Free Edwardian-WWI Era Sewing Books

This blog post is meant to be an index for helping you to access free sewing books on Archive.org from the 1900-1910s. These sewing manuals would originally have been used in conjunction with paper sewing patterns of this period.

Why Sewing Books? Can’t I Just Read the Pattern?

Well, you can… kind of. If you have sewn with original sewing patterns, or reproductions of them, you know that they can be very vague. Sewing instructions of this period, if they existed at all, would have been a few short, written paragraphs with no illustrations. Butterick had the patent on the illustrated instructions, and patterns from about the mid-1910s on have a few simple illustrations but can still be quite vague. Short version: Don’t expect any patterns of this period to have in-depth instructions! They were mostly a suggestion rather than a walk-through. I always suggest in my patterns that readers reference the free period sewing books available online. There is a plethora of them!

Using these sewing books in conjunction with the antique patterns is how our predecessors would have approached their sewing projects. Sewing was also a technical skill that would have been passed down through the generations, or part of a home economics program. Since most students no longer have access to home economics, we are lucky to have a written record of techniques. Pre-20th century books would loosely explain technique, but not always illustrate. As printing technology advanced, so, too, did the practical sharing of knowledge. You may find books reaching towards the 1920s have more in-depth instruction, though I have not previewed each link.

Special note: don’t discount books that were addressed towards children. They have valuable information regardless of age, and sewing would have been a skill taught to girls as part of their education during this period. If you’re learning to sew from scratch, starting with the lessons in a girls’ sewing book could help walk you through the basics (and I say girl’s simply because that’s how the period addressed them- I obviously think sewing is open to anyone!)

Please keep in mind that I haven’t previewed all these books and the information and beliefs expressed within are indicative of the period in which they originated (true when viewing any historical primary source documents). Even sewing books can sneak in some cringeworthy content, so don’t be surprised…

Here are a selection of some sewing books available on Archive.org.

1901: Home and School Sewing

1901: Longman’s Complete Course of Knitting, Needlework, and Cutting Out

1903: The Art of Dressmaking at Home and in the Workroom

1904: Manual of Exercises in Hand Sewing

1904: Margaret J Blair’s System of Sewing and Garment Drafting

1905: Hand Sewing Lessons; a Graded Course for Schools and For the Home

1905: Dressmaking Up to Date

1907: Textiles and Clothing

1907: The American System of Dressmaking

1908: A Sewing Course, Comprising Directions for Making the Various Stitches and Instruction in Methods of Teaching

1909: Sewing Tablet: A New and Practical Course of Graded Sewing Texts for Public and Private Schools (this one is quite fun as it has scanned stitch and fabric swatches, too.)

1909: The American System of Dressmaking

1910: Goodwin’s Course in Sewing; Practical Instruction in Needlework for use in Schools and at Home

1910: The Secret of Successful Tailoring

1910: New Teacher of Ladies’ Home Tailoring

1911: Sewing For Little Girls

1911: The Dressmaker (By Butterick)

1911: Educational Needlecraft

1911: Text-Book on Domestic Art, with Illustrations and Drafts

1911: Dressmaking Self Taught in Twenty Complete Lessons

1912: Coates Sewing and Dress Making Manual

1913: Home Dressmaking

1913: Practical Sewing and Dressmaking

1914: The Perfect Dressmaking System

1915: Instruction Book- to be Used Only as a Guide and Partial Study in the Expert Course in Dressmaking

1915: A Handbook of Sewing

1915: The Little Girl’s Sewing Book

1916: School Sewing Based on Home Problems

1916: Dressmaking and Millinery

1917: Dressmaking

1917: Three Short Courses in Homemaking

1917: Complete Sewing the Russell Way

1917: Parisian Ladies Tailoring System

1918: Thrift Clothing

1918: The Dress You Wear and How to Make It

1918: Sewing: Handicraft for Girls; a Graded Course for City and Rural Schools

1918: A Little Sewing Book for a Little Girl

1918: Knitting and Sewing

1918: Alterations and How to Make Them (for menswear)

1919: Clothing and Health; An Elementary Textbook of Home-Making

1919: A Manual of Home-Making

1919: Manuals from Public and Separate Schools: Sewing

1919: Garments for Girls

1919: Dress-Making Made Easy

1919: The Home Dressmaker’s Guide

1919: Practical Instruction- How to Alter Ill-Fitting Garments and How to Handle Try-Ons

2 Comments on Free Edwardian-WWI Era Sewing Books

  1. RODNEY
    January 28, 2023 at 1:08 pm (1 year ago)

    Thanks you have given a great resource and saved hours of searching.

    Reply
  2. Natalie
    February 2, 2023 at 2:26 pm (1 year ago)

    Oh, the Textbook on Textile Art! I used that when first starting to costume, way back in the aught. It was so helpful.
    Glad to see such a comprehensive list; it’s a real service to folks.

    Reply

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