Favorite Resources for Sewing
Here are some of my favorite resources for sewing (with links!). Hopefully when you are looking for more information on an area of sewing, these will give you a place to start. Beware, though! These are just the tip of the iceberg!
Sewing Reference Books
- Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (one of the 1970s versions is great—you can usually get it very cheaply and countless sewists swear by it)
- Singer Sewing Reference Library (these are easy and cheap to collect over time)
Other Fun and Helpful Sewing Books
- Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing:: A Modern Guide to Couture-Style Sewing Using Basic Vintage Techniques by Gretchen Hirst
- Gertie Sews Vintage Casual: A Modern Guide to Sportswear Styles of the 1940s and 1950s by Gretchen Hirst
- Sewing Clothes Kids Love: Sewing Patterns and Instructions for Boys’ and Girls’ Outfits by Nancy Langdon and Sabine Pollehn
- Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make by Andria Lisle and Amie Plumley
- Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin
- Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin
- Alabama Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin
- Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified by Cal Patch
History of Paper Patterns
- A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution by Joy Spanabel Emery
Websites & Blogs
- For all sorts of tutorials and helpful information: http://www.sewmamasew.com
- To figure out your style and plan your sewing accordingly, check out the Wardrobe Architect Series from the Colette blog: https://blog.colettehq.com/wardrobe-architect
- For reviews of patterns, and so, so much more, check out Pattern Review: http://sewing.patternreview.com/
- For plus-size/curvy sewing: http://curvysewingcollective.com/
- For sewing activewear: http://www.fehrtrade.com/ (Melissa sells her own activewear patterns.)
- For sewing menswear: http://threadtheory.ca/ (Thread Theory also sells their own patterns.) and http://www.taylortailor.com/
- For kids’ clothes, check out Made by Rae: http://www.made-by-rae.com/ (Rae sells women’s and kids’ patterns.) as well as Made: http://www.danamadeit.com/ (Dana sells patterns, too.)
- For inspiration: http://www.moodsewingnetwork.com/ This is only the beginning! There is a vibrant sewing and blogging community, and if I were to list all the blogs that inspired me, I would never finish this page! I encourage you to look around. You can subscribe to some blogs on Bloglovin’ and then click on their “Explore” button to look for more sewing blogs, if you are interested. I will, however, recommend an amazing lady I think of as my “blogging friend”, Bianca. I’m always inspired by her: http://thanksimadethem.blogspot.com/
- Seamwork Magazine (online only and free to read—a subscription gets you access to the patterns that come with the magazine each month)
- Vogue Patterns
- Burda Style Magazine
- Love to Sew Podcast
- Clothes Making Mavens
- Stitcher’s Brew Podcast
- Modern Sewciety Podcast
- Fashion History with American Duchess
Sewing TV Shows
- Project Runway
- The Great British Sewing Bee (I haven’t watched all seasons of this yet, but I really want to.)
- The most well-known are the “Big 4” pattern companies (Vogue, Butterick, Simplicity, McCall’s), which are actually one company now. You can usually get these patterns for $1-$5 on sale at Joann Fabrics.
- There are now about a billion independent pattern designers as well. Some offer PDF pattern downloads that you can print and assemble at home or at a copy shop, and some offer printed patterns (some offer both). Printed patterns tend to be more expensive, but are already all put together. PDF patterns get to you instantly, but you have to print them and then tape them together or take them to a copy shop to have them printed.
- There are many free patterns online as well, most (if not all) of which will be in PDF format. Google and Pinterest are your friend when searching these out.
- I nearly always check to see if there is a review of a pattern (Big 4 or independent) on Pattern Review before I buy it to see pictures of people’s garments and to read about any potential problems they ran into. Pattern Review is invaluable in this way.
- Independent pattern companies I have tried or would like to try (there are many more than I have listed here): Jalie, Thread Theory, Megan Nielsen, Closet Case Patterns, Deer & Doe, True Bias, Papercut Patterns, Tilly and the Buttons, Hey June Handmade, Alabama Chanin…oh, there are so many! If you look on Pattern Review in the shop section, you can explore them more fully.
- If you have never used a commercial sewing pattern before (or find them confusing), check out this post on the website Sew Mama Sew about how to read patterns: http://www.sewmamasew.com/2015/10/how-to-read-prepare-sewing-patterns-with-mary-abreu/
Area-ish Fabric Stores (“Area-ish” meaning accessible from Boston’s North Shore)
- Joann Fabrics (in Middleton, MA on Rt. 114 and in Saugus, MA on Rt. 1 Southbound as well as in Seabrook, NH); you can sign up for coupons
- Hobby Lobby in Seabrook, NH; I think you can sign up for coupons—they will not take competitor’s coupons
- Pintuck & Purl in North Hampton, NH
- Fabric Corner in Arlington, MA
- Portsmouth Fabric Company in Portsmouth, NH
- Gather Here in Cambridge, MA
- Sew Creative in Beverly, MA (pretty much only quilting)
- Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA
- Marden’s in Sanford, ME is like an Ocean State Job Lot with fabric
- For something less conventional, you can go to Savers or another thrift store and look for sheets—knit or woven—to use as fabric yardage. Some thrift stores do sell fabric as well. Supposedly the Plaistow, NH Savers and sometimes the Newington, NH Savers have fabric.
Online Fabric Stores
There are a zillion online fabric stores, and it’s worth it to look through and find your favorites. If you plan ahead and are patient, many stores are able to sell you swatches of fabric you are interested in (although some will send free swatches). If you can make yourself do this, it will save you from buying fabric you end up not liking.
- Fabric.com has a wide selection and good prices. I have had a few pieces of fabric cut to the wrong size, but they have made things right when possible. Shipping is free above $35.
- Cali Fabrics has a good selection at low prices.
- Fabric Mart is one of my favorites for good deals since they always have several sales going on.
- I like Fabric Fairy for swimsuit fabric (although she has a lot of other fabric as well).
- Sew Sassy is good for lingerie supplies.
- Mood Designer Fabrics has a great selection of amazing fabric.
- Emma One Sock is a popular choice for designer fabric.
- I go to Mill Yardage when I want Polartec/Malden Mills fleece.
- Etsy is also a great place to look for interesting and unique fabric.
- The Ultimate Quilting Book: Over 1,000 Inspirational Ideas and Practical Tips by Maggi McCormick Gordon
- Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colorful Quilt and Patchwork Projects by Denyse Schmidt
- The Quilts of Gee’s Bend by William Arnett, Alvia Wardlaw, Jane Livingston, and John Beardsley
- Nancy Crow: Quilts and Influences by Nancy Crow
Good Sewing Tools to Get You Started
- A sewing machine: This does not have to be new, nor does it have to be computerized. Many sewists love old machines, so newer is not necessarily better. You can find good machines (and bad ones) of any age. If you get a used machine, just get it serviced and you will be on your way. I get mine serviced at Marie’s Sewing Center in Woburn, MA because that is where my Mom bought my machine for me. Thanks, Mom!
- Fabric scissors. DO NOT USE THEM ON PAPER! If you do, the sewing police will jump out and clap you in irons! (Kidding, not kidding.) You will be fine with a pair of Fiskars to start out, or you can go for quality with some Kai or Gingher (made in the USA or Germany) scissors. I have Fiskars, and they are fine.
- Thread cutting scissors. Some people call them thread snips. I have some Fiskars for this job, too.
- Pinking shears. Mine are from Fiskars.
- A rotary cutter. Mine is 45mm and is made by Olfa. You’ll probably want some replacement blades, too. Be careful when using this, though. Many a seamstress has cut through her hand. I wear a Kevlar glove on my non-cutting hand to be safe.
- The largest self-healing mat you can get. Mine is made by Fiskars and is 23”x 35”. It’s big enough for most things, but I still sometimes wish it were even larger.
- A clear ruler with a lip on the edge for helping you cut straight lines on your self-healing mat with your rotary cutter. Mine is an O-Lipfa Lip Edge Ruler and is 5”x 24”. I use it all the time for a million things.
- An iron and ironing board.
- Needles for your machine, for pinning, and for hand-sewing. Machine needles come in packs and you pick them based on what you are working on (universal for basic cotton, ballpoint for knits, jeans/denim for jeans, leather for leather, etc.). You will be ok with most pins for pinning fabric together—I use quilting pins because that’s what my Mom got me when I started, but many people like glass-head pins because you can iron over them without them melting. You can buy a pack of sharps for hand-sewing (although, honestly, I just use whatever I have—I inherited a lot of my supplies from my husband’s grandmother when she passed away.)
- Seam ripper.
- Thimble that fits whatever finger you would use to push a needle through fabric. I use a leather one found in the quilting area of Joann’s.
- A seam gauge. This is a little ruler with a sliding part in the middle. It helps you measure correctly when you are measuring for hems and whatnot.
- A marker of some kind. There are all kinds of marking tools for sewing projects. You can get a marker that disappears with water or over time with air. You can also get chalk markers. I have several different kinds. Just pick one that looks fun.
- You may also want extra bobbins for your machine.
- Flexible tape measure. These are made out of vinyl and are very useful (also usually cheap!).
There are numerous sew-alongs online, which is a great way to get started sewing. Some are things that happen at certain times of the year and are all over the web, and some might be a single blog going through a particular pattern or book. Some worldwide sew-alongs you might like are Kids Clothes Week (KCW), Me-Made-May, and The Refashioners. There are also sew-alongs centered on slow fashion, sewing for yourself (“selfish sewing”), etc.
If you are working on a particular pattern, especially one from an independent designer, you can check their website to see if they have done a sew-along or you can google the pattern to see if anyone else has. Typically a sew-along will involve several posts where the blogger will show each step of the pattern and talk about how they did it.
Sewing Slang and Acronyms
- Wonky: when something is not straight or lined up as it should be, as in a “wonky seam”
- Frankenpattern: a pattern cobbled together from several different patterns
- Pattern hack: taking a pattern that is similar to what you want and using it as a starting point to make the garment you have in mind; sometimes this may involve “frankenpatterning” (see above)
- Plush: stuffed animals
- TNT: tried ‘n true—a favorite pattern that you have gotten just the way you like and have made many times
- WIP: work in progress
- UFO: unfinished object—a project that is unfinished
- VPL: visible panty lines
- Seamstress=sewist=stitcher=seamster=sewer (although I never see this last one, probably because it is spelled the same as the place your toilet flushes into)
- Also, sewing people seem completely unable to resist using the word “sew” as a substitution for “so”. It’s everywhere!
Things People Sew (That You Can Sew, Too!)
- Basics like t-shirts, pajamas, pants, skirts, dresses, etc.
- Underwear and lingerie, including bras, panties, men’s underwear, lingerie generally
- Bathing Suits
- Tailored jackets (like suit jackets)
- Exercise clothes
- Vintage and vintage-inspired clothing
- Children’s clothing
- Costumes and historical clothing
- Refashions from other clothing and alterations
- Bags, purses, and accessories
- Quilts and blankets
- Home décor like curtains and pillows
- Stuffed animals (a.k.a. plush) and doll clothes
Welcome to the wide and wonderful world of sewing! It’s a friendly place and it’s lots of fun!