Book Reviews: Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

Here’s the first in what I hope will be a fairly regular series of posts to review books I own, use or have seen.

So, here goes, first up a trusty old tome of techniques:

The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.  My copy is a first edition published in 1978, it has since been updated.  In my opinion the old ones are the best when it comes to sewing technique books.  I’ve used this book for both classes and in my own sewing and the explanations and diagrams are crystal clear.  It’s informative, easy to use and thorough.

The first things to look for in any reference book to see if it’s going to be useful –  comprehensive contents page and index.  The index in this book is 11 pages long!  That means you’re likely to find exactly what you’re looking for quickly without having to rifle through the whole book.



Each new topic has a good overview.  Here’s the one on zips; we have an explanation of the different kinds of zips, their uses and the various methods of zip insertion.  This section then goes on to describe step-by-step how to do each method of zip insertion over 13 pages!


Everything is clearly explained in step-by-step instructions and really clear diagrams.  Often I think a diagram is much clearer than a photograph – details can be highlighted that can be easily lost in a photograph.


As well as comprehensive how-to instructions for all aspects of dressmaking and sewing, there are also really useful sections on choosing styles that suit your shape, explanations of different fabrics and how to make basic fitting adjustments to dressmaking patterns.

There’s also a section at the end with projects.  As mine is an edition from the 70’s the projects are very much of that era which actually look like they’d appeal to today’s sewers, if you ignore the slightly dodgy styling of the pictures!  The only drawback of the patterns is that they use scaled down pattern pieces on squared paper that you have to scale up yourself……..does anyone actually do that?!


Look out for a copy in charity shops and second-hand book shops.  I can guarantee you will grow to love it!

10 responses to “Book Reviews: Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

  1. Do you have the ISBN for this book? I keep looking for it online, but it seems a later edition with the same page count and similar cover (the title on the cover is off center, rather than centered as it is in your copy) is the most common version I can find.


    • I’ve just had a really good look at my copy but was surprised not to find an ISBN number anywhere in the book – not on the fly pages in the front or back or anywhere on the cover. I’ve just done a quick search online and there seem to be a few copies on Abe Books:
      If you have some time to spend looking though I’d wait until all the charity shops are open again and keep checking in them. I found my copy in a charity shop and have picked up several copies for other people the same way.


      • Thanks! I ordered a copy with the same cover as yours through the link you gave me. I own a copy of the 80s edition with the same cover only the cover title text is off center. When I compared your table of contests with mine, I noticed yours had a chapter on repair while mine did not. And it just so happens that I need more information on repair! The version I got is far more abundant online and figuring out what version I’m getting is a bit of a headache when some sellers have the incorrect cover image. Fingers crossed!


      • Oh what a pain!! Well I hope the edition you’re expecting arrives. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!


  2. Hi I found the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing at my local Savers in MD for $2.50. It is a 1976 edition. I almost fell out in the store I was so happy. This book is in tip top shape and its 44 years old. Very proud to have this copy.


  3. I’m professional dressmaker and sewdress and this is one of the best possible sewing tutorials for beginners and pros alike to ever possess. Also the information about the techniques hasn’t outdated a bit.


  4. How do I get this book and how much is it?


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