Cover of "The Dressmaker's Companion: A Practical Guide to Sewing Clothes" by Elizabeth M. Haywood. The cover features a variety of sewing tools on a sand-colored background.
fiber art how-to reading

Book Review: The Dressmaker’s Companion by Elizabeth Haywood

Since receiving “The Dressmaker’s Companion: A Practical Guide to Sewing Clothes” by Elizabeth “Liz” Haywood for Christmas, I’ve wanted to write a review of it. I haven’t gotten around to it until now because every time I dive into this treasure to figure out what to write, I get lost in all the fabulous information presented.

Cover of "The Dressmaker's Companion: A Practical Guide to Sewing Clothes" by Elizabeth M. Haywood. The cover features a variety of sewing tools on a sand-colored background.
Cover of “The Dressmaker’s Companion: A Practical Guide to Sewing Clothes” by Elizabeth M. Haywood. The cover features a variety of sewing tools on a sand-colored background.

When I first opened the book, which is a hefty 449 pages, I landed on the section discussing the difference between ironing and pressing a garment. I had no idea there was a difference!

From the book: “Ironing is the back and forth motion, sliding the iron over the fabric when you move it. Ironing smooths and stretches the fabric slightly, encouraging each garment section to lie flat.” Whereas “[p]ressing is a lifting up and down motion with the weight of the iron (along with the weight of your arm) creating sharp folds, soft curves or smooth seams.” (pg. 266)

The entire chapter on pressing is full of tips, tricks, and tools for ironing fabric and clothing for the best effect.

Actually, the entire book is like this, with Liz offering sewing advice from her years of experience as a garment designer and maker. If you are a visual learner, as I am when it comes to fiber arts techniques, you’ll be pleased to know that the book has thousands of illustrations drawn by Liz.

The book covers everything from beginner advice on how to thread a needle to advanced techniques on making godets. If you have no idea what godets are, join the Before-I-Got-This-Book Club! Liz shows you just what they are and how to pronounce the word in her chapter on the subject.

She presents her knowledge with a friendly voice. She genuinely loves sewing and wants every level of sewer to feel welcome, walking readers through a mind-boggling number of techniques, including how to troubleshoot mistakes.

In her chapter on Seams, Liz explains how to unpick various seams, sharing that this was one of her jobs as a factory junior. She’s been there, y’all, and wants to save you some sewing grief.

She is also conscious of the infinite body shapes and sizes of people, launching the book with a chapter called “Alterations for over 50’s.” In it, she shows you how to adjust patterns for larger busts, a rounded back, a fuller back of the neck, a thick waist, a flat bum and big tummy, and different left and right sides. Right from the get-go, she makes you feel like your body is okay just the way it is. She says, “Don’t get depressed if you have to sew a bigger size than you think you are. It’s a different sizing system and it’s only a number, and anyway, the size you are doesn’t define who you are!” (pg. 1, italics are hers)

I love this book for its practicality, Liz’s personal experiences and encouragement, and the sheer number of topics she covers. It is an indispensable sewing guide whose depths will take me years to mine.

Liz lives in Australia, but, for those of us in the United States, the book is available through Amazon. (For those of you in other countries, let us know in the comments if you can get it through Amazon or other sellers.)

For those interested in creating zero waste patterns for garments and Liz’s other sewing adventures, check out her blog, The Craft of Clothes, which just turned eight. In other exciting news, Liz has a new book coming out soon (March 11!) called “A Year of Zero Waste Sewing,” which she released as a series of zines over the past year.

Whether you pick up any of her books or follow her blog, you are bound to learn loads about sewing from Liz.

1 thought on “Book Review: The Dressmaker’s Companion by Elizabeth Haywood”

Thoughtful comments welcome.