I seem to have accumulated a good library of sewing books over the last couple of years since getting my very own sewing machine for the first time. Although I sewed as a hobby before that, I never really realised that books like these existed and just worked from paper patterns, calling on my mother and her amazing skills as a seamstress for help when I got stuck. Having my own machine for the first time made me resolve to stop winging it so much and to learn how to do some of the basics properly!
So here's a quick overview of the books currently on my shelves:
Simple Sewing with a French Twist by Celine Dupuy
Simple Sewing with a French Twist made me want to go to France to buy fabric immediately (I've never been to Paris on a fabric shopping spree in spite of living in Northern France for a whole year, which is shameful really). The styling in this book is beautiful and a real feeling of Parisian chic (or maybe I'm just falling for the project titles like 'rive gauche carryall'!). There are more than 50 projects in the book, from a flower corsage to a shopping trolley make over, with a bias towards items for the home in the main. The back of the book has several pages of pattern pieces which you'll need to enlarge on a photocopier. All in all, I think this is a beautiful book for inspiration, and has lots of nice projects and ideas, especially if you like vintage style.
The Complete Book of Sewing: a practical step-by-step guide to every technique (published by Dorling Kindersley)
This is really first and foremost a reference book and my first port of call when I get stuck with a technique. As with every Dorling Kindersley book I've come across, the book is superbly illustrated with clear photographs (the image on the left shows how encyclopedic the book is with a lovely clear photo of the various feet you might find with your machine). There are no projects to sew here, but a tonne of useful instructions, especially for anyone who intends to do a lot of dressmaking.
Amy Butler's In Stitches and Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing
Both these books have the same format - spiral bound books with a pocket for pattern pieces at the front (hooray for pattern pieces and no photocopying!). The spiral binding is a fantastic idea as you can lay the book flat on a table and keep it by your side as you sew - I think you'd want to do this with the Amy Butler book in particular, as there are often a lot of detailed steps and diagrams in her instructions which I think is what gives the projects in In Stitches a really 'finished' quality. I also love the projects in the Lotta Jansdotter book which have a much simpler feel and style, really reminiscent of Japanese craft books with lots of natural linens and cottons in evidence. I've put a link on each of the titles above to Amazon.com where you can search inside both these books.
Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp
This is a really great manual and project book for anyone starting out in sewing, and I know I would have loved to have received this as a teenager as there are so many do-able clothing projects and gift ideas inside. The author teaches sewing for a living, and this is really evident throughout as you're taken through all the necessary techniques and equipment at the beginning of the book (it's not nearly as exhaustive as the Dorling Kindersley book, but still includes all the basics and a bit more), with a separate section for the projects. Like In Stitches and Simple Sewing, this book has a spiral binding and pattern pieces in the front pocket, which is great. The book includes 25 designs (like this lovely cape!), as well as a couple of things you could make as gifts for men (a tie and some boxer shorts) which sets it apart from most of the sewing books I've come across!
Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
I really love the way this book is organised by how long the projects take to complete - this really is the perfect book for last-minute crafters like me! There's a flickr group on this book, which I've been browsing since receiving this book, with lots of photos of the finished projects. There are some pattern pieces on separate sheets at the back of the book and a section of basic instructions for quilting and patchwork to get you through the projects at the back. I could see myself making lots of the projects from this book to give as gifts. I've been looking through lots of quilting books lately, and this one is the perfect level for me, concentrating on projects rather than overviews of different quilting styles and techniques.
Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol
This book is aimed at beginners in the main, with lots of corner cutting, creative ideas such as printing on fabric, and unusual projects like the children's foldaway puppet theatre, which is on my (lengthy) to-make list. Great for someone with their first machine who wants to tackle some straightforward projects, but there are also lots of ideas for people who already know their way around a machine.
... and have I actually made any of the projects from any of these books to date ... well, not as such! I've mostly used them like coffee table books browsing for ideas and techniques, though I do have a shortlist of projects in my to-sew queue. I'm looking forward to spending some time making more gifts and things for our home over the Summer after my frenzy of sewing for the WeMake craft fair is over!