mind asking people to pop on over from your own blog? I want this to be a great birthday gift, something that really encourages and inspires her to move forward with this - even if she doesn't have any help locally. Thank you - I know that more of you than are listed on my sidebar links (guess I should really update those) have helped me to expand my skills, to work outside my comfort zone and to try new things. Thank you.


  1. I'm a beginner sewer and not having access to sewing classes have found the readers digest complete guide to sewing invaluable.Also has been a great source of information and the sewing divas joint website and their individual ones.Vogue sewing book is ok as well.Another beginners book I have is Sew U: The Built by Wendy Guide to Making Your Own Wardrobe which includes a skirt pattern and while not as comprehensive as the others is less intimidating as a result.The other books I refer to when working through a pattern.Hope this helps!

  2. For a book, I like Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina. I'll have to check at home for my other books to see which I prefer.

    For a simple skirt with elastic waistband, I made Simplicity 7655. Very, very easy bias cut skirt. My review of it is here:

    For sewing blogs with good info, my personal favorite is Stitches and Seams (Debbie Cook). I find Sewing Divas moderately okay, but a bit too advanced for the beginner. Plus, they don't update often enough to maintain my interest.

    I'll put something on my blog to send people here, but likely they'll be the same people that come here anyway. :) Hope this helps.

  3. Gaylen, you rock!

  4. One of my all time favorite patterns is the "Cute Skirts" pattern from Favorite Things.

    It has a flat front but an elastic waist in the back. There are three different options in the one pattern--a plain skirt, one with a ruffle, and one with gores. I made a lot of these last summer and plan to do more this summer. Super easy and I've never been disappointed with the result.

  5. For an overall guide to sewing that is suitable for a beginner, I recommend "The New Sewing Essentials". For a fitting book I recommend "The Perfect Fit". Both are published by Creative Publishing International. They are part of the Singer Sewing Reference Library, which is now published by Creative Publishing International.

    New Sewing Essentials covers almost everything, has lots and lots of photos, and is clearly written.

    Perfect Fit also has lots of photos showing various fitting problems and clear explanations of their solutions. The problems are shown on real people - they actually sewed samples that each demonstrated a specific fitting problem and photographed them on models.

    A lot of people (including me) like "Fit for Real People" but I do not recommend it for an absolute beginner. It puts a lot of emphasis on tissue fitting, which is a lot trickier than you might think, and most of the fitting problems are shown with line drawings. There are photos showing the fitting process on real people, which are very helpful and interesting, but I would not recommend this as one's only fitting book. has a fantastic message board where sew-ers discuss every aspect of sewing and help each other a lot. Beginners receive lots of encouragement and advice if they ask for help.


  6. Gaylen ~ I would agree about the Singer Sewing Series. They are chockful of information, have great pictures and walk you easily from point A to point B. Those were the books I acquired first and used extensively! Try some of those inconjunction with the others listed. A book that is a little more advanced but garment specific is Taunton's Easy Guide to Sewing Skirts. Skirts are the most satisfying garment to produce IMHO & this book by Marcy Tilton is chockful of pictures and instructions. You might be able to find it from Hamilton Books at anywhere from $3.95 to 7.95!

    What a nice thing to do for your friend!

  7. Well it looks like the ones I was going to suggest have already been mentioned! I was going to suggest the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. It has a little bit of everything & really good pictures/drawings. I also recently got Pant for Real People. I think that this great because they show many body types in real pictures & how to fit different types of pants to that figure. I know that you aren’t looking for pants, but I know that there is another Fit For Real People book out there. I haven’t seen that one in person but if it is like the pants book it might be worth checking out as well.

    Power Sewing Step-By-Step by Sandra Betzina has great pictures also. Might be something to check out (try the library too, many have them & its free!).

    As for skirt patterns I know that Beki ( has made several from the "Cute Skirts" pattern from Favorite Things. They are really cute!

    Also I picked up the book “Sew What! Skirts” by Francesca Denhartog & Carole Ann Camp & really like it. There are 16 styles that they walk you through making from scratch from your measurements, from the pattern to the finished skirt. It explains all the basics that you will need to make the skirts (sewing terms, tools, notions, hoe to measure, etc). In the introduction it says “It is possible to make all the skirts in this book with a few basic sewing skills. If you have a sewing machine but have been afraid to take it out of the box, this book is for you.” For skirts I think that she would get a lot of mileage out of this book. I would defiantly check it out if you want to make skirts. They pictures are really cute & modern. They ever show how to make an A-skirt from a vintage tablecloth! Super cute!

    For sites I would say Debbie Cook (mentioned above) Stacy Sews ( I sew but don’t go into as much great detail as these ladies with how I got to the end (maybe I should work on that), but I would be happy help her out if I can.
    Good luck on you quest!

  8. Thanks guys! This is great information so far - keep it coming!!!! I saw the Singer Sewing Series book on Fitting at Barnes & Noble yesterday only didn't realize it was the old Singer book - it looked great! I found a problem I had been having just flipping through.

    I also checked out the New Vogue Complete Guide - was suitably impressed. Some things I missed along the way were covered - like straightening the grain and how to shrink wool at home.

    I've seen Beki's super cute skirts. I looked for Favorite Things at our Expo this year for that skirt pattern, but they weren't there this year.

    You guys are great. Thank you again. g

  9. The first true fitting book I ever used was Nancy Zieman's...that was back in the day! Now I think that info is in Fitting Finesse, but I haven't looked at it enough to know if it's suitable for a beginner or not.

    Most of what I've learned is that it kind of takes a multi-method approach to get a good fit...the Pivot/Slide is a good way to alter the pattern, but I don't like the way they have you compute how much to alter the pattern; it all gets divided evenly amongst the seam allowances, instead of consideration given to exactly *where* the extra fabric should be placed. Gale Grigg Hazen's book Fit for Every Body (I think that's it...I'm too lazy to walk into the other room and check) is really good for that, but the pattern alteration methods there-in sometimes require a second person.

    My favorite easy skirt patterns would be any of Loes Hinse's ;)

  10. One of my favorite sewing reference books is the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. I picked up my 1970s copy in a second hand book store.

    Another favorite is DK The Complete Book of Sewing: A practical step-by-step guide to sewing techniques. Lots and lots of detailed photographs to go with the text. I also have the Singer Sewing Series but don't use them as often as these other two.

    For fitting? I refer to Fit for Real People the most.

    For skirt? I agree that the book “Sew What! Skirts” could be a good starting point. I found a copy at my local library

  11. I have two: Sandra Betzina's More Fabric Savvy - I always fall back on it when I'm working with new fabrics so I have a good idea of needle size and finishing techniques!

    The other is SewU by Wendy Mullin. She did a great job on this book by providing you with 3 basic patterns and tweaking them to make them something different. She also covers the basics of sewing, fabrics, zippers, etc.

  12. Hi... I came across your site after visiting Diary Of A Sewing Fanatic... I am a beginner sewer and purchased "Teach Yourself Visually Sewing" by Debbie Colgrove... and I also have "101 Essential Tips-Basic Sewing" by DK Publishing... very helpful. As for an easy skirt.. check out New Look 6571 or New Look 6150.

  13. late to the party. :) for easy skirts, i like New Look 6596. i like the look of the favorite things pattern, but i'm going to use the NL pattern to copy it, since I already have it. books? i like my old Vogue sewing book (blue cover) and the singer sewing series. i don't have any fitting books. :O really!


I appreciate you coming to see me. It may take me a bit to publish your comment - but I will get to them by the end of every day. If you leave a way for me to get back to you, I will. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your opinions. g

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