Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (1985 reprint) is well written and thorough. In 500 pages, it takes you from basic hand stitches to tailoring procedures and has clear, easy-to-follow diagrams. I’ve read positive reviews of earlier editions of this book (first published in 1978) so grab a second-hand copy but note that more recent editions may not have the chapters ‘Sewing for the Family’, ‘Sewing for the Home’, and my favourite ‘Designing Your Own Patterns’.

1 page 4

’Design Your Own Dress Patterns: a Primer in Pattern Making for Women who like to Sew’

By Adele Margolis, available ‘used’ only. I ordered my 1969 edition after Gertie’s recommendation and nearly wept with joy when it arrived from Cambridge, aged but well-tended, with breezy illustrations and Margolis’ go-ahead for any dressmaker capable of demystifying commercial patterns to begin creating her own. Something that had always eluded me was an understanding of what is ‘dart control’. Margolis explains clearly how dart control bridges the difference between the smaller parts of the body and the larger ones, the so-called “high points” (the bust, the hips, the shoulder blades) which require the most fabric.

Though the author’s experience is apparent, her tone had me convinced this book had been written by a modern girl-about-town, as elegant as the accompanying drawings. In fact, Margolis was born in 1899 and it is pure luck that in the latter half of her life she was persuaded to pass on her knowledge in books – and that she could write well. In her nineties, she became a poet.

If you’re interested in pattern cutting, buy this book!  Give it a good home before word gets round and the remaining copies rocket in price the way vintage patterns have.

Akiko Mano: Fashionable Clothes Girls Like

Would you like to make girls’ clothes that are both ‘”Wow”‘ and understated?  The photographs in the book show clothes made up in natural fibres and earth tones that enhance the simple yet charming designs and don’t detract from the loveliness of their models. In over 25 patterns, there are dresses (including winter play dresses), trousers, shirts, a hat and even a cape!  The book’s available in the original Japanese and translated into French but if you speak neither of these languages, you could possibly get around it with a little help from your blogging friends…


Pattern Magic, Pattern Magic 2 and Pattern Magic Stretch

Tomoko Nakamichi’s books of her inventive designs are gaining cult status in the sewing blog community.  Feast your eyes with concepts such as the “drop hole” or “the ball accordion sleeve” (on left) but don’t expect detailed instructions on how to recreate them.  Instead, you’ll find pointers.  The rest will take a little daring and a lot of paper.  Pattern Magic Challenge anyone? 

12 thoughts on “Recommendations

  1. Thanks so much for the dart measurements! I a beginner sewer and am learning along with you I to would love to make clothes for me as well as others I have a 1 1/2 year old that demands my attention so have to sew when I can but I love Your blog and am excited to learn one thing I would love to see is how to draft a bodice and a basic dress bodice I guess that would be combining the BSB n the top bodice block I am into dressmaking! Thank you for making this blog:)

    • Thanks Kia,
      I really recommend the old (1979 -1985) editions of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (I first found this in the library). It covers everything, right from the basics. I’ve just had a look and there’s a dress block in there that can then be adapted to a blouse pattern but it’s not as simple as the Skirt Block.

      Yes, I remember how tricky it is to sew with a toddler at your feet!

      Best wishes,

  2. At one time, I had 5 or 6 general sewing books = plenty! Each book had a couple things I would refer to from time to time. Then my mother gave me the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing – 1979 Edition. It was redundant to have so many books that covered virtually the same thing. I went through all of them and found the Reader’s Digest contained all the information in the other books, so I packed them up and donated them to a charity thrift store. This is an excellent book, even for today. The drawings and instructions are clear and easy to follow. I also have the Reader’s Digest Complete book of Needlework. I highly recommend both of them, [although I am not familiar with more recent editions].

    • I do appreciate your comment (it makes a great review too!). I do sometimes wonder if I’m missing out not buying all the other books!

  3. I LOVE the look of Adele Margolis’ book! It is now on my “buy this soon” book list on Amazon. I’ve been drooling over that particular Japanese sewing book for the better part of a year—I put it on that same “buy” list about two weeks ago!
    I have had the Reader’s Digest book forever and it is a tremendous reference book. I have even gifted that to several people.

  4. I searched for this book Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing on but the prices quoted for used books are very cheap ranging from US$2.99 to US$49.73. I am interested in purchasing thisseemingly fantastic book but not sure if I am seeing the right one on (too good to be true?). Please may I have some information as to how I can have the genuine book?


    • Hi Curtis
      Unfortunately there isn’t an ISBN printed on my copy so instead I’ve now uploaded the edition details (see above, photo of page 4). Why not buy a reasonably-priced copy after checking with the seller what kind of condition it’s in and the print date? This need not be an expensive book.
      Good luck, Marianna

  5. I like all pattern making. I m designer . I want to buy ur all books. And primer book also i want to see which include bodies block draft

    • Hi Dimple, It’s great to hear from another designer. I’m currently making blocks from the Winifred Aldrich “Pattern Cutting for Womenswear” book which I will review here soon. I’ve been very pleased with it so far.

  6. Thanks so much for your opinions and tips on Akiko Mano’s book. I’ll be checking back with your posts before I take the dive! 🙂

  7. Hello, Marianna. I would like to know what pattern making method the book of Adele margolis teaches, if draping method or drafting method. I usually take direct measurements on the body of person and then draw on paper… i would like to find a book that teaches and deepen in drafting method. draping method seems more difficult to me, by now.
    I have found some books, but it covers the draping method. If you or any blog reader could answer what kind of method covers this book, it would a lot of help to me. Greetings from Chile. Sara.

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