The following are some of my favorite books in my garment sewing library. I recommend having at least one book on general sewing techniques and one book on fitting. I also think it’s valuable to have more than one on each topic if you can afford it. Sometimes, it takes more than one explanation to make a subject really sink in–and the additional illustrations can be enlightening!

General Sewing Techniques

Vogue Sewing, Revised and Updated

This is an excellent guide to garment sewing. Techniques are explained in a clear and concise fashion and the illustrations are usually helpful. The book has a great index, too, which makes looking up particular topics a cinch.

The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques

This is another great guide to all things sewing. It has clear instructions for each technique and the accompanying photos are very helpful. You’ll also find some nice projects at the end of the book.

Sew Everything Workshop

I could see this being used as a textbook for a beginning sewing class. It’s got everything the beginning sewist needs–lists of tools, basic techniques and great projects…some of which may entice the more experienced sewist.

Sew U: The Built by Wendy Guide to Making Your Own Wardrobe

For me, the value of the Built By Wendy series is the inspiration it provides for adding custom touches to basic garments. I think there are better books out there for teaching the basics of sewing, but these books will help you grow into a designer in your own right.

Sew U Home Stretch: The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics

I was too intimidated to sew on knits until I read this book. Turns out, sewing knits isn’t as hard as I thought–and totally worth it!

Fitting Techniques

Fast Fit: Easy Pattern Alterations for Every Figure

I’m always suspicious of titles suggesting the techniques covered inside will be “easy.” The thing is, Sandra Betzina is an excellent teacher and makes a challenging issue feasible for regular people like you and me. The illustrations are great and helped me identify what sorts of alterations I’d need to make to my own garments.

Fit for Real People: Sew Great Clothes Using ANY Pattern (Sewing for Real People series)

If I could only have one fitting book, this would probably be it. It’s thorough, clear and nicely illustrated. It’s more encyclopedic than the Betzina book. This book recommends tissue-fitting as a time-saver–which works great for lots of people. I’ve only had marginal success with it and much prefer making a muslin. I’m eager to check out the Palmer-Pletsch pants fitting book, but haven’t had a chance to do so.

Learning About Fabric

More Fabric Savvy: A Quick Resource Guide to Selecting and Sewing Fabric Completely Revised and Updated

If you’ve ever been confused about how to handle fabric or what sorts of patterns would work for particular kinds of fabric–well, this is the book for you.

Specialized Sewing Books

Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing

I’m still reading this book and will have more to say about it when I finish; however, at this point, I can tell you I have learned a lot about how to make shirts (and other garments) look good on both the outside and inside. The author isn’t satisfied with achieving a ready-to-wear look for his clothing; instead, he hopes to capture the fine details of couture garments.

Easy Guide to Sewing Linings

I’m gearing up to sew a winter coat soon and have been studying this excellent technique book. Not only does it explain how to sew a lining, it also shows how to draft your own lining pattern–something I’m very excited about!