11 Must-have vintage sewing books

If you enjoy working with vintage sewing patterns, perusing old sewing books just makes sense.

Filling a shelf or two with old sewing books, magazines, pattern books and sewing supplements as handy reference manuals just makes sense:

Vogue Sewing Book
Vogue Sewing Book

Using vintage sewing patterns becomes alot easier-especially for the novice.
They’re more than sewing books-indeed some are mini history guides and for certain etiquette lessons on living, fashion and being a lady.

The graphics are useful and helpful. Today’s sewing reference books just don’t contain the same meat as older sewing books.

They contain “lost” and “forgotten” sewing information and techniques. They’re actually useful.

Complete Guide to Sewing
Complete Guide to Sewing

Here are some of my favorite vintage sewing books:

  1. Clothing for Women: Selection, Design, Construction: A Practical Manual for School and Home.
  2. Clothing Construction
  3. Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing–one of the best
  4. Singer Sewing Book
  5. Coates & Clark’s Sewing Book
  6. Simplicity’s Simply The Best Sewing Book
  7. Sewing Made Easy
  8. The Complete Book of Sewing
  9. How to Make Clothes that Fit and Flatter
  10. The Vogue Sewing Book
  11. McCall’s New Complete Book of Sewing and Dressmaking

Vintage Sewing and Patternmaking Books

Dress Design
Dress Design

When you’re in the mood for a good read, an old sewing book probably isn’t the first book that comes to mind.

BUT–they can be comforting.  Maybe you should give them a second look.

Here’s why:

Authors weren’t afraid of sharing information or their skills.

Creative Clothing Construction
Creative Clothing Construction

Back in the day authors didn’t over promote brands or self. They were about sewing, teaching the art and mastering the skill of the art.

The very best vintage/antique sewing books are old college textbooks offering lessons and suggestions on etiquette, makeup, beauty, and fashion.  Those providing little extra “helping aids”: templates, scale drawings, full-size patterns and instructions for making sewing tools.

Most are filled with pages of pages illustrations, charts, photographs, drawings and plates.

They may not be easy to find and not necessarily inexpensive, but vintage sewing books are 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. Sewing is serious business and Creative Clothing Construction stresses taking time to master the art. More than 300 pages of text and 28 chapters of relevant sewing information are included.

Smart Sewing: The Making of Clothing by Catherine Doer (1967), focuses on clothing construction and is for those wanting to make smart well-made clothing.  It’s a complete guide to how-to sewing.

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–it’s “simply marvelous”.

Shorthand Fashion Sketches (1966) by Patricia L. Rowe. Tracing and coloring in lame illustrations–then calling them fashion and design illustrations-is remedial. Anyone truly interested in learning how to make and draw fashion illustrations should get their hands on this how-to and highly illustrative book.  It is THE BEST.

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 the  understanding of draping. Seven chapters and more than 300 pages.

Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Makingthe 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.

Go find them! Hopefully, these little tidbits provided are enough to get your curiosity going.

 

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