Tools / Tutorials

Sewing things that I should remember, but I just can’t

When you repeat things enough times, they should become second nature, right? But truth to be told, I still struggle to remember some very rudimentary sewing things. Perhaps those are related to my struggles with telling left from right. Or perhaps I just need to be more mindful of what I do?

So here goes – a list of sewing things I can never remember!


Should the upper thread run on the inside or the outside on a regular sewing machine?

Not sure how big of a difference this makes, but I suppose it matters?

The answer:

The thread should run on the outside when sewing, at least according to my Bernina manual. But when you are winding the bobbin the spool thread should run on the inside, again according to my manual. Perhaps this why I get confused. I would love if someone with more knowledge on this spool issue could chime in at the comment section!


How to adjust the tension on the sewing machine

Every time I get unbalanced stitches I need to consult a sewing book to see if I need to tighten or lower the tension settings. I guess the loops should be a clue, but I still can’t get my head around it.

The answer:

Loops on the right side: lower the upper (needle) thread tension.

Loops on the reverse side: increase the upper thread tension and/or  decrease the bobbin thread tension.

Threads has done an extensive article on how to adjust tension on the sewing machine

Which side “should” the fly front be on

When ever I add a zipper fly to a pair of trousers I have to visit my wardrobe to check if the fly should be placed on the right or left side. When I don’t, I can sew an entire pair of jeans before noticing the fly is on the wrong side. I guess it shouldn’t be a huge deal, but I can attest it really feels like the zipper is placed wrong every time I zip up the trousers.

The answer:

Normally the zip fly sits on the left side. But apparently both sides are “correct”. Can someone shed more light on this issue? I don’t want to talk out of my hat and give you guys the wrong answer.


Which side the buttons “should” be on a shirt?

Again, I always have to prowl my wardrobe every time I sew a shirt to make sure I put the buttoning on the “correct” side. This is kinda embarrassing to admit, that I care on which side the buttons should sit on the shirt since it’s one of these pointless ways we differentiate between the sexes, but when I put the button on the side where I’m not used to, it feels odd, just like with zipper flys.

The answer

On “male” shirts the buttons are on the right and while women’s shirts have them on the left.

The Atlantic has done an interesting article on the history of this weird gender based phenomena of female and male button placement.


So now it’s out there, that despite having spent many decades sewing, I still can’t remember some very rudimentary things!

Do you have any sewing stuff that you struggling to remember despite doing them numerous times?




  • Anthonia
    August 17, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I have a number of them. Since I began sewing again about five months ago, I’ve noticed I don’t ever remember:

    * how to correct tension – I always consult my machine manual.

    * where to place buttons on shirts my shirts/shirt dresses, may be because I am the only female in a family of 5 and I’ve been making a lot of shirts for the ‘men’ in my life. I have at least a shirt dress with buttons on the ‘wrong side’, but it doesn’t bother me.

    *where to put interfacing on collars/collar stands without referring to instructions, etc.

    • Johanna
      August 18, 2017 at 9:02 am

      It’s comforting to hear I’m not alone in this! I wonder if one reason is that we don’t do the things often enough? Or as it for you, that the hiatus has made it hard to remember even though you done all this stuff many times before

  • Faye Lewis
    August 17, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    I’m so with you on 2 of the items on your list, the zipper and the buttons. I just never remember.

    • Johanna
      August 18, 2017 at 9:06 am

      Man can I ever relate, it’s hard! And to hear that such an experienced sewist such as you also struggle to remember that stuff, well that’s comforting 🙂

  • Kathy Zachry
    August 18, 2017 at 12:51 am

    This is dumb but I can’t remember which dial on my serger is for length and which is for width. I don’t have trouble with buttons – I just pretend I’m buttoning a shirt on myself and it comes naturally.

    • Johanna
      August 18, 2017 at 9:08 am

      You are not alone in this! I used to know that on my old Pfaff but on my newish Babylock I’m super confused, especially since one of the knobs has two parallel numbers and no visual clue on which is the width.

    • Marcia Williams
      April 29, 2021 at 11:33 am

      I can’t remember this one either!

  • Tina
    August 18, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Hi Johanna! The fly follow the same rules as the buttons on a shirt, but jeans traditionally have always been treated as men’swear ( maybe except some very feminine or “mom” ones) so most women are most used to and comfortable with a “male fly.” So you’re right, feel free to use the one you prefer. Some people think its bad style to have the pant fly overlapping in the opposite direction of the blouse or jacket, but this is only in very formal or dressed-up situations. So next time you’re making a pant suit to wear at the Nobel party, keep this in mind 😉

    • Johanna
      August 18, 2017 at 9:11 am

      Hi Tina! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your expert tailoring knowledge! I had no idea it was considered bad form having the fly overlapping in the opposite direction. On the other hand, I’m usually not hanging at formal events like the Nobel party so I think I’m good 😀

      • Sarah
        December 22, 2017 at 8:48 pm

        Not to mention, who is looking that closely at a person’s fly when attending a formal function, lol?

        • Johanna
          December 26, 2017 at 5:10 pm

          Lol, yes indeed! 😀

  • Jan Brown
    August 18, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I’m getting better but I always repeat a mantra when putting a tower placket at the cuff end of a shirt. The tall tower goes to the widest part of the sleeve.

    • LinB
      August 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      I always have to look at David Page Coffin’s book on shirt making to get the tall side of the cuff placket correct. And which side of the fabrics go together before sewing, cutting, and turning. Have done enough plackets in my life that you’d think I could remember how they go together, but instead I have trained myself NOT to remember.

      • Johanna
        August 19, 2017 at 7:13 pm

        I’m the same with plackets. The Readers’s Digest Sewing book is always open when I’m making cuffs 🙂

    • Johanna
      August 19, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      That is a great mantra. The cuff placket is another thing I always have to consult a sewing book on!

  • Helena
    August 21, 2017 at 9:22 am

    For remembering which side buttons go on just think:

    Women are always right and men are left over

    Has helped me many times 🙂

    • Marcia Williams
      April 29, 2021 at 11:34 am



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