recommended reading: beginner sewing

I’m so happy you all enjoyed last weeks post on learning to sew! As promised I’ve done some work putting together a list of recommended reading.

I decided to ask my lovely friend Casey to add her recommendations as well, since she is so talented and  knowledgeable. I don’t think there is a sewer out there I respect more than her – so I’m incredibly thrilled that we were able to collaborate on this list! Though since our lists got so large, I’ve decided to break up the recommended reading into two posts – beginner sewing (today), and more advanced sewing & pattern drafting (next week).


Get it here:: Vogue Sewing, Revised and Updated

Get it here:: Singer New Sewing Essentials


Get it here:: Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide


Get it here:: Sew U. (Also, Built by Wendy DressesSew U Home Stretch)

Get it here:: Sewing 101: A Beginners Guide To Sewing


If like me and Casey, you have a love of vintage books, you can really win in the sewing department. I seem to find a tonne in thrift stores, and second hand stores and they’re always very cheap. In my opinion, the detail is often better. It seems that more modern books focus on projects than actual techniques. If you want to buy a vintage book I recommend sticking with well known names. Look for books written by sewing machine brands or pattern companies. Think, Singer, McCalls, Simplicity, Vogue. I personally own 1960’s versions of the McCalls complete guide to sewing, and the Vogue sewing book, and they are two of my favourite books.

I know it can be a little daunting to look at a big list of books when you’re on a budget. But there’s no need to stress out – think about hunting down some second hand books.

The very first technique books I bought were second hand. I actually think this is a good method of buying a beginner book, as often when you start a hobby you don’t know what your level of committment is, so shelling out full price may seem risky. My two favourite books cost me less than a dollar each. Can’t scoff at that! There are lots of places you can look – second hand bookstores of course, I’d also suggest libraries, as most sell off their excess books once in a while, and and don’t forget to keep your eyes open at garage sales, or tell your family you’re interested in sewing. Etsy can be a good source for vintage books if you’re super keen and know what you’re looking for, but watch out, as they can be over priced.

Becoming a Designer series by Megan Nielsen

I really hope you’ve been enjoying my Becoming a Designer series!! Please don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts so far here – and let me know if you have any burning questions!

Also, thank you so much to Casey for helping me write this article – please make sure you visit her over at her amazing blog Elegant Musings! XOXO

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  1. says

    This is now happily bookmarked so that I can put some of these down on my shopping list. Thank you!

  2. says

    Thanks for these recommendations! I’ve been learning from my mum and after completing my first set of curtains and voiles, I’m ready to try a bit of dress making!

    • MegMeg says

      So exciting!! I’m always so thrilled to hear about people learning to sew! I hope you enjoy making a few things for yourself too – that’s my favourite kind of sewing :) well that’s probably obvious hehe

  3. says

    Eeep! I’m blushing from what you said about me at the beginning… Aw, shucks. ;) lol.

    Thank you so much for asking me to participate in this! Of course, now that we’ve been chatting about sewing books I’ve added about a dozen more to my Amazon wishlist and am on the hunt when I go thrifting this weekend. ;)

    • MegMeg says

      Meant every word hun :) Thanks so much for doing this with me! Also yes – i may or may not have bought 2 more books in the process… addiction, i swear. hehe

  4. says

    Oh, I definitely think you should include S.E.W. by Debra Rupp, it’s a project-based book AND a great sewing reference, it even covers basic information about your sewing machine that other books assume you know.

  5. Rachel says

    I am so excited! I just picked up the Vogue Sewing Book at a rummage sale this past weekend for 10 cents! I was amazed at the price and thought even if I can use one or two pieces of info out of the book it is well worth it. Yae!

    • MegMeg says

      oh my goodness you’re kidding!!!! That is such a great deal!! I hope you enjoy it, it’s really one of my faves!

  6. Maria says

    On a whim I went into my local Goodwill store and browsed around the book section and found an 80s copy of The Vogue Sewing Book. I was really surprised as I rarely see sewing items in thrift stores down here (in South Florida). Of course I bought it…for $1. Sooo thrilled. Fantastic reference book.

    • MegMeg says

      no way! that’s awesome!! It always blows my mind how cheaply these amazing books go for! I’m so glad you like it!

  7. says

    This is awesome, Megan! Thank you ladies both for putting this together – I’ll be printing this one out, writing BIRTHDAY in big, block letters at the top, and leaving it on boyfriend’s pillow soon. :)

    • MegMeg says

      YAY!! I’m so glad you liked the list hun!! And I love your method of gift hinting… I might need to copy it!!

  8. says

    I have the Vogue Sewing Book, but I don’t like it half as much as The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. It is actually more complete than Vogue and the step by step pictures and diagrams are amazing. This is a book that definitely lives on my sewing table. Priceless (not really… $20-$30)!

  9. says

    This is such a great list. I have no grand plans to become a designer but I would love to be able to mend a button hole or even one day maybe make my own dress by following a pattern.

    Thanks for the advice on books, for someone who barely knows how to thread a needle it’s invaluable!

    Sorcha x
    Bonfire Brunette

    • MegMeg says

      I’m so glad you liked the list hun!! I honestly think no matter what your plans are any of these books would stand you in good stead :)

  10. says

    You started this series at the perfect time! I just ordered my first sewing machine from Amazon yesterday. Although I do not want to be a designer, I do want to be able to make simple alterations to clothing I thrift. Plus possibly same day make simple garments for myself from patterns.

    • MegMeg says

      I’m so happy to hear you found it helpful!! A new sewing machine is so exciting!! I honestly think any of those books would help with learning – good luck!!

    • MegMeg says

      I’m so happy to hear that!!! It makes my day to hear you’re enjoying them – i think they’re such awesome books!!