Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild:
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The Internet is populated with online sewing courses—many of which are somewhat pricey. One of the advantages of being an ASG member is included-with-your-membership access to the ASG Online library of videos on a range of topics. The newest addition is a 12-part Beginning Machine Embroidery series. This wonderful series inspired us to ask Ramona Baird, ASG Education Director and creator of the series, to share some of her excellent information in our cover story, “Machine Embroidery Fun-damentals.” It’s full of hints and inspiration for everyone, even if your machine is a basic one with limited decorative stitches.

But, just in case you’re inspired to trade up to a machine with more embroidery features or to add an embroidery-only machine to your sewing area, check out our “Embroidery Machine Overview,” which begins on page 18. It gives you the low down on 52 machines from eight manufacturers . . . truly something for everyone.

ASG has many talented members. I’d like to give a shout-out to three whose talents grace the pages of this issue:

  •  Central Illinois Chapter member Deon Maas, creator of the Anti-Ouch Pouch, first shared it with ASG members in 2007. She developed the Anti-Ouch Pouch as comfort aid as a result of her personal encounter with breast cancer. Since its first appearance in Notions, sewers all over the world have made and shared the Anti-Ouch Pouch with thousands of cancer patients. In “Anti-Ouch Pouch Update” (page 26), you can learn more about its back story and get some tips from Deon for creating even better Anti-Ouch Pouches.
  •  Member-at-large Linda Przybszewski is the author of  “The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish.” This book has garnered attention from many sources, including The New York Times Sunday Book Review. We are proud to be in such august company with Joy Landeira’s review on page 39.
  •  San Diego, Calif. Chapter member Nancy Bensimon wrote “Learn to Sew with Crazy Nancy” as a guide for anyone teaching children to sew. For more about it, check out Product Previews on page 42.


If you have comments about what appears in Notions, topics you would like to see covered, or even an article you might like to write, I’d love to hear from you. You can either leave a comment on this blog or e-mail me at Or if you are coming to ASG Conference 2014 (St. Louis, July 24-28), seek me out and let me know what you think!



Rewards from Challenging Your Comfort Zone

by Ramona on July 13, 2014

I thought I would do an update to an earlier blog post before this week before conference gets away from me.

I did a post May 30 titled “Challenge Your Comfort Zone”. It was about me challenging my “comfort zone” in gardening. I have never been a gardener and after over 42 years of living in the Sonoran Desert, we now have a little plot of land and with the help of my husband doing the heavy manual labor, I get to see if I can turn my brown thumb to green (my wonderful husband was very skeptical, and rightfully so).

When we challenge our comfort zones, we’ll have what some call “failures“, but I call them learning experiences. Nothing is ever a failure if we learn something from it. It just means we’ve not yet learned what we need to learn to overcome the challenge. So it is with me and gardening. I’m posting some photos of how far this little garden has come since being planted on Memorial Day.




Garden planted Memorial Day.




We’ve had more rain than sunshine to this point, I’m learning as I go, but my small successes make me want to learn more and do more with the garden next year.

Here are some photos taken within the last week. Most things (much to my surprise!) are growing. Some things are doing better than others.



The garden 8 weeks later.





I have decided the pumpkins are going to take over the entire garden. I planted them according to the packaging.

What I learned: they clearly need more room than stated on the packaging.




My very first pumpkin is growing!!!

What I learned: there is pride in something so simply accomplished.





The zucchini are doing pretty well.

What I learned: I think they need more late afternoon sun.





The very first zucchini.

What I learned: it sure is fun to watch flowers turn into food.





The corn was “knee high by the 4th of July” and as of this morning it is past my shoulders.

What I learned: I like growing corn! Also, it needs to be at least 250′ away from the neighbors feed corn to prevent cross pollination.




8 Asparagus roots were planted and all of them grew!

What I learned: Wow! I can grow asparagus! What else have I learned? Patience. It’s two years before any will be able to be harvested for eating.







Rhubarb leaf

Rhubarb. I planted 4 roots; 2 have taken, 2 have not (but maybe there is hope they may spring up next year?) Of the two that came up, this is the biggest with the other being barely out of the ground.

What I learned: Perhaps I planted the other roots too deep or maybe an animal got to them. This is another “patience” plant!





The property came with some grapes. This is “Elmer Swenson”. He was the first grape plant placed on land in SW WI for testing as a replacement cash crop for tobacco. He leafs out well but doesn’t really produce any fruit.

What have I learned? There are others always willing to help and share their knowledge if we just ask. Also, some things just need to be kept because of their heritage and sentimental value.



S1670002 Red pepper. 

What I  learned: they need more sun and having them in a pot makes them easier to move if they aren’t in the correct spot.






One of two tomato plants in pots on the back porch. I planted the pepper plants and tomatoes in pots first to see how they would do in large pots, and second because I ran out of garden space without digging up more land.

What have I learned? I learned that plants in pots need a lot more water and that the tomato gets a funny little bruise if it doesn’t get enough water while developing.



Blackberry plant

Blackberries. At first I thought these were raspberries until they started turning a deep, dark purple! Silly me!

What I learned: Blackberry thorns are more like rose thorns and also, birds like to grab these as soon as they ripen; not so much with the raspberries.




raspberry bush


What I  learned: Pick them every day, sometimes twice a day. Sometimes simple things like picking raspberries can remind us of loved ones. My Dad and I used to go wild-berry picking.






Raspberries and Blackberries picked early this morning.

What I learned: I can pick several times and freeze them so when I have enough I can make some raspberry jam for holiday gift giving.



Through this gardening journey, I’ve learned other things, too:

  • I learned that getting out for 2-3 hours each day after work makes for a good routine when the weather permits.
  • A weed whacker is my best gardening friend.
  • Organic spray with lemon oil and vanilla keeps those nasty gnats away but bees may check you out when you’ve sprayed it on.
  • Rain sure makes pulling weeds easier.
  • It helps to get into a gardening “routine”.
  • With a little bit done every day, weeds actually can stay in check…well, if the weather permits.
  • A good pair of gardening gloves with Kevlar fingertips is essential.
  • Though flowers are very pretty perhaps the land the previous owners dug for all the flower beds could be put to better use by growing food to share with the local food bank.
  • Sometimes things happen, just do the best you can.
  • And the best one of all? It sure is wonderful when there is a loving husband to till the garden in the spring, sharpen the gardening tools and who will smile when I grab his hand and drag him out into the garden to see what is happening with my little successes!!! 

Now, would I have such joy at such simple things if my friend “C”‘s husband hadn’t said to me, “Just get it in the ground!”

So it should be with sewing. Try a new technique. Do samples. Don’t worry about if it doesn’t turn out the first time, it just means there is something yet to be learned to master the technique. Ask another ASG member for help. Look at the ASG video library; perhaps the steps for the technique are there. And of course, you can always email me and ask me; I’m happy to help!

So now I’m off to work on some clothes for conference. If you are there, please come up and say hello…I’d love to meet you! For those unable to attend, please check the Facebook page often because that is where all the updates will be.

Sew ‘til next time…Enjoy the Journey of Sewing!



A Week of Discovery

by Ramona on July 11, 2014

As I update the American Sewing Guild-Headquarters Facebook  page each day, on occasion I’ll look at who has “shared” previous posts. I am happy when folks think what I post is worthy of sharing with others. This week I took just a little time and looked at the Facebook pages of some of those shares. What did I discover?

We certainly do have some very active ASG chapters who are doing some incredible things. Since it is summer time, many have youth sewing programs and you should see  (through the mentoring of our ASG chapter members) what these children are sewing  and displaying  with such pride! Our ASG chapters are fostering a new generation of sewists!

Our members use this time of year to get together and sew for charities in their chapter area. Some do “Quilts of Valor” and sewing for hospitals. There are also those who sew useful items for men and women suffering from cancer and bags for those serving our nation.

It never ceases to amaze me at how talented and giving our chapter members are. They use their time, talent, sewing machines and most times their own fabrics and supplies to make the lives of others better.

I’ve chosen just a few of the many chapters to highlight who have shared our national Facebook postings on their own chapter Facebook pages. Please check out their Facebook pages and see what they are up to….there are a lot of special things posted from chapter events to patterns for garments and quilting that are free, and some very humorous sayings that are fun to share. Click on the picture to be taken to the Facebook page or website.

The first is the Indianhead chapter in Eau Claire, WI. They are near and dear to my heart not only because they happen to be just a little over two hours driving time from me, but they share a lot from our HQ page. I have yet to attend a chapter event, but hopefully I’ll be able to one day soon.

Indianhead Chapter

Here are a couple of links from their Facebook posts I found interesting and I’m going to explore further.

indianhead scientific seamstress






A printable bias tape maker




Fabric Bins and Baskets





Fabric Basket Bins





Next is the Chicago chapter. My gosh, they are so active and of course have access to so many wonderful fabric stores and classes because of their location.  They have an “open group” on Facebook versus a traditional page.


 chicago fashion show



Check out their incredible fashion show pictures!



Chicago service hours


Look at all their Community Service hours from the many volunteers. 



I sure wish I could visit an Idaho chapter, called Treasure Valley ASG! They do a lot of quilting and sure look like a fun bunch of members!!!

Treasure Valley ASG

Glory Scraps block-idaho


They posted this “Glory in Scraps” free quilt block.







pin cushion catcher  and a link to make a thread catcher with a pin cushion.


The Pittsburgh chapter had a great post!


sewing chess board-pittsburgh



I HAVE to make this, though I think it will be in a “checkers” format since I don’t play chess. Wouldn’t it be fun to have this at an ASG sewing retreat to play in the evening after a long day of sewing?






The Roanoke chapter has a fabulous sewing camp coming up for children in grades 4-12.


There is still time to sign up!!!

Roanoke-kids camp 

The ASG Titusville chapter had a rough spring with a very happy ending!


titusville movedIn May, Titusville lost their normal meeting place because of budget cuts. A youth club moved them to their new location and also gave them the Jefferson Award for all of their community service! Congratulations, Titusville ASG!

I invite you to check out these ASG chapter Facebook pages and others. Click on the links of what they post and look at their discoveries that you can incorporate into your sewing. Also, check out their websites and events pages. If you are in the area, join in! They will welcome you with open arms…and probably some good food to boot!

Sew ’til next time…Enjoy the Journey of Sewing!




Nature’s Perfect Pallet

by Ramona on July 1, 2014

Have you ever had a moment of pure silliness that developed into an awesome journey? That is what happened to me tonight.

You know sometimes how you have a silly moment (aka: senior moment) and forget how to spell something? Now, I’m a pretty good speller and don’t have too many of these little lapses in memory. But on occasion, it does happen. I was doing a Google search how to spell “pallet” (don’t laugh, you know you’ve had these moments, too!). I sat here thinking to myself, is it one l, two t’s or is it two l’s and two t’s???  As I was typing in the little search box, the Google auto-fill came up “color pallet” and “color pallet generator”. Curiosity got the best of me…a generator? I wonder what that does, I thought to myself.

I clicked on the link. Nope; didn’t like that one. Back. This sounds interesting; I clicked on and read the instructions quickly…well, how cool is this! Just upload a picture (or URL) and a color pallet of chips found in the photo is generated automatically.

I decided to try it. I found a picture on my computer that I had taken of a tangerine colored day lily and had uploaded to the ASG Facebook page earlier today. I love the colors and would love to find some linen this color for a jacket. I think the color is so vibrant and so pretty. I also like the lime in the buds as a contrast. Nature often makes perfect pallets if we only look.









After mere seconds, the color pallet for the picture was generated.

fabric color numbers








WOW! I could see all kinds of uses for a tool like this! Just imagine if making a project whether a jacket or a quilt and we have a photo in mind of colors that we like. Now all we have to do is upload it and generate the colors seen in the photo. Some will be the prominent colors and some the background and subtle colors perhaps not even noticed upon first glance at the photo. We have a pallet for color selection while shopping at our favorite fabric stores!

The color palette that is generated can also be saved as a Photoshop file for future use. The pallet has “hex” numbers, or a hex color code, which is information about the color. On this website the hex number can be put in and useful information generated for other purposes. Among other things it will generate RGB (red, green, blue) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color information. For more information here is a website that has a good explanation of the difference:

Our Dad was a printer by trade, using the four-color CMYK process. Years ago he explained the basics to me. It was fascinating to watch the old printing press run with Dad changing plates and ink colors on what I termed the old “Ben Franklin” press (it’s real name is an Excelsior press). He also had a Hiedelberg printing press, but that one lacked the romance of the other. Sometimes I still think I can smell the ink as he mixed it and the lead as he did the typesetting in the printers boxes. He had manuals and cans of ink he’d mix according to the manual “recipe”. Today, we have computers to help. There are still printers and cans of ink, but we can use the color generators to quickly decide on colors for a website or a color for fabric or even painting a house. All we have to do is know the RGB or CMYK color numbers and BINGO! The color can be created in many mediums.

We’re getting our house painted. My husband is going to choose the paint color. I took a photo of the stones on the lower part of our house. I put the photo in the pallet generator and a pallet of the stone colors appeared. Won’t that make it easy for my husband to choose a color that he automatically knows is in the color family of the stones? Notice the Hex number under the uploaded image. I just randomly selected that color.

house stone colors pallet








I put the hex number in the search box on the color-hex website and voila! We can take the chart to the paint store and get the exact color to paint the garage, if this is the color he chooses.

house hex









How can this be used with fabric? There are many companies, like  that supply dyes to be used on fabrics. Supply color numbers and they are matched to Pantone colors and you can mix to your heart’s content. I’m very novice when it comes to dying fabrics. I do so admire those who do it and create fabrics that are works of art in themselves. Information on color is on this website, or give them a call; they are very helpful folks.

dharma dyes






There are also some companies like that will print fabric according to customer supplied colors and prints. Supply the “fabric chip” from the computer monitor and within days the fabric with that color printed on it will appear at the door ready to be sewn. Here, I did a screen capture of the color hex from the website.
tangerine color number

I pulled the screen capture into the paint program and selected and saved just the color as a fabric color chip to upload to the website.

fabric chip






I opened up the website, uploaded the file, and as you can see from the dropdown box, there are several selections of fabric types that I could have printed.  Read all the information on this site before ordering. Colors seen on the actual fabric may vary from what is seen on a computer monitor. They do have a swatch service and the file can be saved in your account on the website until the final decision is made. The nice thing is that if the color isn’t perfect, before ordering, just adjust it in the paint-type software program and try again before ordering fabric or swatches.

spoonflower color fabric to print






What if I wanted to print the lilies in the photo? They’d do that, too. Here I’ve played with the options on the website and find I could have the fabric printed as I wish. Here are three options I played with: an overall 1” image, an overall 3” image, and a single design. By playing with the original image, I could single out flowers, omit the background, and have anything I wish in my fabric.





I wish I would have discovered this long before now and I could have had the tangerine colored fabric for a conference jacket. But, now I know how I can have the perfect color I like if I cannot find it in my favorite ASG vendor member stores.

Sew ‘til next time, Enjoy the Journey of Sewing!






Sometimes a tip is just what we need to make our sewing life just a little bit easier.

Years ago, quite by accident while threading a multi-needle embroidery machine, I created a knot that is fine enough to easily slide through even a size 11 sewing machine needle. So for years I’ve just been using this knot to tie on and pull the thread through the guides of the machine and through the needle making threading mere seconds.


I’ve created a video which is on our American Sewing Guild YouTube channel (and it is also posted on the ASG Facebook page) that also shows these steps along with a video showing the actual tying of the knot. This works well especially on a multi-needle embroidery machine, when using a thread stand with a regular sewing machine, as well as tying on new threads on a serger (the knots pass easily through the loopers)! I’m showing this on a flat surface, step-by-step. so it can be printed out if you’d like and kept by your sewing machine until you’ve got the steps mastered. View the video to see how it is actually done.


Here are the steps:

Be sure the presser foot is up. This opens up the tension disks allowing the knot to pass through the thread path easily.


S1500002 The rust thread represents the old thread to be cut off, and the yellow thread the new thread to be tied on.

S1500003 Cut off the thread just above the cone that is on the thread stand.

S1520001 Place the new thread onto the thread stand and grab the cut end.

S1520002 Create a loop over the cut edge; the loop should face to the left.

S1520003 Lay the old thread behind the loop.

S1520005 Bring the cut edge of the old thread over the loop,  up to the right, and behind the old thread.

S1520006 Place the cut edge of the old thread through the front of the loop.

S1520007 Bring like colors  of the thread strands together.






Pull to secure the knot.


knot From the needle, pull the old thread through until the knot is reached, then release some thread in front of the needle, hold both threads in front and back of the needle taught, and pass the thread through the eye of the needle.

I’m pretty certain that if I searched the internet for the Boy Scout website, there would be a section on “tying knots” and there is probably a name for this type of knot. If you find it, you can let me know if you’d like; for now, I’m calling it the “ASG Needle Knot”! When our father saw me tie it years later he said it was in-part a “fisherman’s lure knot”. I asked him why he hadn’t ever taught this to me and saved me lots of frustration! We both had a good giggle.

Hopefully this little tip will help make your sewing life just a bit easier.

Sew ’til next time….Enjoy the Journey of Sewing!











“Pinned” Cushions

by Ramona on June 20, 2014

I’ve set up a Pinterest account, but I have not done anything with it. To me it looks like a lovely black-hole to steal time. I’m afraid if I start looking and pinning, I’ll loose hours and hours and hours of time without realizing it. When I set up the Pinterest account, I was invited by two friends to follow their boards. They have wonderful taste and on occasion, I’ll get an email of things they’ve pinned. That happened this week and I thought I’d share with you what is on the board of one of these friends.

My friend, “C” (as we call her),  is an incredible sewist both by hand and by machine. She also happens to be having a love affair with all things miniature, felting and especially pin cushions! I quickly glanced at her boards one evening this week and found myself absolutely drawn to what she had found. Aren’t sewists just the most amazing people? They are so talented and even more, so clever to take their ideas and turn them into whimsical, fun, and useful objects that bring joy to our  lives.

I thought in this blog I’d share with you what “C” shared with me through her Pinterest board of pin cushions. Who doesn’t need more pin cushions? I have them at each of my sewing stations, and usually one on my wrist to boot. Mine are boring compared to those shown on “C”‘s board. I also have the magnetic bowls that I use at the quilting frame and cutting table. I can see that I need some more pin cushions….only these need to be some playful ones to make me smile as I work and create.

Click on the title of the project (blue link) to be taken directly to the website.

Kim and Kris started with when was our host as we started ASG Online. It is fun to see how far they have gone with their crafting. I absolutely LUV this “Mannequin Pin Cushion“!!!! (They even give you the link to get their pattern, free!)









This one is titled “OUCH“! Isn’t it absolutely adorable! Unfortunately, I don’t knit and this is a knitting pattern. My friend, “C”, is a knitter…hint-hint “C”!


“Handbag Pin Cushion Pattern”

Handbag Pincushion Pattern - cute!


“Cupcake Pincushion” by Patchwork Pottery. She has some other fun patterns! Check out her store.


“Pincushion on Pot” (hit the translate button on the blog and it will show the English version)

Pincushion on a jar


“No-Sew Pin Cushions”

No Sew Pin Cushions


And just look at these incredible “Pin Toppers“! Aren’t folks just so very clever! (I wish I would have thought of these!)

holiday cupcake pin toppers by sewcraftyjess, via Flickr


That’s all I’m going to post or you, too, will be drawn into the “black hole of stealing time”.  Purhaps you’ll check out Pinterest and create your own board and follow others. I really like that the patterns are already created, ready for purchase, so all I have to do is purchase, cut and stitch! And here’s a thought….how about a new ASG SIG (special interest group) of all things Pin Cushions! I’ll bet you’d have lots of interest and members attend. Please let me know if you start one!

Sew ’til next time, Enjoy the Journey of Sewing!


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Challenge Your “Comfort Zone”

May 30, 2014

Almost two years ago we moved to a very small “farmette” in SW WI. I grew up in this area and it has always been “home” to me. Having lived in the Sonoran Desert for over 40 years, moving back wasn’t culture shock; instead it was comforting to be in familiar childhood surroundings, with four-seasons [...]

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Memorial Ribbon

Thumbnail image for Memorial Ribbon May 23, 2014

  As I place the American flag outside the front door every day, I stop briefly to remember those who have served to keep our freedoms on this soil. This weekend I’ll take an extra moment. Probably like you, our family has many members who have proudly served in our armed forces. A couple of [...]

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The Story Behind the Notions Story-Spring 2014

April 22, 2014

  Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild: Just about anything can inspire a Notions cover story! Case in point: last Fall, for reasons I won’t go into here, I had to remove all my clothes from our master bedroom’s closets and [...]

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Enter the Design Your Dream Prom Dress Contest!

Thumbnail image for Enter the Design Your Dream Prom Dress Contest! March 28, 2014

 Note: Click on any picture or hyper-linked word to be taken directly to the website in a new window.   Calling all 14-22 year olds: Did you ever dream of being a prom dress designer? Sketching a dress and then have your dress design really created in a factory? Attitude Couture, along with the American [...]

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