Books to inspire more sustainable garment sewing

Every year, sustainable sewing advocate Zoe Edwards hosts Me Made May, a month-long challenge to get us thinking about and wearing our home made wardrobes. This in turn helps us to improve our relationship with our handmade items. Because let’s face it, we can spend an awful lot of time and resources trying to create our perfect wardrobe (if indeed this exists), so it helps if we get it right!  Being less wasteful with fabric, paper and unloved clothes is much better for us and the planet.

With her podcast Check Your Thread, Zoe also tries to unravel some of the predicaments around sewing clothing in a more sustainable manner – and again there are no easy answers to this.  But there are many ways that we can step back a little from the temptations of yet another new pattern, fabric or quick fix and find other ways to develop our wardrobe without is costing the planet, and us, too much.

I’ve pulled together some of my favourite books from the shop that explore some of these ideas - I hope you find them inspiring for this month and beyond!

Mend It, Wear It, Love It by Zoe Edwards
Let’s start with Zoe’s own book!  In this lovely little hardback edition, Zoe focuses on giving our existing clothes (handmade or otherwise) some extra love via repair or reinvention.  With an introduction looking at the drawbacks and alternatives to fast fashion, Zoe gets stuck in right at the beginning looking at basic tools and mending techniques, making this book ideal for sewing novices.

After tackling common repairs, such as sewing on a button or mending a dodgy zip, Zoe also delves into patching and mending various types of holes and tears.  There is also a section on re-modelling and fitting your clothes for a new look or better fit.  The book ends with some great ideas for washing, stain removal, dyeing and clothes storage.

This is a brilliant book that covers so many useful areas in a very accessible way – it would be great for anyone starting their mending journey who wants their clothes to last longer and work better!  Also great for a large busy households who need to make things last longer, anyone leaving home for the first time who wants to be more self-sufficient, or lovers of vintage and second hand clothes.

Buy here


The Act of Sewing by Sonya Philip
Sonya Philip is a US based artist who developed her pattern range, 100 Acts of Sewing, to empower people to sew and create their first garments. The patterns gained an almost cult following in their simplicity and adaptability and now Sonya’s knowledge and joy of sewing is brought together in this, her first book.

The book contains 4 simple patterns, supplied on large fold out sheets to trace off – a top, shirt, pants and skirt.  They are unfitted and size inclusive, so you can get stuck into making your garments without too much worry about fitting.  You can make your first top or skirt in an hour or two.   Once you get immersed further, there are instructions for making alterations for different body shapes and style preferences, using the basic patterns as a building block.

I have found Sonya’s patterns to be simple, comfortable and customisable – her basic top/shirt is a firm favourite of mine (see this blog post for some different neckline takes). Other styling options are also covered in the book so before long you’ll be adding button plackets, ruffles or fancy sleeves.  This book enables you to build your own simple yet unique wardrobe that you will come back to again and again for comfort and style.

(if you’d like to see some of Sonya’s patterns in the wild, search for the #100Actsof Sewing hashtags on Instagram, and also check out Sonya herself and the lovely Renee Luitjes for her fantastic creations.

Buy here

If you are looking for more sustainable ways to make use of fabrics or garments that no longer fit or work for you, take a look at The Refashion Wardrobe by Portia Lawrie.  In this her first book, Portia,  the founder of the Refashioner's movement, walks you through the many creative options for making a new capsule wardrobe from salvaged fabric.  The book describes how to use charity shop finds, pre-loved garments, soft furnishings as well as your scrap stash to make classic wearable garments.  There are 11 set projects to make stylish garments and these can be easily adapted to suit your own style and fabric availability as well as seasonal changes.  There is also a wealth of information that includes, identifying fibres, harvesting fabric and notions, cutting patterns and fitting, dyeing and mending.  You may never buy fabric again!

Buy here

How to Sew Sustainably by Wendy Ward is also a fabulous resource for those who love to scavenge and source fabric in unusual ways!  With a selection of 20 projects, you will be re-using and remodelling your scraps in no time.  As well as garment projects and designs, Wendy also covers inventive ways to make pieces of textile art, home furnishings and accessories such as scarves, bags and pouches, so this is a great book if you are looking for small quick projects for gifts. It also covers basic sewing techniques so is great for beginners who are starting their sewing journey.

Buy here

If you really want to slow down your sewing, I recommend Hand Sewing Clothing by Louisa Owen Sonstroem.  Self-published by Louisa in the USA, this spiral bound book is lovingly written and illustrated, telling Louisa's story of how she developed a love of hand sewing her own clothes.  In a series of detailed tutorials, she shares her secrets of how to do this, looking at the best type of stitches, seams and materials to use.  There is also advice on tools, threads, needles and even patterns to get you started.  We are currently the only UK supplier of this book and it can be hard to get hold of as it is deservedly popular - please contact us for stock updates if it is showing out of stock. 

Buy here

Zero Waste Patterns by Birgitta Helmersson is hot off the press this week and takes a unique look at the process of zero waste pattern cutting and garment making.  Basically this is making clothes from set shapes and measurements that use most or all of your fabric - cut out areas can be used ingeniously in other ways as facings or pockets - and you don't need a paper pattern as the pieces are drawn directly onto the fabric.  Birgitta has taken out all of the guesswork and provided 5 simple zero waste pattern blocks with precise measurements - a t-shirt, skirt, singlet, shirt, and trousers. Once you have mastered these, you can combine and adapt them to create more exciting garments and outfits! This book is fabulous for those who love a minimalist aesthetic and we also love the fact that Birgitta has used and featured many of our lovely Beyond Measure products in her book!

Buy here

I hope you find some good inspiration in this selection - you can have a look at all of our garment sewing books here!

Have a wonderful May everyone,

Grace x

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