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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!


By Anne Weaver

Have you entered all our giveaways?


113 Comments so far

  1. Virginia Fynes on March 15, 2014 9:31 am

    I’m alright with the basics, but when it comes to garments I need someone to hold my hand! Thanks for the chance to win!

  2. Carrie Bowden on March 15, 2014 9:32 am

    I am a beginner and would love this book!!!!!

  3. Rachel on March 15, 2014 9:42 am

    Zipper insertion. I ALWAYS need to look up zipper insertion!

  4. Debs DiGiorgio on March 15, 2014 9:46 am

    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.

  5. Patricia on March 15, 2014 9:58 am

    My biggest problem is sewing in sleeves. It causes me more frustration than anything!

  6. Zil on March 15, 2014 10:16 am

    Anything to develop my skills is what I need! Thank you for the giveaway

  7. lisa marie in ny on March 15, 2014 10:18 am

    Zippers! I always need a little refresher before sewing an invisible zipper in place

  8. camisgirl4 on March 15, 2014 10:23 am

    Setting up my serger for rolled hems.

  9. Nan on March 15, 2014 10:38 am

    Always forget how to make a continuous strip of bias tape!

  10. Christina c on March 15, 2014 10:48 am

    I always need to look up invisible zipper installation tips. Thanks for the giveaway!!

  11. Jennifer G on March 15, 2014 11:03 am

    I always need help with sewing zippers. Thanks for the giveaway!

  12. Christina on March 15, 2014 11:42 am

    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!

  13. Amy Pellicer on March 15, 2014 11:53 am

    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!

  14. Larissa on March 15, 2014 12:15 pm

    As someone newer to sewing, I need to look up almost everything! I’m learning techniques as I try new patterns and designs.

  15. Michelle on March 15, 2014 1:08 pm

    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!

  16. Melanie W. on March 15, 2014 1:21 pm

    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.

  17. Karey on March 15, 2014 1:50 pm

    I always need instructions on finishing my garments!

  18. Jennie on March 15, 2014 3:08 pm

    I would love to learn more about garments making and sizing!

  19. kbo on March 15, 2014 3:54 pm

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

  20. Shelly on March 15, 2014 6:07 pm

    Zippers. Every time I have to go back to the step-by-step instructions and teach myself again.

  21. Lisa Eck on March 15, 2014 7:22 pm

    I always need instructions for attaching inseam pockets. The corners are difficult to sew and always look for some tips to make it easier.

  22. Carolyn on March 15, 2014 7:25 pm

    Bias tape always baffles me.

  23. Jenny Holton on March 15, 2014 7:27 pm

    I need help with zippers and pleats. Thanks for the giveaway and chance to win!

  24. Erica on March 15, 2014 7:27 pm

    I always have to look up zips, zips flys and invisible zips… Would love a copy of this!

  25. Gwen on March 15, 2014 7:28 pm

    It has been a while since I have sewn and am starting up again. I need to remember it all!

  26. Vanessa B on March 15, 2014 7:31 pm

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

  27. Deborah K on March 15, 2014 7:33 pm

    zippers–scare me to death!

  28. Amanda Collins on March 15, 2014 7:34 pm

    Bias tape and blanket bindings give the most grief.

  29. Sandy on March 15, 2014 7:43 pm

    I always have to review how to bind a quilt.

  30. Kayla O. on March 15, 2014 7:44 pm

    I think mastering my ruffler foot has been the hardest for me. Can’t seem to get the ratios just right.

  31. Darcie on March 15, 2014 7:52 pm

    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.

  32. Amber Hunter on March 15, 2014 7:59 pm

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

  33. Teri McInerney on March 15, 2014 8:03 pm

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

  34. Angela Newman on March 15, 2014 8:05 pm

    Zippers, I don’t do them often so always have to read the instructions.

  35. Laureen on March 15, 2014 8:27 pm

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

  36. Marina Sereda on March 15, 2014 9:50 pm

    Buttonholes gives me trouble

  37. Laura M on March 15, 2014 10:09 pm

    Zipper insertion here too.

  38. Jess Z on March 15, 2014 10:23 pm

    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! :)

  39. Kim m on March 15, 2014 10:48 pm

    How to make piping.

  40. Robin M on March 16, 2014 12:02 am

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

  41. Monica VandeWerken on March 16, 2014 2:15 am

    I always have to look up button holes. I don’t get a chance to sew very often and I always need help with these.

  42. Carmen on March 16, 2014 4:39 am

    I always need to look up zippers before I try one.

  43. Shari Harniss on March 16, 2014 5:08 am

    Usually, I need them to go a little slower.

  44. Garilyn on March 16, 2014 5:39 am


  45. Jessica Sockwell on March 16, 2014 6:09 am


  46. Laura on March 16, 2014 8:00 am


  47. Nancy on March 16, 2014 8:23 am

    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!!


  48. Laura on March 16, 2014 8:29 am

    I love to do ruffles but have quite a time getting them right. Love to sew almost anything!

  49. superstitches on March 16, 2014 8:38 am

    I always have to look up how to put in an invisible zipper. This book looks like it has some great info in it.

  50. Janelle Thietje-Dunn on March 16, 2014 8:53 am

    Mitered corners on blankets, binding, etc.

  51. Chevelle Sopkin on March 16, 2014 9:04 am

    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! ????

  52. Becky PS on March 16, 2014 9:09 am

    Invisible Zippers here too. Love ‘em when they go in easy.

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  53. Melody Totten on March 16, 2014 9:49 am

    Increase my skills and attempt more complex garments — this book would be FANTASTIC!

  54. Maria Rosa Gonzalez Hernandez on March 16, 2014 9:56 am

    Bufff, always about zippers ;)

  55. Linda on March 16, 2014 9:57 am

    Sizing – I am one size up top, another on the bottom and 5’10″….Thanks for the giveaway!

  56. Katie Stevens on March 16, 2014 10:11 am

    I do struggle with zips, particularly in bag making and plackets. Looks like a great book

  57. Ellen on March 16, 2014 10:13 am

    I find sewing in sleeves evenly a nightmare! would love some help!

  58. Patricia P. Hall on March 16, 2014 10:15 am

    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!

  59. Patricia P. Hall on March 16, 2014 10:20 am

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

  60. Eden on March 16, 2014 11:00 am

    I always have to read the directions on sewing zippers.

  61. Sue S on March 16, 2014 1:25 pm

    As with some others it has to be sewing a zipper.

  62. Louise Marie on March 16, 2014 1:43 pm

    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!

  63. Joey Hendricks on March 16, 2014 2:08 pm

    Zippers. I need help with zippers

  64. Anne Marie on March 16, 2014 3:46 pm

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

  65. Meari on March 16, 2014 7:26 pm

    I always need a refresher on zippers!

  66. Lori Morton on March 16, 2014 8:46 pm

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

  67. Christi on March 16, 2014 9:24 pm

    Zippers and buttons definitely.

  68. Sivje Parish on March 17, 2014 12:04 am

    I love to sew but always need to read instructions to put in an invisible zipper.
    Thank you for the chance.
    Sivje parish

  69. Kerrin Willians on March 17, 2014 1:54 am

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

  70. Carrie on March 17, 2014 4:42 am

    Zippers and pleats!

  71. Karen Stalker on March 17, 2014 5:13 am

    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.

  72. Judith (from Israel) on March 17, 2014 6:35 am

    I always look up instructions before I do a flat felled seam.

  73. Gina S. on March 17, 2014 7:16 am

    Button holes every time.

  74. Shalan on March 17, 2014 7:50 am

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

  75. Jeri on March 17, 2014 8:35 am

    I am self taught so I can use all the help I can. Would love to learn zipper technique.

  76. geri actor on March 17, 2014 8:36 am

    always wanted to learn machine embroidery including two needles…

  77. Anna on March 17, 2014 9:16 am

    I always need help making darts!

  78. Missy k on March 17, 2014 11:19 am

    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.

  79. erlina (from indonesia) on March 17, 2014 11:30 am

    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.

  80. Esak on March 17, 2014 12:07 pm

    I’d love a good reference sewing book. I don’t have just one I use.

  81. Kelly on March 17, 2014 1:18 pm

    How to do a blind hem stitch :)

  82. shai williams on March 17, 2014 1:55 pm

    I am just learning how to sew so I need to dig out instructions for almost anything.

  83. Andrea B on March 17, 2014 2:24 pm

    putting in an invisible zipper!

  84. Kathrynn on March 17, 2014 2:44 pm

    I always need help with zippers and pleats.

  85. Ellen Lai on March 17, 2014 4:54 pm

    I’m learning and trying to sew. The book will be most handy!

  86. Michelle on March 17, 2014 5:00 pm

    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.

  87. Rebecca on March 17, 2014 6:22 pm

    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. :/

  88. Chantel Lee on March 17, 2014 6:53 pm

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

  89. Emily C on March 17, 2014 7:30 pm

    Zippers. Mostly because I use them very rarely, so when I do use one i need a refresher.

  90. Diana T. on March 18, 2014 3:25 am

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

  91. Jenny WH on March 18, 2014 5:29 am

    Interfacings and stabilizers.

  92. Jenn Brooks on March 18, 2014 5:45 am

    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!

  93. Debbie S on March 18, 2014 5:58 am

    Always need help with linings, so they aren’t too small and tight.

  94. Monique on March 18, 2014 9:37 am

    I am still learning the basics of garment sewing and need help on darts and adjusting them.

  95. Carole Geronimo on March 18, 2014 9:51 am

    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.

  96. Sarah on March 18, 2014 10:25 am

    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!

  97. CathyH on March 18, 2014 12:41 pm

    I’d like to be able to take vintage sewing patterns and resize them

  98. Kristin on March 18, 2014 1:18 pm

    I am a sewing beginner, so I need help with everything!

  99. Amyc on March 19, 2014 4:38 am

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

  100. janell on March 19, 2014 6:38 am

    Definitely everything zippers!

  101. Julie on March 19, 2014 8:04 am

    I’d love to win this! It’d really help get me back into sewing.

  102. Cath T on March 19, 2014 10:05 am

    My buttonholes are a mess. Kinda ruins the project to have messy buttonholes.

  103. Ginger Benedict on March 19, 2014 12:27 pm

    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.

  104. thia Beniash on March 19, 2014 9:01 pm

    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!

  105. Linda Rumsey on March 20, 2014 2:08 am

    Inserting zips. They never look good!

  106. Jo Ann on March 20, 2014 5:38 am

    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!

  107. Heidi G on March 20, 2014 10:13 am

    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.

  108. ChrisTea on March 20, 2014 1:47 pm

    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.

  109. Susan Samuel on March 20, 2014 3:44 pm

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

  110. Reggie w on March 21, 2014 6:26 am

    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.

  111. J. Pario on March 21, 2014 10:49 am

    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!

  112. Cheryl@ Sew Can Do on March 21, 2014 11:18 am

    Invisible zippers – I don’t do them often and always forget how.

  113. Amy McDonah on March 22, 2014 10:41 am

    I need to look up everything but making a straight stitch! I am a new seamstress and I need help!

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