Ahh… books. Those friends for life. And no matter how long you’ve been sewing, you probably have a few of these friends around.
Some are undoubtedly better than others. A few belong in the Goodwill donation stack. Others you would grab in case of fire.
While there are dozens of really good books on sewing and costuming, here are my favorites that I recommend for anyone who sews anything (but mostly for historical sewing projects).
The following books are not listed in any particular order as they cover a wide range of topics. All of them should be in your library.
1 – Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston (new edition Dec 2016)
One of many drool books for 1800s fashions but my favorite. Full-color, detailed photos of extant garments at the Victoria & Albert Museum allow you to escape into another world. The line drawings are the best part of the book as you can see where seams and other details are in each garment. I’ve used the line drawings to replicate a few dresses. Fabulous!
2 – Costume in Detail: 1730-1930 by Nancy Bradfield
No pictures but don’t let that throw you off. Here you’ll find a thick book packed with line sketches of extant garments in several collections (including ones that are repeated in Janet Arnold’s books (see below)). Invaluable when needing correct research on where seams were placed and closures. Measurements are also given and extremely helpful when making up historically accurate reproductions.
3 – Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles by Phyllis G. Tortora
THE ultimate resource of fabrics and materials. Every fabric term I’ve ever come across has always been in this book. It is amazing and worth every penny!
4 – Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina
You’ll find a lot of pattern fitting books on the market, even my fitting tips for Regency and Civil War in my Old Petticoat Shop. I’ve found Sandra’s book to be easy to read and full of flat pattern fitting techniques to apply. I have post-it notes on pages I refer to often (like sleeves and full bust cup adjustments).
5 – Vogue Sewing, Revised & Updated published by Vogue Knitting Magazine (The Butterick Company)
A general sewing resource book that is so very helpful. I utilize the fitting pages often. Out of the basic sewing books out there this is my favorite and most highly recommended.
6 – Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques edited by Kristina Harris
Based on a period Butterick sewing manual, this narrow book is packed with techniques straight from the late Victorian era. Lots of text so work through each sentence carefully. Accompanying photos are quite useful – I refer to the closures section often.
7 – Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer
Although Ms. Shaeffer’s book focuses on vintage couture garments, the sewing processes translate well to historical dressmaking. Bias finishes, hem facings, hand sewing tips and multi-layered garment techniques are exactly what our Victorian ancestors used in their dressmaking. A super valuable resource for stepping up your sewing quality!
8 – Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909 by Jean Hunnisett
I cut my historical-sewing-from-graph-patterns teeth on Jean Hunnisett’s book. Although directed for theatrical productions, many of her patterns are based on extant originals. The patterns for skirts and support undergarments are basic enough to produce a well-designed historical silhouette. Sewing instructions have a modern construction flair but not far removed from historical dressmaking techniques.
9 – Patterns of Fashion 2, Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction c.1860-1940 by Janet Arnold
Ms. Arnold surely spent many months detailing existing garments into line drawings and flat patterns on graph paper so we today could reproduce historical fashions. Because the patterns are on a graph, y0u get access to measurements of the originals.
Few sewing instructions are given but enough notes are presented for an experienced sewer to easily replicate each design. Notes from the period help define further dressmaking techniques.
10 – English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century by C. Willett Cunnington
Need details on what they wore in 1843? Or in 1887? What about hairstyles and accessories? This thick book walks through the entire 19th Century first by eras and decades then in more detail year by year with period source material and the author’s research.
Summaries of fabrics, dress styles, and accessories are reviewed making it a wonderful resource when you need to pin-point your design to a specific year.
This list just barely touches on the dozens and dozens of books in my sewing library. I think I need to make another list on my favorite books I use for design inspiration…. 🙂
Do you have books on this list? Which one is your favorite out of these 10 here?