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

Ruffles are one of the easiest ways to add your own personal touch to a sewing project. They are a beautiful addition to both fashion and home décor items. And their flirty personality goes well with summer sewing. So here’s hoping that our cover story, “Ravishing Ruffles,” will give you the inspiration to have a bit of fun with your next project.

Speaking of fun, what could be more fun than working with kids who are eager to learn to sew? This issue’s Sew Young section includes several inspiring stories. There’s Deborah Barcello, owner of Cattell’s Sew & Vac/Sewing Academy in Medford, N.J. “Miss Deb” (as her students call her) has not only developed a thriving enterprise teaching young people to sew (85 students per week!) but has also created an innovative system whereby students can progress at their own pace; interested students have the opportunity to transition into an intern position as an unpaid helper in the classes. If this is successful, the student is put on a list of potential hires to be a teacher and to work in the shop when she is old enough. Then there is the story of members of the Greensboro, N.C. Chapter (specifically the Kernersville Neighborhood Group) who mentor a sewing club at the Noble Academy. ASG members managed to get the one machine that Noble Academy already owned back into working order and acquired three more machines for the school. The club meets weekly for two hours and always involves hands-on sewing. The Sarasota/Gulf Coast, Fla. Chapter participates yearly in the Manatee County Fair. They take a booth and develop easy-to-make sewing projects that are high in kid appeal. This ambitious undertaking is an 11-day commitment that gives so many young people the opportunity to sit down at a sewing machine, spend a little time, and leave with big smiles and a project they can be proud of. And then there is the Central Savannah River, S.C. Chapter who shared their sewing skills with members of a local church who “paid it forward” to young people who benefit from the Mission on the Move program in Tapachula, Mexico. These are only four stories. There are countless other ASG chapters, Neighborhood Groups, and individual members who are Teaching Another Generation. We are all so grateful for their efforts!

If you couldn’t make it to ASG Conference 2016 in Indianapolis, check out Exhibit Hall Review, which includes a sampling of the new fabrics, patterns, books, DVDs, and more that attendees saw in the exhibit hall. And watch for the fall issue of Notions, with lots of conference coverage.

If you have comments about what appears in Notions, topics you would like to see covered, were inspired on your sewing journey by something you read in our magazine, or have an idea for an article you might like to write, I’d love to hear from you. E-mail me at


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Buttons need a “Shank”

by Ramona on June 23, 2016

The other day I had a little request to “re-sew” buttons on a fly front of a pair of utility pants. The buttons have four holes and I did see one button that did have the threads missing from one hole-set. So, I fixed that, returned the pants and got the question, “Did you fix the buttons on these pants?”


Of course I fixed the button (not buttons) on the pants! What the wearer failed to realize is that the remaining buttons were not “loose”, but the threads did not hold the button tight to the fabric because there needs to be a “shank” to the thread that holds the button on. What is the purpose of a shank? The thread shank allows enough room for the layers beneath the button to rest the button on the fabric but not pull. If a shank is not present—especially on thicker fabrics—then the button pulls against the buttonhole and can damage the buttonhole and possibly even create a rip in the layer of fabric holding the button because it is trying to find enough room to allow the button to lay on the top fabric layer smoothly when it is buttoned.



There are several methods for creating a shank and the amount of thread shank to be left depends upon how many and the thickness of the layers between the bottom layer of fabric that holds the button and the top layer of fabric upon which the button rests. Let’s take a look at some of the methods to accomplish a thread shank.


The first is shank button. The back of the button has a “loop” area as placed by the manufacturer as part of the button. The distance between the bottom of the shank and the bottom of the back side of the button seems to be relatively standard. Is this enough shank? That will have to be tested with the fabric being sewn. For the most part when working with light to medium weight fabrics it is sufficient. If the shank on the back of the button is not sufficient, then an additional thread shank at the bottom of the button shank may have to be made.


Picture4The second way to produce a shank is with a “button sewing” accessory foot for the machine. This foot has a pin or finger in the middle that rests on top of the button; this releases extra thread over the button creating a shank. Place the foot on the machine, drop the feed dogs, set the proper stitch on the machine, and sew. The machine will sew thread over the finger between the holes to create the shank. Again, for medium and lightweight fabric this method usually releases enough thread to create a sufficient shank, but for a thicker fabric (think wool melton) it would probably not be enough and the sewing should be done by hand.


If you don’t have the accessory foot for the machine, a standard zig-zag foot (either open or closed toe) can be used. Place the foot on the machine, drop the feed dogs, place down the button and then place either a thick pin or toothpick over the button. Lower the feed dogs and sew the button on. The pin or toothpick acts like the finger on the button sewing accessory foot. Be sure to test before sewing a button on the project with this method; you may have to widen the stitch a bit so the needle doesn’t hit the button.



Picture7And lastly, hand sewing should be used for finely tailored garments and when a thicker fabric needs a button. Simply sew the button on neatly, leaving enough thread between the bottom of the button and the fabric to which the button is being sewn. Wrap the thread a few times around the thread shank, and secure the thread to the back of the work. For all the applications above, a little seam sealant on the back side of the work will help keep the threads knotted preventing the threads from coming out.

Test any method you chose to use but more importantly, test the shank with the layers of fabric. Make sample layers (including interfacings) and do a test buttonhole and then test the amount of thread shank needed to properly secure and button the garment so there will be no pulling once the garment is buttoned. This isn’t only for garments but for things like purses and totes, pillows, and any other place a button is needed.



As with all things sewing there are exceptions to the rules. There are times when the button needs to “pull” into the fabric such as with “tufting” and sewing eyes onto a stuffed animal. The pulling in these cases creates a texture—or in the case of the bears—an expression to the face.


Try sewing samples of button shanks with different fabrics and learn how easy it is to create the appropriate thread shank for the fabric being sewn. As for those utility pants, I took all the buttons off, used the button accessory foot for the machine and re-sewed all the buttons back on doubling up the stitches in each hole-set (the thought by the customer was that there wasn’t enough thread to hold on the buttons). After all, the customer–even if it is the most loved family member–is ALWAYS right!

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


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Let’s “Connect” at Conference!

by Ramona on June 9, 2016

I’m so excited to be able to share something new for conference this year!

Would you like to:

  • Be able to know the spot to meet friends for lunch?
  • Know when the fashion show will be?
  • Share your thoughts about a class you took?
  • Know what’s happening each day?
  • Know where your favorite vendor booth is?
  • Be able to connect with instructors?
  • Share a photo with other conference attendees of your class project?
  • …and MORE?

Now you CAN because there’s an “app” for that—it is call “Topi” (toe-p). Topi is an “event” app for conference attendees. ASG conference attendees can be connected to each other and to all the goings-on right on their cell phone. Topi works much like a “website” in that there is a sidebar menu and it works much like “messaging” in that you can chat and share pictures–in real time– with anyone who has the app. No going to several phone applications to find what you want: “Topi” provides everything in one spot—it is such a convenient time saver!


How does it work? It is EASY-PEASY!

Step 1: on your cell phone go to




Step 2: download the app for your type of phone and follow the instructions.








Step 3: check out and connect at ASG conference via Topi






Topi lets you keep in touch and connect with other ASG Conference attendees:
























Special events









Daily schedules









Conference sponsors




…and you can even chat directly with friends to meet up for lunch or share your excitement about conference with all conference attendees…just connect!





Margo, Jillian, and I have already connected via “Topi” for conference…won’t you join us for this exciting conference year?






Why, “Topi” even has a countdown clock so we know how soon we’ll all get to see each other. . . . .I can hardly wait!


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


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Today is National Wine Day!

A friend, Donna W., of the Tucson chapter and I used to have “sip ‘n sews”. She is the best hostess. She would prepare a delicious meal or snacks and pare it with a nice wine–always perfect! We did have one rule though: we could only start sipping after more than  half the project or lesson was done. What a wonderful way it was to enjoy the day with good food, a glass of wine, but best of all enjoy the friendship of a like-minded sewing friend.


Since moving to WI and having a tiny vineyard (it was a test plot of 13 cold-climate varieties by the previous owner of the property who was a WI Agricultural Extension Agent) I have a huge appreciation for grape growers and wine makers. My husband and I attended a grape growing conference shortly after moving here. We learned to grow grapes there is soil testing and amending, trellising, trimming, fertilizing, spraying and other knowledge that purely overwhelmed us. The investment to produce crops for sale to wine makers is not for the fool-hearty. Even small acreage growers invest several thousand dollars a year to produce a crop for market. Through that conference we learned we did not have the time commitment—let alone the money investment—to produce truly wonderful grapes for market. Later that year at a wine tasting we heard a story that confirmed our decision. Around September one local beautiful crop of several acres was wiped out in an afternoon due to hail–all right before the brix was correct for picking the grapes. It was heartbreaking to learn all the labor and money that was put into the crop was lost. Many growers and wine makers in this area are retirees on their second or even third career.

Now you may ask, “What does grape growing and wine making have to do with a sewing blog?”


Grapes and wine making are a science, a skill, an art and pure instinct from experience–which actually makes me wonder why wines are not more expensive!!! Just as grape growers and wine makers command their market price, we sewists need to value our knowledge and skills—not undervalue them as I often hear sewers do. Think about how much money is invested in sewing equipment and tools, fabrics and supplies, and how long it has taken to acquire the knowledge and skills to perfect what we do—just like a vintner. We go to classes to learn whether locally, at chapter events, trade shows, and the ASG Conference. We study the work of others, read books, watch online videos, and there is lots and lots of trial and error. Just when we think we’ve got something down pat we may try the same technique with another fabric. We soon learn we have to tweak –yet again—what we just thought we had mastered.


Sewing is a constant process of learning and experimenting. It, too, is a science, a skill, an art and pure instinct from experience just like grape growing and wine making. Rarely can we jump into a garment or project and go from start to finish without something new to learn to make the project come out as we wish. For each crop of grapes and each vat of wine, the producers alter the process based on previous knowledge, too.


Me? I’m satisfied if I get enough grapes for some jelly making in the fall. The birds and bees, raccoon and deer, get the rest (I never knew bees liked grapes so much!) Already we’ve seen deer and raccoon picking in the small acre of grapes this spring and the brutally low temps last year wiped out two whole rows; we’ll cut back to the trunk and see if they rejuvenate (if not, I’ve already got plans to grow pole beans and peas up the trunks!) We definitely are not grape growers–but thankfully my passion lies in sewing and embroidery.

wine glass

Though the vineyard remains we prefer to maintain it only to let it look as pretty as it can and we concentrate on our employment. I’ll stitch grape and wine designs and create projects as gifts from grape and wine themed fabrics–this suits me much better—and I’ll walk the vineyard in the evenings and appreciate it while savoring a glass of wine.

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


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April 29, 2016

The Story Behind the Notions Story-Spring 2015 Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild  ASG’s annual conference never fails to inspire me! Last summer, at our conference in San Diego, I dropped in on Cheri Dowd’s class on sewing reversible clothing. I […]

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Make a “Dauber”!

March 29, 2016

    Early last fall I was contacted by the ASG St. Louis chapter to be the key note luncheon speaker for their Spring Fling event which was two weeks ago. It is always such a thrill to do these things because I get to meet members and see many of the wonderful things the chapter […]

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What does ASG “Sell”?

March 1, 2016

Recently, while at a fabric store, I was asked a question about sewing. The woman was looking for a specific fabric and she didn’t know what the fabric was so I helped her find the fabric and gave her a few tips for sewing with it. She said to me, “You certainly seem to know […]

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From Grimy to Gleaming!

February 16, 2016

From Grimy to Gleaming! Many times, for whatever reason, the most obvious things that need to be cleaned get put to the back of the “to-do” list until there comes a time where there is no-more putting it off. That happened with this poor curling iron. My other one finally burned out and it was […]

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