Book review: Vogue-Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques

Posted by Underground Crafter on June 3, 2013 | Short Link

Vogue Butterick Step-by-Step

Back in March, a publicist at Sterling/Sixth & Spring Books contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques: Revised & Updated Edition.  I don’t generally review sewing books, but this one seemed interesting so I asked them to send me a review copy.

I come from a family of skilled seamstresses, and over the past few years, I started dreaming of sewing my own clothes.  I’ve been dissatisfied with the clothing I see in retail shop for a while, and after reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (reviewed here), I became even more disgusted with the fast fashion industry.

Although I’ve made some beautiful quilts with my sewing machine, I confess that I’ve been pretty afraid of using it for anything but sewing straight lines.

My very first completed quilt, a log cabin.

My very first completed quilt, a log cabin.

With just a quick perusal through the Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques, a lot of my fears were laid to rest. The book explores 47 different sewing techniques in explicit detail.  The book is arranged alphabetically by technique.  Each technique is explained clearly, step-by-step, with text and includes several illustrations.  The book ends with a measurement conversion chart and guide to fabric care labels, and a thorough index.

I skimmed through the entire book, but I decided to focus on two of my biggest fears: buttons and zippers.

The Buttonholes and Buttons section is 11 pages long and explains how to measure your button to create the right size hole, marking the fabric for buttonhole placement (both horizontal and vertical), and several techniques for creating buttonholes by hand or machine.  This section also includes tips for buttonhole placement if you aren’t working from a pattern, as well as an explanation of how to attach and reinforce different types of buttons.  When appropriate, the instructions cross-reference other sections so that you go straight to another section without leafing through the index.

The 10 page Zipper section explores preparation (who knew you needed to preshrink zippers?), shortening zippers, different methods for basting, and hand or machine sewing the zipper in place.  There is also discussion of 5 methods of zipper application.  Each method explains typical uses (e.g., which is typically used in men’s vs. women’s garments, on a blouse vs. a skirt, etc.).

I’ve read through many sewing books in my day, but this type of detail is usually left out.  I would definitely recommend the Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques: Revised & Updated Edition to anyone hoping to learn more about sewing with an emphasis on the details that make garments look great.  While the book does include applique, embroidery by hand, and quilting, it primarily focuses on techniques used in garment construction, like collars, darts, and lining.  In crocheting and knitting books, I usually find that illustrations are not as helpful as photographs.  However, in this book, I found that the illustrations are quite clear.  The instructions are explained simply enough for a beginner, and include step-by-step details and cross-referencing. At the same time, I could see this as a reference guide that even a more experienced sewer could use because it provides the type of details that would free you from relying only on patterns.

While I would prefer hardcover binding for a reference guide of this sort, the cover flaps will help you to keep the book open to the page you are referencing while sewing.

I recommend this book to anyone who has the basics of sewing down, but is looking for an easy to read guide to help them expand their skills.

You may have noticed that I’m not offering a giveaway for this book.  It is going into my personal collection for use as a sewing reference guide!

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