recommended sewing books

Dressmaking for beginners – books and courses to help you learn how to sew

You could go overboard buying loads of dressmaking books but to be honest you don’t really need that many. I’d suggest getting one introductory book for beginners and one big scary reference book.

Best dressmaking books for beginners

These books cover all the basics, explaining what you need to know about equipment, fabrics, layout, cutting and sewing techniques in a friendly and easy-to-understand way. Here of my favourites:

All these books include sewing patterns so you can get started right away. I’d recommend choosing whichever book has projects that you most like the style of, as all three books are good in terms of explaining techniques clearly.

Big scary sewing books

I think that even beginners need one big, scary sewing reference book. These books are generally very off-putting with technical-looking pictures and frumpy designs. The problem is that they cover absolutely everything from basic techniques to tailoring, so they can look a bit overwhelming. You don’t need to know all that stuff to get started!

However, these books are incredibly useful when you want to look up the details of a particular technique. Instructions in sewing patterns can sometimes be a bit brief, and it can be very helpful to refer back to a book for more in-depth information.

My favourite book:

  • Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing – very comprehensive and covers all the techniques you’ll be using. I think that the explanations are very clear and there are lots of diagrams. The older editions are good and often cheaper than the newer ones.

Alternatives:

  • Vogue Sewing – some people prefer this to the Reader’s Digest book.
  • The Sewing Book – also very comprehensive, this book contains photos rather than drawings and diagrams. I think it would be a very useful extra book to have but I prefer the diagrams in the older Reader’s Digest and Vogue books as I find them easier to follow.

You don’t need to buy a new book and there are plenty of second-hand copies around. My copy of the Reader’s Digest book is from 1978! I probably won’t be making many of the projects but all the information on sewing techniques is perfectly fine.

Pattern-making books

If you’re interesting in designing clothes and making your own sewing patterns, my favourite books are:

  • Design-It-Yourself Clothes – good introduction to patten making for beginners. Have a look inside first on Amazon to see whether the designs in it appeal to you.

Unfortunately, most of the other books I’ve ever read on pattern making have been pretty incomprehensible so I can’t recommend any of them for beginners!

UK dressmaking courses for beginners

There are now loads of face-to-face courses and workshops available in dressmaking, designing clothes, pattern cutting and sewing skills in general. You can go to group classes which are either one-off events or run weekly, as well as getting one-to-one tuition. Sewing classes may be run at local sewing shops, craft centres, stores like John Lewis and Liberty, and adult education colleges.  There’s also a number of sewing schools in the UK, mainly in the big cities. Searching on Google is probably the easiest way to find out what’s available near you.

Online dressmaking courses for beginners

If you’d like to get some tuition and can’t find any sewing classes near you, or are put off by the cost of attending, then online courses can provide a very good alternative. In these courses, you watch video lessons, work on projects and can generally send messages to the tutor to ask questions. It can sometimes be really helpful to see someone demonstrating a technique.

I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the courses I’ve done through Craftsy and their app is great as well. They have many classes covering all aspects of dressmaking, but two that I would recommend for beginners are:

The courses look expensive at full price (though cheaper than attending a workshop) but Craftsy have frequent sales and there are often discounts of up to 50% available. Sign up for their newsletter to get details and check for discounts before buying a course. There are also some free courses available (for example, Sew Ready: Machine Basics) so you can see what’s involved.

Read more

  • Help and inspiration
    Blogs and podcasts, free tutorials, forums and online communities, sew-alongs, sewing challenges and hashtags.
  • Dressmaking for beginners
    Equipment and books, courses and tutorials, where to get help and inspiration, choosing patterns and buying fabric.

If you have any recommendations or things you’d like me to cover in this guide to dressmaking for beginners, please leave a comment.