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Book Review: The Sewing Machine Classroom by Charlene Phillips

The Sewing Machine Classroom by Charlene Phillips

The Sewing Machine Classroom: Tips, Techniques and Trouble-Shooting Advice to Make the Most of Your Machine

I know; as a self confessed knitter, why am I reviewing yet another sewing book? Well, I shall let you into a little secret: this June I am getting re-married and I have decided to make my dress. To challenge myself further I am going to make it in silk, a fabric I have never done any major sewing with before (odd small hand projects aside) and have always been told is difficult to work with. However, always the glutton for punishment (no, I mean “challenging myself”) I am embracing the opportunity/ excuse to use this beautiful, expensive material. Wish me luck!

Subtitled “Learning the ins and outs of your machine”, the book is split into two sections. Section one – Taking Control covers mastering your materials and demystifying your machine. The second section – Increasing your Sphere of Influence has 5 chapters: Project Preparation, Hems and Edgings, Buttonholes and Zippers, Embellishments and lastly Surface and Thread Embellishments. Each section is well written and assumes you know nothing but does not patronise those that do.

The spiral binding is a real plus as it lays flat to read the whole page without you needing to hold the book open.

As I read through the book I was inspired to go back to my machine and use those functions I have never tried, not forgetting those strange looking feet which have no instructions. At times I had to remind myself that the book was titled The Sewing Machine Classroom, as it certainly contains much more. I have been sewing for close to 50 years, but apart from school sewing classes (where I usually knew more than the teacher and often ended up co-teaching) I have never had any formal training. Reading this book I learnt the proper names for things and found the information on parts very informative. I now know the proper terms for things (if I can remember them all that is!)

At the back of the book there are some very useful tables for choosing the correct thread, needle, tension, stitch length and much more. I am eager to test my new-found knowledge to see if I can improve my sewing results. I will definitely be referencing this book prior to beginning sewing projects in the future. Sorry Stitch and Craft Library, this one is staying on my shelf.

I’d recommend this book to all, from those starting on their sewing journey to those who have travelled a long way.

Deb’s French is a Significant Seams volunteer and Operations Manager. She also delivers much of our outreach programme and is an avid knitter (honest!)


The Stitch & Craft Library is a central resource of hundreds of books and patterns that connect the East London crafting community, and is sponsored by Waterstones Walthamstow, and supported by Chapel End and Wood Street Ward Forums.

Members of E17 Designers, students at Waltham Forest College Fashion department, and residents of Chapel End and Wood Street Wards who are on ESA, job seekers allowance or in receipt of housing benefit are eligible for free membership.

Members of the Stitch and Craft Library receive 10% off books not already discounted from WaterstonesWalthamstow when they show their membership card.

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