When you’re in the mood for a good read, an old sewing book probably isn’t the first type of book to come to mind. Especially over a James Patterson mystery novel.
But, I believe snuggling up with the right sewing book can be as comforting as apple pie.
- authors of vintage sewing books appreciated sewing and viewed it as an art.
- authors were much more than fluff and weren’t afraid of sharing information.
- authors were about sewing, teaching the art, mastering the skill of the art and not so much about self-promotion or promoting a brand.
The very best vintage/antique sewing books are old college textbooks offering lessons and suggestions on etiquette, makeup, beauty, fashion and those providing little extra “helping aids”: templates, scale drawings and full-size patterns.
There were also how-to lessons on making sewing gadgets and tools and many pages filled with illustrations, charts, photographs, drawings and plates.
They may not be easy to find and not necessarily inexpensive (quality never is), but they’re always worth their weight in gold.
- Intended primarily as a college textbook on pattern making and dress design using flat pattern methods, Practical Dress Design: Principles of Fitting and Pattern Making (1954) by Mabel D. Erwin is a gem. Hardback with 16 complete chapters covering foundation patterns to the principles of dressmaking, Practical Dress Design is perfect for the dressmaker or individual with an addiction to vintage silhouettes or anyone interested in making their own designs.
- Creative Clothing Construction (1966) by Allyne Bane isn’t written (according to the preface) for those wanting a quick and easy method to sewing. This book takes sewing seriously, stressing taking time to master the art. More than 300 pages of text and 28 chapters of relevant sewing information.
- Smart Sewing: The Making of Clothing by Catherine Doer (1967), focuses on clothing construction and is for those wanting to make smart clothes that have a professional look. A complete guide to sewing how-to.
- Pattern Making: A Clear and Easy Guide (1975) by Norma R. Hollen is a simple, but complete illustrative guide to flat pattern making. Photographic illustrations. 16 chapters.
- Designing Apparel through the Flat Pattern, Ernestine Kopp, Vittorina Rolfo, and Beatrice Zelin, hardback book containing more than 345 pages and 11 chapters.
- Flat Pattern Design (1972) by Allyn Bane. Simply put, “simply marvelous”.
- Shorthand Fashion Sketches (1966) by Patricia L. Rowe. Anyone truly desiring to design and make their own clothing should invest in a quality fashion drawing illustration book. Tracing and coloring in-is remedial. Illustration and drawing is professional and necessary. Shorthand Fashion Sketches bills itself as a basic fashion sketching book, but it’s actually so much more and very detailed. What’s more is the book is an outline of the current fashion of its time…1966, so it’s chalk full of vintage silhouettes-perfect for the vintage sewer.
- Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making, by Marion Hillhouse and Evelyn Mansfield (1948) explains in detail the principles of draping on a dress form, the principles of flat pattern designing from a master pattern block and the dependence of successful flat pattern making on an understanding of draping. Seven chapters and more than 300 pages.
- Singer Sewing Book, 1949, by Mary Brooks Picken, the introduction states the purpose of this book is to put into your hands in one complete package the means of attaining one of the happiest experience of a woman’s everyday life. Sewing, when it is done with skill and confidence, can be exactly that, for it can mean the satisfaction of family needs and wishes through the work of your own hands.
- Precision Draping: A Simple Method for Developing Talent (1948), by Nelle Weymouth Link. A beautiful book on draping.
Advice: To get the most out of many of these books and to learn the processes accurately-invest in a professional dress form.
Heads up: Some of these books may be available for rent through CampusBookRentals.com