For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write a review of one of the first sewing books I ever bought – Sewing Basics: All You Need To Know About Machine And Hand Sewing by Sandra Bardwell. As a self-taught sewist, I have relied completely on books and internet resources in order to teach myself the most basic sewing skills. Since the Sewing Basics book was foundational in terms of my sewing knowledge, I thought that it would be a worthy book to offer up for review on Sew for Victory – particularly for those of you who, like me, are entirely self-taught.
When I initially set out to learn to sew, I knew that it was going to be an uphill battle. I armed myself with a couple of very basic patterns – hoping that they would teach me as I went – and the cheapest sewing machine that I could find on Amazon. From here, it was really a matter of learning on the job. But I knew that I needed to work simultaneously to build my basic knowledge of garment construction. The problem with learning as I went along was that – even though I might produce a wearable garment at the end of the process – everything felt a little bit jerry-rigged. Although I always knew that this would be a natural part of learning a new skill from scratch, I did want to make sure that I was learning the right way to do things. Without a teacher, this was quite a challenge.
It’s for this reason that I picked out the Sewing Basics book. I was most impressed by how comprehensive the contents of the volume seemed and I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the detail of the chapters themselves.
The book really builds you from the ground up in learning to sew. From working out what tools you will need to figuring out how to sew different kinds of seams, Sewing Basics really does what it says in the title – it teaches you the very basics. But, since the book is so comprehensive, I still use it as a reference point on different techniques about which I’m unsure. This is definitely a book that will take you further than simply learning the basics of sewing into building skills that I would consider more advanced.
One of the best things about Sewing Basics is that it goes beyond just reciting facts by also offering a number of helpful tutorials. There is, for example, information on how to produce piping and how to use various methods of hand embroidery.
It’s a tiny croissant!
That said, the book is incredibly instructional when it comes to the basics. Each part comes with very clear pictures, as well as detailed information that is easy to comprehend. I was able to understand and use this book with absolutely no previous sewing knowledge and, at no point, did I feel out of my depth or unable to grasp the meanings of the various sections. The layout of each chapter and section of the book varies depending on the information being presented. There are paragraphs of text, plenty of pictures, and – where necessary – tables of information. I really appreciated the layout of the information presented in the chapter ‘Fabrics and Interfacings’.
For someone with no knowledge, this ‘school textbook’ approach is really useful and illuminating. It also ensures that the book continues to serve as an excellent and easy-to-use reference guide where you aren’t having to search around for ages to find the appropriate information.
I particularly love the pictures in the book. They are so well laid out and help to ensure that, at no point, is the reader having to look up additional visual information online. I’ve found this to be a big problem with a lot of the ‘foundational’ sewing guides – there’s always plenty of information presented textually but, without good accompanying pictures, it’s very difficult for a beginner to understand how this information would apply visually. Sewing Basics really doesn’t suffer from this issue.
All in all, I think that Sewing Basics by Sandra Bardwell is a worthy place to start for anyone interested in learning to sew – or anyone simply looking to fill the gaps in their sewing knowledge. I know that there are a huge number of basic techniques that I still don’t have down quite as well as I could, so having a guide to the foundations of sewing is always useful. This book is definitely an excellent companion!
Sewing Basics: All You Need To Know About Machine And Hand Sewing by Sandra Bardwell is a UK book but seems to be readily available in the US. You can find it here on Amazon US or, alternatively, on Amazon UK here.