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

Here’s hoping that our cover story, “Modern-day Heirlooms,” will inspire you to take a new look at a traditional sewing technique. Originally, heirloom sewing was done entirely by hand. But clever sewing enthusiasts developed less labor-intensive methods that can be done on the sewing machine, all without sacrificing the delicacy of the final project. You can be an heirloom purist, creating an entire garment exclusively with heirloom techniques, or dabble in the techniques, using them to apply a bit of trim or to add textural interest to your general sewing. I love trying out new sewing techniques . . . I hope my enthusiasm is contagious!

ASG’s TAG (Teach Another Generation) and Junior Member initiatives keep getting better and better. It is wonderful to see how many chapters are reaching out to teach young people to sew. This issue’s Sew Young section includes reports on the activities of two chapters. One, the Sarasota/Gulf Coast, Fla. Chapter, is a veteran at teaching kids to sew. In addition to the 4-H Sewing Camp which they have been running for the past six years, they also participate annually in their County Fair, introducing children and adults to the art and life skill of sewing. The second, the Kokomo, Ind. Chapter, developed their first TAG event last summer—a two-day program (repeated twice) aimed at second through fourth graders. It was such a success that they plan to do it again this year. Previous Notions’ stories inspired Kokomo. Perhaps their success will inspire your chapter.

Are there impediments that keep you from sewing as often as you would like? Is clutter a culprit? “Taming Your Creative Clutter” by ASG member Deborah Sumner is full of ideas for getting sewing room chaos under control. Are your challenges cognitive ones brought on by the natural progression of age? ASG member Beth Calvo, a retired certified rehabilitation counselor, offers a wealth of advice in “How to Keep Sewing at Any Age.”

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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Upcycle Denim

by Ramona on April 24, 2015


Good Morning!

I’ve been pondering all week what I should write for this week’s blog. Then a friend emailed me wondering what to do with her old jeans; she doesn’t want to give them away because she doesn’t feel they are good enough, but she said she’d rather re-purpose them and get in some much needed sewing experience.

She is a beginning sewist. She has some limited garment experience and this year her goal is to take apart some old garments to get experience working with different fabrics. I think this is a fabulous idea. It gives an opportunity to learn about fabrics. She is already familiar with the characteristics from having worn the garments she now wants to re-purpose them. She wants to just cut the garments apart, learn about what needle to use, how the fabric needs to be supported with interfacing, what stitch length would be best, and just have an enjoyable time learning and not worrying about perfecting a garment. I reminded her to make a notebook and keep notes about what she learns so she will have that information as a jumping off point when she works with the same type of fabric again.

I spent some time one evening this week scouting out some websites to give her ideas on how to re-purpose her jeans. I thought perhaps you’d find some ideas you might like to use as well. As I was searching, I also came across this information on the Levi Strauss website: 3,000 year old jeans!

old jeans




Please, if you find any others, share them on our ASG Facebook page. It’s always fun to see what others are doing and how creatively folks use their discarded clothing. Do you see anything on any of these sites you think you would like to create?

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


These are the links to the websites; because these links are to other websites, please be careful not to accidently click on any ads you don’t want to view. Here are a couple of things that caught my eye, but there are a lot of ideas available by clicking on each link.

wall art




napkin rings




lunch bag






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I definitely hit a chord with readers of this blog last week and our ASG Facebook page this week. It seems pattern alteration is a skill continually and eagerly sought yet it can be all but blood curdling. Which end of the spectrum are you on?

As I continue to work on this Understanding Pattern Alteration series, I’m finding out more about the thoughts of others (ASG members and non-members) on this subject. Books seem to be as much of a conundrum as pattern alteration itself. There was a very nice discussion on a couple books mentioned on the ASG Facebook page this week. As an educator what I try and do is show different resources available and give insight into their content. There are so many good books on the market from college level text books to those written by professionals who also happen to advertise with ASG and teach at our conference. Each has their own take on techniques and how the approach to garment fitting and pattern alteration is accomplished. Each has great value to the home sewer depending on what a sewist is looking to learn. Some books–such as college text books–can be out of range of the budget for many, but on the other hand they are meant for a person studying the craft for entry into the manufacturing end of the clothing profession.

Other books have the insights of those who have worked professionally with individual clients. Their take is different because the customer is different. Whereas college text books are meant for learning about the process in the manufacturing and retail end of garment sales, books written by a person who works sewing for the general public making custom garments will no doubt have a greater body of experience in pattern alteration with different styles and variations in fitting the human form from petite to tall, flat bottoms to larger busts, and protruding shoulder blades to high hips and so on. In some ways I think their experience is greater because they work with all sizes, shapes and personalities versus a pattern maker drafting for a fit model and the pattern made from a “block” of last year’s best- selling style to be graded to fit the general population of the store’s clientele.

Still other books are written specifically for those wanting to learn to draft patterns beginning with a sloper. These books are sometimes used at the college level, but they are affordable and give insight not in the other books. For instance, Connie Crawford’s book “Patternmaking Made Easy” was used as one of the textbooks in a class I taught in  college. Connie  has also worked over the years developing sewing patterns for the Butterick pattern company. Personally, I find her patterns for the most part work well for me with the addition of the length throughout the pattern pieces—an easy fix. I know how to alter the pattern to fit the style of garment I choose to sew. I can use her commercial pattern as a “block” and then use the book she has written to draft pattern pieces to re-style the pattern as I’d like.

Palmer/Pletsch books go hand-in-hand with pattern company alterations. They have worked with McCall’s for years developing patterns. I especially love their blazer pattern. After I altered it to fit I was able to use the pattern to create blazers in many different fabrics only having to alter and finesse the fit for the fabric being used.  As I age and my shape (choke-choke) changes, I can use their book to alter the pattern to fit the new variation of me and then just sew away with confidence.

Nancy Zieman has written many books and when she was at our conference last year as the keynote speaker, I got to spend a few private moments with her. I thanked her for helping to enhance my skills through her TV show (I’ve been watching since her very first show). Her updated method of the “pivot and slide” technique I found to be easy to duplicate with excellent results for those clients wanting me to sew for them without the true “custom” price I would have had to charge if I were to draft a sloper and create each and every pattern from scratch.

I think there is a time and place for it all. There is no one “right way”. The book to choose is one which is within the budget and will give the outcome sought for what is to be accomplished. Is it to work in manufacturing? Is it just to learn how to make some simple alterations? Is it to have a large body of knowledge to be able to sew for other people using commercial patterns? Is it to be able to create a true custom business by creating individual slopers and drafting each and every garment from the ground up?

I have enjoyed learning all there is to learn about pattern drafting and pattern alteration (I thank my geometry teacher, Mr. Smith, for introducing me to the love of all things parallel, perpendicular, drawing angles, working with graphed x and y axis, and using those pretty color pencils to accomplish it all!) It’s an on-going journey of learning and exploring. Each time a new book comes on the market I want to scope it out to see if there is a new take on an old technique giving rise to an easier way of doing pattern alterations with even better results.

Expand your library of sewing resources to fit the type of sewing you like to do and what you are trying to accomplish with your sewing whether simply a once-in-a-while hobbyist to a custom dressmaker with a private clientele. There is a book out there to fit the knowledge you seek and they all are of great value to your pattern making skills.

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



Here is a sampling of books and DVDs I have purchased over the years as my resources for custom dressmaking and teaching. Please click on the book to be taken to the link at the Amazon website or other website to read about the book and its content.


S3720003 S3720004 S3720005 S3720006 S3720007 S3720008 S3720009 S3720010 S3720011 S3720012 S3720013 S3720014 S3720015 S3720016 S3720017 S3720018 S3720019 S3720020 S3730001 S3730002






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Personal thoughts on Pattern Fitting

by Ramona on April 10, 2015

I’m working on a new series for ASG: Understanding Pattern Alteration. There is such a huge body of knowledge that goes into this subject. I posted thoughts earlier this week on our ASG Facebook page: “My mind has been active thinking about different pattern alteration concepts–why are there so many, do they all have very similar end results, what can be learned from clothiers of the 1800’s to early last century for today, what would make it easier for our members to alter patterns and sew their own clothing, how can I help through our educational program, can a new idea be developed that is even easier?”

meauringIn working on this new series and thinking about those who are just beginning the journey of pattern fitting or those who perhaps have limited experience, it comes to mind my journey in all of this and what I have learned along the way:
• First and foremost it is a journey. It takes time, experience, patience, and a willingness to constantly progress and seek knowledge.
• Though it sometimes seems to be a challenge, it is FUN!!!! –especially when light bulbs go off and things work out well.
• Pattern fitting is achievable.
• Weight gain/loss (even 5 lbs.) can affect fit. It will be more noticeable on a smaller framed person than a larger framed person.
• Don’t “over-think” it.
• There are many methods—thoroughly learn and use the method that makes the most sense and works best for you. After one method is thoroughly learned, move on and explore others.
• Fitting a sloper and drafting patterns from a sloper that fits will give custom fit garments.

drapeHaving done a lot of custom sewing work for many different sized women (and men), and having taught small classes in sewing stores, at our ASG NG groups, and at a small college, I’ve learned there are a lot of things that are not in books that I think are important factors in pattern alteration and fit. Books will discuss grainline basics, but what they miss is an in-depth discussion on how fabric characteristics affect fit and how the creative use of grainlines (ie: bias cut) affects fit:
• Personal preference has a lot to do with fit. Some folks like to wear their clothes tighter, some looser. When being paid to sew something for a customer, it is the customer who ultimately determines the fit. As the paid sewer, I gave my thoughts based on knowledge and experience but ultimately it was the customer who determined what they wanted, whether or not I agreed with it.
fabric • Fabric has a lot to do with fit. Fabric that is bulky with thick,  lofty  and soft natural-fiber yarn making up the fabric will drape, hang and move differently on the body than a light weight, tightly woven man-made fiber fabric. Each has its use in garment style and how fit should be achieved.
• The characteristics of the fabric help define the fit. Is the fabric stretchy? Is it stiff or drape-able? How does it feel and move on the body? Only the person wearing the fabric can tell.

connie crawford book dartAnother thing I think is missing in doing pattern alterations is a basic knowledge of pattern drafting, how to fit a sloper, and how the sloper is used to draft personal patterns. A greater understanding of pattern drafting will make pattern alteration understandable:
• A sloper is a fitted skirt and bodice with minimal ease—basically just enough for movement such as raising the arms, sitting, and bending.
• The pattern of the personal sloper is then used to draft custom fit patterns–or personal garment styles. Because the sloper has been custom fit, drafting from the sloper will give a custom fit to the subsequent patterns and garments. Finessing of the fit is done by drape-fitting and defined in great part by the fabric chosen for the style.
• Drafting patterns gives an understanding of:
o How pattern pieces are developed by rotating darts, changing darts into styles such as gathers or tucks which then can be identified on a commercial pattern.
o How shoulders are moved up or down, in or out to create a stylized line and room for a shoulder pad, thick or thin. If there is an understanding of pattern drafting, then when fitting a commercial pattern there is an understanding of how much the shoulder was extended out and  lifted up for a jacket or coat and how alterations should take place to keep the style lines of the design yet fit the garment for a particular body type.
o How armholes are moved in or out, up or down for the fit and look of a particular style like with a dolman sleeve or a kimono sleeve or simply an alteration needed for an armhole that is too low on a fitted blouse style.
o How the bodice is lengthened or shortened to produce a style and how much ease is required whether for a style such as a blouson silhouette or an empire waist. If there is an understanding about how the style was drafted, then understanding how to alter the commercial pattern–and retain the styling–will be easier.
o How much “design ease” is created within the garment for the silhouette and how the chosen fabric needs to factor into the decision of the ease for a personal fit.
o How pattern companies define their particular fit ease and design ease encompassed in terms such as fitted, easy fit, loose fitting, etc.

1As you can see, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to pattern alteration and personal fit which is probably what adds to the confusion for those beginning the journey of pattern alteration and fitting. It needs to be a constant search of reading and researching knowledge along with experimenting and testing to gain experience. Truly, it is the experience gained by sewing with different garment styles and fabrics that will ultimately make things easier over time. With that experience, the sewist will automatically be able to look at a style and know which fabric type, the amount of stretch in the fabric, the fiber content and fabric drape that would be best for the garment to be sewn. In the same realm, it is the same experience that will allow the fabric connoisseur to look at, inspect, and analyze the hand of the fabric to know which styles with which the fabric will work well. Choosing a pattern based on the commercial company’s descriptions becomes easier.

quadrantsI think some sewers quit sewing garments thinking they will never be able to understand or achieve acceptable fit when in fact, they are just on the cusp of having all the parts and pieces come together in those “light bulb” moments of achievement. It could be something as simple as learning to “read wrinkles” by simply working in fitting quadrants and reading the grainline of the fabric and understanding how the grainline relates to the body and garment style.


Please, don’t give up on fitting and altering patterns. Keep at it. Gain the experience. Seek knowledge. Ask questions, read books, look at videos, and learn from other ASG
members. Soon that light bulb will go off and all the parts and pieces will come together because each experience builds upon another for understanding fit and pattern alteration.

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

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Sewing and making a Kransekake

by Ramona on April 2, 2015

Earlier this week I posted on the ASG Facebook page about what I had accomplished last weekend: ”…and the rings baked for the Kransekake. This has prompted thoughts for this week’s blog. I know you must be wondering how making a Kransekake relates to sewing–but trust me, it does!”

It turns out making a Kransekake is like sewing; everyone has a different recipe, a different method, a different baking temp and time. How is a beginner supposed to know where to start and what to do? Whose recipe is the best? How am I to possibly have success in making my first Kransekake? Ugh. When trying something new in sewing do you have the same thoughts?



A Kransekake is a Scandinavian tiered “cake” made by baking rings, icing them, and then stacking them. It is made for weddings, Christenings, birthdays, family reunions, etc. It is a beautiful—and tasty–centerpiece for a celebration table. I had never made one and since moving to this area, I’ve been trying to get in touch with my Norwegian roots by taking up my second love which is baking. I decided since I’ve pretty well gotten lefse down it was time to tackle this lacey-looking pastry.



Like something unfamiliar in sewing, making a Kransekake required some research. I looked in a couple small Norwegian cookbooks I have and it was not in there so I took to the internet. First I did a general Google search for recipes. Well, like doing anything sewing, I learned there are as many different techniques and methods as there are people teaching it:

  • Blanch raw almonds and grind them along with bitter almonds—don’t bother with the almond blanching but buy almond paste and use that.
  • Use flour like cookie dough—never use flour; use powdered sugar and egg whites.
  • Chill the dough before rolling—do not chill.
  • Roll the dough—don’t roll the dough but put it through a pastry tip.
  • Bake at 350 for 25 minutes until very brown and dry—don’t bake too long (10 minutes) but only until slightly golden and let cool in the pans about—bake at 325 for 15 minutes.
  • Take the baked rings out before completely cooled—cool completely before attempting to remove from the forms.
  • Freeze after baking—don’t freeze after baking but ice immediately after cooling.
  • Turn the rings upside down so the flat side is up and ice—keep the flat side down and the rounded side up for icing.

It seems the only thing each recipe agreed upon was to eat and enjoy!




In doing pattern alterations there is a slash and spread method, a “block” method, a rotation method, and a seam allowance method. With the Kransekake there are many recipes:



After reviewing several recipes I decided to see if there were any pastry chefs on YouTube. Again each had their own take on a recipe and techniques.

Picture13Like with sewing, I decided just to jump in and give it a try. The worst that could happen is it wouldn’t work and I’d have to try again. I based what I read and viewed on previous baking experiences and available materials and resources. In this small town I’m not going to find two pounds of raw almonds let alone raw bitter almonds to hand grind, but the “fancy” grocery store had almond paste so that is the recipe I went with. The recipe was much like making a sugar cookie recipe with which I’m very familiar. Like sewing, I tackle something I’m unfamiliar with based upon something I’ve sewn many times.

The Kransekake forms packaging didn’t really contain great instructions, but in watching the YouTube videos there was instruction on how to roll the dough from a Danish pastry chef. His technique allowed me to get that down pretty fast: “splay the fingers while rolling and use a light touch.” Our ASG Online videos on the website are designed to help our members learn sewing techniques.

ready for ovenThe forms for the Kransekake are not necessary but sure make things easier than drawing rings on paper and hoping they end up the correct size for stacking. There are six forms with three rings each to make an 18-piece tiered cake. Accessories in sewing, like specialty feet for the machine or a serger, make our sewing faster and more professional with better results.

As for the baking, well, I learned I did not have the dough even in the rings. By the time I filled the last three rings I had learned how thick each rolled out ring should be (about like an uncooked sausage link) and how to form the ends together—like mitering a corner in sewing!

broken ringI learned not to take the rings out before they finished cooling because they have more of a chance of breaking. I also learned that if they break to patch them up just like an unfortunate cut in fabric is a “design opportunity” during repair.

I learned this was fun to do, the icing needs to be a little thicker, and like sewing, practicing and “doing” equals success.






This was a practice for the month of May when family will visit for the local Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day) celebrations. I want to do one for our morning coffee to celebrate our Norwegian heritage and family being together.



Sew until next time….enjoy the journey of sewing!


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Accolades to a good machine Dealership!

by Ramona on March 27, 2015

What is it about the anticipation of a “new toy”? You know what I mean: new machine on order!

I was gifted some money specifically to purchase an electronic cutting machine. What JOY! A new machine!!! Just like shopping for a sewing machine, I look at what features are on the machine and I look for support at a dealership. Am I going to be able to send an email or pick up the phone and call when I’m stuck or something I’m working on isn’t coming out like it should? Will I have a friendly voice on the other end patient enough to walk me through the process I need to have success with my project?

There is just something to love about independent dealers. They put up their own hard-earned money to supply us with opportunities! Opportunities to purchase a new machine, opportunities to take fun classes, opportunities to pick their brain for troubleshooting, and probably best of all–opportunities to make new friends who share the same passions as we do.

Some dealerships will have expanded services and offer fabrics, patterns, specialty notions and bring in “sewing stars” for special events. Others perhaps are just getting started and will supply what is needed to sell machines and associated accessories and grow from there. In case you haven’t ever thought about it, having a dealership is a HUGE COMMITMENT in personal time, an immense amount of money, and many a loss night’s sleep. The dealer is responsible for inventory, labor costs, paying taxes, and the overhead of a brick and mortar store and all its associated costs…every month!

Not only that, but the staff must be trained. There are training events (machines, software, products, business classes, etc.) at different locales (usually off site which include the costs of the class, meals, transportation to and from, hotel rooms, etc. for several days), yearly conventions (dealer picks up some or all of the cost for several members of these days-long events), the techs also require training (updates on older machines and of course the new models), and on and on.

I frequent many dealers who have great products and friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable staff members. They can tell me about a product without looking at the manual. The solution to my problem is at the tip of their tongue. They keep me abreast of new classes through their website and newsletter. They know what I want before I even know I want it because they know my preferences and skill level. My gosh, aren’t we all lucky!

So,please shop and frequent your local dealers and the next time you walk through the door of your local dealer you may wish to say a sincere “thank you” to them that they supply you with a place to learn and play and carry an inventory with which to do it.

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


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New! ASG Online Classes

March 13, 2015

ASG is pleased to announce that the next section of the embroidery series is posted on the website for members (not a member? Join here!). We’ve gotten such a wonderful response on the beginning series we thought we’d continue on. Members are telling us that they’ve learned things they were not taught when purchasing […]

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Make 2015 the Year!

February 27, 2015

Have I ever told you how much I LOVE ASG?!!! The American Sewing Guild has so much to offer members and it all begins with the national website: If you are not a member, please check us out! On the HQ website are links to all the info you need—just look on the left […]

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February 6, 2015

We left off with choosing what to do with our Ph-Ds (Project Half–DONE!). As you already know, there are many options. When we first were inspired we had every intention of completing every single project. However, as discussed previously, life and other things get in the way. So now as we go through our projects […]

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The Story Behind the Notions Story-Winter 2015

January 26, 2015

Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild. As a special benefit to members, ASG has produced a wonderful series of online videos on a wide variety of sewing topics. The talent behind these videos is ASG’s Education Director Ramona Baird. The 12-segment […]

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