How I get the Whitest Whites

by Ramona on February 2, 2016

I was doing laundry a couple of weekends ago and as I was taking my husband’s long sleeve white shirts out of the dryer, I thought back to the many times he brought home compliments from staff members of the fire department on how “white” his white shirts were. The guys in the staff meeting were profoundly impressed that I could get white shirts, used during a fire scene no less, so white and spotless.

It dawned on me to ask the question on our ASG Facebook page whether others would be interested in knowing the products I use. I must admit I was actually quite surprised by the response. I think that not only does everyone know all this stuff, but in fact, they know much better methods than me. I had many respond with a resounding, “yes please!” when asked if anyone would be interested in learning what I do.

To that end, I took photos this weekend while doing a load of shirts and hopefully they will show up ok for you on this page. I honestly think it just happens to be the products I use. It took many trials and errors years ago to find something that would get white cotton pique firefighter shirts a very white “white”. When pressed, they look all but new every single time. Below are the simple steps I use and the products. We’ve always lived in areas with very hard water and I also don’t let soil sit in shirts—they are washed within a couple of days. It is a little bit of a process requiring two washings to get them this white because the products should not be mixed.

And a reminder: be sure to read and follow all the directions on the products—especially the “White Brite”. It says not to inhale the product and not to mix with other products. I used to be able to find “White Brite” in the laundry section of the grocery store or Wal-Mart, but around here it is no longer carried on the shelves so I order it through Wal-Mart for delivery to the store and pick it up there. I also searched on Amazon and there are sellers of the product through them as well.

First of all, these shirts are 100% cotton pique shirts. I also use this method for 100% cotton under shirts. I wash both types of shirts separately and never include socks or anything like that in the load. Our washer is one of those “sensing” low-water use machines, so though it is a little more work to do this, the results—for me at least—are worth him getting compliments he likes.

Here is how soiled the shirts get these days. You should have seen them in the days of being a Battalion Chief! They were awful. The cuffs, sleeves and neck area always get soiled.

dirty 4       dirty
Here are the products I use. “Resolve” is the new name (and I think improved) for the old “Spray ‘n Wash” in the green bottle. I also use Tide (HE—for our septic system), Clorox brand bleach and “White Brite”.


The first step is to spray all the soiled areas lightly with the Resolve; it doesn’t take much. This bottle will usually last me two to three months. I let the product sit on the shirts for about five minutes. Spray any soiled areas including the insides of the cuffs and collar.

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Pour the recommended amount of Tide into the washing machine.


Place the sprayed shirts into the washer and then add the White Brite as recommended by the manufacturer.


Use the hottest water available (and that the manufacturer of the garment suggests) and set the machine on a long wash cycle.

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After the machine has gone through this cycle of washing, open up the lid and take out all the shirts shaking them and fluffing them open. Pour half the amount of recommended Tide in the bottom of the washer and place the shirts loosely back into the machine. Add the recommended amount of Clorox bleach for the load size.


This time wash on a normal wash cycle, again using the hottest water available and recommended by the garment manufacturer. After this wash cycle is done, remove the shirts and dry them in the dryer removing them while they are still slightly damp and hang them up. Press the shirts after they have dried (if necessary).

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This is the result; a bright, “white”-white….and lest you ask, no, the photo was not re-touched; it is just as photographed as were the others all on an automatic setting on the camera.  I must tell you, I have also tried washing with bleach first then the White Brite, but the shirts did not get as clean so now I always use the Brite White first and then the bleach.


I would NOT recommend any of this for shirts of synthetic fibers. I have not tested it and I know for sure bleach should not be used on those types of fabrics. I have not tested the White Brite on synthetics, either. I use these products only on 100% cotton shirts. As I stated earlier, I also use the same steps for white undershirts and it works just as well.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas for brighter whites. I’m not “endorsing” these products, I’m just showing you what I use and because it is now required for “blogging”, the statement of “there was no paid endorsement of products” is issued.

Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


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The Story Behind the NOTIONS Story

by Ramona on January 22, 2016


Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild:



One of the many delights about being the editor of Notions is the wonderful surprises that land in my inbox. The emails that I receive show that there is no end to the talents of our members and their fearlessness in tackling any type of sewing project. Case in point is the article I received from Cathy Frey about sewing boat cushions. What I loved about it was not only the fact that it is a wonderfully unusual project but that creating the boat covers was a bonding sewing adventure for Cathy, her husband and her son. And this past weekend, as I struggled to put on the newest in a long line of ill-fitting air-conditioner covers (my solution involved lots of wire and duct tape!), I thought of Cathy. If she can make boat seat covers, why can’t I sew an air-conditioner cover that’s the proper size??? Read what Cathy did and see what it inspires you to accomplish!

Speaking of sewing accomplishments, check out this issue’s Sew for the Gold feature. Our members have earned sewing accolades for coats, corsets, hats, half-scale couture, and dolls. Their skills are extraordinary!

Note, too, that ASG is sponsoring a contest: “Anyone Can Win.” It is aptly named because all who enter have an equal chance of winning, regardless of sewing expertise or experience. To enter, make all or part of one of the 14 designated patterns, take a photo and then go to the Members Only section of Click on the Contest 2016 banner and follow the instructions to fill out the entry form and upload and label your photo. Winners will be chosen electronically at random. The first “over 18” member selected will receive a Janome Skyline 57 sewing machine. The first “under 18” winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to Nancy’s Notions. Several of the patterns were selected to especially appeal to the “under 18” group. Please encourage your chapter’s Junior Members and their friends to enter. Those in the “18 and under” category do not need to be an ASG member but they do need an ASG sponsor. That doesn’t mean you had to work with them on their project; all you have to do is sponsor them so they have a connection to the ASG family. Deadline for entering is midnight, EDT, July 1, 2016.

And here’s hoping our cover story inspires you to have some fun with the buttonholes on your next project!

If you have knowledge you’d love to share with your fellow ASG members or comments about what appears in Notions, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at

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Saying Hello to 2016

by Ramona on December 31, 2015

new years eve morn

Here is a photo of my view early this morning. It’s snowing again (no complaints, mind you) and I turned on the little fire place, had a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the morning contemplating this past year and looking forward to 2016. I like getting up early and mentally planning things to write down.

As of Monday, I will start my fifth year on the ASG staff, and sixth doing ASG Online (the first year was all volunteer). So much has been done the last four  years and I feel so blessed and grateful to work for such an incredible organization to bring sewing education to our members as well as help with leadership things. As our Executive Director, Margo, always says: “conference is like a gigantic family reunion”! I’ve gotten to know many of you through FB and emails and then it has been a thrill to actually meet in person at conference. This year’s conference will be extra special, so I hope many of you are planning on attending.

Most of the educational programs that have been done have been at the requests of members wanting to know how to do things and I’m so happy to be able to share my knowledge. Many chapter NGs are using the educational videos as their NG education. That is music to our ears and exactly what we wanted for the program! As with all things sewing, there is always more than one way to accomplish the same thing–I present what has worked best for me over the years (which of course was gained from trial and error, hours and hours of self-study after formal education, and lots of ripping of stitches! LOL)

Of course, our chapters also invite the “Sewing Stars” of the industry to present programs whether trunk shows or sit ‘n sews. These are always well attended and keep all of you sewing and creating. Chapters are also taking advantage of their local talent to present programs–and my oh my, do we ever have talented members!!!

As the New Year unveils, I’ll be working on new videos to add to the “ASG Online” offerings. I’ll keep the ASG Facebook page up to date when new things are posted. Please, pass the information along to chapter members who aren’t online often. We realize everyone is crunched for time, so videos are going to be shorter (it started with the new serger videos) and more concise. You will be able to get just the bit of information you need, when you need it, and then the information will be used in a finished project for many of the videos. Each week new videos are being added to the website by our incredible web guru.

Also, don’t forget that several past years of “Notions” is available on-line. There are many, many times I will look through past issues to find an advertiser and then get linked directly to their website, or look for an article I meant to read but time escaped me.  Also, I like that “Notions” goes up on the website for me to peruse before the hard copy comes in the mail–the issues are so good I just can’t wait to see what is new and exciting being brought to us by the incredible editor and publisher!!! Oh–and don’t forget about the “Special Offers” page on the website. I always check that first when I need to place an order online.

Here is wishing you a very happy and healthful New Year full of sewing opportunities and chapter offerings. May your shears always be sharp and your bobbin always full.

Sew ’til the New Year…enjoy the journey of sewing!



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Save Time on Holiday Sewing Projects

by Ramona on December 4, 2015

Here we are at the last month of 2015. I don’t know about you, but this year has just seemed to whiz by. Looking back, I’m honestly not sure where it went.

It’s the time of year that I’m especially fond of—sewing gifts!

I think we often feel like every gift has to be made entirely by us when people know we sew and create. However, when the list is long and time is limited, why not start with “blanks”. Blanks are nothing more than purchased items such as shirts, towels, leggings, napkins, placemats, etc. Really, it is a purchased item that can be embellished. We sewists know embellishment can include everything from machine embroidery to fiber arts, quilting, printing, fabric painting, and more.

There are many websites that sell blanks for embroidery; simply Google: embroidery blanks. Check your local dealer and fabric shop for blanks. If the local folks don’t sell blanks, of course retail stores sell plain goods and also there are online stores that sell wholesale to businesses only, and some are retail sellers. They are not limited to embroidery. Acrylic items are numerous and instead of embroidery a picture or even a portion of a child’s coloring page can be inserted.

For me, I like the time it saves but most of all, I can usually purchase the exact item in the size needed and in the fabric and color I know will work. When I shop for fabrics I don’t always find what I want (for me this is the problem when I have something very specific in mind). As for the acrylic pieces, I order many at one time to have on hand all year long for gifts. I find that these are some of the most appreciated gifts.


One of the latest items I did for gifts was for the ASG board members (for the last few years I’ve done BOD members and staff a “Thank You” gift and mailed it so they have it for their fall board meeting). I embroidered the ASG logo (already digitized and available on the website for members only) and included some baked goodies. This acrylic plate has a removable back so the insert can be changed out whenever one wants.

S4380007I have one of these plates on the cutting table in my sewing room and use it to hold little scissors, pins, chalk, a seam ripper, etc. It is so handy! If you don’t have an embroidery machine, simply print the logo on a printer fabric sheet, apply rick rack around the edge, add some goodies, and give it as a gift. The possibilities are virtually limitless!

The whole thing about creating gifts is that it not only gives joy to the recipient, but it gives us great satisfaction in the creative process. Please share with our Facebook page followers what you’ve been creating for gifts this year—that is, if it won’t spoil a surprise!

Sew ‘til next time… enjoy the journey of sewing!


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Treasures within Manufacturers’ Websites

by Ramona on October 23, 2015

We all have our favorite websites: favorite machine manufacturer, favorite software, favorite thread, and favorite fabrics among others. We have personal reasons they are our favorites—it could be how we are treated during class time or machine repairs. It could be because the product worked as stated in a product review. It could be ease of use, or functions or features that allow our creative energy to soar. No matter the reasons, we have our favorites.

Do you realize how much information these manufacturers provide to us? Do you frequent their websites? If not, you should—they are a treasure trove of information, project ideas, sometimes free designs, and of course, a great source of information on their products.

After conference I started looking to upgrading my 10 year old serger. By going to the machine manufacturers websites I was able to download .pdf documents of machine specs and comparison charts for various machines. What is my absolute favorite thing about the manufacturers’ websites? Ok, admittedly, I’m somewhat of a geek when it comes to user manuals. I read manuals from cover to cover and when I’m research-shopping. My favorite thing about a website is the ability to download the manuals of the machines I’m interested in and read them cover to cover to see how to use the machine, what features are available that are similar to what I currently have on my machine or what is different on the machine that I may like and didn’t know was new.

I do the same with software. I’m currently researching embroidery software to see if it may be time for me to upgrade (the last commercial upgrade was in 1998!) Over this past weekend I went to manufacturer’s websites to download the product sheets and, again, to download the software manuals. Because these manuals are quite lengthy, I actually start at the back in the index and generally view what will be available in the manual and look for features, an overview of the icons and their uses, and do it all in the comfort of my easy chair while sipping a cup of hot tea. How great is that? That is my way of shopping!

After I’ve narrowed things down to a few selections, I make a list, print out the pages from the manuals and head to the dealer. Price is of course a concern, but not my first concern. Because I’m in the profession of sewing to me it is an enhancement to my career and profession. Just like a carpenter’s tools are essential to their profession, machines, computers, and software are essential to mine. I still have a personal budget, but what is most important to me is the function of the product and I need to know I’ll get help if needed and that the dealership will be able to service the machine and the staff is friendly and helpful.

With holidays coming up, many of the manufacturers and dealers have events and specials. Some will offer special financing which makes acquiring a new machine or software an affordable option.

Here are some links to the major manufacturers’ websites. Please, check them out if you are shopping for a new machine and new software. Look at the tabs and see if there are special events coming to a dealer near you; some will even give advance notice of special pricing and financing. Don’t miss out—use the websites to your advantage when shopping…and don’t forget to use the link to find a dealer near you. Oh…and please let the dealer know ASG sent you!

Sew ‘til next time….enjoy the journey of sewing!





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Jam-packed “Notions”!

by Ramona on October 9, 2015

fall notionsI don’t know about you, but I always anxiously await the next issue of “Notions”. I only subscribe to a couple of other magazines but I only seem to eagerly await “Notions”, continually checking the calendar date to see when it will be posted online. I wonder what will I find the chapters have been doing? What are the youth doing that is exciting? Who are the new advertisers I need to check out and what specials are available from favorite advertisers. Yup, our “Notions” is jammed packed with young“Notions” is available online at the website before the hard copy arrives in the mail box. I’m one that likes publications online—in fact, I’m in the process of switching over the other subscriptions that I have to “online only” because I’m frankly just out of storage space. I like my magazines. I like to keep them. I like to refer back to them and re-read them from time to time. Having them saved on my laptop allows me to always have them with me digitally! I know many don’t like that, but I happen to like being able to savor the content any time I like, anywhere I like. I’m finding more and more that after I read “Notions” or my other magazines online, when the hard copy comes I just shelve it and really never touch it again. I’m wondering why I’m keeping them all when I always have them available at my fingertips on my laptop.

“Notions” was posted online last night and I started looking at it then and then finished up over my first cup of coffee this morning. What a great way to start my day! I saw new advertisers (at least new to me that I may have missed in a previous issue) and the thing I like best is the ability to click on the page ad and I’m taken directly to the website!!! I cannot do that with my hard copy. No waiting, getting out the computer, typing in the URL, and waiting for the website to pop up. Nope, just click and voila! The advertiser’s website to view and explore!


What did I click on this morning? The first thing was Margo’s letter right inside the front cover. The stats from the survey are interesting. I’m so happy we’ve got so many viewing all the educational content for members only on the website.Margo

Then there was the page to the right with all the “Sponsor Spotlight”. I always click on their links to check out what may be new in their product lines (who doesn’t just love shopping for new machines, threads and fabrics?) I also checked out the other links—the little Clover iron particularly caught my eye.





clover iron

“Notions” publisher and advertising director Betty Watts has a wonderful article on fringe and there is an attachment about Jim Suzio’s fringe CD’s for machine embroidery.

Did you know that the Rit Dye company now has a product on the market to dye those previously undyeable fabrics? Yup! It is called “Rit DyeMore”. I’m on a dying kick with some personal projects right now so I have to definitely see where I can purchase the beautiful colors available.

rit dye

And check this out! You can make your own espadrilles! I used to wear espadrilles all the time when I lived in Tucson—they were the perfect shoe. Because of “Notions” I’ve learned Dritz has some shoe making products—I see them and I’m thinking they may make a good online class (especially if some embroidery is added!) I will definitely be looking at these.

espidrillesThe fall issue always includes a recap of the ASG summer conference. Be sure to read that article and look at all the pictures to re-live the good time had at conference if you were able to attend or look at it to see what you missed if you were not able to attend. The contests winners are shown along with the wonderful prizes and photos from the incredible fashion show.        fashion showconf 1

Next year’s conference is celebrating a milestone. Starting with this issue of “Notions” a bit of information is given to get you thinking about your entry into the fashion show.2016 fashion show

Please, don’t forget about the “Special Offers” available only to ASG members. There is a special listed in “Notions” on sprays that I often use. Do you take advantage of the list of special offers from advertisers (changed with every issue of “Notions”) before you place your order? If not, get in the habit of looking so you aren’t missing any discounts or free shipping that is being offered.spray

Yup, our “Notions” IS  jam packed! Take a look at the on-line edition while you are waiting for your hard copy to arrive in the mail. Read the articles, click on the advertiser links, and explore to your hearts content. What do you see in “Notions” that captures your interest? Please post your comments on our ASG Facebook page.


Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


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Transfer of Knowledge

September 23, 2015

Have you ever sat in front of a computer screen and keyboard and feel like you don’t know a thing sometimes—especially when it involves new software? Why is that? Why do we find we’re afraid? No doubt, it may be that somewhere when learning computers someone said to us, “DON’T TOUCH THAT! YOU’LL BREAK IT!” […]

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ASG Pinterest Boards

September 11, 2015

Have you been on Pinterest? It is an amazing social forum for absolutely everything! Whether DIY projects, woodworking, gardening, cooking, baking, or whatever interests one happens to have, there is probably a “board” for it. This week the American Sewing Guild has set up a Pinterest account. I get the pleasure of managing this new […]

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Looking behind…looking forward

September 4, 2015

Here we are at the last “official” weekend of summer already. Honestly, where has this year gone? It often seems like there is never enough time to sew; even when one does it as their profession! Labor Day Weekend is my weekend of reflection. I look back on the accomplishments of earlier in the year […]

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A Treasured Gift

August 21, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I think that those who sew and create are most appreciative when others hand craft a gift just for them. Mr. and Mrs. “M” came to visit us a couple of weeks ago. To my surprise, Mrs. “M” had crafted the most beautiful box I’ve ever seen. Just look at […]

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