The Story Behind the Notions Story-Winter 2015

by Ramona on January 26, 2015

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

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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 series on Prom and Special Occasion Dresses was originally developed with our Junior Members in mind but it contains a wealth of information for sewers of any age who are creating some party finery. I hope that as the Winter ’15 cover story gives you some additional sewing and fashion inspiration, you will also check out the videos. They are a wonderful benefit of your membership in ASG.

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When researching this story and looking for inspiration for the cover art, I stumbled across this photo of actress Amanda Seyfried in a stunning lace creation from the Valentino Resort 2015 collection. Our Notions’ art shows a two-piece version. . . a perfect project for the adventurous machine embroiderer.




Our 2015 Anyone Can Win contest, built around the ASG Simplicity Pattern collection, is underway. Details can be found on page 31 of this issue and also online. Go into the Members Only section of and click on the Anyone Can Win box at the bottom of the right column. Check to make sure your Simplicity pattern choice(s) are part of this year’s eligible list. Enter as many ASG Simplicity Pattern garments as you want (one garment/one photo per entry). Since winners are selected electronically at random, any ASG member who enters, regardless of sewing expertise or experience, has an equal chance to win. The deadline to upload your entry is midnight, EDT, July 1, 2015.

I’d like to thank all the contributors who help keep Notions full of useful information—this includes Joy Landeira, who writes the featured book review for each issue; Rosemary Fajgier, who reviews DVDs for us, Claire Shaeffer and Kathy Knapp, who contributed articles for this issue, and all the faithful chapter members who see to it that Chapter News is always full to the brim with information.

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 the ASG Facebook page or e-mail me at



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Working toward a Ph-D: get organized

by Ramona on January 16, 2015

It’s time for week two of working on our Ph-Ds. Don’t you just love the sound of that!

Hopefully after reading the blog last week you’ve felt compelled to rid yourself of the guilt of unfinished projects. Sometimes it is the guilt alone that freezes us from entering the creative mode to actually want to complete projects.

In reading some of the chapter newsletters at the onset of this New Year, many presidents’ messages have included starting anew and completing projects. I enjoyed reading Fresno Sews. Tara, the chapter president, lamented about over-thinking, over-planning and procrastinating. She stated in her first message of the year something I found quite simple yet quite profound: “My motto for this year is Just Sew It! “ Yes! Something I can relate to…don’t feel guilty, don’t ponder why it’s not done, don’t beat myself up because it has taken so long…JUST SEW IT!

I think part of ridding ourselves of the guilt is getting organized. Organizing is a very personal thing. My organization methods, whether the desktop computer screen or the bathroom closet, I know drives my husband nuts.. I like things neat and tidy and everything put behind doors or tucked away in drawers. To him it makes absolutely no sense; he wants things within reach and to me that makes everything seem cluttered and claustrophobic.  His computer desktop icons are organized by their date or size which makes no sense to me; I organize mine in groups by the type of icons in relation to my work whether ASG, quilting, embroidery, office, etc. Our children—especially our son—used to get a big kick out of “re-organizing” my desktop icons. He knew it drove me absolutely CRAZY! However you do it, organization is one key to completing Ph-Ds (Projects Half—DONE!)

My workroom isn’t fancy; it’s a WORK room. I have minimal storage and I know it could be better organized if I invested in some real furniture but for now, that’s not in the budget. I dream of someday having a sewing room as seen on TV. You know, the kind where all the furniture matches, all the notions are tucked away behind cupboard doors with beautifully appointed handles, and the wall color always seems to compliment the fabrics being worked on. To me, all that adds to the “creativity factor” and the joy and anticipation of going to the sewing room and working on projects.

In thinking about this blog, I decided to investigate what others have done in organizing their sewing rooms. Click on the photo to be taken to the page with information. Some are posts by quilters and scrapbook artisans, but the ideas certainly could be adapted for our sewing rooms.

1This first one reminds me of my calendar. I keep a “school” type calendar to remind me what I need to do each day. I plan in advance so I pick up the supplies on sale, and have everything when I’m ready to start on a project. For some, this may be the perfect solution to getting organized.




bagFor years I have used large clear plastic bags for organizing. All the notions, pattern, and fabrics fit nicely. If I’m missing a notion or thread, I keep an index card on my desk and notate the item needed, along with a swatch of fabric, so I have everything at hand for a trip to the fabric store.





I keep all the bagged projects organized in plastic bins. It keeps everything clean and ready for completion. I have several bins; one for quilting, one for projects that are complete with all the notions needed, and one where I still need to purchase notions. I find separating them keeps me from picking up a bag and wanting to do something only to find I don’t have everything on hand. Plus, when I do get the needed supplies I only search that bin and then can add the supplies to the appropriate bag and then file that bag in the bin for completion.





I like this next idea; it makes the plastic storage bag idea colorful and fun. The bags could be made in any size to fit a mired of projects. If I had fabrics already cut for a project, I’d use the scraps to frame the zipper at the top of the bag; this would easily identify what is in the bag awaiting completion. If you have a TAG group, this would make a great project.






I don’t have a closet in my sewing room, but if I did, I’d probably be tempted to organize the bags made above in this manner. Everything is view-able at eye level and all the parts and pieces of the project are together ready to be sewn.










I guess if I hung a rod from the ceiling this idea would work. I like that everything can be seen at a glance. I’m not sure if this would work for me because of all the weight in the large lengths of fabric I use in projects. For quilting, though, or other types of crafting, I think this would be great.








I really like this idea. If I had a lot of file cabinets not in use and fat quarter-sized fabrics  I’d probably do this. Wouldn’t it be great to open up a file cabinet drawer to all this color? Talk about inspiration!








This last one really caught my attention. The furniture is all cast-offs that were re-purposed with black paint to give a cohesive look. The contrasting floors and light walls make the space inviting. This entices me to venture out to yard sales this spring and see what I might possibly find and repurpose for my sewing space to make it more functional and just plain prettier. I think I’d have to take two weeks’ vacation to totally clean out, paint, tile and re-organize everything—but wouldn’t it be worth it!



No matter your space, no matter your budget, search the internet for ideas. Shop your local fabric stores for ideas and storage items to get organized. Perhaps plan some time this next week to begin organizing your space for maximum function and working on Ph-Ds.

Next week we’ll talk about how to decide the order in which to complete projects. I’d like to hear your thoughts—remember to post them on our Facebook page. In the meantime, read the excerpt below. It is taken from the President’s Letter in the Madison Chapter’s newsletter this month. I was going to write on this, but she expressed it better than I could. We should all be doing this. It will remind us that we do accomplish a lot of sewing throughout the year, and perhaps will help us feel less guilty about those projects that get set aside because life gets in the way.

Stitchin’ Times

“On a personal note, I’m not one to make resolutions for the New Year, but I am a firm believer in setting goals. As I spent the New Year’s Day reviewing a number of sewing blogs, I became aware of a deficiency in my sewing; possibly it’s one you share with me. Many of the bloggers (and I used to be one) did an annual review of all of the items they sewed in the past year, and shared photos of each project. That’s where my goal lies. Not only do I not log in every item I sew, I also don’t photograph the items and worst of all I don’t keep many notes on what to do differently the next time. In fact, sometimes my daughter references items I’ve sewn for my GDs and I don’t even recall the items. Now that I think of it, I shouldn’t even be announcing this to my sewing colleagues, but you must admit that it’s great fodder for a 2015 sewing goal. For the coming year I will begin a log and will photograph each item I sew. Maybe a year from now I will feel great about my 2015 accomplishments. How about you? If you have a similar need, can you join me in setting this goal?”


President, Madison, WI Chapter


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


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by Ramona on January 9, 2015

I made a post to our Facebook page a couple weeks ago asking whether or not it would be of interest to have me finish some of my unfinished sewing projects to spur others on to do the same.  I suggested I would discuss why the project was started, why it was set aside, and my plans to complete it. The response was an overwhelming, “YES!”  I think I struck a chord among many.

So, I thought I’d do this blog to get us all started. I think there are several excuses…err reasons.. why we have these unfinished projects in the first place.

We all have “good sewing intentions”. We get inspired and purchase the fabrics, pattern and notions with the best intention of getting a project completed to the best of our ability…then, at least for me, life gets in the way. Does this happen to you?

I’ll start something, and then all of the sudden a family member, friend or neighbor has a request of my skills. It may be mending a glove, putting a new zipper into a leather jacket, help on an embroidery project, or any number of things. I happily set aside my project to help. Maybe there is an illness in the family, and of course bills need to get paid, I have to run to the grocery store so dinner can be cooked. The garden needs tending after work. I want to call my Mom. The kids are Skyping me. Yup, life gets in the way and those things are more important that the project I set aside.

First the project gets set aside to the ironing board. Then the work week begins. I pick up the project and look at it thinking to myself, “Nope, no time this week” so the project gets set to the end of the cutting board. More pressing projects need to get done; after all, the project I started doesn’t have a deadline so I package up all the parts and pieces so nothing gets lost – telling myself I’ll get to it in a couple of weeks. I tidy my sewing room, the bagged project now gets moved to the “file” pile. There it will sit until the deep cleaning of the sewing area which happens about once a quarter; out of sight, out of mind.

Unless something is actually scheduled into my calendar it tends not to get done. I’m a person who has always worked via deadlines. Deadlines run my life. When I did custom dressmaking there were always deadlines: a wedding, a formal dance, those special pants a customer needed for a New Year’s Eve party. So I think that is number one on my list of reasons I have UFO’s. When sewing gets interrupted and set aside, it is because there is no deadline for that project.

For others, perhaps it is because the requisite skill level in sewing has not been obtained. We may look at a project thinking it is within our skill level, but perhaps there is a new technique or term in the pattern that stumps us. So, we set the project aside until we’ve learned the skill or can look up the term.

Then of course after projects have lingered long enough (dare I say not only weeks but YEARS!) we come across the project which has been in hiding, long forgotten, and now it is no longer of interest. The pattern or fabric has become dated, and it gets set aside again and we wonder why we even started it in the first place. Now we feel guilty because we spent good money and time on something that lingers.

With all these “guilty” feelings of uncompleted projects, I say, turn over a new leaf! Clean out! Gift away and start anew!  Get rid of the guilt!

I think the first place to start recapturing the enthusiasm for UFO’s is first to rename them. The name UFOs (unfinished objects) or USOs (unfinished sewing objects) does not invite me to want to finish the project; so, let’s give them a new, “positive” sounding name. I asked for name suggestions on our ASG Facebook page, and one great suggestion was PhDs—projects half done. I like the thought of working on a PhD! It makes me think I’m working toward and accomplishing something grand. I put a bit of a twist on it and suggested Ph-D: Projects half—DONE! The projects are no longer half way completed, they are FINISHED! They are COMPLETED!  They are DONE! Now this makes me want to get into the pile and see what I can work on and actually finish.

So, in the next blog let’s talk about getting organized. For me, if I’m not organized nothing, and I mean NOTHING get accomplished in my sewing room. I feel overwhelmed and things seem unsettled. I’ll show you what I do and hopefully on our Fb page we can get suggestions on how others organize their Ph-Ds to get them completed. Let’s start a dialog and let’s encourage each other to get working on our Ph-Ds! This week if you feel like it, please share your reasons for the unfinished projects you have. The sharing may actually be a cathartic release for beginning anew.

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


Note: We’ll use the ASG Facebook page to carry on the conversation. We were getting too many spam comments so we shut the comments section for this blog. Just go on over to the Fb page and make suggestions and tell us what you are doing to finish projects this year.

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Troubleshooting embroidery thread woes…

by Ramona on January 2, 2015

Note: Click on a picture for a larger view.

Last week I posted on the ASG Facebook page the trouble I was having stitching with polyester iridescent thread; it kept shredding and breaking after only a few stitches.







It took me a good bit of troubleshooting to figure out what the problem was; I said I would share the answer in this week’s blog.  Here is the original post.






There were some wonderful and accurate suggestions as to what may be the cause of such a dilemma with my sewing:

  • Did you also change the type of needle?
  • Change the thread because not all brands behave the same.
  • Catching on the slit I bet.
  • Change the position of the thread on the spool pin.
  • Use a top stitch needle
  • Sew slowly and keep your eye on the spool itself.
  • Too much twist in the thread?
  • Is it static?
  • Is the embroidery pattern designed for metallic thread?

When embroidering, and there is troubleshooting to be done, it is best to start from the most obvious and work toward the solution, changing only one thing at a time so the solution can be either mentally noted or written down for future use.

The most obvious in this situation was re-threading the machine. The machine and bobbin were both re-threaded, a test stitch done, and there was still shredding. So I moved on to the next most obvious thing–changing the needle.

I put in a new needle of the same type I had started with, then changed to a larger size, changed to a topstitch needle and tried a metallic needle, all with no resolution to the shredding. On to step three in troubleshooting—checking for lint.

I pulled out the bobbin case, removed the throat plate and cleaned all around the feed dogs. I checked the take up for lint, around the needle clamp screw and removed all little bits of lint found, tested again; still the same problem. I would not give up and was on to step four in the troubleshooting process.

Step four was to check for any nicks on the throat plate, shuttle and race, bobbin case and anywhere I thought a burr may have been formed by perhaps a needle deflection while stitching. Not only do I check this with my finger, but I take a small piece of nylon stocking and run it over the areas. The nylon stocking will quickly pick up any small irregularities in a surface. Nope, no burrs so on to step five.


Step five was to remove the  housing cover on the machine (do this ONLY if your tech has showed you how and you take the necessary safety precautions as instructed by your technician) and check to be sure there wasn’t a spring dislodged. From  my limited experience, everything seemed ok.








I followed the thread path and discovered the problem.



One of the hints on the Facebook page was: “Here’s another clue–it may confuse things more, but when the answer is posted this will probably really make you scratch your head: I can run regular polyester embroidery thread on the machine with no problem (at this point). The machine is the 7 year old Bernina 630E.” The clues were: 7-year old machine, and polyester thread.

Because of the type of embroidery I have done over the years, I have used polyester thread. Polyester holds up to wear and tear better than rayon for children’s clothes, uniforms and bleaching. It will not fade nor will the thread really be affected by use of some chemicals. Polyester embroidery thread is very strong! Have you ever tried breaking it against your pinky finger? I have and I actually got a small cut like a paper cut on my finger.

The problem I was experiencing with the shredded thread was caused by the thread, over the years, wearing against a plate.


Each time the thread was thrust upward from the take up, it forced the thread against the plate. After seven years of almost daily use of polyester thread (not only embroidery but poly core sewing thread), the plate had gotten a small nick in it. Which reminds me, note to self: if stranded on a desert island, make sure to have polyester embroidery thread for a multitude of uses including cutting!





The reason the thread shredded is because there are little segments which make up the thread that give it the luster and catch the light which is why we like to stitch with these types of threads; these segments were catching on the groove in the plate.



When stitching with other polyester embroidery threads the shredding did not occur but at some point when the groove wore down enough it would have. So there you have it. A systematic methodology of checking and troubleshooting by beginning with the simplest and working toward finding the solution solved the problem. When troubleshooting remember to change only one thing at a time and test again. If too many things are changed at once, you may never know what actually caused the problem.

Now the local technician gets to have my machine and take an emery cloth and smooth out this area of the plate. The machine is due for a tune-up anyway, so I’ll have that done at the same time.

Good wishes for a trouble-free new year of sewing!

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






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Last minute tip….

by Ramona on December 19, 2014










This will be the last blog for 2014…my gosh, where has the year gone? This will be a short blog containing a tip for you.

We all hustle and bustle this time of year to get things finished up. I have friend who just started an embroidery business and she posed a question to me this week: on the cuff of a stocking, which side gets embroidered?

My answer? ALWAYS ask the customer! They will know where and how they want the stocking to hang on the mantle, bannister, chair or wall. If you embroider for others, it is always best to ask what they want and where they want it. Stitch a sample, place it on the item and then get their approval before doing any stitching. I’ve learned over the years not all folks are good at visualizing things.





If it happens that you are embroidering stockings for gifts this year and are not sure how the stockings are to be displayed, take the extra few minutes and embroider both sides! The stocking shown above took 14 minutes total to stitch, including the hooping.


The recipient will be pleased to learn that the stocking may be displayed in either direction to fit the decor. An aside–have you thought about making and giving stockings for other celebrations like birthdays? Make the stockings in a fabric themed for the celebration or the person’s interest. Embroider the cuff before assembling the stocking.

Happy Holidays to one and all and the best to all of you in 2015.

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

~Ramona and all the staff at ASG! Margo, Maria, Barbara, and Jennifer



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by Ramona on December 5, 2014

I just got back from teaching at a 3-day event for the Tucson chapter–the winners of the membership drive! I presented one day each on Machine Embroidery, Fitting, and Knits. One of the questions I was asked, was to show how to do a banded neckline for a knit top.

In just a few simple steps, a knit neckline can be created just like is seen in RTW (ready-to-wear) in the stores. This neckline can be made wider and can also be done as two separate colors with one band being narrow like the sample shown, and one band wider behind the narrower one in a different color.

Note: the sample shown is only showing the front area of the top; the back neckline, of course, would be done as well.

I hope you’ll try making a v-neck t-shirt with a band like this. It is so easy to do and gives professional results.

Sew ’til next time, enjoy the journey of sewing!



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Fun Fabric using the Double Diamond Ruler™

October 17, 2014

This week’s blog came about because of something I posted on our ASG Facebook page. I did a presentation for the local quilt guild and included some photographs of how the fabric done using this ruler could be incorporated into a border on a quilt. I posted the pictures and several folks commented they had the ruler […]

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Guest Post: Doodle Shoes!

October 3, 2014

There is a wonderful, incredibly talented woman I’ve known for several years, Rebecca Kemp Brent. We met at a trade show and I felt instantly we were soul mates in all things fabric and needle arts. She is well known and well respected in the pinnacle of sewing circles. She has written books and has […]

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Update to– Member Request: How to Remove (move) a Bust Dart in a Tunic Pattern

October 3, 2014

I’m so excited to share this with you. It is an update to the blog Member Request: How to Remove (move) a Bust Dart in a Tunic Pattern posted on 9/11/14. I asked Cynde’s permission to use our email conversation and her photos. With the help of the last blog posted, she was able to finish her top […]

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“Justifying” Our Sewing “Wants”

September 19, 2014

My friend, Pat , prompted this post today. Last weekend we were talking about how those who sew are careful about their expenditures and of course try and get the most for their money. Pat is an embroidery digitizer and her livelihood depends upon folks buying her designs. Like all artists whether pattern makers, makers of […]

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