Vintage Sewing Books

I recently had a spate of vintage book buying, and I’ve finally had a chance over the last month or so to properly digest them. Most of them were purchased from, which I’d used and loved years ago and then promptly forgot existed until they sent me a “come back to us!” voucher out of the blue. Well, it worked because I ended up with Kwik Sew Method Swim Wear and Kwik Sew Method Lingerie, both by Kerstin Martensson, plus The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot, and a reproduction of the famous WWII pamphlet Make Do And Mend (bought from Bletchley Park‘s gift shop).

The Kwik Sew books were very 70s in both illustrations and fashion styles, but I was pretty disappointed in the Swim Wear book in particular. I’d seen it highly recommended online, but even if you look past the outdated styles, there actually isn’t that much information of sewing techniques here. There’s lots of info about sewing suits for children and adapting them as they grow, but this isn’t really that useful to me! In the end, I learned a lot more about sewing my first swimsuit from the ladies on Pattern Review. The Lingerie book has the same outdated styles, but has a nice section all about tweaking fit and a general order of construction for sewing bras and overall, looks a lot more useful for someone about to sew their first few bits of lingerie, like myself.

The Constance Talbot book, though, is utterly fantastic. I’d go so far as to say it’s a must-have for anyone learning to sew even today! When they say “complete”, they mean it, too – there is absolutely everything you could think of covered here, from refashioning worn dresses to sewing slipcovers to laundry tips! I’ve yet to see a modern book that even covers half this much information!

This still goes for pennies on Abe Books so you really have no excuse for not buying this! I mean, look at some of these example pages, they’re nearly works of art!

This page about sewing and interlining for a winter coat is actually priceless for me as I’m still in the throes of the Great Coat Sewalong!

And the wartime Make Do and Mend pamphlet is also a real winner. It’s only a short booklet but it manages to cover everything from recycling leftover food scraps to refashioning clothes (including nicking your poor fighting husband’s clothes to turn into your work clothes!), to unpicking and reknitting sweaters, and manages to do so without being preachy. In fact, a lot of the recycling tips plucked from 1943 wouldn’t sound terribly out of place in 2008!

These have become a nice addition to my sewing reference library, which also includes gems like Modern Pattern Design, by Harriet Pepin, which has the luck of being out of print and entirely digitised to view online!

In other news, I actually (very nearly) finished my dark green corduroy trousers this morning before work, so I’m going to try and do a photoshoot for those and the olive green BWOF twist dress while we’re in Norwich this weekend. It’ll be strange to have some photos on dry land again, it’s been a while…

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