Threads Magazine – To Subscribe Or Not?

I recently decided to take the plunge with a year’s subscription to Threads magazine – largely acknowledged as the most comprehensive and expert magazine for home sewing. ‘For People Who Love To Sew’ – as their shout line says.

I’ve read about this magazine so often in blog posts and some of its material is freely available on the web. An Oscar winner of the magazine world – or is it? Was it worth finding out?

I deliberated over this move for a while. I am the world’s worst at subscribing to magazines, getting bored, procrastinating for six months, then going through the extremely painful process of tracking down a phone number in the small print, sitting on hold for aeons, and then finally getting to talk to a person about cancelling the subscription. Magazines are clever. They make it really difficult to cancel a subscription. So, you know, I felt cautious.

What does it cost a UK-based reader for a year’s subscription to this most US of magazines? With international postage, it comes in at just shy of £25, which works out at £2 a month or £4 a bi-monthly issue. Bearing in mind that I spend at least £6 a week on lattes (that’s £288 a year, readers – eek!), my subscription didn’t feel too bad.

The first magazine to turn up was January 2013’s issue no. 164. I flicked through the pages and – pow! An in-depth guide to making a kick pleat. For ages now, I’ve felt frustrated by the lack of detail on how to finish one of these things. Suddenly, I had four pages and ten extremely detailed pictures of exactly how this was done. The minutaie was way beyond anything I’d found in other online tutorials or books. Sold – to the woman at Didyoumakethat Towers!

In the same issue, was an article that took a detailed look at the construction of a vintage garment. I love picking over construction details – as evidenced by my visit to the Museum Of Fashion and Textiles in February of this year, and the shameless way in which I inspected Prada dresses in Las Vegas three months later!

The details even looked at the hook and eye inside this 1971 Dior dress. I am becoming obsessed with hooks and eyes. More fuel to an upcoming blog post!

Fast on the heels of this issue, arrived the November 2012 issue 163. (Don’t ask me why January’s arrived ahead of November’s – I don’t care either way!) Now, I really had chance to compare and contrast. Yup, Threads was still performing excellently – this time with a choice article on adding tucks to a make.

I was really glad to see this, having admired Miss P’s recent work with tucks. (Or are those pleats, Miss P?!) Elsewhere, the magazine was bang on trend with a Kenneth D King article on how to add peplums to your jacket patterns, and there was a comprensive guide – should you want it – on setting up your own independent pattern company:

Threads know exactly what they’re doing. Expert writers, ipad-friendly editions, a strong and relevant online presence. They’re also extremely clever in making it clear that a) they’re open to reader contributions and that b) they pay for reader contributions. I think this shows a healthy respect for the two-way street of magazine writing and reading in such a niche area.

This is a US publication, through and through. But it is an expert publication, and I am thrilled already to see how much knowledge I have just gained access to. So, that’s my take. What’s yours? Would you subscribe, do you subscribe – and what do you think to sewing magazines?

NB As I type this, America is voting for its next President. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll discover what you all decided!

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69 Responses to Threads Magazine – To Subscribe Or Not?

  1. Threads magazine is fantastic, I will subscribe forever and keep all my issues. So many great tips and inspiration.
    And as I write this, they have called the election! (I am smiling)

  2. You’re seriously tempting me to subscribe!

  3. ooobop! says:

    I am addicted to Burda but am quite tempted by this one too 🙂

  4. I am stopping my Threads subscription this year. There were a few issues I really liked, but many techniques described I never use. There are detailed desriptions on how to make some weird looking clothes. I just got bored.

  5. Lauren says:

    What is a “U.S. publication through and through”? And why is that a bad thing?

    • Hi Lauren – Cherry Pix explains excellently in her second comment below. As a UK reader, I just wanted to let other UK readers know that all the small ads and suppliers listed will be American. Not a ‘bad’ thing, just something to be aware of when ordering as a UK customer. Sorry for any confusion!

      • LinB says:

        Also, measurements will be listed mostly in empirical, not metrical, format: We still use inches, feet, and yards in the U.S.

        I’ve subscribed to this publication for about 25 years. It is magical. “Weird looking clothes” and “techniques I’ll never use”? Yes, sometimes. Mostly the articles open your eyes to a world of sewing that you’d never experience elsewhere. Threads’ yearly challenges to expert sewists (give them a limited amount of materials and cash for notions, a possible-in-this-world scenario for which to design clothing, and a reasonable amount of time to accomplish the sewing) is far more interesting than a whole television season of Project Runway.

      • Lauren says:

        Gotcha. I’ve gotten used to hearing “American” used as a pejorative very casually and frequently here, so I tend to question it, especially when followed by a “but” like that.

      • Rivka A. Strom says:

        It really no longer matters about ordering internationally anymore. Sure there are probably tariffs, etc. attached to the price – of course there are! Usually, I just buy what I want from whomever I want and contribute to the global economy! Go ahead! Order that stuff, we all love one another! Ceasar gets his due, obeisance is paid to Adam Smith, and you get the cool stuff you wanted.

  6. Kat says:

    Like you, I have a history of subscribing to magazines, getting bored and then taking ages to cancel, which makes me very cross with myself as I end up with unread magazines lying around which is such a waste of money! However, this does look like a goodun – I am tempted to investigate further – thanks for the review! Btw, I am loving the mug in the first pic!!

  7. CherryPix says:

    I definitely recommend subscribing to Threads!

    Also recommend purchasing the Threads Archive DVD..worth every penny! I put all 25 years of Threads Issues on my iPad (via iBooks) – I love being able to dive into an issue any time I have a moment. Great when travelling and easy to access right next to my sewing machine! There are relevant and interesting topics in every single issue…and while some topics are covered several times over the years, the information is updated and/or provides a variation on previous articles.

    I’ve also just subscribed to the iPad version for current issues.
    The benefit of looking at Threads on the iPad (or computer) is the ability to enlarge pictures/diagrams. Also, electronic versions mean no storage hassles!
    It really is the premier sewing magazine, in my opinion.
    (and I have no affiliation with the magazine/publisher)

  8. CherryPix says:

    PS…I’m Australian….I think the “American-ness” of Threads is in the supplier details….the content is internationally relevant!

    PPS ..I also subscribe to BurdaStyle – which I love for it’s patterns; and Australian Stitches – which I appreciate for it’s Australian supplier info. Like Threads, Australian Stitches content is internationally relevant, though the topics are not as wide ranging as Threads and at times, the content has been a bit repetitive. Nonetheless, I still read it cover to cover…

  9. My mom has subscribed to Threads since the very first issue, and for a long time it was my go-to sewing resource. They do have a good online index, and I still go back and look up back issues that have relevant content when I’m researching something.

    But, I have to say, since diving into the sewing blogging world, I’m finding a lot of relevant and interesting content out here, too. I’ve been fitting pants, and even though I looked up and dug out and at least skimmed every single Threads article I could find on the topic, what got me the info I needed was reading the trouser sew-along on A Fashionable Stitch, and her book recommendation of Pants for Real People.

    I’ve also had mixed results sending feedback to Threads, including one letter I sent which I thought had very relevant information, but disagreed with the author of an article, and wasn’t published.

    Bottom line, there are some total gem articles, but also a lot of content that I know I’ll never use. Before I had an online sewing community, I would have subscribed no question, but now if I had to keep paying for it myself I’m not sure I would.

    The election is over and I’m going to bed!

  10. Anne W says:

    Threads is a fabulous sewing magazine, the only one I subscribe to.

  11. Anne says:

    I subscribed to Threads many, many years ago (nearly 20!!) but I did it through my local newsagent. That way I could cancel it easily when I got bored – which I did – within a year! I’m not saying Threads isn’t worth the money – it is – but only if you make the things they show you how to make. :o)

  12. dottiedoodle says:

    Threads looks very interesting, thank you for the review. My tip for cancelling subscriptions – pay by direct debit and cancel that when you’ve had enough of the magazine. When the year is up they’ll send you a chasing letter with proper contact details on it, and you can just email and confirm.

  13. I have subscribed to Threads for many years. i have occasionally thought of cancelling after several issues I don’t think are relevant to me. I’m glad I didn’t because frequently I end up going back to those ‘irrelevant’ articles to use later. And there are often tiny things that make you think ‘Why didn’t I already know that?’
    I hope you enjoy your years subscription.

  14. Vicki Kate says:

    I’m so curious about this! I’ve got the odd copy of it and the information is excellent and £25 sounds very reasonable as well as much cheaper than I’ve been able to find! Would you mind letting me know the number / email you contacted?
    If they had a reasonably priced e-issue which you could keep that would be perfect for me, but from what I’ve seen the electronic subscription doesn’t allow you to permanently keep the issue. Or am I seriously missing something?!

    • CherryPix says:

      Vicki Kate – if you order the iPad edition, it’s yours to keep…I store current/fave issues on my iPad and back issues in iCloud…and download them again, when I want to look through them again.

      • Roobeedoo says:

        I don’t want to worry you, but you actually only have a license to read things you buy via the i-pad – they are not, technically “yours” and can disappear at any time. Read the 34 pages of small print! (An IT auditor put me wIse to this.)

      • CherryPix says:

        Oh. Thank you for the heads-up, Roobeedoo….I may end up purchasing updates of the Archive DVD after all….that way, I think, they are ‘mine’…as long as I have the technology to view them…I love a good glossy mag to flick through but bookshelf space is at a premium in our abode ..DH & DD cannot bear to part with a single tome!!!

    • This is a very interesting sub-thread. I bought an edition of an ipad knitting magazine, and it drove me mad! It kept refusing to load up on my ipad, I’d have to re-download, it would then disappear again… Total waste of money and frustrating experience! Made me very aware that ipad editions are only as good as a) the user and b) the technology! And can be lost at any time…

      • CherryPix says:

        I guess I’ve been lucky with iPad magazine subscriptions – the only one that drives me batty is Selvedge…it’s slower-than-a wet-week to change pages and doesn’t fit well in either portrait or landscape mode. I am going to discontinue it. Australian Womens’ Weekly is getting better and better for iPad viewing. I don’t have any issues with Threads iPad version other than it’s released approx 2 weeks after the paper issue is released in the US. But I am used to seeing mags/reviews (eg: BurdaStyle) before they hit these shores…

  15. Phil says:

    I often buy Threads on a one off basis. As you say it’s the only magazine I know of with such detailed technical pages (and beautifully clear photographs not just diagrams). I might be tempted to subscribe too, especially as I have seen UK magazine subscriptions at around £40 and they are mostly aimed at beginners.

  16. Erika says:

    I bought my first ever copy of Threads last month (the November issue 163) and although I liked some of the articles, I didn’t really find it worth the price. Might be ‘cuz it’s more expensive in Sweden than in US or UK (119 SEK/copy, i.e. 10£) but even for half or less of the price I think I’d rather buy a good sewing book. After all, they tend to cost 150-300 SEK, so with three magazines bought in Sweden, I could have bought an expensive book. Or maybe I should just use the one’s I have =)
    Also, I find that I prefer my sewing books for other reasons than economical. I find them more no-nonsense, it’s easier to track down whatever technique I’m looking for, and they’re prettier and more practical to store. Maybe I’m just not a magazine person =)

    However, I’m sure there’s lot’s of great info in the magazine, and I’m sure you’ll be very happy with your year’s subscription!

  17. velosewer says:

    I enjoy Threads for the techniques and while some articles aren’t relevant to me now I’m enjoying the depth of articles I have access to on insideThreads.

  18. Roobeedoo says:

    I am curious – is the info in Threads not available in any sewing encyclopedia / technique book? I so often buy magazines and then realise a good reference book would have been better value.

    • The quality of the photos and the detail of technique really swung it for me, Roo. And just this sense of, ‘Jeez, these guys know what they’re talking about.’ But I don’t think Threads is for everyone. There is a lot of information out there on the Interwebs!

    • LinB says:

      I still have every copy of my 20+ years subscription to Threads. I still consult them regularly. They cover topics that just are not to be found in reference books. Industry secrets for constructing jeans? How to measure, hand-stitch, and properly fit a kilt? How to replicate centuries-old ribbon work to decorate period costumes? Good luck finding those techniques in a standard reference book.

  19. KathleenS says:

    I really enjoy my Threads subscription.

  20. ZoSews says:

    I am in the process of subscribing (long story, I’m actually getting a hard copy invoice sent to me in Aus from the US… anyway) and this had made me jumpy for my subscription – thank you!

  21. Kati says:

    I’m a subscriber to Threads and love it!
    Definitely my favourite out of all my subscriptions.

  22. lauriesannie says:

    I am a charter subscriber and I have every issue. They went through a patch that I found boring and they still have an occasional article that reminds me of the middle years. But I absolutely love being able to refer to a back issue. For instance when it seemed everyone was making bras, there was an article on doing just that. I look forward to getting it in the mail.

  23. I am about to renew the subscription I bought for my Mum last year as a christmas present…have come to the conclusion that it’s not worth bothering with any of the monthly UK sewing mags and are better off with the bi monthly treat of Threads being delivered by the postman

  24. Jenny says:

    I really love this magazine. I just purchased the latest copy (I really should subscribe) and I loved the article about sewing sweater knits. I had no idea!!! I always learn something. Ok – off to subscribe.

  25. Sam says:

    I have never even seen a copy of Threads magazine, but I’m seriously tempted to subscribe, particularly as the price sounds very reasonable.

  26. Brenda says:

    It’s a TAUNTON Press product, and THAT I think permeates it’s quality. Any of their publications are superb and consistent in that kind of teaching/resource content : Fine Homebuilding, Fine Cooking, Fine Gardening… and I’ve recently made the link that “Craftsy” is also one of their products – no wonder I’m gushing over Susan Khalje’s Couture Dress course with them!
    (and I’m north of the 49th on the North American continent – grateful that Barack won another term)

  27. Kerry says:

    Thanks for this – very interesting to read your thoughts and all the comments afterwards.

    I am surprised it’s not more expensive that £25 a year, that seems like a good price to me. From my limited knowledge of UK sewing magazines I have not found any which go so in depth into techniques. Magazines seem frivolous in a way but it’s nice to get a bit of fresh inspiration every so often. A magazine subscription can be a good idea for a Christmas gift too – for someone else or for you!

  28. Damn, now I want that issue with the tucks and the kick pleat! lol My mom (who doesn’t sew her own clothing but sews knitting project bags and has always sewn) and I were talking about it recently, so I’ve been thinking of subscribing too.

  29. Steph A says:

    I absolutely love this mag, I’ve subscribed for 15+ years and kept all of them. I’ll NEVER get rid of any, as I’ve gone back to re-read articles many times (last night as a matter of fact.) There have sometimes been bits that bored me or I thought were just wierd, but overall it has been invaluable. Having the hardcopy is great.

    Oh, and if you subscribe to the threads insider you get to watch all the videos that they sell on DVD. It’s been fantastic being able to do that, and a good way to see if you want to actually buy it.

  30. Marie says:

    Hmmm, now I’m tempted! I’ve toyed around with the idea of subscribing to Threads mag before, but now it’s got your seal of approval, I may have to go ahead ;o) Maybe I’ll ask for it as an Xmas present or something, but it seems like a very reasonably price to me!

  31. Mary says:

    I’m lucky enough that our library carries Threads, so I check it out every month and glean what is relevant. Sometimes I am lucky enough to find the back issues at our Friends of the Library used bookstore and they give magazines away!

  32. Judy says:

    I’ve been buying Threads now for a couple of years and love it. Many’s the time I’ve enjoyed leafing through some older copies and finding something useful. In terms of subscription or not, I have always managed to pick up a copy in my local WHSmith. Threads’ website always states when the magazine is out in the States, so I tend to keep an eye on the shelves a couple of weeks after that. If I’m not sure, the staff will always look up the expected arrival date in store. I agree with many comments already made about UK sewing mags. Threads is the only one I ever buy. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your subscription, Karen.

  33. Jen (NY) says:

    I’ve been hedging back-and-forth about subscribing for awhile. I’m in the i-pad-less minority and I’m concerned about accumulating more paper– lest my apartment become further decorated with Ikea storage boxes. So, I’m still thinking about it. I recently noticed that the vent tutorial is on the free section of the Threads website–for anyone whose interested.

  34. Pin Queen says:

    I was a subscriber for years and kept every copy but when I moved I left them in the loft by mistake. The DVD archive was the first thing I bought out of my redundancy package! I now buy it when I see it in the local Newsagents because when you’ve had it for years the articles tend to go round in circles. BUT I do love their on line site and am seriously considering getting it again via the Internetthingymabob. Not to put a downer on your enthusiasm, keep track of every issue, I did find that sometimes I didn’t receive a copy and it was a bit of a bun-fight to get it replaced.

  35. rosyragpatch says:

    I’ve had a gift subscription for a few years now & I think it’s marvelous. I’ve learned a lot from it & I’ve been inspired by it in many ways.

  36. Jenn says:

    I subscribed to Threads’ Insider, it allows me to see the magazine online and watch all the videos for free. I don’t use it as much as I should, but it’s a great reference to have.

  37. myrosesindecember says:

    I buy issues at the book seller, on the off chance there is an issue that has no appeal to me at all. One thing I do not like about subscriptions is how quickly they start bothering you to renew your subscription. I do not want to prepay for the next year when I have seen only one or two issues from the current year. It is a great magazine and I love the vintage photos on the back cover. I also used to buy Australian Stitches quite regularly but cannot find it anymore.

  38. blankenmom says:

    I love my Threads, but miss the older style. They’ve been changing it over the last few years and it hasn’t been the same magazine that I grew to love. I’ll keep getting it in the hopes that the same articles return some day. It is however, still the best and most informative sewing magazine out there!

  39. Karen says:

    I have a subscription to Threads and I read it literally cover to cover each month. It is a spectacular publication through and through. I can’t imagine sewing and not subscribing to this magazine. Interestingly, I had a subscription years ago and then gave it up when I wasn’t sewing so much. When I started fashion sewing again after a long hiatus, I re-subscribed – and I can tell you that the quality and breadth of useful articles has increased dramatically.

  40. Hi Karen, I too subscribe to this mag and I think it’s fab 🙂 If you have a hardcopy subscription then you automatically get free access to the online ‘Threads Insider’ service (extra articles, videos, downloads, see recent digital editions of the magazine on their website – without the need for for iTunes, and without the need for a PDF reader either). You also get free access to the iTunes editions for iPad/iPhone (they say their working on e-editions for Android platforms too). I think to benefit from the free stuff you’d need to get your subscription directly from them themselves, and not via a third-party subscription provider/store – as you need your special subscriber number and details to access these free services

  41. soisewedthis says:

    nice review! I may add threads to my christmas gift wish list. I like to subscribe to magazines through they runs a lot of specials. i currently have a 2 year subscription to marie claire for only $5 US total. amazon has an option where you can select just a 1 year subscription, rather than auto-renewal. i also get reader’s digest, better homes and gardens, and good housekeeping – all came as gifts and have been enjoyable, so i might have to add a sewing magazine to the mix. now if i can only get a chance to sit down and catch up on some reading!

  42. Liz says:

    I am cheap 😉 so I get this from my local library, it is free and then I am not committed to buying every issue. I photocopy any articles of interest for future reference. I do this with Burda magazines too, I trace off the patterns I want, photocopy any instructions and send it back to the library for someone else to enjoy!!

  43. I could not find Threads here in Belgium. I started by buying the 25-year anniversary DVD, followed by subscription to the had copy version. I would like to update my DVD version though because it’s much easier to search for a specific technique than to leaf through paper mags.
    I don’t use every idea, but that’s not the point (how many sewing books do we collect???) and I often read the digital copy on line before the hard copy arrives (yes I signed up for Insider). It’s the reading, the inspiration and the storing in the back of the mind until it percolates through into current sewing that is fun and worthwhile. it’s sewing porn – what’s not to like! (By the way, it’s like Burdastyle – if you don’t buy a particular issue, that’s the must have issue that you can’t find later for love or money!)

  44. Helen says:

    I have subscribed for about 5 years now. Before that, I used to buy individual copies at my local Borders – but it was cheaper and easier to subscribe. I rarely buy any of the UK sewing mags. I like that Threads focuses on garment sewing (rather than a mix of garments and craft). I can put up with a few wacky things, when there is so much good stuff.

  45. Sewer says:

    I subscribed to Threads for a year some years ago. My problem with it then was that so many of the projects looked home-made or dumbed-down. Sometimes there’d be a side-by-side comparison of the Threads garment with a designer inspiration and I’d have to laugh. There was a good issue in which Susan Khalje made a black couture dress, but that was the highlight. It may well be getting more sophisticated as its audience develops more skills.

  46. wcdesigns says:

    I was wondering about that myself for a while now. It’s quite pricey here in the US. $40 for a year is a lot for a magazine, but it does sound like it’s worth it.

  47. Juliet says:

    My subscription from the UK has worked very well for the last 15 years. Threads are very responsive if an issue goes astray and when two duplicate issues arrive they suggested I give the second copy to a friend.
    Occasionally one issue might be a little dull but the others compensate. I sometimes buy Sewing Today (was Vogue Pattern Magazine) but only for Claire Schaeffer articles as I like her books.
    I might put the DVD on my Christmas list since I only have copies of Threads from issue 50. Older techniques never die do they?
    Juliet (Thames Valley)

  48. Debbobbin says:

    I’ve just subcribed, looking forward to my first issue!

  49. Carolyn says:

    As someone who has subscribed to this magazine for 20+ years, I’ve watched it evolve and change with the times. Many customer requests have been met – an archive of all the issues, an iPad edition, inside Threads online site, and all along they keep churning out great magazines full of informative sewing information. Not every issue makes me jump up and run for my sewing machine but like another poster previously said, it’s amazing how many times months or years later I will go back and find an article that held no appeal to me when it first appeared, to use in my sewing now. I believe it’s just one more amazing tool in a sewist’s arsenal.

  50. Lucianna says:

    I love the thread magazine. Without it I would not realise my dream to make my own high fashion clothes! Knowing key techniques is a great way to access high fashion clothes. Once you know how to do it, just try to find fabric stores that sell designer fabrics. Where I live in Toronto there is so many great fabric stores that offer whatever fabric you dream about for reasonable prices. Together with the thread magazine, you will make fantastic clothes. So, I would say yes to subscription, by all means.

  51. Hannelore Bushell says:

    I have a collection of back issues of Threads starting with the Premier Issue of 1985 through 2007 with a few issues missing. They are for sale –

  52. Marianne says:

    Hi Karen, what’s your opinion after the first year of Threads subscription? Renewing or tracking down the phone number in small print? I remember reading your post last year and thinking I might get a subscription, but never got round to ordening. Being an editor I much prefer paper editions, individual copies are not for sale in Holland so a subscription is the only way. I guess I’m answering my own question here, but a review of your year with Threads would be nice to read anyway 😉

  53. patsijean says:

    I have been subscribing since 1987, through thick and thin, and probably will until I get so old I can no longer sew. I have never interrupted my subscription. I’ve kept all of my issues and every few years read them all again. I’ve been re-reading them, actually, over the last couple of weeks and have been book marking articles about techniques I want to apply to my sewing.

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