I’m hoping to tackle lots of DIY projects this summer, and I’ve been accumulating tons of inspiration from the Purl Bee.
I mentioned in a previous post how lucky I am that my mom taught me how to sew, and in my cranky teenage years, no less! She taught me the basics on a machine that is quite similar to the one I use as my primary sewing machine now. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time poring over sewing books in bookshops and libraries, and investing in the ones I found most helpful. Today I’d like to share some of my favorite sewing books for beginners, although I think many of these are great resources even for more experienced sewers.
Update 2/14/17: This continues to be one of my most popular posts, even four years later! I’ve added a few more of my favorite beginners’ sewing books, to help you learn to sew with the best of ’em!
School of Sewing is a beautiful sewing manual that goes through everything you might want to know as a beginner. It’s written by Shea Henderson, founder of the Modern Quilt Guild in Kansas City, and that background comes through in her approach to teaching. With each project, you hone your skills as a sewer, and foster a sense of confidence. I loved the photo diagrams in this book; it’s always helpful to have a visual guide when you’re feeling unsure about what you seams should look like.
My friend Christine Haynes is a talented seamstress, and teaches sewing classes online, as well as at craft conferences and creative workshops all over the United States. She’s published many wonderful sewing books, but one of my favorites is her reference book How to Speak Fluent Sewing. She defines hundreds of sewing terms, and completely demystifies the process of reading sewing patterns. A great resource for people who want to get into sewing their own garments!
I loved reading Amy Karol’s blog Angry Chicken, and her sewing book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing, is similarly approachable and fun.
The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick is new to me, but it’s an incredibly popular resource for sewing your own wardrobe. This book comes with five original patterns from their super-cute, modern pattern collection, and all the tips and tricks you’ll need to get started sewing your own clothing.
Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts is a great resource. I don’t even really need to say that, do I? It’s Martha, of course she’s the go to resource for anything crafty. In case you need convincing: the book goes over the basics of identifying fabric and thread, walks you through the most essential hand stitching techniques, and then introduces you to all the parts of your sewing machine and how to use it without accidentally sewing through a finger. Between the straightforward tutorials and the 150 projects to try, I’d say this book is a useful one to keep around.
Wendy Mullin’s Sew U was actually the first sewing book I ever bought, back in 2006 when I had the urge to start sewing all my own clothes. Since then, she’s published a range of other books about sewing clothing, but I find this first one to be most helpful for a beginner. Similar to Martha’s giant handbook, Sew U really does a great job teaching you the foundations of sewing clothing – how to choose fabric for a project, what tools you’ll need, how to shape a pattern for your individual body type, and so on.
I greatly admire Lotta Jansdotter, and her book, Simple Sewing, is perfect for beginners. The sewing projects that she outlines in her book are anything but boring. Lotta has a way of highlighting simple projects that let the fabric and pattern shine.
Zakka Style is the only niche sewing book I’ll include on this list, simply because it’s one of my favorites. The projects are simple enough for beginners to tackle, and beautiful enough to be worth holding onto. The problem with many beginners’ sewing books is that the projects are so simple, they are almost like throwaway projects. Zakka Style has a way of transforming simple projects into lovely keepsakes with simple style. My favorite simple project from this book is the sewing kit, such a great way to get started!
Looking for more sewing inspiration? Check out my post on my favorite sewing projects from Purl Bee.
*Please note: I may receive a small commission for purchases made through links in this post. I only share resources that I find very helpful, and this helps to keep the blog going!
I’ve been taking advantage of the public library lately, checking out some relatively new books from famous designers, and revisiting some of my favorite interior design books. I wanted to share a roundup of my top five favorite interior design books, the ones that I’ve been mining for inspiration for my own home.
Domino: The Book of Decorating – this book was something of a game-changer for interior design books. So many of the interior design books I encountered before Domino were way too specific for my tastes (for example, how to decorate your home in beachy cottage style, or traditional Chinese decor, etc.) Domino has a way of mixing and matching styles that really appeals to me (and many others, it seems!), because you don’t have to get bogged down in tradition or living up to some set of rules.
Domino has chapters dedicated to each room of your home, and is filled with varied examples of how to approach design in those spaces. While the magazine is no more, I’d say Domino is well-remembered for helping thousands of readers create happy modern homes.
The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus – I’ll admit, I’m a fan of Nate Berkus. I think a lot of people I know are a bit burnt out on hearing about him, perhaps he suffers from a bit of overexposure on TV (but really, who could say no to Oprah when she comes calling?!) I don’t watch much TV, so perhaps that explains why I am still fascinated by his new book. In it, Berkus makes a pretty compelling claim against the trend of minimalism, arguing that our “stuff” is what helps to define our lives, and brings meaning into our homes.
Many of the interiors featured are stunning, but it’s the strange details that I find most interesting (for example, the bizarre homemade sculptures found in the home of Barbara Hill shown in that second photo.) Berkus reminds us that the unique things that we accumulate, “give our everyday lives shape, texture, and a sense of who we are, who we’ve been, and where we may be heading.”
Design*Sponge at Home – I was so excited to check this book out when it first debuted; my first weekend browsing it’s pages put a huge dent in my post it notes supply, I had marked almost every page! There’s so much inspiration in these pages, and I love that Grace Bonney made a serious effort to feature homes of a wide range of people – not just professional designers. The last half of the book features a ton of great DIY projects, and if you’ve spent any time on the Design*Sponge blog, you know that they do a great job featuring high quality projects that you actually want to keep in your home.
The Selby Is In Your Place – The Selby is another wonderful blog featuring the homes of people who take a DIY approach to decorating their homes. He features so many wonderful creative spaces, and has an eye for capturing the unglamorous but important details of a home. I love that the homes range from over-the-top super collectors, with shelves of books that reach the ceiling, to artists working in their homes, surrounded by their creative messes. This book feels real to me: mostly unpolished, and certainly focuses on the things that make a home unique.
A perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life by Mary Randolph Carter – I stumbled on this book quite by accident, but was delighted by what I found inside. If the title isn’t quite clear enough – this books features decidedly messy spaces. It talks about why our homes are often disorganized (kids, hobbies, collections, busy lives), and why it’s OK to embrace a little mayhem in your home.
I love that Carter focuses on what I think is most important: getting enjoyment out of your home. If you can’t relax and be yourself in your own home, what’s the point?!
Did I choose one of your favorite interior design books? Any others you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments!
Riffing off my other eraser printing DIY project, which uses a new pencil eraser to make cute polka dotted gift wrap, I thought I’d take that DIY a little further for Valentine’s Day. I love using stamps to make patterned gift wrap or cards, and carving your own heart stamp is super easy!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Start by drawing a little heart on the unused eraser. This will be your guide as you carve.
Proceed by carefully (and I mean CAREFULLY! I don’t want anyone getting hurt!) cutting around the edge of your drawing, and cutting away the edges. It’s very easy to accidentally lob off the whole eraser if you’re going too fast, so take your time. Watch out for your fingers, those x-acto knives are sharp!
All that’s left to do is stamp! I used a black stamp pad, but you could use any color. I would love to do this project using neon pink ink. You can go super simple, just stamping a single tiny heart on the card or envelope, or you can go wild!
I made a few different versions, one of which I am sending to my sister. I made her address label using some of the leftover paper! Hope you’re inspired to send a sweet snail mail valentine to someone you love.
I have been looking for gifts to bring to holiday parties this year, and after reading a little about furoshiki, or fabric gift wrapping, I had to try it with one of the Cotton & Flax tea towels. I think it turned out nicely (it kind of looks like a person wrapped in a cozy blanket!), and gives that gift for the host or hostess a little extra oompf.
You could also really easily wrap a cookbook in a tea towel, another great gift combination for the cook or foodie in your life. There are lots of guides to furoshiki on YouTube, definitely worth checking out!
Did you happen to see this great pom-pom wrapping DIY project floating around Pinterest? Shauna and Stephen from Something’s Hiding in Here had a similar idea a while back too. I was inspired to combine the festive pom pom decorations with my own hand stamped gift wrap as a different take on this fun wrapping paper that has been making the blog rounds lately.
I started by making some simple polka dot wrapping paper using just a new pencil eraser, and a standard stamp pad. You could even do something more intricate, by following my DIY hand stamped gift wrap tutorial.
Then I created a few pom-poms (you can find lots of tutorials online, Martha Stewart has a good overview here.) After wrapping string around the package a couple times like a ribbon, I tied the pom-poms to the top of the package to complete this dotty package.
This is an easy way to wrap larger gifts, and an affordable alternative to some of the fancier gift wraps out there. It’s easy to customize with your loved one’s favorite color, too!
Welcome! I'm Erin Dollar, the textile designer behind Cotton & Flax. Here I'll share peeks behind the scenes, recent inspirations, decor ideas, and more. Read More…