when i started sewing by machine (which was several years after i started sewing by hand), mama gave me the sewing book that would be the only sewing book i would own for 20+ years: the better homes and gardens sewing book, 1961 edition. this book not only taught me most of what i know about sewing, it also formed my taste in clothing. and it is the book i always recommend for beginners for the simple reason that a book that old does not assume someone just starting out will have all the bells and whistles and gadgets and gizmos that most sewing books these days expect.
nope, the good old vintage books expect you to have fabric, needles, thread, and scissors--if your book was written before the 1950's it might not even expect you to have a pattern or a machine!
but it WILL expect you to have an active brain. and that is where you have the advantage over seamstresses who are worrying about not having a serger or rotary cutters or automatic buttonhole stitches. because with the use of just your attentive brain, your simple tools, and your trusty sewing book, you can sew ANYTHING.
you can amaze your friends and impress your coworkers with your skill and ingenuity! your children will be smarter, your car will get better gas mileage, and your hair will be soft and manageable.
can you tell how much i love this book?
i have good memories tied up in my original copy of this book. there are the little line drawings that i colored in one day when mama left the book on the counter in the laundry room where she sewed--the page my baby nephew spencer tore while his mother and i sewed his blue's clues halloween costume (jacquie, to this day when i turn to that page i smile and am so happy to have that memory)--and the hours and hours i have spent staring at the picture of the dress that continues to be the DRESS OF MY DREAMS, the most glamourous dress my 8-year-old eyes had ever seen, the dress that to this day i do not feel quite glamourous enough to wear because the 8-year-old rowa still hides inside the 45-year-old MAMA.
eventually i did start buying sewing books--too many, in fact--but i always come back to this one. it reminds me that i do love to sew, that i can be proud of what i make, and that i can learn something new anytime i want, just by opening a book. those are gifts my mother had no idea she gave me, and i will carry them with me for life.
the BHG sewing book is available every day of the year at ebay, at thrift store prices mostly, and i tend to buy them when i see them, to give as gifts for students or friends. (hint--skip the 1970 edition--go straight for 1961--yes, that is the year i was born, but it also happens to be the edition that i think is best). do yourself a favor and get your own copy--then find the dress of YOUR dreams, and make it. if you will, i will too.