Your First Sewing Book

1 FavoriteSewingBooks NancyZieman

Your First Sewing Book

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1 FavoriteSewingBooks NancyZiemanWhat is the first sewing/quilting book you owned? That’s the question I posed earlier this month, via this blog, Facebook, and Pinterest. Enjoy the selected responses below, plus a spotlight on one of my followers. My favorite part about your responses is that many of you remember exactly what motivated you to grab the book and what you first stitched. Beautiful stories.

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What is the first sewing/quilting book you owned?

Here’s what you are saying:

Magazines Count!

“Does a magazine count? I bought a Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine back in the 1980s that inspired me. I kept it for years, looked at it over and over, until it actually fell apart. I was taught sewing by my mother, then she taught me how to make a quilt in 1964. I made several very simple 4-patch quilts after that, but that magazine showed me that there is so much more to quilting than 4-patch and strips.”—Nancy M. Richardson, Lebanon, IN

Our Friend, Eleanor Burns

Eleanor Burns, quilting instructor extraordinaire, author, and Public Television host, will be flattered to know that many of you started with one of her books from her Quilt In a Day series. Eleanor is a fantastic source of quilting inspiration for us all.

Amish Culture and Heritage

“Both of my grandmothers taught me to sew, however, my Grandma Patterson taught me to quilt. The first book I ever owned was really a combination of sewing and quilting. I have Amish and Mennonite relatives and my grandma wanted me to learn and understand their culture, history, and place in quilting. It was given to her by her mother and she gave the book to me when I was at the tender age of 8. It’s called  The True Story of Amish Quilting and You. It’s filled with information I never knew about my family history, the patterns used, and the significance of each block or quilt. I have it in her cedar chest to keep it safe, but I clearly remember starting to read it right then and there, and I was fortunate enough to have her with me for many years after that so I could ask questions. We even went to a quilting bee and we sat and hand quilted right along with my relatives. How could I not love quilting my whole life with such great teachers all around me? It’s been a blessing to me and cherished memories.”—Dianne Patterson, Olathe, KS

Mary Ellen Hopkins

It’s OK If You Sit on My Quilt by Mary Ellen Hopkins, a very funny lady, was my first quilt book. I like the idea that a quilt is made to wrap someone up in love and keep them warm and cozy. I have made a few show quilts, but the thing that warms my heart the most is to see my quilts being loved and used. I have pictures of my grandson laying on the floor cuddled up in his well used quilt and my grandaughter playing with her dog and covering him up with a whole stack of her quilts. I pull them out of the laundry basket nicely wrinkled and puckered up with texture from many washes, take a look at the details of my piecing or admire the fabric prints, and then I hand them off to the person who loves them to cuddle with again—no need to fold. My son asked me to replace the worn binding on his beloved quilt, a heavy extra long quilt made for him as a growing teenager. It has become the favorite quilt for his whole family to cuddle under. I said No, now that it is worn it can be retired to be folded over a quilt rack he made back in high school, to be cherished for all the love it shows. I now have an excuse to make a new quilt. The new one is even bigger than the first one and made to look like fire since he is now a fireman. We took it over to the firehouse and took pictures with it draped over the fire truck. My family loves to have their quilts backed with Minky fabric because it is always warm and super soft. Some may wonder if it will hold up as well as sturdy cotton but we can tell you it stands up to the test of time, washing, and love. I hope they will proudly share their stories of my quilting love long after I am gone.” —Cindy O’Neal, Dumfries, VA

Great British Sewing Bee

“My first sewing book was the book accompanying the BBC series Great British Sewing Bee, the TV series that inspired me to take up sewing again after a 20 year break. Only later did I take up quilting when I wanted to find something to do with all the left-over fabrics (my first quilt was not made with quilting fabrics and it worked fine). I learned quilting mainly from on-line sources; Sewing with Nancy, Craftsy, Quilt-in-a-Day, MSQC, and so many others, and when it came to buying my first quilt book I chose a practical one named 500 Quilt Blocks by L.  Godsworthy & K. Green.”—Cecilia Nilsson, Rijnsburg, Nederland

4-H Project Books

“My first book was an Ohio 4-H project book. Working with my mother, who really didn’t know how to sew, I made my first apron and a coordinating kitchen towel, using what I thought was a beautiful feed sack.  I still use the towel, 60 years later. My first sewing kit was a wooden cigar box that I stocked with supplies.  I received a blue ribbon for my efforts and the start on a great skill that has filled my closet and given me ways to challenge myself while teaching others about fabrics, threads, and machines.”—Gale Betterly, Richfield, OH

New Methods

“Bishop Method of Clothing Construction by Edna Bryte Bishop was my first sewing book.  It was a text for Clothing 101 my first year of college in the fall of 1963.  Edna Bishop’s methods were rather different from what we had learned in 4-H.  I especially remember collars, as she didn’t use the back neck facings on shirt-type collars.  My collection has continued to grow since that time!”—Myrna Wear, LaBelle, MO

History Turned Hobby

The Story of Betsy Ross was my first sewing book. I read it for a 4th grade book report on someone famous. The story told of how she learned to sew. It stressed how important it was to take small stitches so her father’s pants would not rip when he got them caught on a twig while he was out hunting. I still think about doing my best just before I have to go back to rip out a seam and do it over. I read that story over 50 years ago, and it still has an impact on my sewing after all these years.”—Barbara Schumacher, Brookfield, IL

4-H, Sewing, Quilting, and Competition Suits

“My father, who taught me to sew, gave me Singer Sewing by Mary Brooks Picken, when I was a teen. I studied it from cover to cover, and I used it to make my 9th grade graduation gown. It was an excellent book, which I gave to 4-H several years ago. My dad said to me at the time, ‘Someday you will write a book like this, Miss Stitches.’ I didn’t write a book but have published articles and chapters.”

“My first quilting book was Quick and Easy Quilting by Bonnie Leman. I have used and enjoyed most of the techniques in this book, and I still keep it handy! One quilt I made from Bonnie’s book is, a Biscuit; it was constructed of swim suits my daughter had during her competitive swim career. She still treasures this as a reminder of her path to NCAA!”—Dorthoy Martin, Rockville, MD

So much more than Home Ec

“Besides the classroom book in high school, the first book I bought was a small, paper book, which gave instructions for embroidery, knitting, crochet, and starting to sew. I bought it while in college and still use it today for ideas to incorporate into my quilts. The instructions were the simplest yet the most complete ones I ever found. They even gave some project instructions to practice on. I am 70 years old and wish I could find another copy of this book, but I must have bought the last one since I have never found it again. I am still looking, though, when I see new books while out and about.”—Barbara Walock, Farmington Hills, MI

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February’s Reader Spotlight:

Sewing Inspiration for Life

“Shortly after I got married in 1972, I bought a sewing machine and a McCall’s Sewing Book (pink). I learned to sew in junior high but didn’t have much time for it until after I graduated from college. It all fell into place when I married, tho, because my initials became SEW. Sewing has been my passion and I have done a lot of sewing for my kids and myself. It’s the best hobby ever, and I’ll never run out of things to create.”—Sarah Wilde, Columbia, IL

Do you still continue to pick up sewing/quilting books? What sparks your curiosity?

When my children were young I sewed many things for them and bought many patterns and books. Now that we have a granddaughter (9 months), I am anxious to get back to sewing girly dresses and summer wear. My first thought would be to see if I have an old pattern that I could use for her.  If not, I would check on the Internet. Although, so far I have not purchased a pattern online.

What types of sewing/quilting projects do you lean towards?
When our first grandson was born 9 years ago, I bought an embroidery machine and lettering software. I have so much fun embellishing clothing with personalized designs and sayings. I’ve made bibs and embroidered ‘I’m not crying, I’m praising the Lord,’ many tooth fairy pillows with the child’s name, totes, purses, pillows, and wall hangings. I seem to like to sew easy projects that I can make and use. I never got the hang of quilting.
Does your family have a favorite item you’ve made?
The items that I have sewn that my family likes the best are my bean bag foot stools. I buy used bean bags from rummage and garage sales. I open up the bags, take out the Styrofoam beads and carefully pour them into my newly sewn stools. We have three in our family room and someone is either resting their feet on one or sitting on it. I have also made many lap sized bean bags to hold books or tablets while reading.
MiniBags SarahWilde
 I will admit that my husband isn’t too fond of the Styrofoam beads that float around when I transfer the beads, but he’s the first to use his foot rest and book holder.
FootStools SarahWilde
What are you going to sew next?

I am not sure what sewing project I am going to do next, but I do have two more old bean bags in the basement waiting to be repurposed.  Sewing has always been so rewarding for me. It is my creative outlet and gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. Thanks to the Internet and Pinterest, I will be always be sewing. And, I will continue to read Nancy’s blogs for more ideas and new tools for the love of sewing!!

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Note from Nancy Logo



We’ve come a long way in publishing, in regards to sewing technique books. The book world has had quite a journey—from hand-drawn illustrations to precise computer generated lines, and black and white photography to full color images, or even digital design mock-ups.

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The fundamental techniques and proven methods continue to be my favorites, while I’m always embracing ideas to enhance the basics. Through the years, I’ve whittled down the core techniques and added tips/modifications to create the Absolute Easiest Way to Sew. This is a fantastic beginner book and is a great resource for seasoned seamstresses. It is a great addition to your sewing book library.

The Absolute Easiest Way to Sew by Sewing With Nancy Zieman

March Share Your Insight Question

March Question: What was the first sewing machine you owned?

Nancy Zieman Reader Insight March

Submit your answer by March 15, using the form below, to be considered for our March Reader Spotlight.

Disclaimer: We may contact you to verify your answer. Your contact information will not be used for any other reason. Your submission to Nancy Zieman Productions, LLC, including contact information, gives us the right to modify, use, distribute, reproduce, publish, and display the submission indefinitely in all media, means, and forms without any payment to you. You hereby represent that you haven’t copied the content from a book, magazine, newspaper, or other commercial source.  

Watch The Absolute Easiest Way to Sew (Part One, Part Two, and Part Threeon Sewing With Nancy online.

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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  • Vicki H.
    February 25, 2017

    I think my first book was a Singer Sewing book. I eventually had to get rid of it. It was falling apart.

  • Trudy Lindemann
    February 25, 2017

    It wasn’t a book, it was a booklet put together by my sewing teacher that taught tailoring. It had all of the techniques of tailoring typed up and hand drawn. I would say after that, I do recall one of my sisters having a Singer sewing book that I looked at. I can still picture the photography and fonts type, very early to mid-70’s! After that it was sewing books from Nancy’s Notions and then it was on to quilting books and magazines!

  • Natalie
    February 25, 2017

    I think my first was The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing; but the one that REALLY started my collection was The Busy Woman’s Sewing Book. Although sewing ‘a little at a time’ goes TOTALLY against my nature, I still use tips & techniques from it.

  • Sue Doucet
    February 25, 2017

    My first sewing books were by Nancy Zieman called the Busy Woman’s Sewing Book and the Busy Woman’s Fitting Book. Still have and use them when I get stumped on a sewing detail. Thank you for the insights.

  • Patricia
    February 25, 2017

    I don’t remember the name of my first book that was all black and white and more like a notebook. It was quickly replaced with a Singer Sewing Book for the color photographs.

  • Roxanne Cassidy
    February 25, 2017

    The first machine that I sewed on was my mother’s Necchi BU, and that alone is quite a story! My first job as an adult was as a dental assistant. The first Christmas that I worked there I was thrilled to learn that the dentist gave holiday bonuses. Yay! I went to Sears and put that bonus as a down payment on a wonderful Kenmore machine that could even sew through a wooden yard stick! Yes, that was part of the sales spiel. I think I would be sewing on it still if I hadn’t wanted a machine that would embroider too.

  • Susan Barton
    February 25, 2017

    The first sewing machine I ever used or knew was one which my father had rescued from a dump in the 30’s. It was an old Singer sewing machine with colorful decals on the machine and ornate iron legs and treadle. As a little girl I was fascinated by the needle and treadle moving in concert to make my clothes. My mom was nervous that I would put the needle through my finger when I started sewing for myself, but that never happened! Later I learned that she had done that very thing as she was learning to sew.
    This machine was very sturdy but also very primitive. Once Mom covered a binder with fabric for my Camp Fire materials and she sewed the fabric right through the cardboard cover. It won me a prize and envy from my friends.
    This machine only went forward, and my creative father used one of the seldom used feet to make a zipper foot. In addition, the bobbin winder was excellent. All the buttonholes were hand made.
    Years later, Dad put an electric motor on the machine and the treadle belt was removed, but it kept it’s character until Mom retired it for a fully electric sewing machine.
    Much of my high school wardrobe was created on the treadle machine, and even a beautiful kilt that went to college with me.
    I can honestly say that I have only been without a sewing machine of my own for about 2 years after college. Having that freedom to create either for my wardrobe or home has been such a blessing. I don’t sew as much any more, often it is for my grand kids now, but having it set up in our hobby room speaks to me of the possibilities that I could do. I shall always remember with love the days of treadling and guiding the fabric along in the early sunshine of my life.

  • Kathe
    February 25, 2017

    My first sewing machine was my grandmother’s. She died shortly before I was married. I used it, an old off brand machine until it needed repairs and couldn’t be repaired. At that time I bought a Singer which I used until the repairs it needed were more than the cost of the machine. I now sew on a Viking.

  • Clovis
    February 25, 2017

    I only remember the books in high school. When I was growing up, my mother sewed. I don’t remember if she had any books. She might have had books when she first got her machine.

  • Cecilia
    February 25, 2017

    I bought a no name steel head sewing machine from a friend for twenty dollars, it was a portable in a case and the color was aqua. I sewed many items on it some clothing, some home dec, then later in life I was able to purchase a Singer, used that many years, and then purchased a Bernina. I still have the Singer and the Bernina, I gave my batchelor son the portable aqua one for clothing repairs. I love all your books I have purchased over the years and watching your shows, you are an encourgagement to all of us .

  • Linda Morales
    February 25, 2017

    My sewing machine was my mothers a Sears Kenmore. I took Home Economics in Jr. High School so I then became the main sewer in our home. I have had 2 more Kenmore machines and 1 Janome and my husband recently bought me a Brother.

  • Nancy Peck
    February 26, 2017

    I learned to sew on my grandmother’s White treadle machine. She became disabled when I was a child & could no longer sew for me. When we would visit her on weekends I would practice sewing on that beautiful machine. My grandfather bought it for his wife the night my mother was born on Bainbridge Island off Seattle. I still have that machine & it works beautifully, although I no longer use it. It is over 100 years old. My mother had an old treadle converted with a motor & I used it at home. I have sewn all my life for my family and home. Enjoy garment sewing, home dec., quilting, machine embroidery, and whatever comes along.

  • Vicki
    February 26, 2017

    My first sewing machine was a Regency from Shillito’s in 1971! My aunt worked for the company. It came in a sturdy hard paper covered case. I used it for years. Then, along came caregiving for my Mom and I got a house. Mom was the big sewer .. Everything. Although I still made all my own clothes. We replaced Mom’s old big cabinet model with a new White, then a Bernina, then I bought a Babylock embroidery machine. I became Mom’s quilter and bought the original Hq16 which is a standup model. Mom left me over 100 quilt tops to quilt but I’m currently enthralled with my Brother Dream machine and my Bernina 780. I’ve decided to try ruler work and move from pantograph quilting… We make a lot of our own patterns to free motion quilting. I even took Angela Huffman’s classes for Paisley Peacock Party and Feathers for the Chickens Among us. She is a great teacher! I remember Grandma’s treadle sewing machine which we were not allowed to touch! Mom taught us to hand embroidery before we started school and I learned to sew Barbie clothes on the electric sewing machine!

  • Francine
    February 28, 2017

    My first sewing machine was an all metal, powerful Kenmore that I bought with my first paycheck from my first full time job 47 years ago. It is still my “go to” machine. I also just inherited my grandmother’s Kenmore with a cabinet…it’s white and all metal. It is quickly becoming my second favorite machine.

  • Kathy T
    March 10, 2017

    My first machine was the Singer Athena 2000. My first big purchase after graduating from High School in 1976 and getting my first job. It was an electronic machine with push button stitch selections. I loved that machine. The machine is long gone but I still have the cabinet I purchased with it. My Babylock Ellure sits on it now.

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