1) Simplicity's Simply The Best Sewing Book. Meant for
no-experience newbies; home dec sorts of things rather than
garments. Should be able to find a used copy fairly reasonably.
2) Connie Crawford's new "Studio Sewing Skills" video takes a
brand new learner (she'd literally never sewn before) from
threading a machine through construction of a camp shirt. Connie
taught sewing, patternmaking and draping at FIDM for many years
before forming her own company.
and the pattern used: http://www.butterick.com/item/B5047.htm
Too new (June 2008) to find used, most likely.
3) Crawford's Guide to Fashion Sewing: starts a bit beyond "how
to thread a machine", focussed on garment construction methods
slightly modified from ready to wear sewing methods. Much more
straightforward and time saving than the usual home sewing
methods, and better results, imo.
Takes you through all major garment types, including lining
jackets and vests. Wish I'd learned to sew this way from the
start... would have saved me years of frustration. Standard
textbook for fashion students, will be a little pricey even used;
worth it, imho.
4) Reader's Digest Complete Book of Sewing. The classic home
sewing manual. You may wind up wanting two copies, one from the
70's and a current one, because of different coverage. Should be
able to find used copies cheaply and easily.
5) Two more videos you should know about for a bit farther into
your sewing career: Mary Roehr's Pressing to Perfection and
Cecelia Podolak's Fearless Pressing. Pressing is not the same as
ironing -- pressing flattens seams, removes bulk, shapes fabric.
Someone who knows how to press a garment can make a mediocre
garment look great, and even a poorly sewn garment look ok.
Borrow them from your library (or I think Smartflix may have
them.) Both also worth owning, imo.
The main thing you need to do is to make up your mind to ruin a
few pieces of fabric. Doesn't even have to be good fabric -- off
the dollar table at Walmart or that old dead sheet from the rag
bag. The ladies in the fabric department at Walmart (if you've
still got one) mostly sew and like fabrics, so if you tell them
you're a raw beginner and ask them to help you find some
"on-grain" easy fabric to practice on, I'm sure they can help.
("On grain" means the yarns in the fabric are at 90 degrees to
each other, instead of skewed. Never assume you can straighten
If you don't have an iron, I recommend the Black and Decker
Classic as an inexpensive but good choice. If you need scissors,
Fiskars are pretty good for cheap, but I far prefer Kai -- you
want "dressmakers", as big a blade as you can afford -- the
bigger the blade, the less choppy the cutting, the easier the
(N 5250 or N5275 would be my suggestion) About twice as much as
Fiskars, and worth it, imo.
I start beginners out with sewing on paper. Don't bother to
thread up the machine. Get a piece of paper (junk mail is fine)
and put the right edge of the paper at the 5/8"/15mm mark. Lower
the presser foot and start sewing, trying to keep the paper
feeding straight. Watch the edge mark, not the needle. When you
get to the corner, stop with the needle down, raise the presser
foot, pivot 90 degrees, lower the presser foot and keep sewing.
Try to use just your right and left index fingers for steering
the paper. When you can sew
straight lines, cut some curves on your paper and learn to follow
those -- both inside and outside curves. When you're happy,
thread up and try fabric. Paper is easier to sew on than fabric,
and learning to steer with your index fingers teaches you that
the feed dogs (the little grabber teeth under the presser foot)
do a nice job of transporting fabric by themselves -- you don't
have to clutch it to retard the movement of the fabric or pull
the fabric through. You'll need to use a little more of your hand
to control fabric instead of paper, but this is one of the best
beginner exercises I know of.