How to Use DIY Books in the Age of Online Tutorials

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Lisa Sartori

Staff Writer

Lisa Sartori is a writer, cat mom, sick person, sewist, and proud aunt living in arid Southern California.

I was so frickin’ lucky to come of age at a time when DIYers were taking the internet by storm: posting their projects on Craftster, selling their patterns on Ravelry, filling Pinterest with tutorials, making Etsy an immensely popular handmade marketplace. For over ten years, I’ve gobbled up free DIY content like Bacchus at a buffet. Had I been I born in 1968 instead of 1988, I probably would have watched a lot of my spending cash flow into a huge collection of DIY books, zines, videos, and classes, just to obtain the wealth of information that I am able to get off the internet for $0.00.

This doesn’t mean that books, zines, videos, and classes are totally passé; it does make their role somewhat different, though. Before the Internet was ubiquitous, these media, along with free advice and teaching from family and friends, were the only avenues through which DIY information was available; and of these media, books were at the nexus of easy-to-get and cost-effective. Now that books aren’t the de facto first place to seek this information, how can DIYers best use them?

Use encyclopedic books as reference.

Vogue Sewing in How to Use Sewing Books in the Age of Online Tutorials | BookRiot.comOne of the difficult things about looking for DIY information online is spending the time to find the best stuff. I like to use quality encyclopedia-style DIY books like Vogue Sewing as my first stop when I have straightforward questions like “in what order do I sew the seams of this lined bodice?” or “how do I do a buttonhole stitch again?” I know I can look to this book for accurate information, something which would take more time to do if I were to google it.

Use one trusted how-to book to learn a new craft.

Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker in How to Use DIY Books in the Age of Online Tutorials | BookRiot.comLearning an entirely new thing is overwhelming. For this, it’s a great idea to use how-to books; the kind that have a progression of lessons and practice activities are best. This keeps you from having to look up each individual technique every time you need to learn something, and it also gives you a solid place to start. One of my favorites is Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker, which I used to learn crochet.

Use advanced books to get information that is hard to find online.

Patterns of Fashion 1 by Janet Arnold in How to Use DIY Books in the Age of Online Tutorials | BookRiot.comThere is some information that is hard to find, even online. There isn’t a specific tutorial for patterning a modern jacket inspired by 1840s English bodices, for example. This is where books can come in clutch. For this example, I would use How to Make Sewing Patterns by Don McCunn and Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and their Construction c. 1660–1860 by Janet Arnold, both of which are in my personal library. The first book has detailed instructions for drafting and designing with your personal slopers, and the second book has pattern diagrams from extant historical garments.

Use beautiful books for inspiration.

Fashion: A History in How to Use DIY Books in the Age of Online Tutorials | BookRiot.comFor a bookworm, I don’t own a lot of books (I blame/thank Konmari for that). When it comes to DIY books, what I own is either unquestionably functional or breathtakingly beautiful. Though there is no shortage of inspiration online, leafing through a well-curated book of gorgeous creative work is a pleasure. To keep with the fashion theme, I’ll recommend the two-volume Taschen book Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century, curated by the Kyoto Costume Institute.

Do you DIY? How do you find yourself using books in combination with online media?