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Sew Retro: 25 Vintage-Inspired Projects for the Modern Girl & A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution Hardcover – July 10, 2010

43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Sew Retro is the perfect combination of everything we love about sewing and vintage style! We get the best of both worlds as we travel through the ages making charming projects inspired by our sewing history that are fun, fresh, and stylish!”

—Amy Butler, author of Amy Butler’s In Stitches


“Judi’s retrospective of sewing illustrates one of my favorite quotes, ‘Fashion is evolutionary, not revolutionary.’ Her nostalgic stroll through generations of stitching is both fascinating and inspiring!”

—Betz White, author of Sewing Green


Sew Retro beautifully combines vintage aesthetics with simple sewing projects, perfect for the crafter, collector, and everyone in between.”

—Amy Karol, author of Bend-the-Rules Sewing

About the Author

Judi Ketteler is never happier than when she’s merging her two passions: sewing and writing. Judi is a regional contributor for Better Homes & Gardens and has written about sewing, decorating, and other inspiring DIY projects for magazines including Creative Home, Decorating, Do It Yourself, and Quilts & More. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband, son Max, two cats, and a basement full of fabric and glue guns.
Learn more about Judi at


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Voyageur Press; First edition (July 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760336873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760336878
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.1 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've been writing ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. My first books were about trees, cats, and Mary Lou Retton. I'm lucky enough to be able to write for a living now (quite often about trees, sometimes about cats, but not very often about Mary Lou Retton). I've written for lots of magazines and web sites, including Health, Self, Women's Health, Runner's World, Better Homes & Gardens, Country Gardens, Do It Yourself, Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living,,, Kitchen & Bath Ideas, Quilts & More, Window & Wall Ideas, and others.

My mom taught me to sew when I was 16, and it's been fabric love ever since. My first book was Sew Retro, released in 2010. My second book, a collaboration with Spoonflower, was released in September 2015. For Sew Retro, not only did I get to research all about the history of women and sewing, I also got to design projects and them see them beautifully photographed! For The Spoonflower Handbook, I was part of a team, which included my co-author, Becka Rahn, and Spoonflower co-founder, Stephen Fraser. In the process of working on the book, I got to learn so much about all of the very cool things you can do with Spoonflower!

I live in Cincinnati, Ohio with my husband and two young children. These days, I am a copywriter and content marketing writer, so I spend a lot of time helping businesses tell their stories, write articles, and produce videos. I am also working on a young adult novel. Find more about me at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Tara OT on August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I just received Sew Retro in the mail. I was super excited about it after reading the reviews.
It is OK... really only OK.
A majority of this book is a history of sewing; I think that part of it is pretty interesting. I enjoy reading about how the times are reflected in art (I consider fabric, and the uses of, to be artistic expression).
I was not impressed with the patterns. There is a victorian pincushion (cute), and elegant shawl (I feel like a pattern for this is silly, as it is a triangular shaw), sewing basket, needle case (blah), opera bag, flapper apron (this was nice but didnt knock my socks off), smart felt hat (could not imagine wearing this ever), patchwork potholders (a bit boring), change purse, cafe curtains, tea party tablecloth, ribbon embellished napkins, hostess apron (this was my favorite, cute little half apron), mod gathered pillow (a pillow with gathers in the front, perhaps just show the technique), pretty little purse (I liked this one too), table runner (with an abstract bird applique), handkerchief bag (nice idea, i will probably use this since i have my grandmothers vintage hankerchiefs), not so mini skirt, coasters, easy elastic headband, patchwork throw (good first quilt), saturday afternoon skirt (cute basic a-line skirt). farmers market bag (basically the handkerchief bag minus the kerchief with the addition of a front pocket), catch all caddy, and a scarf.

There wasnt anything in here that inspired me. I never looked at my sewing machine eagerly. If I had looked at it I wouldn't have purchased it.
I like Amanda Blake Soule's two books, and Martha Stewart's sewing book. They both inspired me; I have made several things from Soule's books, and am gathering materials to start one from Martha.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sweetsong on June 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I received the book today and read most of it already, with the exception of the designer biographies which I will read later. The artwork is inspiring--especially the vintage photos,just makes me want to sew! (book lays flat)

The book is arranged in order of historical events both in the sewing industry and history in general. The latter effected the former immensely, especially in the lives of American women and Judi Ketteler explains this in the text in an easy-to read, but not boring manner.

Scattered throughout are vintage-type patterns (the author does include some pieces in an envelope)for twenty-five items. What a fantastic idea that was! Will be making the sewing basket as soon as possible. Ms. Ketteler also gives tips on sewing fabrics, purchasing vintage fabrics and re-purposing how-tos.

The time line was interesting, although I beg to differ with the author's assertion that Michelle Obama is a "fashion icon." There was somewhat more politics than history as the book entered into the '60s through the 2000s, but that's okay...

Only complaint: the first few page of my book were not caught up in the ring binder at the top. They will most likely rip easily, but not a problem that would make sending the book back worthwhile.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Sanssouci572 on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The book begins with an overview of how sewing, using sewing machines and patterns came about from the point of view of women who were sewing. Another reviewer stated that she found the political commentary negative and unnecessary. I disagree--I found it amusing. For instance, in one example, a dilemma presented itself in regards to advertising sewing machines for women when women did not normally use machinery. It was like reading the script for Mad Men, 100 years ago and moving forward.

Like the other reviewers, I was disappointed in the patterns. Because the cover showed a drawing of a woman wearing a retro-dress, I assumed that the sewing projects would be clothing, dresses and so forth. Or perhaps, how to adjust or read retro patterns.
These patterns are for someone who has never sewn at all. They are mostly variations of sewing a square: square pot holders, and so forth. Pillow case type patterns--that level of difficulty.Patterns you could draw yourself with a ruler or print out for free. It was quite a disappointment, as the rest of the book is so nicely presented.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lace on February 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is okay if you want to sew crappy coasters and other ridiculously simple projects. I don't see how coasters or a pin cushion are vintage. This books fools you into thinking it will have ACTUAL vintage projects in it and it really doesn't. If you want a history of sewing this is great but if you want projects, find something else.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alfie on February 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the cover (by which you should never judge a book) it would seem that the projects would be more of a fashion and clothing oriented design. Unfortunately it is mostly just craft ideas. Accessories and nicnacs are fun and all, but I was looking more at the design and styles of retro clothing. As this book has nothing to really do with it asside from the bits and pieces about the history involved with the sew at home revolution. So I would not recomend this book to anyone looking for what I was looking for. It does have good infromation about the history of home sewing projects and very precise instructions, so it still gets 2 stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Taute on June 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm in love with almost every project in Sew Retro. They're cute, colorful vintage perfection. I've already dug my sewing machine out of the back of my closet with plans to start the fabric coasters.

I was delighted to read interviews with some of my favorite crafty ladies, including fabric designer Amy Butler. And I even found myself enjoying all the information on the history of women and sewing. These sections are written in a really approachable way, so it doesn't feel like you're reading a textbook.

It's a nice over-sized book with full color pages and great photography. Plus, the spiral binding makes it easy to follow along with the instructions when you finally stop reading long enough to dig into one of the projects. There's also a handy little pattern packet hidden in the back of the book.

Some of my friends will definitely be getting Sew Retro projects for Christmas!
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