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Dec 19, 2019

"A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing" Book Review

Last week I had the pleasure of having lunch with sewing blogger and published author Sarah Gunn, who was visiting NYC from her home in South Carolina.

I'm sure many of you know Sarah from Goodbye Valentino, the Mood Sewing Network, and/or her popular book The Tunic Bible, which she co-wrote with Jule Starr.  Sarah and Julie have a new book out, A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing.  At lunch, I was delighted to receive my own personally inscribed copy!

A Stylish Guide isn't your typical how-to-sew book covering everything from sewing machine maintenance to crafting a welt pocket.  Instead, it's something of a hybrid, a mixture of sewing guidance, wardrobe styling, and sewing inspiration.   The book is organized by garment.  Chapter headings include Skirts, Tops, Dresses, Pants, Outerwear, and Menswear Pajamas (styled for women, natch).

The wrap dress, the shirt dress, the A-line skirt, the turtleneck, capri pants, the trench coat, etc. -- these are what most of us would consider components of a classic women's wardrobe (the types of garments you'd find in Sarah's elegant she-made wardrobe, if you're familiar with it).

A Stylish Guide includes one pattern, for a pencil skirt (sized from a 2 to a 22), along with detailed sewing instructions for the skirt.  It is not primarily a pattern book. 

The multi-sized pencil skirt pattern included with the book.

A Stylish Guide is ideal for the experienced sewer (i.e., someone who has successfully completed some garments even if a Beginner) who already has a lot of patterns in her stash.  I suspect this describes most of my readers.  It's not the lack of patterns that keeps many of us from sewing.  Let's be honest, photographs on many pattern envelopes are often uninspiring and line drawings can help only so much.  Perhaps we can't quite picture how we might make a particular pattern look like something we'd want to sew and wear.

That's where A Stylish Guide comes in.

By breaking down a wardrobe into pieces -- standard pieces we're all familiar with even if we don't own and/or wear every one -- this book helps us to consider whether we'd want to make it, and how we might wear it.

For each garment, Gunn and Starr provide some well-researched history, valuable sewing tips (including recommended video tutorials and related articles),  fabric suggestions (so helpful, especially for the novice), design variations and styling tips.

There's even a "Who Wore It" list of famous people most closely associated with that particular garment--including animated icon Betty Rubble, who "rocked" (no pun intended) the halter dress on The Flintstones -- brilliant!

The tone of A Stylish Guide is friendly and informal--no Eighth Grade Home Ec teacher-from-hell vibes here.  You're in a safe place.

A very cool feature that sets this book apart is the chapter containing color photos of popular sewing bloggers modeling their own versions of the garments discussed in the book.  There's plenty of Sarah and Julie too for fans and fans-to-be!

Might my cousin, youthful Cathy Lane, in her Diane Von Furstenberg-style wrap dress (Simplicity 7705) have been included?  Yes, but I've forgiven Sarah and Julie for the omission. 

A Stylish Guide doesn't try to be all things to all people.  It maintains its focus and covers its material extremely well.  I have a lot of sewing books bursting with highly detailed information that leave me cold.  A Stylish Guide is a book you can actually read from cover to cover and enjoy. What I admire most is the way the personalities and tastes of its two authors come through.

If you're a fan of Sarah and Julie and their classic, elegant style, A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing will delight you.  A big thumbs up from me.

Happy Classic Sewing, everybody!



  1. Cathy in a kitten heel...there was a time when her heels were as high as her skirts were short.

    When will Cathy write a book? Cathy could recount her modeling days, reveal the tribulations of being a celebrity mother, and revisit dusty dating details of decades past. How many politicians, stars, and monarchies would do anything to stop publication?

    More Cathy in 2020, please! I can't be the only one with this solitary wish (Spud, Jules, Kyle, Johanna, Dawn, Nancy K, Howard, Ustabahippie, Julie, Joanne & Glynnes, Senor King, and all the to concur??).

    1. Who do want?
      When do we want her?

      Vote 1 Cathy Lane in 2020

    2. Let us hope she wins!!! [Note: I was the first to espouse Khalje/King in 2016. For the record, I'm all in for Cathy this go around.]

      With more shapely legs than Dan Quayle, in a historical context, she's a front runner.

      Never you mind that no one envisions a brunette as the first female President; such an upset in the making - and what could be more Cathy Lane than that??

  2. The book could be so improved by including Ms. Cathy Lane!

  3. Shame on us for leaving out Cathy! Next book 😊

  4. Peter,
    Very nice book review. Too bad Cathy was not featured. :-)

  5. Cathy gets younger with the years. She would have been a great addition to the book. Nice review.

    1. Of course that pic was from 9 years ago. We might have to lower the hemline a bit today! ;)

  6. Well I cant speak for everyone, but we have Junk in the Trunk, a twice yearly flea market of epic proportions. My 33 year old son, his partner and I love to dig around for useful stuff. Add to that the 2nd hand and thrift stores and facebook buy and sell- why would anyone buy new , haha. There seems to be quite a few of the younger crowd here that love to shop 2nd hand.
    Happy New year and love the posts.


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