books · sewing

Sew – the Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

When I received an email from Barbara Emodi asking if I’d be interested in being part of a blog tour to promote her book, I was extremely happy to oblige.  As it happens, I had already bought her book in the first week of release!  I have been aware of Barbara and her sewing skills for a long time, having read her regular column in Australian Stitches magazine many, many years ago.  I’ve enjoyed following her blog and instagram, and knew that her book would be a valuable addition to my sewing library.  And did you know that the Style Arc Barb pants are named for her?

Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

So, another sewing book.  What makes this one different?  To me, it’s a combination of things.  Barbara writes in a super friendly, chatty and wise way.  She often makes me laugh.  And she’s super realistic!  She says things how they are.  I love that!  She’s got a wealth of expertise and knowledge to share, and has written this book to pass on sewing wisdom.  I’ve been sewing for years and have still benefitted from it, but I think it would be especially good for people who have just started out with garment sewing.

Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

This isn’t a textbook – it’s more written like a conversation about sewing (and don’t those of us who love sewing love to talk about it!) and information is imparted in a variety of ways.  There’s anecdotes, mini-lessons, diagrams, photographs, thoughts and discussion.  Rather than being straight technical advice, Barbara weaves together the information that you need to know in order to sew garments successfully.  She talks about things like when to ignore pattern directions, how to determine what size to sew, and how to choose fabrics.  She does all of these in a practical (and often humourous) way that acknowledges the realities of our bodies and our lives.

Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

There is also plenty of information across the sewing spectrum.  How to set up a sewing station, what equipment you really need and why, how to alter flat patterns.  The mini-lessons include separate techniques that could be applied to a variety of projects.  Barbara also has a youtube channel where she demonstrates techniques, which is really useful for those who are more visual learners.

Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

Like Barbara, I learned to sew as a child.  I watched mum sew, she taught me the basics and answered my questions, I read the instructions on patterns, and devoured any Golden Hands magazine that I could get my hands on.  I continued to read extensively about sewing, gave lots of things a go – after all, it’s only fabric – and progressively improved my skills.  However, I reckon that my sewing plateaued for a number of years – until the internet arrived.  Being able to interact so easily with other sewers and talk about my hobby has been such a terrific thing.  It’s that sharing of personal experiences and collective wisdom that has helped me to step things up a notch.  Barbara’s book is definitely part of that conversation and is full of sewing wisdom.

Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

C&T Publishing have offered to give away an eBook copy of the book to one of my blog readers.  If you’d like to enter please leave a comment sharing a piece of your sewing wisdom on this blog post, and I’ll draw a name on Wednesday 8th August.


Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

The blog tour schedule is as follows:

Pop over to their blogs and see what they have to say and maybe enter their book draws too.  I highly recommend this book to any new garment sewer, plus those who’ve been sewing for a while and still want to learn more.  Many thanks to Barbara for sharing her knowledge so generously.

Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge


40 thoughts on “Sew – the Garment-Making Book of Knowledge

  1. Sewing knowledge: measure twice and cut once. Take careful measurements of your body, and compare them to the flat pattern measurements. You know how much ease you like, and that will help you to get it right.

  2. When you feel your tension rising because something is not working how you would have expected, walk away for a while and don’t come back until you have had a think about things and are in a positive mood.

  3. I feel like a long way to go before having wisdom, but here is the most important thing I have learned. Altering sleeves, lengthening or shortening a skirt, raising or lowering the waist, etc. can easily take a design from frumpy to wow. It is just about getting the right proportions to fit how you want a garment to look on your body. Don’t be afraid to mess with a pattern design. That is why we sew, to have something that fits our bodies, personalities and lifestyles. Patterns are just starting points to reach that goal…..Also pre-wash anything you plan to wash a lot in the future. Even if it doesn’t shrink removing the finish will show you what it will actually feel like.

  4. I’ve been sewing for 55 years and here is the 1 thing everyone needs to do before cutting. Pre-wash your fabric! I even wash my silks since they tend to lose dye but the 2 main reasons are shrinkage and safety. Most fabrics are treated with chemicals to keep them from wrinkling and rotting during import and storage. Since most fabric is produced overseas we don’t know what chemicals are used but a common one is formaldehyde. Many people working in fabric stores get headaches, rashes, unexplained pain and chalk it up to overwork but it is usually a reaction to this chemical. This can outgas into the room you store fabrics or worse, in a plastic bin. Please wash your fabric as soon as you bring it in the house! This way you will always be sure you have pre-washed fabrics and no worries about chemical reactions.

  5. My little bit of sewing wisdom, and one I am trying to impart on my daughter who is starting to sew…Don’t be afraid to have a go, it’s only fabric, after all. Whatever the sewing disaster, it’s another building block in your sewing knowledge, because you’ll never make that mistake again. I burnt quite a few meals when i was learning to cook, but it didn’t stop me. The same applies with sewing.

  6. My little bit of sewing wisdom would be to give it a try. You don’t know what you can do until you give it a go. Also, you are never to old, or experienced to learn more. It is a never ending journey.

  7. One thing I have learn’t and sometimes the hard way, is to make sure your pins are sharp. Don’t be afraid to throw your old ones out because there is nothing worse than pulls in your treasured fabric.

    1. I’ve been sewing for a long time. I learnt at school and from my mum. But I’ve learnt the most by just trying things and shrugging my shoulders when they went wrong – and then trying again.

  8. My mum made all our clothes from her old beautiful 50’s and ’60’s style dresses. No mean feat as I have 4 sisters! I made my first dress in grade 7 when I was 11 on her Singer treadle. Oh, my sewing wisdom… given often; do not buy cheap thread.

  9. “It’s not that you ‘can’t’ – it’s just that you ‘haven’t yet’ – that’s what I’m here for!”
    As a Home Economics teacher who previously worked in a big fabric store, I’ve used this phrase so many times!

  10. As a beginner I used Frostliine kits, which are sadly no longer available. But they provided *precut* pieces in hard to source fabrics, and excruciatingly detailed (absolutely correct) instructions. So, you didn’t get practice in cutting out, but you did experience many sewing techniques right away, and produce a product far beyond what you would all on your own. As well the product was less expensive than a comparable store item, for example, a down-filled vest.
    Most kits have you cutting provided fabric; no matter, I think kits, and sew-alongs , are great confidence builders.

  11. I don’t feel like I have any wisdom to impart but one thing I’ve learned to do is staystitch necklines and waistlines particularly if I know I’m going to be trying the garment on before it’s finished.

  12. Best thing I ever did was sign up for a Craftsy class on how to make an A-line skirt starting by drafting the pattern for my measurements. This experience convinced me that I could draft and/or alter patterns to fit. No more sewing the “pattern as purchased” only to have a garment that made me sad.

  13. When you have trouble with the machine stitching, make sure you have the correct needle for the fabric.
    And for hand stitching, use wax or thread haven to condition the thread.

  14. Patience! So many times recently I’ve messed up a project by rushing and and being an impatient sewer! I need to learn to enjoy the process again, not just the end product!

  15. Make a muslin for anytime you try a new pattern. While this is true for all sewists, it’s especially important if you are a beginner working on learning to improve your fitting skills. It will help you learn that fitting and sewing are totally independent skills … and it’s not your fault that the pattern didn’t fit. It. will help us understand that each body is different and it’s really a rare person who fits into the pattern unaltered.

    And making the muslin in an inexpensive fabric you’ll never wear, ideally with similar drape as your final fabric, will help remove the intimidation factor.

    Looking at big picture, using fabrics as muslins is much better than not using them at all for years. I’m guilty of this and learning to let go of perfection and have embraced the concept of muslin. Guess what? It works!!! 🙂


  16. These are the three key things I follow when sewing:
    – Pre wash the fabric
    – Measure twice and cut once
    – Use the correct interfacing. It makes such a difference to the look of the garment.
    There is a place here in NZ (Hawes and Freer) and they have a fabulous interfacing book. It’s my ‘go-to’ guide for interfacing.

  17. Advice given to me was to look after your sewing equipment and to buy the best you can afford. Nothing worse than scissors that don’t cut quite to the tip.

  18. If it’s possible, talk with other, like-minded sewers. I worked full time (plus!) when I first started garment sewing, but each year attended a one week sewing intensive. It was so encouraging and instructive to see what others were doing, how they did it – and what they felt/ thought about sewing. It strengthened my own resolve to make time for sewing, where possible, in the interim and reaffirmed the value of the activity and the outcomes.

  19. I requested this book from my library when they still had it on order. Got it this week. The book is a fun and informative read.
    My piece of advice: pay attention to ALL the measurements given for the pattern company’s sizing chart – it really does matter and do flat pattern measurements to make sure it there is the amount you need and want.

  20. My bit of wisdom would be to never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something! I always just jump right in, no matter how difficult a pattern may be, and get it done. It’s only after I’ve made a garment that I find out how “hard” it’s supposed to be. Really? I didn’t think it was hard; I just followed the instructions!

  21. As a “marathon” sewer, I’ll start something, sewing into the wee hours of the morning. My advice: don’t do this! Better results come from taking breaks: breathe, stretch & sleep! Enjoy the ride!

  22. I don’t enjoy the sewing process if I try to rush it — I get better results and enjoy the process when I slow down. (I’m trying to pass that on to my daughter, but patience is not her strong suit!) Lyn J.

  23. I haven’t worked up to “wisdom” yet but I tell anyone who is thinking of making something to go for it. Go slow step by step and go for it! And make a muslin beforehand!

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