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What about the novice sewers?

CarolFresia's picture

I'm starting a new discussion thread here to see if we can focus some thought on the opposite end of the spectrum. Nearly all the responses you've all offered so far ask for high-end, advanced techniques....the more, the better! It's exciting to know that there are so many of you other there eager to learn more and to challenge yourselves with increasingly complex projects. However...

We'd also like to reach those people who are either beginners, or are returning to sewing after a number of years away and need some refresher information. Among these would be people who, perhaps, learned a little about sewing way back in the pervasive Home Ec days (around here, that means you're over 40!), and also younger sewers who, in many cases, didn't even have Home Ec in school to give them the basics.

Very likely, they're not ready for the very advanced sort of material you'd like to see more of. Can you suggest ways to draw in the novice audience and encourage them to develop their hobby? The industry as a whole will be better off for all of us if we make an effort to foster new sewers.

If there are novices lurking who haven't posted, please feel free to speak up here!


Sue2000's picture

(post #31243, reply #1 of 254)

Looks like you've already begun to do this when the best article you can think o featuring on a Threads cover is an article on topstitching.   Sorry, but I found this quite banal.... 

edgy's picture

(post #31243, reply #2 of 254)


I hope Threads is not going to try to be all things to all people. Seems to me that beginning sewers will gravitate to other mags like Sew News and when they're ready, they'll "notice" Threads. Please don't compromise on the high standards of the magazine. All the feedback has emphasized that -- now your are aking about beginners as if all our participation wasn't useful!

I was wondering what we would hear from Threads thru you about our feedback. Is this it?


Sue2000's picture

(post #31243, reply #3 of 254)

Nancy that's a good point about being all things to all people.  I can't remember what the various titles were that Martha Pullen had a few years back but it seemed they tried to combine them all into one.  It didn't work and looks like they're back to being pretty much the same Sew Beautiful they were before trying to "be all to everyone".

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31243, reply #4 of 254)


No, we won't try to be all things to all people--that's much too tall an order for any magazine! Nor do we plan to lower any standards just because we're thinking about beginning sewers. Novices need technical information and inspiration just as much as seasoned sewers--probably more, and they certainly don't deserve less. Especially these days, when only a tiny minority of young people learn to sew at school or from a family member (the two main sources of sewing instruction in past decades), the media play an increasingly important role in spreading the word about this hobby/discipline/artform we all enjoy. 

Most of us were, at one time or another, tyros ourselves--let's try to remember how we got from there to where we are today. What could be more exciting for a beginner than to feel she belongs to a community of active, knowledgeable, and creative sewers? Sewing hasn't been all that "cool" for teenagers for a while (although I think that's changing), so whatever we can do to validate their pride in their achievements is worth doing.

In terms of dollars and cents, more sewers means more stuff out there for sewers to buy and use...notice how the independent fashion fabric stores faded from view starting in about the 70s, but quilting stores have, relatively speaking, flourished (and thank goodness for them, too). I'd love to see a G-Street, Vogue Fabrics, Haberman's, Josephine's Dry Goods, Waechter's Silk, Buttons 'n' Bolts, etc. every town in the country, but that can't happen if it's just us asking for it.


JulieH's picture

(post #31243, reply #19 of 254)

I agree that novice sewers must be included for all the reasons you gave.  I have been sewing for more than 50 years, and I always read all the tips; sometimes you can pick up something that's really useful.  The only thing I hardly ever read is pattern instructions; they usually don't put the garment together the way I would do it.  For instance the magic yoke you had in #111.  I've been making yokes like that for years, I can't remember where I learned it, but it's the best construction ever.  I think there are a lot of young people who would like to sew, but don't know where to start.  They don't understand terms like seam allowance, straight grain all the things we "old hands" take for granted.  You have so many wonderful articles and ideas (I shortened the sleeves of a jacket for my daughter FROM THE TOP using an article you had several years ago because the cuff was so ornate I didn't think I could duplicate it) I want to try making jeans again from the Sandra Betzina article in #111.  I fell in love with the Colorful Striped Fabric jacket in the current issue, and already have it laid out in my mind.  I love the fact that you have layouts and diagrams showing how things should go together step-by-step.  Many times I am familiar with the technique you are describing, but often I'll learn a quick and easy adjustment to my technique, and then use it ever after.  I'm happiest when I'm sewing.  I quess I've sorted of rambled here, but I think sewers of all levels need to be included, sometimes I feel that sewing is becoming a dying art.  Keep up the good work.  JulieH

lindacarlson's picture

(post #31243, reply #20 of 254)

I am one of those who learned to sew in school, but we had dreadful projects that did not teach bound buttonholes, the hidden button placket, or fitting slacks. I love Threads, regardless of what level I am sewing on, because of the excellent page design that makes the articles easy to read. (I had a sample of Sew News and could hardly read its cluttered pages and outdated type style.) But I have two complaints, after reading Threads for at least five years: first, the diagrams are hard to follow. I was delighted to see the hidden placket addressed again, but I cannot understand the instructions. I'll have to practice and see if I can learn by doing. I've had similar problems with most of your other diagrams. Second, I cannot find classic tailored clothing in stores and would love to see more articles on creating slacks, jackets and dresses in fabrics like wool flannel, boiled wool and wool jersey. These fabrics are now so expensive and I don't have a lot of time or patience, so I'm looking for tips to cut time and risk but still create garments with linings, pockets and conventional waistbands (no elastic!). Oh, yes, and I'm still using a 1970s Kenmore portable!

Sue2000's picture

(post #31243, reply #21 of 254)

Maybe a basics article can have a sidebar for more advanced techniques.

I was thinking more the opposite... but maybe you meant a single basics article, I read this quickly and imagined all content being more basic with sidebars for advanced techniques...gasp!

But the sidebar idea is good, it could be used for any article with the "for starters" theme someone mentioned from another magazine (not saying plagiarize!) to have instruction simplified or offer some basics for newer/returning sewers so they can get to the level of the article.

Was the topstitching article made the cover article to attract more beginning sewers? It seems from the intro on this discussion that Threads is trying to get to more of them is that by making the magazine seem less advanced when they see it on display at the fabric store or bookstore? And if so does it concern you about losing more advanced sewers? As someone else said, the topstitching article (which I have already expressed my opinion on as the cover) could have offered new ways to use this in clothing... as well as how to perfect it -- but it didn't.  It reminded me of one of the articles you'd find in one of the pattern manufacturer's magazines.

callie1's picture

(post #31243, reply #36 of 254)

     I think the way to do it is to have articles that explain the basics and then show where you can go from there.  Like the topstitching could have gone much further.  Show a creative use of topstitching, maybe different threads, double or triple needle, some design examples, etc.  I found that article to be too bland.  Even when I was a beginner I wanted to see the most exciting, inspirational ideas I could find.  That's what attracted me to Threads and that's why I have years worth of back issues in my sewing room.  If I get stuck, browsing through some back issues is always good for inspiration. 

quiltnut's picture

(post #31243, reply #47 of 254)

Hi All,

I am also an "Oldie but Goody."  I really like Sew News and Threads.  I get them both. Like Deb, I feel that we should not forget the people who need help & we should always be willing to help them. (Interesting that I also worked in Healthcare.)

I am getting a new embroidery/sewing machine in April. It has many more stitches on it than I have ever had on a machine.  I will be reading everything I can get my hands on, I am sure.  So, you can see, I will now be like a beginner in so many ways. I will be very busy.  I have been looking through the magazines I have for articles on embroidery machines and stabilizers, thread, etc.

I love the sewing chat boards because people are so willing to help one another. Sorry if this was long winded.  Just wanted to have my say.



GoodFibrations's picture

(post #31243, reply #52 of 254)


In my opinion, the novice as well as the "yet to be" sewists should definiely be a focus of the publication of Threads.  If we do not mentor this group then Threads Magazine will surely meet it's demise just we experienced sewists will.  Threads cannot depend only on the upwardly reaching community of people who sew, we need to inspire the non-sewing people begin.  I can think of no better group to foster creativity and an appreciation for quality in workmanship than Taunton Press. Excellence at every skill level is still excellence. (and a few of us may have some bad habits we need to break)

Theodora's picture

(post #31243, reply #53 of 254)

I disagree with you because there are plenty of resources and publications available for entry level sewists. As their skills increase, they may find information and inspiration in Threads, and find in it something to aspire to. After all, what is wrong with having something to look up to? Threads raises the bar and asks us to improve our skills, or it did so in the past. I don't want Threads to simplify its approach to meet the needs of the beginning population. I want that population to meet higher expectations and challenges. This group is being mentored to quite adequately, whereas the serious sewists who want in-depth advanced inspiration, technique and creativity have had very little besides Threads to rely on. The beginner audience is currently very well served, and the intermediate/advanced audience is currently in danger of losing the best resource it has had access to.

"The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community."  ~Ann Strong

Bernie1's picture

(post #31243, reply #54 of 254)

I'm with you, Theodora. I read Sew News for years. Believe me, young sewists today are getting a heck of a lot more mentoring than I ever did with nothing but a crummy Home Ec class and one class at a Singer Center where the teacher didn't even care what our projects looked like as long as she got paid. I sew because my grandma, my mom and my aunts did, on an old Singer that was converted to electricity. There was no American Sewing Guild and no Threads Magazine, no classes at the local fabric store and certainly no Expos to encourage my love of sewing.

FitnessNut's picture

(post #31243, reply #55 of 254)



Follow your bliss ~~ Joseph Campbell
TJSEWS's picture

(post #31243, reply #58 of 254)

I like the balance Threads has now just the way it is. 

maddog3's picture

(post #31243, reply #88 of 254)

Whew, thank you for that response, I was just about to give up on the possibility of getting into the discussion of beginners when I read your response - I think the wonderful world of sewing offers an abundance of information for all - sorry to all of you seasoned sewers but there are some of us here who still stumble in many areas and need guidance and encouragement. I am getting back into sewing after many years of being away from it and so many things have changed. I have admired your publication for years even though I have not had the time to create. I am now looking forward to starting up again and look forward to having a place to turn for assistance. Thank you -

(my name is NOT maddog - I will figure out how to change that - thanks again -

Chris G.

. . .

. . . . . . . .

Delores's picture

(post #31243, reply #180 of 254)

Thanks for including the run-of-mill sewers like me. I have been sewing for a lot of

years but am mostly self-taught and the way I do things isn't always the best way

so I appreciate the opportunity to improve my skills.

I am sorry if we are beneath the notice of the expert sewers but it seems to

me there should be room enough for us all. I really am not interested in the

"arty" articles bit will happily read them if you have some for the plain

sewer too which, I am happy to say, so far, you have. As for the suggestion

that we suscribe to Sew New - I have and I didn't like it.

Delores's picture

(post #31243, reply #181 of 254)

I just noticed the date on the message I responded to. Sorry, I , for

the first time, read this site. My comments are way late.

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31243, reply #182 of 254)

Hi, Delores,

This is an on-going discussion, so you're never too late!

We have several goals in deciding on the content of the magazine. We want to provide inspiration, certainly, in the way of current fashion as well as art to wear, but we also want to offer the reader clear, useful technical information. There are many, many years of sewing experience among the Threads editors, and yet we still learn new ways to do standard things all the time. We want to share those techniques with you, to make your sewing faster, or neater, or easier, or just more pleasurable.


jmr650's picture

(post #31243, reply #183 of 254)

Hi Carol,

I am also late to this discussion and do not have the time to read everything that has been said so I will stick to "just my opinion" and beg forgiveness for any repetiion.

I have every issue ofThreads! I constantly reference your magazine as I evlove in my own design world.

The review of what you should include or not include has occurred before and there have at times been changes that are less than perfect "in my mind". But then... I still read every page, review every technique and find that even if I will never specifically use an article, method or explore a particular design realm -- my mind expands and it opens to new approaches to my basic loves -- quilting and sewing for myself.

Also, if you could only sit and look a "Threads" as a body of work, you would see that even as this wonderful magazine changes perioducally -- it gradually returns to the same basic theme. I think occasional reflection on editorial direction is needed but should not become a theme unto itself.

I can understand that the "experts" do not like to be slowed down by the basics for beginners -- but we should never be so full of ourselves not to stop and review our beginnings. Sometimes we drift so far from the basics that we make a process more complicated or  less stable because we do not want to waste that time. I find even reading "antique" books on garment making can be very revolutionary for me.

And those "novices" because they do not know everything, take the basics and take us all off into new approaches in design. They don't throw the rules away, they just haven't received a copy yet.

And then there is the subject of keeping "Threads" alive in a very expensive and competitive market. Having had experience in running a large retail business, I know that a magazine must have a broader market than just the "experts". The bottom line is about numbers ($$$$) and you, as editor must constantly attract knew readers. There are simply not enough members in that exclusive "expert" group to keep "our" favorite magazine viable.

And by the way after over forty years of sewing and hundreds of classes, I still only consider myself as an advanced intermediate -- there is to much to see and learn for me to be agrogant enough to feel "Threads should only address me.

Hoping to recieve "Threads" till the end of time,


CarolFresia's picture

(post #31243, reply #6 of 254)

Nancy, your participation (and that of all the other participants in this discussion) is indeed very highly valued. However, after just nine days, we aren't quite ready to make publishing decisions based on it. We've scheduled to have this discussion and the accompanying polls continue for the next nine weeks, at which point, if it continues at this rate, we'll have set a Taunton record for "most reader input in the shortest period of time"!

Seriously, though, we're blown away not just by the quantity of responses, but also by the thought behind the posts. It's great to know that you all care about the magazine, and we are paying close attention to what you say.


Edited 3/11/2004 4:12 pm ET by CAROLFRESIA

HC's picture

(post #31243, reply #39 of 254)

Hi, Carol.

I'm writing on behalf of my teenage daughters who probably qualify as "novice" sewers. Of all the sewing projects they've tackled, the ones from Threads' "Quick to Make" articles are their favorites. So, I think QTM is one series you shouldn't drop or reduce if you want to appeal to novices! Those QTM projects were always more interesting to them than any other novice-type projects I proposed from other publications.

Thanks for listening.


CarolFresia's picture

(post #31243, reply #40 of 254)

I'm delighted to hear that they've enjoyed the QTM projects. Have you seen the Taunton "Quick to Make" book? It's a compilation of a whole bunch of nifty projects from past issues. I'm not trying to sell you anything (I'm in editorial, not sales!), but wanted to mention the book because I think your daughters might like it.

Based on the feedback we've received so far about QTM, I think the decision to cut the department will be reevaluated very soon. We're also keeping in mind, for a possible future special issue (one-time, newsstand-only), a collection of smaller projects such as those shown in QTM.


Bernie1's picture

(post #31243, reply #41 of 254)

Hey, Carol: FYI when I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday I checked out the craft section of the magazine rack - about 50 magazines were devoted to quilters and knitters and beadwork but only two - Threads and Vogue patterns - were out there for sewists. So if you want to expand your offerings for intermediate/advanced sewists, you could probably drop the stuff on quilting and not see a drop in readership.

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31243, reply #42 of 254)

That's what we've concluded, too. You'll notice less on quilting in future issues, but we'll continue to include quilt-related techniques that either are very unique and interesting, or are specifically applied to garments and home-decor items. The number of quilting magazines is pretty mind-boggling, but inspiring, too.


GrannyMouse's picture

(post #31243, reply #64 of 254)

Dear Carol,

Cheers to Threads for deciding to have less quilting articles! As I've said many times to our local PBS affiliates, quilting and garments sewing are two, distinctly different needle arts, and to think that they've satisified garment sewists by airing so many quilting programs is to miss a considerable segment of the sewing market.  When quilting techniques can be incorperated into wearable art, then it would be appropriate for an article in Threads

As to beginner sewists, Threads already addresses that area with regular, recurring features such as Basics, Fitting, Tips and Questions.  I love Threads because it is the only source, known to me at least, that is there for us intermediate or advanced sewists, who want to stretch our sewing horizons.

Beginner sewists would be better served to purchase one of the many excellent basic sewing books such as those published by Singer, Readers' Digests and others. They can preview them at the public library before making an investment.

Thank you for offering an opportunity for your readers to contact you.

A Threads devotee,

Marilyn in MD




HC's picture

(post #31243, reply #48 of 254)

Hi, Carol.

Yes, we have the book too, and will purchase any other QTM publications you issue! Although I have almost all the issues with QTM, my daughters liked the idea of all the QTM's in one place (and frankly, I don't like them taunting me for reading articles with titles like "Clone Your Favorite Bra", etc. . . .)


sewbusy's picture

(post #31243, reply #31 of 254)

I've been sewing for 40 years and I have NEVER learned the basics of top-stitching in any class I've ever taken - they just said "stitch close to the edge". Pattern instructions just say "stitch close to the edge".  So I figured out some techniques for myself.  After all this time, I'm pretty good at it.  But I still read the article, and surprise, surprise, Pam Howard taught me a few things I didn't know.  On top of that, I've been told by many people that one of the biggest stumbling blocks for beginners is top-stitching. AND that the most obvious sign of a home-made garment is either missing or badly done top-stitching. So I think it was a very timely article.

pdclose's picture

(post #31243, reply #5 of 254)

>We'd also like to reach those people who are either beginners, or are returning to sewing after a number of years away and need some refresher information.

I thought that's what Sew News was for.  No, really I did!

Have you considered that people move out of the beginning stage pretty quickly?  Perhaps this info is more suited to a regular column or two, or how about one issue a year focusing on beginners?

I gave up Sew News because it was constantly focused on beginners.  I moved onto Threads pretty quickly and have stayed there.  Til now anyway.  If this is the magazine's new direction, then I'll have to give it up too.

kayl's picture

(post #31243, reply #7 of 254)

I suspect there are ways to appeal to both the new(er) and

experienced person in the same article... and I think Threads is

probably doing it conciously in the last issue. For instance,

Shirley Botsford's article on draping necklines -- draping is

usually considered a rather advanced technique, but the article

also illustrates getting different looks from a basic pattern.

I know when I first started to sew, The Way The Pattern Did It

was almost sacred, and I didn't see the ways a simple pattern

could be altered with just a bit of work. Ditto the wrap front

top article -- though I'd like to have seen a bit more detail

on how you or the actual clothier decided some of the inner construction details, as it would have better fed my particular

interest in improving my construction.

I consider myself to be at an intermediate level of skills, maybe

a bit toward the advanced end of intermediate, but I know that

there are times when I've picked up a basic sewing book and have

been surprised at the number of niceities I've somehow let slide

along the way... and how the next project improved after that


Kay Lancaster

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31243, reply #8 of 254)

"I gave up Sew News because it was constantly focused on beginners.  I moved onto Threads pretty quickly and have stayed there.  Til now anyway.  If this is the magazine's new direction, then I'll have to give it up too."

Fear not: we have no plans to turn the magazine into a primer for beginners. We're more interested in understanding how we can entice beginners to stretch themselves, to aim for the skill level that so many of you have already achieved. The "Basics" column is designed to provide basic info. for novices, but we certainly hope that experienced sewers will take a look and see if there's anything new for them (or, if they have an even better way to do something, to send it in to us as a letter).

I recently heard from a woman who, after more than 20 years of garment sewing, had just learned what understitching was. To me, that was something that came in lesson two or maybe three...but you never know. I'll bet her sewing improved, and she was glad of it.