My mom doesn't sew. Neither did my grandmother. Growing up I never wore a handmade garment of any kind. There was no fabric stash in my house and nobody mended clothing or knit sweaters. My mom is artistic and certainly encouraged all of us to pursue our own projects, but she didn't know how to shorten my pants, much less read a sewing pattern or smock a dress.
When I was thirteen I had some money of my own for the first time, having just had a Bat Mitzvah with nearly 200 guests. With my windfall I bought two things: a CD player for my room and a Bernina, specifically a Bernette 330 (this was in 1989).
After that my grandmother used to come over with a big pile of things for me to mend for her. And I started making scrunchies to sell at school.
I always sewed here and there, but it took a decade and half for me to really figure things out. Without someone to turn to when I had a question I would get stuck and frustrated or just totally overwhelmed by commercial patterns. When I really began to sew in earnest in 2004 I had a lot of learning to do, and fortunately I had the internet to turn to when I needed help. Without knowing the formal rules of how you are supposed to do things, I figured out my own way. Lots of mistakes and unpicking, lots of project that ended up on my "shelf of the damned" never to reach completion. But in a way, I was also really free. I didn't feel constrained by the rules, because I didn't know that there were rules.
Seven years have gone by since then and now making things with my sewing machine is my career. I am still sewing on my Bernette 330, and I still make my own rules (no math! no straight lines!), but I have come to know that there are many really awesome techniques to be learned from experienced sewists and for this reason I addictively read sewing books.
I was recently sent a copy of Nancy Zieman's Sewing A-Z. Perhaps you've watched Sewing With Nancy on PBS? I used to watch it many years ago during those long, lonely hours nursing a very hungry, very tiny Roxanne. Nancy's been making that show since 1982. She knows her stuff.
And this book is amazing. This book is my sewing grandma. The spiral binding means it can sit open next to me while I'm at my machine, which it most certainly will because there is something on every single page that I have never heard of, sometimes a little tip sometimes a huge time-saving measure. I'm not kidding you. Each page has a few simple steps and at least half a dozen clear diagrams showing you how to…sew everything!
You can see a little preview here.
And check this out – use a tomoto pincushion to organize your sewing needles!
Use clear tape to help you make perfect mitered corners on pockets. Use your top thread as a guide to help you stitch straight, dimple-free darts. Oh my gosh! I'm in love.
I get quite a few review copies of books from publishers, and I like a lot of them, but this is one that I will use every day. So there's no way I'm giving my copy away, but seriously, go get one for yourself, even if you do have a sewing grandma.