May Martin’s Sewing Bible – Review

Recently I have requested from the library a number of knitting reference books and over the next few weeks I hope to share my reviews of them with you. However, whilst in the library this week I noticed May Martin’s new book on the shelf and, obviously, swept it up in anticipation of an evening of delight spent increasing my sewing knowledge.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

I think my enthusiasm may have been premature.

Calling your book a “Sewing Bible” does somewhat set the expectations of the reader that this is going to be a reference tool of some depth and breadth.  Sadly this book falls short. It runs to 320 pages, yet only 100 of them are allocated to sewing techniques and information.  This results in each topic only being covered in summary fashion.

An example of this would be the section on “altering a pattern” which is covered in less than 1 page.  The same amount of space is given to discussing tailor’s dummies.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

Hardly “Sewing Bible” status.

The illustrations are also disappointing.  The book has many artful photographs sprinkled about the place, but illustrations are sparser and, I found, not always accurate.  Surely when stay-stitching a neckline you sew from the shoulder to the centre of the neckline on each side?

Not according to May.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

As for the “vintage” snippets of “sewing wisdom”…I’m frankly perplexed as to their function!

May Martin's Sewing Bible

So far, so not so good.

Surely the projects section, which is divided up into several topical sub-sections, and which occupies the bulk of the book, would be more inspiring?

First up…Crafts.  Table runner.  Napkins. Bunting. Christmas stocking.  Hasn’t every beginner’s sewing book for the last 5 years included a version of these.  It’s so unoriginal.  Even the slightly more imaginative projects such as the puppet theatre have been done many times before…as any 5 minute search on Pinterest will show you.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

The home furnishings section is so dull it should be prescribed as a solution for insomnia. Cushion covers, a roman blind, bag lined curtains.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And don’t get me started about the pleating on that curtain.  It’s just awful…not enough fabric has been used so the curtain is lacking in fullness.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

And if that didn’t work, you could always use the accessories section.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

But wait, what’s this?  Adult and children’s fashion sections!  Surely they will save the day?

Oh look…a cute shift dress. (I’m ignoring the drag lines at this point…!)

May Martin's Sewing Bible

Where’s the pattern pages?  What size does it go up to?

What?

May Martin's Sewing Bible

McCalls M6355!

You mean I have to go out and BUY THE PATTERN?

On top of the cost of the book?

And don’t sewing patterns ALREADY HAVE AN INSTRUCTION SHEET??

As Button is wont to say….What. The. What?

May Martin's Sewing Bible

I’m sorry…I just don’t think that’s good enough.

I know this post isn’t the usual upbeat review that I like to post, but this book clearly sets its stall out to be a “Sewing Bible” yet it’s very obviously a long way away from being such a thing.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

If you were a beginner sewist looking for a good sewing book to set you off on your newly discovered hobby, the title and the back cover, where May’s, not unimpressive, credentials are clearly set out, would probably be enough to persuade you to purchase this book. You’d not, of course, have enough experience to see the not inconsiderable gaps in the content. And, all mocking aside, this is my biggest gripe with this book and one which actually makes me quite cross.

At RRP £25.00 this isn’t a cheap buy. I personally think that even the Amazon discounted price of £12.50 is a bit much for a book which is, in my opinion, not much more than a triumph of style and marketing over substance. It feels very much like it’s been pulled together to take full advantage of the current upsurge in people learning to sew, and to ride on the coattails of the Sewing Bee. I’d have no qualms about this if I thought the content was fresh and inspiring and actually added something to the subject.   But I don’t feel that it does.  Add in the presumptuous title of “Sewing Bible” (there’s the sarcastic inverted commas again), and I find the whole project to be more than a little disingenuous.  Which is a real shame.

Needless to say this is one tome that won’t be making it’s way into my sewing library. Neither would I recommend it.  It’s not a patch on the good old Reader’s Digest sewing book that many of us learned to sew with, nor Tasia’s Sewtionary which has been much feted in the blogosphere over recent weeks, with very good reason.

Save your pennies, dear reader, by not buying this book.  I’d suggest that there are better ways to spend them.

24 Comments
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24 Responses to May Martin’s Sewing Bible – Review

  1. What a great library you must have, stocking recent sewing books!

    • Evie says:

      It’s amazing, which is surprising because it’s a small village library. They’ll also order books in for you, so I can order books I’m thinking of buying and check them out before parting with the cash. I’m very lucky!

  2. beth says:

    oh dear, not one to add to the wish list then, I’m amazed how wrong they’ve clearly got it. thanks for the review and your honesty!

    • Evie says:

      I did think hard about posting this review, but I imagined folk adding it to their Christmas list and being disappointed. There are other, better books out there. I do think it’s an opportunity missed, which is sad indeed, because the May and the Sewing Bee have quite a high profile that could have been used to make a truly amazing book.

  3. It’s such a shame. May Martin must have so much knowledge she could share. I’ve just bought the Sewtionary and it is fantastic. I think I’d recommend Tilly Walnes’ book for a beginner, it’s very appealing and has some lovely patterns.

    • Evie says:

      I agree…it’s a waste of May’s obviously considerable knowledge and skill, and an opportunity missed.
      I’ll admit that I thought the Sewtionary would be a book I wouldn’t want to add to my personal (and not exactly small) library of sewing books, but I picked it up in the bookshop recently and it’s just amazing. It’s not just aimed at beginners…there’s something for everyone. And I agree about Tilly’s book. Perfect for beginners. Inspiring and encouraging.

  4. K-Line says:

    Thank you for this HONEST review! That’s the kind of thing I might have bought.

  5. helen says:

    Those curtains are awful!
    Thanks for the honest review. This wouldn’t be a book I would buy but with the ‘sewing bee’ tag it’s likely to get picked up for Christmas presents.
    So many book come with patterns nobody is going then go out and buy that McCalls pattern.
    I have also read the reviews of the Sewtionary book and it sounds really good. I don’t need a sewing book for beginners but this one seems that it is aimed at sewers with some experience.

    • Evie says:

      Aren’t they just! I wouldn’t expect interlined handsewn curtains with hand stitched buckram pleats, but I would hope for something a little better than that.
      The Sewtionary is a cracking book that even if you’ve been sewing for years will have something new for you.

  6. What a shame but what a great review you did for us! I have a few books which are great (now in Spain so I can’t tell you which ones) plus I picked up a vintage book at the car boot in the summer and it’s brilliant! My library in Bexhill is very good too – they’ll order books in for you and I just picked up 3 really good ones on quilting and patchworking which have helped me out with the current project…progressing steadily on it 🙂

    • Evie says:

      I cannot wait to see your quilt project. Hand sewn quilts take forever but are a joy to make and look so beautiful that it’s really worth it.
      A good local library is a blessing. I’m on first name terms with the staff at mine, which makes it even lovelier.

  7. Anne W says:

    Thank you for such an honest review! The plethora of beginner sewing books this year has really got my goat, & I really don’t think we need them. For me, the only “sewing bible” I’ve ever needed was the Vogue sewing book. I also don’t see the need for projects in these books. Maybe that’s just me.
    For me to have bought this book, it would have needed to offer something the Reader’s Digest, Vogue sewing & Alison Smith Sewing Book doesn’t.
    As usual, the book publishers are trying to cash in on the high profile of people who’ve been on the telly, without thinking about what the sewing community really needs.

    • Evie says:

      I’ve never had a copy of the Vogue book but I love the Reader’s Digest.
      Your last paragraph very eloquently sums up what I was thinking. I’ve got no qualms with a business trying to make money, but at least have the decency to put out a quality product.

  8. Susan Katz says:

    Awesome to see such a detailed and honest synopsis of a book I would have been likely to get. I’m kinda addicted to “sewing bible”-type tomes, and I really shouldn’t get anymore, because I go to sewing blogs when I have any questions, anyway. Ha! Anyway…thanks, you’re the bomb.

    • Evie says:

      When I packed up the sewing loft recently there was box after box of sewing/knitting/quilting/embroidery books. It’s an embarrassment of riches and I’m so lucky to have them. So you’re not alone with this addiction…
      And…thank you…*blush*

  9. Mila says:

    Love that blue dress, beautiful!

  10. Emily says:

    Oh dear – thank you for being so honest about it. I do wonder what motivated her to publish a book that is clearly so, um, limited.

  11. Michelle says:

    Actually it is your version of stay stitching that seems very odd to me. May’s is just fine.

    • Pendle Stitches says:

      I’m so glad it works for you. I’ve always had such success with the way I do it. This is one of the things that makes sewing so much fun, no?

  12. Mai says:

    I wish I had read your review BEFORE buying this book. I was so disappointed in its brevity and LACK of patterns that I googled whether others had also fallen prey… Sigh. Lesson learnt. Off to get Sewtionary. Thanks for your post.

    • Pendle Stitches says:

      That must be so frustrating. I’ve not got the Sewtionary but I’ve heard good things. I’m also very fond of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. No patterns but just an amazing resource.

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