Posts Tagged ‘Choosing sewing books for newbies.’

Welcome Back

Have you been longing for a sewing machine? Perhaps you have a budget in mind or the family have started asking what you would like for Christmas or your birthday. Rather than individual presents, maybe they would be interested in going in together, to help towards the cost of your dream machine. Ohh the possibilities, so how do you choose which machine is right for you? Read on for helpful tips to narrow the search.

My First Sewing Machine

My First Sewing Machine; Brother BM2600

There are so many options, how do I choose which machine is right for me?

Here are some helpful questions to ask, to help you narrow the choice.

  • What do you want to make?
  • What comes with the machine?
  • What extra feet or accessories are available for your choice of machine and how much do they cost?
  • Budget, have a figure in mind that you are hoping to spend, then do some research as to what is available for that price.
  • Do you know anyone else who sews, who you could ask about the machine they use?
  • Look up the main manufacturers of machines [see links below] to see what is available

What would you like to use the sewing machine to make?

If this is your first machine, pretend for a moment that you can afford anything, and already know how to sew anything that comes into your mind. Now write a list of all the things you would like to create with your new machine. You now have this list it will help lead your choice as some machines are better for some jobs, than others.

For example if you mainly want to do a few clothing repairs and have the option of trying some craft style projects, then you don’t need huge numbers of stitches. Machines with fewer stitches are often cheaper and you could get a much better quality machine with fewer stitches than for the same budget if you wanted lots more stitch options.

If you are thinking more home furnishing, curtains etc then you will be using much heavier weights of fabric, so go for a sturdier machine whose motor can better cope with these things.

Feet & Accessories

Now that you have your dream list of things you would like to create with your machine, have a look at some of the main manufacturers of sewing machines and what is available. When you see a machine you like, download the manual to see how easy/difficult the machine looks like it will be to use.

Not all shops or online retailers have much information about individual machines so getting hold of the manual is a good way to compare machines and find out just what they are capable of. It will also let you discover what comes in the box and hopefully what other accessories and feet are available for that machine.


There will be a selection of feet that come with your machine, how many there are is likely to be driven by your budget and which machine you choose. With your dream list of projects, have a look to see what feet are needed for those kinds of project and check their pricing. The last thing you want is to discover  in a years time is that your great bargain can’t grow with you as there aren’t more feet available so now you can’t do half the projects you had planned, or the feet to make it do so, are prohibitively expensive.

Room to grow with your sewing machine

You have a choice, buy a basic machine with the full intention to learn the ropes on it and expect to trade up to a bigger better one as your skills improve or by doing some research that I’ve mentioned above, getting a little more expensive machine, that will give you the option of adding extra feet as your sewing horizons expand with your confidence.

One thing I can promise you, is that if you get bitten by the sewing bug, you will be astonished at how quickly you want to do more than you ever imagined when you first bought your machine. When I bought mine, I ‘just’ wanted to make bags, perhaps alter a few hems. Three years later and I’m now very keen to try dressmaking, nothing earth shattering but being short I find trousers almost impossible to buy to fit. I like cotton skirts but often their prices are painful, I’d like to try to make some of those too.

Now I’m not saying making your own clothes will be cheaper, sometimes it will, sometimes it will cost the same, and sometimes it will cost more BUT it does give you more options for colours, fabrics and styles that YOU choose, not what the shops say you should want.

Getting help

If you have friends or family that sew, see if you can use their machine and ask them what they love or hate about it. If this isn’t an option check out the many sewing forums online and see what machines people on there are using, ask questions and have a natter. Better to do this now, than to drop a load of hard-earned cash on a machine, that in three months you regret getting.


Now I know this sounds a bit daft, but do spare a thought for what you will do with your machine, when you aren’t using it.

The reason I say this, is because some machines are a lot heavier than others and if you are needing to store you machine away in the cupboard and haul it out when you want to use it, suddenly the weight of the machine could become a big issue. If the machine will be out on a desk, you want to protect it from dust, so check out what covers the machine comes with or if there are bags available for it.

If you have the space and funds there is a fantastic company called Horn who produce the most amazing cabinets for sewing machines. The have a gas lift to raise your machine to working height, and press again to store away again into the cabinet. There are many options at various price points depending on your budget and available space.


Do have a look at the  Textiles Tab for links to;

It’s also a good idea to look through some catalogues for inspiration and options. I ordered one from Jaycotts last weekend, OK my wish list grew, but it was helpful to have items listed side by side to compare sizes and features.

Oh dear another LONG post, I really need to work on short n sweet rather than epic essays don’t I! Anyway I hope you find this post helpful, these are the tips I’ve picked up along the way and if they save you some time and money along the way, then its been worth the hard work looking up all these links.

Happy Sewing

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie 🙂


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Welcome Back

When I joined a sewing forum, a popular topic was; ‘What books are good for beginners?’

The answer does of course will depend on what you would like to create, but for general sewing, things like home-wares, gifts and to get you started with sewing with a machine, here are several excellent books that I use a lot and are ideal for newbies. There are links at the end of the article for the full reviews that I wrote about the titles mentioned, in earlier posts.

Me and my sewing Machine by Kate Haxell.

Me and my Sewing Machine by Kate Haxell

Me and my Sewing Machine by Kate Haxell

Kate’s book is for those who know they want to sew using a sewing machine, but need a good guide to what a machine can help you do and how to do it. This book holds your hand and shows you round the machine, it tells you about the different feet and what they each do and is also a good no-nonsense guide to essential techniques, for basic sewing. How to create different seams, and how to finish them create a really professional look for your projects. Zip insertion is also covered well is this book.

Check out the link below for my earlier review. This is also a good book to look at, before you buy your first sewing machine.

Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes

Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes

Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes

This one is perfect for newbies as it expects no prior knowledge. If you want to make a PE bag for the kids its in here, gifts suitable for friends family and little projects perfect for fetes are also included here. There are totes, tissue holders, little purses etc. Nice small achievable confidence building project for the new sewer.

Sew What Skirts by Denhartog & Camp

Sew What Skirts by Denhartog and Camp

Sew What Skirts by Denhartog and Camp

Another nice straight forward and inspiring book, also expecting little or no prior knowledge of sewing. As the intro to the book says ‘If you can thread your sewing machine and find the straight and zig zag stitches you can create the projects in this book.

Sew What Skirts shows you how to take your own body measurements, to create a range of different skirts. Classic styles to get you going but when you have more experience, you can mix n match ideas from the various styles for different waist bands and fastenings, add pockets and trims to your heart’s content so you can really personalise the designs to your own look.

If the thought of a commercial pattern confuses you and frightens you, (me too by the way!) This book is for you.

I have just made a trial skirt from this books instructions and it came out great. If you have to do a lot of altering on a commercial pattern, why not start with this book instead. Since YOUR measurements are used not that of some fictional ‘standard’ person 😉

The Sewing Book by Alison Smith

The Sewing Book by Alison Smith

The Sewing Book by Alison Smith

THE must have sewing book. A wonderfully clear reference book of visual instructions for so many sewing techniques. Not the chatty style of the earlier books but definitely one to have on your bookshelf as it walks you through many techniques.

I did buy a commercial pattern and couldn’t follow what I was meant to be doing. When I looked the technique up in Alison’s book, there were photos of the technique which made it much easier to see what I was meant to be doing. Not overly wordy, but definitely a keeper and excellent for visual learners. If you are trying to fathom the markings on commercial patterns they are covered here as are some basic alterations for patterns too.

Home-made Vintage by Christina Strutt

Home Made Vintage

Home Made Vintage

If you are more into home-wares and would like to make something timeless and elegant try this book. Its kind of Anna Griffin meets Tilda 😉 If you walk through John Lewis and the like and think ‘Ooh so nice’, but the prices are beyond your pocket try this book. From cushion covers to table decoration. You could take the ideas found in here in many different directions. For example there is an envelope shoe bag that with some alteration to the size and the addition of padding, would make a great e-reader/tablet cover/cozy.

Lots of things in here for all ages and some would also make great gifts. Take the ideas as a starting point and add your own imagination, with different style fabrics you could change the look and feel to any style you like. The picture in the photo was from a library book with hard cover, when I bought the book it was a paperback and had a different cover but essentially all the same content.

My other favorite sewing book is The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam. I love it but perhaps it doesn’t belong on books for beginners as although it covers many aspects of making bags, the techniques are for those with more experience. For complete newbies go with Sew what bags, if you have passed that stage and want to explore different fastenings, add pockets and zippers then Lisa’s book is a real must have.

Hope you will check out the links below for my full reviews of the books I’ve mentioned. These books have been so helpful in my sewing journey. I was scared of sewing for so long, but with the help and encouragement of these books, and some help from forum buddies, my sewing is improving with every project.


The following links take you to my full reviews of these books and to where you can buy them.

My best advice is to grab some cheap fabric or old sheets that you can practice with before you try to make something in particular. Work out what stitches you like and how techniques work before making a finished project, that way you won’t have so much pressure and when you do make a project, have much better chance of making something you love and will use.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie 🙂

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