“In Praise of the Needlewoman”: The image above is of a book of paintings depicting girls and women sewing, by Gail Carolyn Sirna
As an obsessed sewing hobbyist, I’m excited when a book of fiction crosses my path and has the word “seamstress” or “pattern-maker” or “collection” in the title. Today, I’m sharing some books on my wooden or digital bookshelf, read during the past few years. None of them are deeply philosophical but to be enjoyed on a cold night with a hot cup of tea. Or, as a “beach read”.
The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester: the most recent one, it qualifies as historical fiction which the author also suggests it is. The main characters are fictional, but the heroine does have an ancestral connection with a couple of real people – famous people – who indulge themselves in a real event. Without spoiling anything there are two exquisitely described garments (designed and sewn by the heroine) which become part of the narrative. At the end of the book, the author shares information about her tour of the Parisian buildings and streets where some scenes in the book take place. Appearances are made by famous people in the 1940s fashion industry during World War II. It’s an enjoyable read – I would say, a historical fictional romance.
The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby: Also historical fiction where Jackie Kennedy’s sadly iconic pink suit takes a life of it’s own. Description of fabric and sewing abound in the book as does some thoughtful “wordsmithing”. Did you read my past post about this book? Go here and here.
The Collection by Gioia Diliberto: I read this book twice – not sure why, but enjoyed it both times. The House of Chanel makes a prominent appearance in this book – ‘nuff said before spoiling it all for you. Reading something repeatedly sometimes brings attention to a detail of the plot or the scenic description which one may have missed the first time. Have you ever done that?
The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser: Romantic story about a scullery maid who travels to New York with her upper crust employers and ends up as a high end New York fashion designer. The Butterick Pattern Company is a constant presence in the story which takes place during the first decade of the 20th century. It has some religious overtones, but mainly focuses on the story.
The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow: I guess this qualifies as historical fiction, too. A member of the British royal family (now dead and gone) is integral to this story. I remember thinking – is the writer allowed to write that without lawsuits and ire of the British royals?
Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing by Cathy Cano-Murillo: I admit, I judged this book by it’s cover (title, in this case). Wouldn’t you? There are some sad overtones in the plot but is generally a light hearted read. What’s not to like about fiction that begins with a character obsessing about a loose thread on her self-made jacket (chapter 1)? Don’t miss the prologues. I might read this one again when I feel like a fast sewing fiction read.
Fashion themed fiction: None of the following books with a fashion backdrop live up to my forever favorite, “The Devil Wears Prada”. But I’ll list them here anyway:
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza – competition in the fashion magazine world. Hilarious in parts. Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen – It’s oookay.
My Mrs Brown by William Norwich – I expected more from this author who, in a past life, was on the Vogue roster. The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean: The author is a “wordsmith” in her professional life. She also writes a sewing blog called A Dress a Day. Since the book is about a vintage dress shop, I’m calling it a “fashion” fiction rather than sewing.
Any other sewing fiction that I’ve missed? Please let everyone know in the comments section, and what you think of it.
6 thoughts on “Sewing Themed Fiction”
Thanks for the list! I’m going to look up several of these.
Let us know what you think of your choices. 🙂
I have tried some of these books but fictional sewing kinds bores me. One I did love as a child was “The Moffats” by Eleanor Estes was mostly about the family, but the mother’s sewing business and her dress form “Madame” was all that interested me. I loved it as a child, and my boys loved it a few years ago. I was not quite as taken with The Hundred Dresses, but I will revisit.
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So far, sewing themed fiction that I’ve read has been been “quick” reads, and nothing deep or philosophical but fun. I’ve enjoyed most. One of my all time faves is “Marie Antoinette, and what She Wore to the Revolution” by Caroline Webber but I did not include it here because it isn’t fiction — just historical, and thoroughly enjoyable. That one I will re-read.
I appreciate this post! So many choices, and I don’t know most of them.
Last year I read The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie. I recommend it, and it’s only $2.99 if you read e-books. It covers a long span in time from when the Singer machine is built in 1911 in Scotland, to the 1940s and up to present day. Another book I enjoyed was Lucia Lucia by Adriana Trigiani, a story of a seamstress in 1950s New York. In this the custom sewing for a department store takes a backseat to the romance and family life. I bought Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini at a used book store, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s a historical novel based heavily on the real life story on a seamstress for the First Lady, who was born a slave. Chiaverini also wrote a series of quilting books. I read some including the first, The Quilter’s Apprentice.
Lisa, I will look up your recommendations, especially Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. Thank you!