By the Book: Six Stitchy Reads for Sewing Fiends

Are you a sewist with space on your bedside table simply longing for a book to fill it? Are you going on holiday and need an engaging read to distract you from the pain of being separated from your sewing machine? Or are you simply a voracious reader with a passion for fashion?

It can be hard to search for “sewing books” without being inundated with pattern collections and technique textbooks (not that we don’t appreciate them, in their place) so we’ve put together a curated collection of books that are actually books – fiction and non-fiction – for the edification and enjoyment of sewing enthusiasts. 



Lucy Adlington

In the heart of the Holocaust’s most infamous death camp, 25 young inmates were selected to design, cut and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women while surrounded by mistreatment, squalor and the hanging threat of the gas chambers. Historian Lucy Adlington follows the fates of these remarkable women – exploring their bravery, bonds and resistance – and showcasing the power of fashion history to uncover new and fascinating perspectives and insights into our past. Not to sound like a movie trailer, but if anything deserves the descriptor “an unbelievable true story” it’s this tale.


Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux

“What has it got in its pocketses?” It’s the question Gollum and the rest of us are always asking and it’s the question that Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux are here to answer. Endlessly fascinating in its finite focus, the book looks at women’s tie-on pockets and the things they kept in them to generate incredible insight into the social history of women’s everyday lives – from duchesses and country gentry to sex workers and washerwomen. It’s a meticulously detailed masterpiece of material culture and microhistory, stuffed full of fun facts, feminist thoughts and support for Big Pocket Supremecy.


Richard Thompson Ford

Do dress codes give you a sense of security or cause clothing confusion? Does anyone know what constitutes business casual or white tie? Law professor and cultural critic Richard Thompson Ford takes us through the laws of fashion and the customs of clothing from medieval sumptuary laws to 1920 bans of bobbed hair and the roots of the Zoot Suit Riots. Richard reveals throughout history, the fashion police have been far from fictitious and that far from frivolous, fashion reflects the struggles for power and status within society, even today!

Read More: Netflix and Sew – Our Favourite Sewing-Inspired Television Shows



Rosalie Ham

True Peppermint fans might say, “Hey, didn’t you already recommend The Dressmaker in your sewing films roundup?” Yes, but this time it’s the book – it’s totally different! No shirtless Hemsworth in here unless you have a strong visual imagination. Fabulous fashion designer Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town of her birth with a trusty Singer sewing machine in hand and a heart set on revenge! Relive the classic Australian Gothic tale of love, hate and haute couture but this time in the cinema of your mind!


Natalie Meg Evans 

Set among the glamorous golden age fashion houses of Paris in the 1930s, The Dress Thief follows Alix Gower, an aspiring designer with a terrible secret – in order to support her family, she copies high-end designs for the lucrative knockoff market. Offered her big chance at legitimacy and living her dream at the terrible price of one last job – stealing an entire spring collection – Alix fears how quickly everything she’s worked for could fall apart at the seams! A riveting and romantic novel that tackles themes of intellectual property and the origins of modern fast fashion.   


Jennifer Robson

The scene is London, 1947, the harshest winter in living memory, postwar Britains burdened by shortages and rationing are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Meanwhile, Princess Elizabeth is getting married to her cousin (both third and seventh!). Our heroes, Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, are embroiderers at a famed Mayfair fashion house whose friendship is tested when they are selected to take part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown. Meticulously researched and richly detailed, you’ll feel prepared to pick up the embroidery needle at the end of this book!


A few extra recommendations from our beloved sewing community…

The Forgotten Seamstress,  Liz Trenow 

The Seamstress of Sardinia, Bianca Pitzorno

The Sewing Machine, Natalie Fergie

The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison, Meredith Jaffe

Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle, Clare Hunter

The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, Kassia St Clair

Women’s Work The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times,  Elizabeth Wayland Barber

The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World, Virginia Postrel

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, Jennifer Ryan 

Read More: Grab the Popcorn – Here are 11 Films to Inspire Your Sewing