Book review: The Colette Sewing Handbook

Home dressmakers will know Colette patterns for their clear packaging, approachable easy-to-follow instruction and classic styles that work in all sorts of fabric for all sorts of shapes. The Sewing Handbook is no exception to their repertoire.


Based on five 'fundamentals', the Colette book aims to show you how to make the 'wardrobe of your dreams' - and we think it probably exceeds expectation. Offering very detailed instruction on dressmaking techniques - and we're talking proper stuff; all those techniques used in high fashion to create long-lasting exquisite clothing - as well as good clear photos, it is a pleasure to look through and confidently learn from.

They offer industry-standard technical drawings so that you can see where you should stitch, what you should fold, which side of the fabric you should be working on... Every diagram has a purpose, making it a thorough book.


Though, it's by no means a handbook in the respect that it is rather large. It is, however, with its spiral binding easy to flick through to find your required page, and most importantly keep open whilst you sew. We find that these little details make a grand difference and, in fact, gives it the authority to be a 'handbook' as you'll want to keep it with you for any sudden making opportunities.

It first covers the basics of sewing, from inserting zips, constructing darts and hand finishes. It talks about developing a plan in order to create your perfect wardrobe, how to prepare your fabric and explains with diagrams the anatomy of patterns, including laying out, transferring markings and cutting. Really everything you would need to know in order to get started with dressmaking.

Fabric explanations

Seam finishes

The 'fundamentals' that the book covers are: a thoughtful plan, a precise pattern, a fantastic fit, a beautiful fabric, and a fine finish. The five exclusive patterns that come with the book most definitely help you to explore new techniques to improve your skills and hopefully consequently your confidence too. Within each project, there are chapters dedicated to such necessities as making alterations to the pattern and toile, explanation of fabric types and seam finishings depending on the fabric and garment choice. They are, as the book says it covers, fundamentals.

Sewing Handbook internals

The Meringue skirt offers a scalloped-hem, which is no easy feat, whilst the Pastille dress has an interesting sleeve shape and so teaches some magical pattern cutting along with the necessity for cutting and sewing accurately. The Truffle dress and Taffy blouse give you the opportunity to (nervously) work with silk and sheer fabrics, and construct darts with precision.

Sewing Handbook Patterns

The final project, the Licorice dress, is a culmination of all the skills you will have learned throughout the book, giving you the chance to go for it with your newly acquired knowledge in altering patterns for the perfect fit, couture finishes, the correct tools and equipment to use and with what fabric, and the act of choosing a suitable fabric in itself.


Sarai Mitnick has signed certain copies, some of which are available from us at Ray Stitch in-store for £23.95 or give us a call and we can send via mail order! Considering the information gained from this handbook, how lovely it is presented and the fact that you get five exclusive paper patterns (as well as Sarai's autograph), this is a mega-value purchase and we're more than pleased to be a retailer for it, recommending it to beginners and skilled dressmakers alike.


Words by Steph.