Top 9 sewing books for beginners (according to you)


A long time ago, I asked for your recommendations on books for true beginners.

I thought it was high time I rounded up the top choices. I’m going to start with the standouts, the books that by far got the most mentions from you all. Then I’ll list some of the other books people feel are a good fit for the beginner.

If you’re brand new to sewing, check these out at your local library and see which you find most helpful. Everyone has different learning styles, so you may find some of these books appeal to you in a different way than others.

I left out recommendations for my book because, well, it seemed like a biased sample. I’m hoping there are some in here that are new to you, or to a beginner friend.

Most Prized

“It has a variety of projects and answers a lot of REALLY basic questions about using sewing machines (I used her explanations to figure out how to thread my 1971 Kenmore), hand stitches, zipper installation, and more. I think it’s a great resource if you really don’t know where to begin, and 3 years after starting to sew I still look at it from time to time for a clear explanation how to do something.” – [Kristina](ornamentalconfectionery.blogspot.com)

  • Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing: Perhaps the most popular choice, this book is a true timeless reference for many of us. Danielle reminds us that newer versions actually have less information, so you should look for an older one (hers is from 1993).

“It is easily my most used sewing reference guide. The simple explanatory prose and clear illustrations are so helpful when I’m stuck! It is also quite well-indexed, so if you’re reading through your pattern and you get stuck on a certain step, you can easily look up “sleeves” or whatever, and it will give you lots of options.” – [Thimbledore](thimbledore.tumblr.com)

“I think it is a brilliant book because its simple to understand which helps beginners, but it is so comprehensive in what it covers, it is great for more advanced people. I think it is a book that I will keep referring to forever because it is so good. It is a book that will last, so probably a great choice for a beginner.” -emma

Other Well-Loved Books

“The series is aimed at beginners and provides modern seeing advice–by that I mean they refer to up to date inventions like the serger and other tools ” -JP

“Again great step-by-step instructions for different methods – specific to sewing clothes, as well as good explanations of why you might choose a specific technique or method or what garments commonly use them.” -Brandy

“I found the Vogue Sewing really useful when I was starting out sewing, it has such clear descriptions in it for pretty much every technique I’ve ever used and probably ever will. It’s always at hand when I’m working on anything.” -Hazel

“I like how it tells you what you learn making something, then build upon that with something else.” -zebazga

“I would buy Claire Shaeffer’s book because she is a true master. The book is a bible, there is a wealth of information in this book that every sewist, beginner to advanced, should know.”

“My all-time favorite beginner book is Sewing Basics by Patricia Moyes. I was lucky enough to take her classes at San Francisco’s Sewing Workshop, and her book reflects her super-clear, very accessible teaching style. I still use it!” -Lianne

For all the recommendations, check out the comments on the original post.

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Weekend Reading: Self-care, disney, and Tim Gunn’s vocabulary lessons


Every winter, I buy paperwhite bulbs in bulk and force them indoors. They’re such a pretty treat and a little reminder of spring as things turn bare and stark outside. These guys are currently sitting on our big work table and perfuming the studio.

What are your winter self-care rituals?

Weekend Reading:

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram


Our most popular posts, topics, freebies, and patterns in 2014


It’s December, the perfect time to start looking back at what you’ve gone through in the last year: the things you’ve put out into the world, the trials you’ve lived through, the people you’ve met or become closer to.

Today, I thought I’d take a look at all the things we’ve done this year. At the end of the post, I have some questions for you.


I began this year with a watchword, and that word was focus.

It’s sort of funny looking back on that, because we’ve put out a ton of new projects and ideas this year. On the other hand, I approached them in a fairly focused way, generally dedicating resources to one thing at a time and going all-in on that thing.

On a personal level, I do feel more focused. I’ve been meditating every morning, and have felt way more excited than stressed in spite of the insane pace of this year.


Stuff we’ve put out this year:

That is a load of stuff.

In addition to all that, I’ve worked with some amazing people, including our awesome team here at CPHQ. And it’s been such a pleasure to collaborate with my buddy Alyson this year, one of the most generous, thoughtful, kindhearted, and tireless people I have ever met.


Best tutorials of 2014:

These are chosen by popularity.

  1. How to organize a mountain of sewing patterns with your phone
  2. How to shop for a sewing machine
  3. Sewing hems with a twin needle
  4. Stabilizing and gathering knits with clear elastic
  5. How to clean finish a lined armhole
  6. 3 favorite presser feet and how I use them
  7. The MOD-ified Laurel pattern hack
  8. 6 ways to finish the edge of your hem
  9. How to organize fabric with swatch tags
  10. How to get a level hem


Best discussions of 2014:

I picked these by traffic and comments. Some are lighthearted questions I asked, others are a little more personal.

  1. Introducing the Wardrobe Architect series
  2. Progress, not perfection
  3. 10 things I wish I’d known when I started sewing
  4. How to build sewing skills if you’re an absolute beginner
  5. Why do you sew?
  6. What are your favorite films for inspiration?
  7. Do you wear more dresses or separates?
  8. What skills have you avoided (for no good reason)?
  9. What do you listen to when you sew?
  10. When have you impressed yourself?


Free stuff:

We also put out some freebies and pattern hacks this year. You’ll be seeing more of these in 2015. I love making free stuff for you when I can.




We basically sold out of all of our patterns this year before we expected to. I had to create a new system for forecasting inventory levels because we kept being taken by surprise. File that under good problems, I guess.

  • Moneta was a huge, huge hit for us.
  • Mabel showed that you guys love a quick-and-simple project as much as I do (in which case you should probably join Seamwork).
  • Myrtle was another popular one, and the first pattern we released that could work in knits or wovens!
  • Dahlia took us back to a classic silhouette. I love this pattern.


(That’s Kenn and Meg above with some of our inventory.)

We love you guys

I have a lot of ideas for the next year of Coletterie in addition to Seamwork, but I’ll write about the future later.

I just want to conclude by saying what a pleasure it has been to serve you this year.

Kenn does much of our customer service, and every once in a while he looks up from his laptop and says in amazement, “our customers are the best.”

Why? Because you are the nicest, warmest, most thoughtful people I could imagine working for. I know it sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s true. You are good people, and I like working for good people.

Your thoughts?

I’d love some input from you guys as I start to plan 2015.

  • What posts have you enjoyed most?
  • What would you like to see more of on the blog?
  • Do you enjoy the weekend link roundups (it’s ok if you skip them)?
  • Do you enjoy the discussions in the comments?
  • Are there types of posts we don’t do that you’d like us to (maybe something we’ve done in the past but don’t post about much anymore)?

We’re Hiring! Part time sample sewer (Portland)


We have a new job listing up on our jobs page. If you are an experienced sewist in Portland seeking flexible part-time work, please take a look!

We’re looking for someone with strong sewing skills and the ability to work quickly with tight turnarounds. You’ll have the freedom to work from home, with some meetings in our NE Portland studio once or twice a week.

We are a fun bunch to work with, and value your creativity and input. There is also room for growth in this job if you are interested.

To apply, see our jobs page. Look forward to hearing from you!


Weekend Reading: Tall women, secret diets, and ugly clothes


Seamwork is out in the world now, so yay for that!

The response has been absolutely fantastic, and I am so happy for each person that has subscribed, downloaded, or just read online. I also really want to thank our contributors to the magazine. Don’t forget that you can submit your writing too.

I still feel like I have so many ideas for the future and that it will remain this tremendous work in progress. I’m really excited for that, because it means learning and trying new things. And that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Sometimes when patterns or projects are released, it seems all “rah rah hooray,” but there are always glitches, issues, or stressful moments to work through. This one was no exception. As many of you noticed, almost as soon as I posted about it on the blog and hit send on an email to tens of thousands of people, the server went down.

These things do tend to happen, especially when you send a flood of traffic all at once, but this one had us freaking out a bit as we weren’t sure how long things would be down. Luckily Kenn was able to upgrade the server quickly and get everything running again.

I’m so grateful to have this fantastic little team of people: Kristen, for all her work in creating the patterns and writing some of the how-tos, Kenn for tirelessly building this site and answering so many of your emails, and Meg for keeping the shop running and shipping all of your regular orders while we were so focused on this. They are amazing people who I’m sure I don’t thank enough. Also thanks to Stu and Edgar at Sputnik Creative, the friends who helped us make Seamwork so lovely to use.

With that, here is some reading and listening for your weekend. Have a relaxing one.

Weekend Reading:

Weekend Listening:

  • Kristen and I are both enjoying the Start Up podcast, from Alex Blumberg (formerly of NPR’s Planet Money). Though it frequently makes me roll my eyes at start up culture.

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

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