My top 5 favorite sewing books to add to your quilting library. They’re the best!

Even though we have Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook to find all sorts of sewing inspiration and tutorials, there’s still nothing like a good book.

Something that you can hold in your hands. Something that can look pretty on your shelf. Something that can trigger your creativity every time you page through it.

After years of collecting, I’ve amassed oodles of sewing books. However, there are just a few that I go back to over and over again.

I thought I’d share with you my top 5 favorite sewing books that you should add to your quilting library. At least, in my opinion. 😉😍


Wise Craft Quilts: A Guide to Turning Beloved Fabrics into Meaningful Patchwork
By Blair Stocker



I got this book a couple weeks ago and instantly connected to it when I saw the jean quilt on the cover. I knew the book had to go in my top 5.

I’ve been making a jean quilt on and off over a period of (very literally) a decade. It thrilled me to see Blair’s jean quilt. It uses a traditional quilt block design to turn several shades of jeans into a clean, modern, warm and inviting quilt. I’m telling you, my heart expands when I look at it.

Actually, that’s how I felt with just about every project in the book. Blair shares her expertise in using well-loved and found fabrics such as vintage handkerchiefs, men’s button up tops, and even a wedding dress, and turns them into amazing quilts.

None of the quilts feel kitschy or overdone, something I commonly see in projects using reclaimed fabrics. They are all beautiful in their simplicity and I want to make every single one.

The biggest takeaway for me was to give yourself permission to cut into that special fabric.

I’ve been known to keep all my pretty fabric folded on the shelf to pull out every once in awhile and marvel at its prettiness but never hurt it by actually using it. Well, I’m getting over that. The more I use my special fabrics, the more I want to use them up. They’re far prettier in a finished project than sitting on my shelf.

Click here to purchase Wise Craft Quilts: A Guide to Turning Beloved Fabrics into Meaningful Patchwork by Blair Stocker



The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously
By Sherri Lynn Wood



For me, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood helped me put fear aside and step into a world that before I only wished I could enter.

The world of free form, no pattern involved quilt making where every quilt ends up looking like an abstract art piece.

Before reading this book I thought there was no way I could ever make something so beautiful and seemingly impossible to make. How would I know what size to cut things? How would I get seams to match together? How would I even make a decision on what to do next?

I felt like there was no way to break away from a planned out pattern and make something so improvisational.

But Sherri Lynn Wood illustrates the process in an informative and encouraging way. And after using her methods, I feel like there’s a creative part of me that’s finally getting the chance to open up.

I used her methods to construct the back of my Splendid Sampler quilt using all my scraps up from the project. It was a thrill. (See my YouTube videos of the process by clicking here.)

You don’t need any special design skills, just a few methods and parameters you set for yourself, and the world of Improv piecing becomes understandable.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It breaks down the creative decision-making process in a way that will help in any project. So even if you don’t plan on making an improvisational quilt, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters will still be a valuable addition to your sewing library.

Click here to purchase The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously by Sherri Lynn Wood



Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction
By Abigail Patner Glassenberg



Abby is a PRO at designing and sewing super cute stuffed animals. In Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction she shares her technical knowledge in a digestible way so that you can design and sew your own stuffed animal patterns. Even complex designs.

Click here to see my longer review of Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction.

If you want to learn how to make professional looking stuffed animals, you won’t find a better book than this.

Abby starts with how to design your own stuffed animal, then, through her projects, takes you through making a simple stuffed animal with two sides, all the way through how to make more complicated designs with gussets, darts, rounded shapes, asymmetrical design, and fully jointed parts. The “Lesson” inserts throughout the book are gold.

Even if you don’t make stuffed animals, you’ll get a great education on how to manipulate fabric into 3-dimensional shapes.

You’ll use Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction as a go to reference for years.

Click here to purchase Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction by Abigail Patner Glassenberg



The Art of Manipulating Fabric
By Colette Wolff



I’ve had this book for years and years and it never fails to inspire me.

There are no projects in this book. It is purely a technical guide on how to manipulate the flat surface of fabric to give it dimensionality using a wide variety of traditional techniques. Techniques include gathering, shirring, ruffles, godets, pleating, smocking, quilting, stuffing, and more, all in great detail and with lots of diagrams and photos.

One of my favorite things I like about this book is that it shows what the most traditional way of a doing a technique looks like, all the way through what a technique would look like when done in a way that’s more free form or unconventional.

All the techniques are shown in plain white cotton and photographed in black and white. I think that design choice focuses the book on the textures you can create, and lets you think of your own projects that you could use them in.

There are textures in this book that you’ve never seen before being created with fabric. Any of them would be stunning in a quilt.

Now that I’m crafting a whole lot more (because of my nightly Facebook Lives), I’d like to start experimenting with more dimensional techniques and include them in upcoming projects.


Click here to purchase The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff



Story Quilts: Through the Seasons
By Yukari Takahara



I found out about this book several years ago at the International Quilt Market trade show. I met Yukari there and we traded books (my book, Sew & Stitch Embroidery, had just come out).

The quilts in this book are so beautiful that I get kind of emotional every time I page through.

Yukari’s quilts consist of large scenes of people, buildings, toys, plants, and animals made through a combination of patchwork, needle turn appliqué, and embroidery.

The sheer amount of handwork is astounding.

Story Quilts: Through the Seasons is eye candy for sure, but there are also great lessons on needle turn appliqué and different ways you can combine it with embroidery. I love the page where it shows the same little girl design made several times in different combinations of needle turn appliqué and embroidery, and in a variety of materials.

Although I love my Japanese version, I’m sure it’s even more informative in English!

For a kick of beauty and inspiration, I pull this book off my shelf more than any other sewing book in my library.

Click here to purchase Story Quilts: Through the Seasons (English version) by Yukari Takahara



Red and White Quilts: Infinite Variety: Presented by The American Folk Art Museum

By Elizabeth Warren, Maggi Gordon, Joanna S. Rose. Forward by Martha Stewart. 

Image from The American Folk Art Museum website


Ok, yes, this is a sixth book, but it’s technically not on my bookshelf. It’s on my Mom’s. And it’s definitely worth putting on yours.

In 2011, The American Folk Art Museum displayed red and white quilts from over 3 centuries of making. The show featured 651 quilts, all from the collection of Joanna S. Rose.

What a gift of Joanna’s to share such a history.

Colorfast “Turkey red” dye became available in the mid-nineteenth century, and in turn made red and white quilts popular. And it’s easy to understand why. The contrast between the plain white and the vivid red is stunning.

And to see 651 red and white quilts all in one place takes your breath away. I wish I went to the show when the quilts were displayed, but I’ll settle for paging through the book.

The book showcases each quilt from the show on its own page, grouped by technique or style. I love that you can see all the log cabin style quilts together and all the embroidered quilts together.

Not only does this book make you want to sew a red and white quilt immediately, you feel a connection with the women and men, some from hundreds of years ago, who were makers just like you.

Click here to purchase Red and White Quilts: Infinite Variety: Presented by The American Folk Art Museum by Elizabeth Warren, Maggi Gordon, Joanna S. Rose. Forward by Martha Stewart



There you have it. My top 5 (6) favorite sewing books for your quilting library.

Share YOUR favorite sewing book in the comments below. I can't wait to check them out!

I’d love a really good one on basic clothing pattern drafting from measurements only. For some reason that’s been itching at my creativity trigger lately. Not directly quilting related, but I feel like everything I learn in other sewing categories helps me with my quilts.


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4 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing. They are going on my "must have" list!

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  2. Thanks for this fascinating blog post! I have owned and loved hundreds of quilt books over my lifetime and I have learned that some of them REALLY are classics that I turn to again and again, while others I have outgrown along the way. I so enjoyed reading your top five, and I will be getting the improv book soon. You might enjoy Collaborative Quilting and and also Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again, by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. (Take a peek at it on Amazon to see if it appeals to you.) The authors describe a playful method of construction which involves making components and then using a design wall to arrange them in a pleasing pattern. For some reason, the element of play seems to jumpstart our creativity, and the fact that there is NO wrong way to design a quilt is very freeing.

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    Replies
    1. Ooo, I'll check them out. Thanks for the suggestions!

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