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Ask Threads

“What’s the best foot for my fabric?” “Why does my thread keep bunching up?” “What’s the best way to finish this seam?” We all run into questions like these. For me, it’s usually during one of my many midnight sewing sessions.

In each issue of Threads, industry experts answer your sewing questions. Whether it’s a technical sewing question, a pattern adjustment, a fitting concern, or simply a why-is-it-done-that-way question, the Threads Q&A department is the place to ask. There are three ways to contact us: go to the Contact the staff page to submit your inquiry, email your questions to ThreadsQ&[email protected], or write us a letter addressed to Threads Q&A. We’ll make every effort to get you helpful answers.

In the current issue, number 161 June/July, you can read answers to readers’ questions such as: how to “Downsize a roomy sleeve,” how to “Fold and sew a narrow, neat seam finish” for princess seams, and how to “Sew a smooth edge on a curve.”

What are your sewing questions? Let us know, and you may have your questions published in an upcoming Threads.


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  1. bgibbs | | #1

    My most pressing issue at the moment is the installation of sportswear elastic in the waistband of a pair of pants. This is the type of elastic that's stitched to the edge of the waistband, turned under, and stitched in rows from the fold to the edge of the waistband, creating little channels. On the first attempt, the elastic (this is 1-1/4" wide, relaxed too much, so I took all of the stitching out, shortened the elastic by 4" and reinstalled it. Now there is almost no stretch left and the waist is still too loose.

    Because there is about 11" difference between my hip and waist measurements, I have to stretch the elastic a lot when installing it.

    HELP please!

    Thank you!

  2. rekha | | #2

    Having read and watched issues of fitting can you suggest publications that explain the physics of, for example, the range of motion in relation to moulding fabric around the body

  3. variadee | | #3

    My most pressing issue is the fact that I am very small busted (almost non-existant LOL) but do have a waist. Almost all dresses and blouses have darts and I have no idea how to alter the pattern for my almost shapeless top.

  4. WomanOfTheCloth | | #4

    Where you can get patterns made that fit your particular measurements?
    My daughter has measurements that do not fit regular patterns. I would love to finish a skirt for her, but she doesn't fit either of two patterns I bought.
    Her waist is too big.
    Is there a business that can make custom patterns for basic items?
    I wouldn't mind having some for me, too. I'm not terribly hard to fit, but each person has their own individual shape.

  5. forbusiness | | #5

    The sewing issue that is pressing me the most is the weight of the fabric. I have purchased fabric that I like but when I drape the fabric on myself the weight of the fabric might not complement the design in the pattern. On the back of the pattern the suggested fabric maybe cotton and cotton blends but cotton and cotton blends could be lightweight, medium weight, any weight? So I find the cotton fabric I just have to have and when I get home and drape it the weight of the fabric does not hold the design. How can I get better at matching the fabric weight to the design I am trying to create.

  6. user-1095261 | | #6

    I really like maxii dresses, but have only seen a few patterns I like. Can I make any dress pattern into a maxi dress?

  7. Jazzycurl | | #7

    I love the new issue of Threads - and the way you show how to use stripes is unbelievable. I was wondering if you could review how to sew stripes so that the seams match. I remember there is a trick to this but I cannot remember what the trick is.
    thank you

  8. MrsHGW | | #8

    I'll agree with BGibbs that sports elastic insertion is my problem too. I have followed online tutorials and still the result is ugly!!!!I too have a large difference between waist and hips so I've given up on elastic for me BUT since I sew for others I need to learn this but don't know how to achieve a nice professional finish.
    My problem too is that I am a pear shaped "short waist-ed" mature petite and altering patterns still do not fit right so I've taken to making my own patterns from scratch but I would love to be able to use a made pattern. And while you can go to a store and try something gorgeous on only to find it looks dreadful on you, you won't know that until you have invested time and fortune into your homemade dress. RTW clothes also seldom fit, so of course I don't buy them. That leaves dreadful unfashionable skirt and blouse combos. Local stores don't sell "nice" fabrics. And this new stuff about stripes is just awful for me. Stripes make skinny people look balanced and that means only the angular or teen undeveloped figures will look good in them IMHO. Different shapes do need different patterns as well as different styles to be attractive in. A style for one can look all wrong on another even if it does "fit".

  9. User avater
    sewa2z | | #9

    My question is on the Simplicity Threads Magazine collection pattern No. 4368. It is about the top which has three tucks on the front, and it is about the Threads Tip- Tucks sometimes twist if the pattern piece was cut slightly off grain. Check your grain by gently pulling a thread along the tuck line. The puckers should follow the stitching line. Then ease the puckers back out. I don't understand the instructions. When I prepared the material I squared the fabric. How can you pull a thread down the middle of the top to see if it runs along the stitching line of the tuck? It will damage the front. When I square a fabric I pull a thread on the crossgrain or tear it, (if it will tear) from salvage to salvage. My top was layed out with the pieces on the fold on the lengthwise grain. Can you please explain this to me? Thank you, Carol

  10. User avater
    sewa2z | | #10

    I have another question this one is on the Industry Guide to Sewing Order in issue 162. Step 8 was "sew side seams and inseams" and step 12 was "sew set-in sleeves". My question arose when my pattern instrucions were to sew the sleeve in flat, before sewing the seam on the sleeve, and the top(it was a pagama top) then sew the seam on the sleeve and the side seam of the top all at once. So my questions is why do the instructions tell you to do it that way sometimes, but at other times the instructions tell you to sew the side seam and the seam on the sleeve first then set in the sleeve. Does it matter, does it depend on the kind of sleeve/armhole, which way is better, and how do you know which way you should do it if you had no pattern? I enjoyed using the guide, found it helpful, since I am learning from drafting books how to draft patterns, but there are no sewing instructions after you've drafted the garment. Thank you for your help, Carol

  11. amm | | #11

    Thank you all for your terrific questions. Our Q&A editor has added them to her "questions in waiting" list, and many of them will be answered in a future issue of Threads.

    If you're anxious for answers more quickly, you can consider posting your questions on our forum, Gatherings (click on the word "FORUM" in the blue band at the top of the page). Other sewers from around the world may be of assistance.

    In the meantime, be watching for your question to be answered sometime in the future.

  12. user-1132947 | | #12

    are sergers an overlockers one an the same

  13. User avater
    Roe916 | | #13

    This question involves a pattern shown in June.July 2004 issue of Threads. Page 47 features a trench coat with polka dot trim...I'm very curious as to how this was applied. I thought I had seen this picture again in subsequent issues and actually went thru my stash of Threads and even Sew Stylish, but with no success. Can anyone help?


  14. user-5529706 | | #14

    I have a question about which material(s) to use for making a garrison hat. I'm having a hard time finding material that I think will work.

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