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Q: The new tunic tops just make me look shorter and heavier. Can this fashion be shortened to blouse length?

A: I have found a great pattern for the new look in blouses. Look for Kwik-Sew 3582, sizes X-small to X-large. (If you can't find Kwik-Sew patterns in your area, you may call toll-free 1-888-594-5739 to order.)

This blouse is worn as a shell, not tucked in. It features the very new style of sleeves and a very flattering neckline (what more could we ask for?).

Be sure to adjust the length to the most flattering look for your body. The pattern also includes alternate necklines and sleeves.

Pressing pants seams

Q: This seems like a silly question, but I never know just how to press the creases in my pants so they come out looking professional. Should the creases be pressed all the way to the waist?

A: I prefer pressing the creases in after the side seams have been stitched, as well as the in-seams, but NOT the crotch seam. Place one seam over the other and press each leg separately, no further than the crotch of the pants. Now you are ready to pin the crotch seam and machine-stitch in a continuous curve from the end of the zipper to the waistline. Sometimes it's a good idea to have your jackets and pants professionally pressed by your dry cleaner.

Check for dull needles

Q: I recently retired and have time to sew again. I am working with a sheer fabric that seems to pull threads as I machine-stitch. What is causing this? I don't want to get discouraged.

A: Fine woven or knit fabrics that pull the threads as you machine-stitch need a new machine needle. The synthetic fabrics today have a tendency to dull the machine needle. It's a good idea to begin each new project with a new machine needle. I like Schmetz "H" needles or European 70/9. If you have a supply of odds-and-ends needles, always try them on a sample of your fabric before you begin your project.

Eunice Farmer is a nationally recognized authority on sewing. She is an author, teacher, lecturer and fashion reporter, and she owns her own fabric boutique and sewing school in St. Louis.