Sunday, November 6, 2022

Weekend Review: Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes


The Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes / Joi Mahon
Mount Joy : Fox Chapel Publishing, ©2022
288 p.

Today's read is an encyclopedic approach to sewing -- the "ultimate" guide, and a "complete course" on sewing garments. It's only 288 pages long, with many illustrations, so while it is a decent reference book I think it overstates its claim a little ;) 

I liked it for many features. As mentioned, it's heavily illustrated with clear photos, and has some good tidbits in it even for someone who has been sewing for a long time. However, I wouldn't suggest it for a beginner, and that's because, even though it's giving the basics and an overview of many things, I think you'd need to be familiar with what's being shared to really benefit from it. This might be an effect of trying to include an awful lot of subject areas.

It's broken up into 6 chapters; Sewing Basics, Selecting and Preparing Fabric, Achieving the Right Fit, Sewing Classic Garments, Ultimate Pants Workbook, and finally, Details of  Garment Construction. I think the first two are accessible, and the fabric section has a clear explanation of how and why to straighten fabric grain before cutting - something I don't see in many books like this. In the Basics section, there is a long segment on hand stitches, which I thought was a bit longer than needed; as with all books on stitching it's hard to explain the process of getting to the final picture of the stitch. 

The Fit section is good, but I'd recommend getting Joi Mahon's full book on fitting if that is what you're after. This section could be a bit overwhelming for beginners and not enough for advanced sewists. She does have a great section on measuring yourself, though, and I've never seen another author offer such detailed measurement options. Her fit book has all of this and more, though, so definitely check that one out if fitting is your main interest. 

The section on sewing classic garments was interesting but seemed, again, too much and not enough. There is a list of construction order for a few standard pieces, with directions to check the construction chapter for details on various elements. Helpful if you already kind of know your way around a garment. There is a lengthy bit on constructing a tailored jacket, and even as an established sewist who is interested in tailoring, I found this a bit complex. There are good tips in all the sections, and the pants section is interesting-- it feels like it might have been an existing workbook she used in her teaching that was slotted in here. 

Overall, I liked it and as I said I did find good bits throughout. But this isn't a must have for me, it just feels a little scattered. There's solid info on pattern matching, basic fitting, a good intro to fabric choice and care, and more. But I didn't feel a strong throughline to the organization of it. I'll probably use her fitting book a lot more often! But this is still well worth checking out if you can find it in your local library as I did. 


  1. from Susan: SeattleSews. I am so glad for your book reviews. Some books I already own. Some of your reviews have me going out to find a copy to read and I always learn something new. Thank you!

  2. I agree with Susan, I have owned one or two, but have added a lot to my library from your recommendations. Thanks,Megan

  3. I have this book from my local library and I really appreciate your review. I just checked it out so have not looked at it carefully. I am probably an advanced or adventurous beginner and I would really like a good all around reference book. Are there some others you would recommend?TIA

    1. Hi there! I think for any all around reference, you can't really go wrong with the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. I haven't seen the latest 2022 update, but I use mine from the 90s all the time. Solid stuff - you can always find copies in thrift shops.


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