Elementary Sewing Skills by Carolyn N.K. Denham

Elementary Sewing Skills presents the most important basics of sewing. Illustrated with hand drawings and a few photographs, I found the tips to be useful (my sewing experience pretty much equates to junior high school sewing class), especially since there are troubleshooting tips for when things are going wrong. Those with more advanced sewing skills will probably scoff at the basic level of the tips presented; however, I can attest that this was exactly what I was looking for – sparse, to the point, and easy to follow. In a topic that has so many books available for those who want to increase their sewing skills, this definitely has a place for the absolute beginner. It’s about covering some of the basic techniques in clothing making, preparation, construction, and finishing. It’s also a place to start that won’t overwhelm.


The book is a brief 58 pages and breaks down as follows: Introduction, order of making, the sewing machine, tools, fabric, the pattern, pressing, hand stitching, seams, trimming seams, interfacing, darts, sleeves, waistlines, necklines, trousers, pockets, zips, buttonholes, hems, index.

As an example, the introduction has a picture of a dress with arrows pointing to the various parts – from buttons to gathers, pockets to darts, zips to facings. Yes, I probably know what a buttonhole and hem are – but all the same, I appreciate the thoroughness yet also the brevity.

For me, I used this book along with a simple dress pattern to get a feel for the basics. Everything from the right amount of tension in the thread of a sewing machine to pressing (not ironing) fabric.

Because this is easy to follow, with large type and a lot of white space, it doesn’t feel onerous.  Useful for a teen starting to sew their own clothes or someone older, like myself, who never had a chance to learn good sewing techniques from a parent.  Beginners will eventually want to buy a more comprehensive book – but sometimes, an easy start is just the thing to get the ball rolling. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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