Library Review: Sewing Books

Our Young Content Creator Maddie has a keen passion for crafts, particularly sewing. Here she guides us through some of the wonderful sewing books available within the library here at Storyhouse. From beginner to sewing aficionado, there is a book for everyone!


The Storyhouse library’s small collection of sewing and craft books has some real gems. There are some especially good books aimed at beginning and intermediate home sewers, but there are a few aimed at more advanced sewers. I have chosen to review 6 sewing and craft books, to give a flavour of the range available for people interested in home sewing.


  1. ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’, by Tessa Evelegh

An official companion book to the BBC TV show of the same name, this is a great book for those that have been inspired by the show to learn how to sew. It starts with the basics, going through what equipment a sewer needs, how to read sewing patterns, and instructions for basic stitches. It then has instructions for over 30 projects from the show, ranging from a very simple cushion cover to more complicated dresses and skirts. There is a handy difficulty rating to help you choose a project of the right skill level. There are scaled down pattern pieces at the back of the book, which you can manually scale up or you can download and print off the pattern at the correct scale from (this seems by far the easiest option).

This book is:

Easy to follow: 5/5

Well-illustrated: 5/5

Aimed at: Beginners


  1. ‘May Martin’s Sewing Bible’, by May Martin

Keeping with ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’, this sewing bible is written by the now ex-presenter May Martin. Again, this book is aimed at beginners with simple, clear instructions on the basics of sewing. With over 40 projects included, there are a good range of things to try and make. Although there are a few clothes to make, such as a blouse and a child’s dress, the emphasis is more on making homewares, like Christmas decorations, bunting, and cushion covers. While the book is mostly aimed at beginners, it does contain instructions for more advanced techniques like overlocking, and so would still be useful for an intermediate to advanced home sewer. My one gripe is that there could be more illustrations to demonstrate the instructions.

This book is:

Easy to follow: 5/5

Well-illustrated: 3/5

Aimed at: Beginners-intermediate


  1. ‘Yeah! I Made it Myself: DIY Fashion for the Not-Very Domestic Goddess’, by Eithne Farry

Another beginner’s book, but very different in tone. As you can probably tell from the title, this book is presented in a very fun and friendly way, which I really enjoyed. The projects themselves look fun and stylish and whilst the bulk of the book is dedicated to sewing, at the back there is also an introduction to some basic knitting projects. My big problem with this book, however, is that while it says it is aimed at beginners the instructions are ot nearly detailed enough for someone at this level. Often it will just say something like ‘Do the darts’ without explaining how to sew darts. With sections at the beginning clearly explaining how to do a straight stitch on a machine, you would think the author would take a similar approach to all sewing terms and techniques which might be unfamiliar to a beginner. The fact they haven’t makes it useless for its intended audience. These instructions would be fine for a more advanced sewer, but the first part explaining the very basics of sewing would be useless for them. There also aren’t nearly enough illustrations as I would like.

This book is:

Easy to follow: 2/5

Well-illustrated: 3/5

Aimed at: Beginners-intermediate (but it doesn’t do a great job for either of them)


  1. Festival Fabulous: Over 30 Craft Projects for a Unique Festival Experience, by Ros Badger and Christine Leech

A different kind of craft book, with projects ranging from making a drawstring bag, to making a flower and raffia garland, to crocheting a drinks holder. The projects are generally small and aimed at beginners, but instead of being intended as an introduction to dressmaking as a whole, it is simply for people wanting to do a fun project for a festival. The style of the projects is all boho festival-chic, as you would expect. There’s lots of photos of girls enjoying themselves at festivals, which makes the book look nice but makes the pages too crowded to read clearly. The instructions themselves are easy to follow, but there are only a few illustrations demonstrating them and they aren’t particularly clear.

This book is:

Easy to follow: 3/5

Well-illustrated: 2/5

Aimed at: Beginners wanting to do something fun for a festival


  1. Sewing Alterations & Repairs: 200 Questions Answered, by Nan Ides

This is a really useful book for everyone of every skill level, from beginners to advanced. It covers all sorts of alterations from very simple things like how to sew on a button to much more complicated skills like how to take in a lined jacket. For each section, there is a lot of information packed into a small amount of space, which perhaps makes the instructions less easy to follow than they could be. The lack of space also means there aren’t many diagrams to show the instructions visually. However, I think that is a compromise the author made in order to cover as much as they did. I think any alteration you might need to make to your clothes to make them fit and look better is covered by this book, and the instructions themselves are explained clearly.

This book is:

Easy to follow: 4/5

Well-illustrated: 3/5

Aimed at: Everyone wanting to alter some clothes


  1. Home Sewing, Couture Techniques, Kenneth D. King

This book is for advanced home sewers wanting to learn more complicated techniques to give their handmade garments a high end finish. Techniques include double and triple piping, piped buttonholes, and welt pockets. It covers a good range of techniques for people wanting to take their sewing to the next level. The instructions are clear and well-laid out and there are lots of photos and diagrams illustrating them.

This book is:

Easy to follow: 4/5

Well-illustrated: 4/5

Aimed at: Advanced sewers


For more articles on sewing, see Maddie’s guides to upcycling, part 1 and part 2 are available online now, keep your eyes peeled for a future instalment in this series. 

For those interested in getting involved with sewing and crafting here at Storyhouse, why not try our resident Sew Cool group, who provide regular meet ups for like-minded sewers and crafters of all ages and abilities!


This article was written by one of our Young Content Creators, an initiative ran in conjunction with Young Storyhouse to provide budding content creators paid opportunities to showcase their unique voices within Storyhouse’s digital channels.

Young Content Creators are supported by Film Hub North, awarding funds from The National Lottery.

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