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 https://asg2016.topi.com/




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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by Ramona on April 29, 2016

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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 was intrigued. Then in a conversation with Marsha McClintock at her Saf-T-Pockets booth in the exhibit hall, I discovered that she and Cheri had collaborated on a pattern – #2013 Cheri’s Reversible Jacket. It seemed a natural to ask the two of them to collaborate on a cover story for Notions. The result: “Sew Your Traveling,” with inspiration for planning and creating a travel wardrobe by two extraordinarily talented ladies.

A second personal experience prompted me to ask Kathleen Cheetham, owner of Petite Plus Patterns, to write an article about how to recognize if you are a petite figure. Several years ago, during a retail shopping trip, I discovered that the petite-sized jackets fit me in the length and shoulders far better than the standard Misses’ versions. Since I had never defined myself as a petite figure, it was a real eye-opener. Give Kathleen’s article, “Surprise! You May Be a Petite,” a read . . . you may just have a similar revelation.

With warmer days on the horizon, consider adding activewear to your summer sewing list. Cindy Cummins and Allyce King have established themselves as experts in this sewing category with their new venture, Haute Knits. They are eager to share their knowledge with you. Check out “You Can Sew Activewear.”

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 editorial@asg.org. Or if you are coming to ASG Conference 2016 (Indianapolis, July 7-11), seek me out and let me know what you think!



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Make a “Dauber”!

by Ramona on March 29, 2016

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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 is doing.




1917833_456940251177492_125037953959488827_nSoon after being asked I knew what I would speak on and over the past months was collecting my thoughts, putting thoughts into notes, putting together the PowerPoint presentation, and practicing the speech. I also like to do a little something special if I am able. For this event I looked in my stash and put together small “play bags” for attendees. They weren’t allowed to open them until the end of the speech.


One of the things was a small length of wool. I asked if anyone knew what it could be for and no one could answer. When I said it was for each of them to make themselves a “Dauber” for pressing, few knew what it was. A dauber puts a limited amount of moisture exactly where it is needed in a seam for pressing a seam nice and flat. Most of us were taught to spray with water or use a moistened press cloth; this can leave moisture in unwanted areas when all we really need is to have a little water directly over the seam itself.

So, here you go ASG St. Louis Chapter, as promised, the instructions and a video showing you how to make the piece of wool that was in that gift bag into your own dauber to aid you in pressing while you sew.



The  lightweight weight wool was cut about 3 ½”  wide and about 12” long.





The fabric is steam pressed to help alleviate any shrinkage.






Beginning at one short end, the wool is tightly rolled up.







Just continue rolling the wool evenly along the length all the way to the other end.








Be sure the center is tight and all the wrapping is tight. It should feel firm, not squishy.







Now take a needle and thread to secure the rolled wool.



07Tightly wrap the fabric about every half inch or so with a few strands of embroidery floss or a strong thread. A buttonhole stitch may be used or even a slip stitch or cross stitch over the raw edge.








Watch the ASG YouTube video which shows all the steps and also explains how to use the dauber for pressing.







The ASG St. Louis chapter’s Spring Fling was held at the beautiful Lindenwood University campus. The facility was wonderful and the main room we used overlooked the football field.





The luncheon and speech were in the Anheuser-Busch Leadership Room.







The tables had pretty centerpieces made by members.








There was a computer and drop down screen all ready for use when I spoke.






I think the attendees were surprised at all the little things in their bags to “play” with. I hope they’ll have fun making their dauber and playing with and using the other things.







I even made them each a little button sucker to enjoy when they need something a little sweet at some point during their sewing play.





Thank you again, St. Louis Chapter, for inviting me–I had a wonderful time!

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


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What does ASG “Sell”?

by Ramona on 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 a lot about sewing.” I responded by telling her I have a vast background in all types of sewing and it is my passion and profession. She asked where I worked which gave me an opportunity to tell her about ASG.

She then asked me, “Well, what does ASG SELL?” That caught me off guard for a split second as I thought about my answer. I thought, well, we “sell” some thimbles and other ASG items at the website store, but do we really sell anything?

ASG Store

Then the answer instantly came to me; of course we do! But it is not the type of “selling” most non-sewers would think. It isn’t like going to a store and purchasing something—what ASG “sells” is much more substantial than that. “Selling” isn’t always about the money; instead it can be about sharing, giving, and service.

According to Dictionary.com, one meaning for “sell” is: “to transfer (goods) or to render (services)”.  We ASG members transfer goods when we transfer fabric and notions to each other when one of us has something another sewer needs; many times it is a gift to another sewer–usually with no monetary exchange.  We have sewing retreats where this happens often, and we help each other when a sewing dilemma appears.  We render services with the vast knowledge we share with each other at our neighborhood group meetings whether sewing techniques, sewing tips, or just general sewing knowledge to get a new sewists going on a project or a returning sewist’s skills refreshed. Our chapter members render services to their communities in many ways whether to fill a need with special projects to make healing better or to make sure children have hand-crafted stockings at Christmas time.

Our wonderful “Notions” is the ASG quarterly magazine full of great articles and information. Of course, “Notions” sells advertising spots so that the merchants who support our organization are able to tell us about their goods or services. The national educators sell our chapters their time and they render their services in the form of their talent so we learn more about sewing and fitting techniques, show us new tools and products to make our sewing lives more enjoyable and our projects more professional. At chapter events, online or in local stores we are able to purchase the wonderful patterns, fabrics, and notions we learn about.

One huge benefit of ASG is our national conference held once each year. The ASG conference allows chapter members from across the country—and even overseas!–to gather to enjoy each other’s company, meet other chapter members, learn from the best instructors the sewing industry has to offer, help our chapter CAB members become better leaders, meet our national board members, and in general just to enjoy our love of sewing together.

So, what does ASG “sell”? ASG does sell membership so members may enjoy the countless benefits that far outweigh what costs less than a meal for two at a nice restaurant. The meal lasts only the evening, but membership in ASG lasts a whole year and the memories and friendships last a lifetime.

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


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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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How I get the Whitest Whites

February 2, 2016

I was doing laundry a couple of weekends ago and as I was taking my husband’s long sleeve white shirts out of the dryer, I thought back to the many times he brought home compliments from staff members of the fire department on how “white” his white shirts were. The guys in the staff meeting […]

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The Story Behind the NOTIONS Story

January 22, 2016

  Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild:     One of the many delights about being the editor of Notions is the wonderful surprises that land in my inbox. The emails that I receive show that there is no end to the […]

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Saying Hello to 2016

December 31, 2015

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

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