Review and giveaway: The Essential Sewing Reference Tool by Carla Hegeman Crim

Editor’s note:  The winner of the giveaway is commenter #86, Michelle, who said….

“How awesome is this book!  Blind hems are ny downfall, for some reason I can never remember how to do those on the machine no matter how many I have done.  And bed quilt sizes…I never remember how much fabric I need and end up having to re-calculate at the store.”

Review and giveaway: The Essential Sewing Toolkit by Carla Hegeman CrimCarla Hegeman Crim, The Scientific Seamstress, has a new book out!  It’s called The Essential Sewing Reference Tool and it is exactly what the name suggests – a go-to sewing reference book.  (Anyone else totally geek out on reference books?)

If sewing is a new hobby for you, this book can help you make sense of all the new sewing jargon, techniques, and tools you’ll encounter.   Or, if you’re a more experienced sewist, this is a great resource for when you need a refresher on a technique you don’t use as often.  It’s also chock full of charts of standard measurements and conversions you might need if you’re making a project without a printed pattern as a guide.

A quick look at the table of contents shows sections for tools and supplies, stitches and seams, materials, edge treatments, zippers, buttonholes and buttons, home décor, sewn accessories, garment making, size charts (very useful info, especially when sewing without a purchased pattern, and without child around to measure), and number conversions (decimals to fractions, yards to inches, yard to centimeters/meters).

There is so much information packed into this book!  For example…

If I was wondering what type of elastic I should buy to use in an elastic casing, I could find the answer on pages 16-17.  There, I’d find out the differences between elastic types (woven, knit, braided) and style (nonroll, fold-over, buttonhole, lingerie, sport, clear, and elastic thread).  FYI: A nonroll knit elastic would be a good choice for this application.

Or, suppose I was making a skirt and wanted to use French seams because they look nicer and don’t fray, but the pattern I was following didn’t call for any special seam finishes.  I could turn to page 27 and see how to make a French seam.

Or, maybe I’m making a blanket for a child’s bed, to give as a gift.  I can look at page 72 and find out the dimensions of a standard comforter.  The same table gives dimensions for coverlets and bedspreads, and the section explains the difference between all these types of bedcovers.

In the home décor, sewn accessories, and garment making sections, you can find instructions for basic sewing projects, like a pillow cover or a simple gathered skirt or a set of napkins and placemats.

With so much information literally at your fingertips, The Essential Sewing Reference Tool would make a great addition to any sewists’ library!

Want to know what others think of this book?  Check out the earlier stops on the blog review tour:

Monday: The Southern Institute

Tuesday: Pattern Revolution

Wednesday: Imagine Gnats

Thursday: Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!

Friday: Modkid Boutique 


Happy news! I have a copy to give away!!  (You can also skip the suspense of the giveaway and just buy yourself a copy here.)  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here telling me one sewing technique you always need instructions to do.

I’ll choose one answer at random as the winner.  Deadline for entry is midnight CST on Saturday, March 22, 2014.

Good luck!



  1. says

    I’m fairly new to sewing so, I’ve got to say folding the fabric to cut strips of binding. Too bad, since I always prefer homemade bias tape over the store bought stuff.

  2. Christina says

    I always try looking up better ways to get the sleeves inserted but still always have an issue with them. I would rather make sleeveless outfits!

  3. Amy Pellicer says

    Happy Saturday! I need help with attaching sleeves properly & getting zippers in straight. I end up making a mess with both of them! Thanks for offering the giveaway! Have a GREAT weekend!

  4. Michelle says

    I always have to look up french seams…and pleats confuse me and take me forever. :) Also need help in alterations. Thank you for the giveaway!

  5. Melanie W. says

    As a hand sewer of small things (felt ornaments,sock animals, etc), I would love to broaden my skills into using a machine and eventually move up to making clothes. I think this book would really help with my goal.

  6. says

    Making bias binding tube style, even though I have done this over and over again – I still have to refer to the instructions.

  7. Vanessa B says

    for me its a Zipper Placket (zipper topped tote/handbag, skirt with lining, etc.) Looks like a great book, Thank You!

  8. says

    I ALWAYS have to look up the proper way to do hand stitches. I forget which way the thread goes and how to get started on buttonhole stitches.

  9. Amber Hunter says

    Sewing a curved hem is mine if I don’t read up on it each and every time things go horribly wrong

  10. Teri McInerney says

    I always have to look up which direction to sew a buttonhole, horizontally or vertically. I learned to not always trust some pattern directions.

  11. Laureen says

    I’m wanting to learn more about different feet, also interested in any information about pattern making.

  12. Jess Z says

    I always need reminders for adding button plackets to a top. It never fails that I forget how wide and long the strip needs to be with the seam allowances and placket. Great book! :)

  13. Robin M says

    I always need to look at the instructions for which way the fabric should go when making bags with linings.

  14. says

    Buttonholes and Zippers, Zippers and Buttonholes~ I think I am Brain dead when it comes to these two techniques and my anxiety rises above the clouds at just the thought of putting them into a Garment. I Love the Scientific Seamstress Blog, I bet this is a fabulous book and she could show me how to do these without all the stress!
    Thank~you so much for such a fabulous Give Away!!


  15. Chevelle Sopkin says

    Button holes! I don’t do them frequently enough to have it burned into memory and am forever terrified that I will mess up my lovely fresh garment or bag with a misplaced/oversized/undersized button hole. It’s happened, and this chicka is not a happy camper when it does! ????

  16. Patricia P. Hall says

    This looks like a fabulous book! I am teaching a beginner’s sewing class and think this would be a great reference book for all of us!

  17. Patricia P. Hall says

    OOps… forgot the sewing technique… I would say putting in zippers. I always need a refresher for those.

  18. Louise Marie says

    i need the Essential Sewing Reference Tool so bad. i used to sew when my children were babies to elementary school age. However, i put sewing away when i began a career of nursing. Now i have grandchildren that i want to sew for. i have forgotten so much. Zippers, buttonholes, machine hems, piping to name a few. I have also picked up crochet again. It is funny, but i don’t need as much referencing on that. As far a embroidery is concerned, i don’t think i will ever be able to do the French knot without referencing!

  19. Anne Marie says

    I always need help with zippers – I can do a regular zipper but the invisible zipper application always throws me!

  20. Lori Morton says

    LOL…looks like I am not :Alone” in the need to always look-up how to do zippers or buttonholes!!!

  21. Kerrin Willians says

    I always have to look up how to sew in a zip. I wish I could do them more often, that would probably help!

  22. Karen Stalker says

    Looks like a wonderful book. My 3 daughters enjoy sewing, and are all beginners. I am not too much of an expert, but can manage the basics. I would have to agree with many others – zippers and buttonholes!
    Thanks for the chance.

  23. Shalan says

    I am a beginner so I will most likely need to look up everything! I know this book would be a lifesaver.

  24. Missy k says

    I always need instructions for inserting a zipper. There are many kinds of zippers and ways to do it that I never remember. This book looks good. I love the Scientific Seamstress.

  25. erlina (from indonesia) says

    I’m not really a beginner in sewing, but i still struggle with many sewing technique, such as inserting zippers and choosing the right material for my project. I believe this book would be a great help. Thank’s for the chance to win.

  26. Michelle says

    How awesome is this book! Blind hems are ny downfall, for some reason I can never remember how to do those on the machine no matter how many I have done. And bed quilt sizes…I never remember how much fabric I need and end up having to re-calculate at the store.

  27. Rebecca says

    Buttonholes, buttonholes, buttonholes! I can never get them right. I always need instruction, and could always use assistance in this area. Also, my ruffles are lopsided. :/

  28. Chantel Lee says

    Sizing is my biggest trouble area. I never seem to make my clothing the right size! Also hems and zippers.

  29. Diana T. says

    I usually think I have it all figured out until I start doing it and that’s when I break out my instruction manuals!

  30. Jenn Brooks says

    Oh, my, just one technique? Well, there’s a cool three step narrow seam for sheer fabrics that Thread’s published a couple of years ago…zippers, always, no matter the style of application. Mitered corners on bias tape application. I use the Scientific Seamstress’ tutorial for doll shirts and her printable bias tape maker (miraculous) and hem guides. I really want this book!

  31. says

    I used to manage a fabric store and teach sewing, but I’m still a novice at positioning darts, altering patterns to add darts and width or to decrease. Most patterns come in standard sizes, but if you’re sewing a garment it should be bespoke for you and your measurements, not the size model. I have no problem adding length and even width is ok, but making changes for short or long waisted, that’s hard. Ditto adjusting sleeves because I’ve noticed that pattern companies are just uber sizing plus patterns. We may be large in bust and gut, but most of us don’t have 24 inch upper arms. That’s why I mainly knit now, it’s so forgiving.

  32. Sarah says

    Inserting a lapped zip. I love the method in Kenneth D. King’s Cool Couture but I always need the steps in front of me for reference!

  33. Amyc says

    Since I’m pretty new to the sewing world, I have to break out the sewing machine manual just about every time I sew.

  34. Ginger Benedict says

    Started sewing again now that I have granddaughters. There are so many new and improved techniques, gadgets and machines I need all the help I can get.

  35. thia Beniash says

    I know the basics of sewing. My daughter and I would love to learn more, like reading patterns and how to do corners better. This book would be super helpful! Thanks for the chance!

  36. Jo Ann says

    I have been sewing every since I was in high school (decades ago)for myself, my children and now my grandchildren but I still struggle with zippers!

  37. Heidi G says

    I love Carla! Her patterns are the best, and she is always helpful with sewing know-how. Elastic thread is my enemy, and buttonholes are my terror, so I always need help with them.

  38. ChrisTea says

    Wellll … I don’t sew very much but I’d love to win this book for my daughter. She’s into alot of creative things and does alot but she still runs into things that stump her when she’s sewing. Not long ago, she declared war on a zipper. lol. Thanks for the chance to win for her.

  39. Susan Samuel says

    Sewing kick pleats at the back of skirts and dresses always leave me searching for the instructions.

  40. Reggie w says

    My biggest problem is when I’m sowing something weather a blanket or scarf or clothes I seem to have huge probems casting off and then trying to come back on. No matter how many times I’m taught.

  41. says

    Blind hemming.

    That’s the first one that comes to mind, but there are others–I’m a slap-dash, haphazard kind of girl so anything meticulous is tough!

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