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Apr 27, 2010

The Overbooked Sewist

You didn't think this was going to be about scheduling, did you?  I don't even own a calendar.

Kids, I have a problem.

Remember how I said long ago that "the way you do anything is the way you do everything?"

Well, the way I accumulate sewing books is the same way I pile on everything else in my life:  fast, and with abandon!  Let me remind you, I didn't own a single sewing book before June, 2009.  I now have a lot.  A lot.  

In no particular order, they are:

Creative Clothing Construction by Allyne Bane
The Vogue Sewing Book
Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp
High-Fashion Sewing Secrets by Claire Shaeffer
Make Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele Margolis
How to Make Hats & Accessories by Vee Walker Powell
Serger Secrets
Singer Sewing Book
10-20-30 Minutes to Sew by Nancy Zieman
Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques by Bednar & Pugh-Gannon
How to Make Men's Clothes by Jane Rhinehart
The Perfect Fit (Singer)
How to Sew Fashion Knits (Singer)
Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (2 editions)
Shirtmaking by David Coffin
How to Make Sewing Patterns by Donald H. McCunn
Sewing Magic! by Barbara Hellyer
McCall's Step-by-Step Sewing Book
Cool Couture by Kenneth King
Singer Sewing Essentials

Mind you, this does not include style or fashion books like Marsha Hunt's "The Way We Wore" or "Barbie Fashion Vol. 1."   Or stuff like this:

And I'm the same with patterns, sewing machines, and underwear.

Readers, I think I'm going to be sick.

What's really scary is that yesterday I seriously considered purchasing this for a mere $90 on Amazon:

Luckily, my sanity kicked in before I could click "Proceed to Checkout."

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I didn't actually purchase all of the above books (or underwear, for that matter).  Some were given to me and a few I found in the trash (including the wonderful Vogue book).  But still, how could anybody possibly need that many sewing books?   What invaluable secrets could they possibly contain?  If I continue to accumulate books at my current rate, I'll be living in their home by mid decade.  This is not good.

Loyal followers, lurkers, and enablers, I must thank you for the opportunity to inventory fully my sewing book collection here on Male Pattern Boldness.  And mind you, I am still finding books as I write this...I actually had two or three dusty tomes under my bed!  (Nothing calms me before bedtime like a page or two from "Serger Secrets.") 

Do you share this problem, friends?  Please tell me I am not alone.

Also, is there any title I'm missing that you recommend?

I must know!


  1. Oh, Peter, you've only just begun. I have twelve linear feet of sewing books (including craft/sewing books and my Threads collection) in the sewing room itself, but most of my sewing library is in boxes in the attic. (Stash is taking up a bookcase-like structure across one wall in the sewing room. Must fix that.)

  2. I do have a similar problem with books - just not quite on the same scale (yet). I also have a Threads and BWOF collection that is taking on a life of its own.

    I quite like Winifred Aldich's Metric Pattern Cutting books and the Palmer/Pletsch Fit books (which would be excellent, if cousin Cathy's figure weren't quite so perfect!)

  3. I collect like crazy-sewing and costuming, fashion history, and art! All intertwined, if you sew. I pick up old sewing books-cheap-at used book stores. They are incredibly valuable for those period details when sewing vintage patterns. I have an at home sewing course series from the 1920's that devotes one tiny tome each to things like pockets, collars, blouses, etc. One book from the 1890's I bought still had the patterns tucked inside! Such a good reference when you want a spectacular detail on an otherwise simple garment. Don't pass by that used bookstore without going in, any more!

  4. I find it can be hard with the vintage books...but I make myself purge them every so often, most of the information really is repeated over and over. Books I will never give up -- any Adele Margolis book (I have 4 of them); the modern DK Complete Book of Sewing (fantastic photos); and the 1961 Better Homes and Gardens sewing book (great book and really good for vintage sewing - the 1971 edition is the same book in a 3-ring binder). I'll never really purge to just those, but that's what I actually have out permanently. Anything else I need to know for a specific project I can get from the library and take back when I'm done. Ooh, although I do want my own copy of the new Sewing Machine Attachment book, that's a great one if you have lots of vintage presser feet!

  5. I, too, have a lot of sewing books, but I would not part with any of them - why? Sometimes, I need a little refresher on some sewing technique or not feeling like sewing - I can always pull one of my sewing books from the shelf and browse through it. I did learn a very valuable lesson about 'sewing books' - years ago, I truly believed that the more sewing books I read, the better sewer I would be! Well, that's not true. I became a better sewer because I sewed more and more, but my love of sewing books remains. So, on a side note, if you ever come across another copy of How to Make Men's Clothes by Jane Rhinehart - I would buy it from you(it is a rare book to find). I might even come to New York to pick it up! Thank you for such a wonderful blog I read it everyday and have enjoyed all that you have blogged about and I think Cathy is wonderful. I am quite jealous that I don't have a twin cousin from London . .

  6. Peter, I didn't see Making Trousers by David Coffin in your collection. It's a great book and comes with a dvd-rom so you really get twice the book for half the shelf space.

  7. I'm afraid I don't share this problem. I own a grand total of three sewing books. One I got this last Christmas, one for my birthday, and the last was what I got for being a runner up in last year's Simplicity/Joanns Halloween costume contest. I've been seriously sewing for around 20 years and I never owned a book until last year. Heck, I was making dolly clothes before that!

  8. I am a sewing book junkie - I have most of the ones you profile above - and others. I think they are ENTIRELY necessary for the new (and improving) sewist. I go to them as reference guides all the time. The one I just got yesterday, on Michaela's suggestion, is the Margolis Make Your Own Dress Patterns. I've just started reading it and it's FANTASTIC. It's the flip side of pattern altering, drafting is. And since I need to alter, I might as well see it from both sides of the equation - even if I'm not ready yet to pattern draft.

    Who knows, by the time I finish, I may be ready to pattern draft :-)

  9. Yep, I also have the same problem! (And I also just picked up that "Don't Blame The Mirror" book - what a funny book!) If you can find a copy of vintage 1948 book, Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making by Hillhouse and Mansfield, snatch it up! It is one of the best textbooks ever, and the styles in the book are FABULOUS!

  10. oh, don't you know it. I have to have at least 50 sewing and style books, and that is following a determined purge (I even got rid of a vintage copy of the lovely Singer Sewing Book you have)... but they're only a minor issue in my 1,600-strong book collection. I like feeling like I live in a library.

  11. Vintage sewing manuals are the bees knees! I think one book that is needed is Taschen's Fashion. It's 99% pictures and weighs a ton, but it's completely drool worthy. I would get married to it if I could, if there was a fire, it would be the first thing I took out my get my point, lol.

  12. LOL! This is a perfect topic for me today. Yesterday I just completed cleaning and organizing my sewing room. Ugh. Too.much.stuff. I have about 1 linear foot of books and magazines. Time to get rid of some of it. Oh! but I need the Margolis book. :-P

  13. Couture Techniques: Create Design-quality Fashion - Kenneth D. King;
    The Art of Manipulating Fabric - Collette Wolff;
    Couture: Fine Art of Sewing - Roberta Carr;

    these are on my wish list i have too many book's upstairs!!!! hectic but it's all learning!!!! xx

  14. First of all, you are all bad, very bad.

    Next, I own that Jane Rhinehart book about sewing men's clothes -- if you supersize the top photo you'll see in there...somewhere.

    Mikaela, careful, you don't want to turn into a book bulemic. That would be unfortunate and bad for your tooth enamel.

    Sarah, those Taschen books are always gorgeous -- Must. Avoid.

    I don't own the David Coffin trouser book -- yet. I keep waiting for it to get super, super cheap on Amazon. But it never does...

  15. My public library contains tons of great sewing books. If I am making drapes, I can run up there and grab 10 books on drape making. This really curbs my interest in buying sewing books. I have bought a couple of sewing books that I find that I have loved just too much when I had them checked out. My sewing room is pretty limited on space so I try to think that I have to give a book a home if I buy it. I bet the libraries in NYC are incredible.

  16. Sir, my philosophy is you can never have too many book. And, when you decided you do, sell them on Amazon or give them away to newbies or well deserving friends. When I was growing up, we didn't have many books around. But now that I'm a professor and a crafter, look out--I've got books. I do use the library for things I'm only sort of interested in. But for the rest, or the ones I find in the trash, or the ones I get for a buck at a yard sale, there is always room on my shelves or under the bed. (And, I loved it when I was young and people I looked up to gave me cool things. If I can do that for other people by giving them books occasionally, great.)

  17. Oh my goodness, we suffer from the same disease (smile). You have a great collection! I too am obsessed with sewing book and amassed an astounding collection in a short period of time. Thank God for Ebay and used book so I didn't go broke. Have fun reading and collecting!

  18. once upon a time, I gave away my Vogue sewing book.

    I don't want to talk about it.

  19. I love the Vogue book, definitely my favorite, but otherwise I don't have that many books...mainly because I'm too new. I also have the Dummy's guide to sewing and a singer book and something I got off ebay here in London, but haven't perused yet.

  20. O. M. G. !!! Peter, look in the flyleaf of those first two books ... my mom had those in the '60s ... if you see the initials JHC in there, well, how serendipitous would that be?

    I've been kicking myself for not picking up the Singer Sewing Library series that was in my church's rummage sale last spring. But I have a bazillion books, craft books, and magazines, and limited space. I've been hitting up the library ... but I may yet invest in a good tailoring book. Happy reading!

  21. I suffer too! I collect any fashion/sewing related books and vintage sewing patterns like it's my job, haha. Which isn't good considering I'm a college student on a budget...:)

  22. Stop! There are books you own which I don't and am now going to covet... It's the pictures I think. I look at that McCalls one and immediately I want it. And Don't Blame the Mirror... who could resist that? And just when I'd managed to persuade myself that I had enough sewing books now...

  23. Jan, I can't bring myself to look. I'm already spooked.

    Rachel, "too new?" I'm new too but somehow I've accumulated the book collection of someone old, very old.

    Natalie, keep your eyes off "Don't Blame the Mirror." It's mine.

  24. Peter, do you have "Fine Machine Sewing" by Carol Ahles? It tells how to replicate vintage hand sewing techniques by machine. Excellent book. I've learned lots from it.

  25. I hate clutter, so I try not to accumulate sewing books. I only have 4. (I don't apply this reserve to fabric though. I'm a hypocrite!)

    I did just receive Fit For Real People yesterday in the mail. It is apparently *the* fit book, and it does look great so far. I don't think it has a men's section, though. ;(

  26. I have been spending most of my money on fabric and patterns, so I can only confess to a handful of sewing books. I do own the Fit for Real People and The Sewing Book by Allison Smith (I would recommend the former much more than the latter). Not that I don't want more! Now I will have to search my local used bookstore. Maybe I will check out some while in San Antonio... I wonder if I should take an extra suitcase :)

  27. I don't have a problem with my collection of sewing books and sewing machines (about the same number of each). What I have is a very greedy partner who believes that he deserves any space in the house.

  28. The book you ALMOST bought is an amazing book. I bought it recently and while I'm a pretty advanced sewer, there are things in there that I still refer to frequently. The techniques are geared for giving you a very high quality RTW look. You could probably ditch a few of the other sewing books and replace it with "Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers" if you are worried about space and how many books your gathering.

    As for me, I am opting to have a custom built in bookshelf done in my sewing room so I can keep buying books.

  29. Like a Sewn Wardrobe, I'm not a fan of clutter so I only have 3 sewing books.

    On a fiction note, I highly recommend Frances De Pontes Peeble's The Seamstress, about two sister sewists living in Brazil during the 20s and 30s. One starts her own couture house and one becomes an outlaw.

  30. I do have a shelf full. The one I seem to turn to most these days is More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina. I don't believe she has a page for vintage sheets from the Salvation Army though. :)

    I am thinking of investing in some books to take my sewing to the next level.

  31. I was just at the local library book sale. $8 a bag. There were SO many sewing books I wanted to buy but didn't need at all. So then I wanted to buy them for YOU! But I knew you didn't need them either, and I've seen your apartment, so, alas, I left them there (oh, I did buy just one that I don't need).

  32. Oh, Peter!
    You are my brother from another mother for sure. I do the SAME thing, and I have as more...sewing books. Thrift stores. Oh, yes. Sometimes I find the motherload! There's probably a 12-step program out there for us.

  33. I thought I had a lot of fabric, but my sewing books and magazine take up way more room than the fabrics. Not even counting fashion books.
    I've sold a bunch of books that I've grown out and used the money to buy more books. Hee.. hee..

  34. Peter one can never have too many reference books, of any kind. I have acquired a few sewing books in the past 6 months but they're nowhere near as impressive as your collection. Keep up the good work!!

  35. You can never have enough books!!
    Did you know you can buy used books and quite often old, out-of-print books on
    And for reasonably priced new books with no postage costs there is
    I have the Fit for Real People Book, it's fabulous and I also have the Fitting and Pattern Alteration book by Elizabeth G. Liechty, Della N. Pottberg and Judith A. Rasband. I have a shelf full of books in my sewing room. Too numerous to name but I recognized some of yours, in mine ... lol. Claire Schaeffer's books are great as well as David Coffin's and the Cool Couture book by Kenneth King is good too. You can always learn something from each of them and you will find the ones that suit your method of working and what appeals to you most.

  36. WOW - I can totally relate to the calming effect of sewing books before sleeping.

    At the moment, I have Palmer/Pletsch 'Pants for real people' on my bedside table.

    As for accumulating those wonderfull, horribly space-consuming books - I ususally get given sewing books for birthdays and so on. When last my DD had her 4th birthday I actually got at book on sewing children's clothes for HER birthday! All those wonderfully enabling friends :-)

  37. Okay, now I'm scared. I actually DID purchase the Cole & Czachor book for $90.00 at Amazon. Last summer I declared I had no more space for sewing books (and other paraphernalia) and I donated a great big pile of them to my local library. Then, I proceeded to slowly buy more sewing books and filled up the space I created. I've accepted that owning sewing books is part of my passion for sewing.

  38. I'm addicted to Burda...out here in the hinterland provinces, that's about all we can get with some style and fashion - so what's worse is I collect them all, but they are filed and neatly stored for access. And Threads is another fav - need to organize those. But by far my biggest space-taker is my collection of patterns. But so far, not many books have appealed to me - I have a few, but they all seam (ha!) to fit the ticket!

  39. All I can tell you is make a place for the books. They are better than pets. Sure they take up space but you don't have to walk, feed or clean up after them. They are there for you any time. I recently moved and packing my beloved sewing, design, beading and all types of needlearts books used 25 book boxes. I still have lots of stuff boxed in the garage but my books are on the shelfs. Don't even get me started about patterns. I estimate close to 2000.

  40. Approach love and sewing with reckless abandon. (amended quote). Nothing else will quite do!

  41. Peter, Peter, you are still in the infancy stages when it comes to collecting sewing and fabric related books! I have 2 floor to ceiling bookshelves 4 ft. long that are CRAMMED with sewing related printed material! And just last weekend I found 5 more vintage sewing books to add to my collection and I just purchased "Couture Sewing Techniques" by Claire Shaeffer (Taunton Press) - I am RIVITED by this book! You NEED to buy it and add it to your collection!

    Oh, and I also seriously considered that $90.00 book too, but I reigned myself in at the last minute...doesn't mean I still won't buy it at some point, though. I love Amazon - I buy almost all of my books used.

    Hubby can't understand why I need all of these sewing books. He just doesn't get it. I teach beginner sewing on my blog ( and sometimes I need help explaining something I am so used to doing to a beginner - hence, all of my resource material!


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