The Story Behind the Notions Story-Winter 2017

by Ramona on February 10, 2017

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

ASG Conference is always full of inspiration! Last summer I had the opportunity to take a Sustainable Sewing class with Mary Ray. Her inspiring collection of ideas included the rust dyeing technique. This intriguing concept was the impetus for this issue’s “Fabric to Dye For” cover story. Thanks goes to Mary Ray, Dianne Giancola, Director of Education for The Rit Studio, and Lorel Maple and her fellow Madison, Wisc. Chapter members for sharing a dye-pot full of interesting techniques.

Notions strives to provide sewing inspiration to ASG members . . . so it is particularly gratifying to receive contributions like Inspired by Notions: Is It a Seam, a Trim, or a Binding by Joi Bostic who is an Atlanta, Ga. Chapter member and serves on the ASG National Board of Directors. Joi’s journey to create a reversible coat is a wonderful follow-up to the Spring 2016 cover story, Sew . . . You’re Traveling, which included information on creating reversible garments.

If your collection of sewing “stuff” is taking over your space, leaving little room for acquiring new treasures, check out Selling on eBay by North Jersey Chapter member Virginia Wentworth. Her article is full of excellent advice, covering everything from choosing and describing the items to pricing, shipping, and communicating with buyers.

Our Chapter News sections is full of activities from chapters all around the country. A special shout-out goes to the Corpus Christi, Texas Chapter. This is the third year they have partnered with the local Ronald McDonald House to create a special quilt that is auctioned off to raise money to assist the families of sick children. This year’s quilt, which was autographed by Tony Parker (#9 of the San Antonio Spurs), was sold for a record-breaking $25,000!!!

And we used this issue as an opportunity to wish our sewing sisters from Down Under a happy 20th anniversary. The Australian Sewing Guild, which was inspired by our own American Sewing Guild, has thrived and grown over the past 20 years. We are happy to share their history and join in the congratulations. When it comes to a love of sewing, we are truly one world! 

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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Harry Belafonte

Last Saturday evening was an interesting night. Totally not what I expected would give me inspiration for writing this sewing blog. Keep reading and you’ll see where I’m going with this.

Saturday evening, during his work lunch break, my husband posted David Draiman’s (DISTURBED) version of Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “The Sound of Silence” on his Facebook page. Having grown up in the 70’s listening to that song, having it as part of our band concerts in high school, it is very familiar. S&G made some of my favorite songs.

I grew up with music in my life. My parent’s liked and played 33 LPs of those of their era like Glenn Miller, Dean Martin, and my father’s favorite, Harry Belafonte—especially the “Banana Boat Song”  . My dad could not carry a tune in a bucket, but every time that one came on he would sing along loudly and enjoy himself immensely.

Roy Hamilton

My favorite song from their era is Roy Hamilton’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  Every time I hear it, it brings tears to my eyes. In fact, I’d probably have to say it is my all-time favorite song.

David Draiman-DISTURBED

Our children’s childhood included groups like Disturbed and Five Finger Death Punch. I would listen—with my ears closed. I didn’t like the music. For me, “Chicago” was about as close to “metal” as I liked. They also grew up listening to Michael Jackson (we all loved the “Thriller” album) and Disney music—variety at its best! So, because I didn’t like what the kids played, I had a pre-conceived notion about the groups. However, Mr. Draiman surprised me with his S&G rendition—I must have listened to it three or four times. It is so powerful and so stirring. I could hardly believe this was the same person I had closed my ears to.

While listening, I looked at the side bar of YouTube videos and noticed he did an interview about his experience producing the song. I learned he is a classically trained artist—that was not something I expected him to say. The interview was very interesting and I learned a bit about him, and how his singing the song came about and that it was very much out of his comfort zone. I also learned it has helped him reach a new audience with his music (i.e. those in my age group) who may not otherwise pay any attention to his talents.

So, how does all of this relate to sewing? Many times we stick to our comfort zones whether music or sewing. We don’t explore. We don’t reach out to those who are different than us and learn about how they view the window of their world through their art. In fact, it may be we are so “traditional” that we dismiss them without even looking. Maybe we don’t reach out because our discomfort may be we think we have nothing in common with them or we won’t know how to converse with them, when in fact, our common denominator is the basics of a sewing machine, a stitch, and notions. When we reach out and learn, we find truly unexpected treasures. By sewers going out of their comfort zone of designing and exploring we, like Mr. Draiman, may find new audiences for our sewing and for our groups such as ASG.

I would say I’m a “classically trained”, very technical sewer. I learned by the old-school rules of one way to do it, do it right or rip it out. In some ways I think this has stymied my creativity. Though I have desired for many years to be more of a “designer”, what my background and schooling taught me were things so that I can very accurately analyze garments or project and duplicate them. In turn, it taught me to gain inspiration and my own twist. It taught me that fabric can give me inspiration and experience has taught me what types of garments would work well in what fabrics and which techniques need to be used to execute a design. I admire the new sewers of today who throw rules out the window and just create for the sheer joy of the process–just like my Dad’s immense pleasure at singing at the top of his lungs just because he enjoyed a song. He didn’t care if he was off key! He knew the words, enjoyed the melody, and the lyrics tickled him. I think it is akin to the same joy new sewists find when they sew by their own rules.

Urban Threads Embroidery Designs

My background in machine embroidery is what I would consider, again, classically trained. And even though I like traditional and heirloom embroidery, I’ve really come to love some of the edgy stuff like “Urban Threads” sells. Their colors, execution of designs, and artistic expression intrigue me and I have an appreciation of their art. I have purchased a number of their designs so I can study how they sew.

Tula Pink’s Herringbone Quilt

Quilting is the same. Though I consider myself only slightly better than what one would call a novice quilter, I gravitate toward very traditional quilting. By watching quilting shows I’ve come to appreciate the “Modern Quilt Movement” and some of the new designers who express themselves in non-traditional ways. Tula Pink comes to mind. I’d love to make our daughter a quilt but she certainly isn’t the “traditional quilt” kind of gal; however, Tula Pink’s “Herringbone” quilt might fit the bill. Our daughter, who loves Disturbed, also loves black and white, she likes things simple and uncluttered, and she likes clean lines. I like herringbone patterns so I think I would like the experience of making the quilt and our daughter would like the finished product. It is not something I would probably make otherwise but Tula’s version of over-sized herringbone and her slick way of making it are pure magic.

Maybe some Saturday evening you’ll find yourself exploring something new. You may find a new technique you’ll learn from a young sewer or quilter who doesn’t do things like we’d do them traditionally, but who may actually have developed something better. Maybe while you are doing that, take a listen to Disturbed. Secretly, I’m hoping Mr. Draiman will do a rendition of “Hallelujah” in the same style as he did the “Sound of Silence”—are you listening Mr. Draiman?

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






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The Journey of Embroidering a Hard-to-Hoop Bag

by Ramona on January 19, 2017


When people find out you own an embroidery machine you will get all kinds of requests to embroider things. Folks love to give gifts that are personalized—and they know you can do it!

Before accepting anything from a customer or friend for personalizing, be sure you are comfortable with the task. If you are a new embroiderer, don’t over estimate your skill level or equipment’s capability. It is better to forego a job rather than have to replace an item because something goes wrong–don’t worry, they will come back to you for other things and will appreciate your honesty. When you become an experienced embroiderer, you’ll be able to embroider all kinds of things with confidence.


This past weekend my husband’s co-worker requested names be put on four look-alike small travel bags for her children; the bags are to be used for traveling back and forth to Grandma’s house. In my mind, I’m thinking perhaps duffle bags or backpacks. Before accepting the responsibility, I requested to look at one of the bags to see if it even had a spot that was suitable for embroidery. As it turned out, the “travel bags” turned out to be a small suitcase. At first I wasn’t sure it was going to be doable because my main thought was how to fit an area for embroidery under the needle and in the hoop.





The bag was inspected carefully to see what area might be able to be used for embroidery—there were lots of zippered areas but only one area was suitable at the top of the bag. A little time was also spent at the machine, with the empty hoop on the machine, to figure out how to get the area under the needle of the machine. Once that was figured that out, I was able to accept the job. Normally it is good to do testing prior to stitching on the final project. In this case, there was no extra bag to test, so all that could be done was test stitch the names and have confidence in my skills and equipment that everything would come out as expected.



In doing custom orders, a mock-up of the embroidery should be done for customer approval. In this case it was just a name, but the name had to fit within the area determined would be able to be embroider at the top of the bag near the handle. There were also specific thread colors the children had requested for their name. Names were printed in two sizes at actual size. I requested the customer approve the spelling of each name, choose the size,


and approve the thread colors chosen from my stash  that came closest to their request of blue, neon green, hot pink, and turquoise. Now, turquoise can be interesting because some think turquoise has a blue undertone and others think of it as more green. I had two choices for hot pink—one more neon and the other more raspberry. All the thread, along with the printed names, was put in a large zippered plastic bag and my husband took it to work to get the approvals.

The name spellings were correct, the blue and neon green colors were approved, as was the neon pink. Good thing there were two choices for the turquoise because she chose color that looked more like a jade green to me, instead of the blueish turquoise I thought she would like. When you work with customers long enough, you learn how people see colors differently.

All bags in hand my husband came home and Sunday afternoon it was time to embroider the bags. Because the name setups had already been done, all I had to do was make each name the same size and save the file in the format needed for stitching. The Mom had put a little tag on each bag for each child with instruction to each child to completely clean out the bag—well, we know how kids are! All their toiletries and clothing had been removed, but a couple of the kids had left snap-in accessory pouches in the bags. I didn’t want to mix them up, so each bag was disassembled and embroidered  individually, and then re-assembled it immediately after the stitching was done.



Luckily on these bags, the entire front zipped open allowing easy access to the top of the bag for embroidery. To prepare the bag,





the top of the bag was folded  in half and a mark made at the center with tailor’s chalk which will steam out after stitching.





A ruler was used to determined how far down the center alignment point should be. Now it was time to stitch; the first name was loaded on the machine, so the next thing was to prepare the hoop.






It was pre-determined a large machine hoop was needed so the top of the bag would lay flat in the hoop. A layer of tearaway stabilizer was hooped and then to aid in alignment at the machine, the hoop was aligned to the grid on the cutting mat. Three dotted lines were made following the grid to help aid in aligning the bag top in the hoop. When putting the bag under the needle I didn’t know which line would be the final alignment line. To prevent shifting, the stabilizer was sprayed with temporary embroidery spray adhesive. Now that everything was ready the stitching could begin.



The hoop was placed on the machine and the top of the bag was aligned to one of the dotted lines on the stabilizer.





After double checking, the top of the bag was pressed firmly to the stabilizer. Next was to align the machine needle to the alignment point marked on the bag top.



The bag was heavy for the machine, so it was extremely important to keep the weight of the bag off the machine by holding it up at an angle to the machine. It was also extremely important to be sure the arm of the embroidery module was able to move freely without any obstruction from the bag. I also had to make sure the handle of the bag stayed out of the stitching field. Once I was confident everything was ok, I double checked everything, slowed the machine way down, and hit the start button.



After the stitching was underway and I was confident everything was working ok, I was able to speed up the machine.






After the first bag was stitched, it was very carefully removed from the machine and reassembled. The next bag was prepared and stitched, and then the final two.





When working on customer items whether garments or bags like these, extra care is taken and concentration in each and every step is a must. I block off time in my day to make sure there won’t be any interruptions—many times items are irreplaceable.



I’m happy this was another successful order where Mom and children are pleased. Because this is a simple request for a co-worker, I don’t charge. I hope these instructions will help you if you need to embroider a hard-to-hoop item.

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


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Learn to Trust your “Sewing Instincts”

by Ramona on January 12, 2017

How often do you check your patterns? By that I mean do you check all the pieces, one against the other as if they were being sewn together?

Recently I downloaded a PDF digital pattern. Maybe it is experience, maybe it was intuition, but something in my gut told me to “check this pattern!”

Downloading PDF files of patterns give us great convenience. With that convenience, though, comes potential for errors. I’m extremely confident the pattern was drafted properly because it is from a very reputable company, but more likely than not it is on my end where errors occurred.





When downloading patterns, the patterns are printed at “actual size” or 100%.











The pieces of the pattern are then “tiled” together matching letters and numbers to each other as indicated in the pattern instructions.









The number of pieces, of course, will depend upon the pattern; this pattern only had a front, back, facings for each and a pocket. It was the facings that caught my eye.










—they didn’t look right at the neckline just glancing at them—compared to the shape of the neckline. So, I checked.






I cut out the facing on the actual sewing line, aligned the center front sewing line (on this pattern seam allowances are added after printing) as if it was sewn, and just as my intuition indicated, the facing was way off the front neckline. So, why did this occur? I have no idea. Could it have been in the download? I doubt it because it was a PDF file. Could it have been in the printing? Perhaps, but all pages were printed on the same printer at 100%, at the same time with the same paper. Could it have been in the drafting? Maybe, but I highly doubt it. Could it have been when the company saved it as a PDF file? Again, it is doubtful. It is one of those doggone mysteries of sewing that sometimes never gets figured out.






I could have re-printed everything and checked it again but there were an awful lot of pages to print and I was under a deadline, so I just chose to redraft the facings myself from what I already had printed.

The red lines indicate the new seam lines and the black slash marks indicate the lines no longer used (a little technique used in pattern drafting). Then all I had to do was lay a piece of tissue over the pattern and trace the new facing. I checked the back facing and as it so happens, it was fine—go figure!

Moral of the story? Trust your sewing instincts and act upon them. Even if you are not sure why, prior experience is probably subconsciously telling you something and you should probably listen to save a headache and real dilemma down the line.

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


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I Have A Confession.

by Ramona on January 6, 2017

I have a confession.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem. Lean in closer to your screen and I’ll let you know what it is.

Are you ready? Ok, I’ll confess. It’s fabric. I have a fabric problem. I have an insatiable thirst for FABRIC. And almost anything to do with FABRIC!!!

We had a three-day weekend because of the New Year holiday so I actually took two hours to myself and I just started researching something which led to something else and on and on until I landed upon something that I actually stopped and watched. That doesn’t happen to me often. I’ve been sewing for such a long time that I always marvel and am fascinated when someone is able to teach me something new to do with fabric.

While researching I stumbled across the word “book cloth”—it was a new term to me, so I continued the hunt about the term. In Googling the word “book cloth” many things came up. Of course Amazon has online stores for purchasing book cloth and I’m sure that many retail arts and crafts stores would have it, too. The Google list also returned YouTube video suggestions. I was intrigued; could I actually use some of my own fabric scraps and make book cloth? What would I use it for? Well, what a great idea! I learned I could make books with actual hard covers that could be gifted to anyone. I could make journals, keep a personal sewing book, make a book to sketch quilting ideas, and even a book to write down embroidery project ideas. Because I could use the fabric I want, the sky is the limit in creativity. Why, I could even print or embroider my own fabric to use as a book cover.

I viewed a few of the Google suggested videos but quickly knew they didn’t capture my interest. But then I stumbled upon “Sea Lemon” showing how to simply apply tissue paper to the back of fabric to create book cloth. Novel! She calls it “Book Cloth for Book Binding”. Sea Lemon is Jennifer from Scottsdale, AZ (my former backyard.) I like her videos because the instructions are broken down into several short videos and they are concise and clear. This first video is only 2.5 minutes long—and gives just the right amount of information that even I could do it. Book cloth:


Of course, after being inspired about making my own book cloth, she gives links to some of the other videos on her channel. Book cloth needs to be placed on something so the next video I watched was “Case Binding”.


Case Binding:


And a book needs pages, so Jennifer shows how to make a “Text Block” with “signatures”–I love learning new terms!


Text Block:


There are simple tools used in sewing that are also used in making these books, but another tool needed  is a “Book Press” which she easily makes from cutting boards.

Book Press:


Be sure to check out Sea Lemon’s other videos related to creating your own books and even subscribe to the Sea Lemon channel. I’m sure you’ll learn some new things to try.

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







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2017: the year to FOCUS!

by Ramona on January 4, 2017

Happy New Year!

I have the sense of a wonderfully renewed spirit in my sewing room!

Even though it is a new year this won’t be a blog about “resolutions”. I don’t know about you, but I can never manage to keep them anyway—seems life is always throwing curve balls into my plans. It won’t be about sewing “goals” either. Goals are great, but for my sewing life they seem much too much like resolutions.

Instead, my sewing focus this year is just that: FOCUS! Focus on doing the best I can with each stitch I take. Focus on creating projects, embroidery designs, and short videos that will help keep you focused as well. Focus on completing everything I start and FOCUS on deadlines.

How did I come to this? Honestly it was one of those “DUH” moments–an epiphany of sorts and I honestly pondered why I hadn’t come to the realization two years or more ago—though I know; it is because the education program was different (take a look at the list below–join ASG and get access to all the education, FREE!). It came about around last October and panic with a deadline. As part of membership in ASG, our members receive an incredible quarterly magazine called “Notions”. It has a lot of valuable information from a feature article to chapter and youth sewing and events, what our chapters are doing to give back to their community, tours, advertisers new items, machine manufacturer information, and so much more. What does this have to do with “FOCUS”? One word: deadlines.

Before now, I’ve been doing series programs that focused on all kinds of sewing information from simple techniques through drafting patterns—these were not seasonal so there were no deadlines that needed to relate to the magazine deadlines. Through a survey done of members a while back, it was determined they want more projects, more quilting, more embroidery, and PDF files they can download and use in chapter groups. So this new year, that will be my FOCUS. Things will be focused to work together so they are released on the website when they are released in the magazine and I’ll make notifications on the ASG Facebook page and this blog to coordinate with that; like I said, a “DUH” moment—hey, sometimes it takes me a while, ok? LOL

I finished up what I had on my to-do list the last quarter of last year and now I’m in the process of re-arranging how I work by FOCUSing on the next “Notions” deadline. Because “Notions” is not only in digital format for members on the website, it comes to each member in print version which means the “Notions” ladies have to have deadlines because there is layout, editing, advertising, and so much more before anything goes to print.  The deadlines are about two and a half to three months before the member receives the print version in their postal box. I realized last October I needed to re-arrange my thinking and planning to something that would work with the “Notions” deadlines for what I want to do for the members this year. Each of the new things for ASG Online is listed in the magazine and I want it to relate the seasonal release of the magazine: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.


My FOCUS currently is Summer—yes, summer–and boy is it hard to work on summer projects when the real-feel temperature outside is -14! The release of the next magazine is in April which is too late to do spring things (I’m disappointed because I had something really cute originally planned, but I’ll just save it until next spring) so I decided to start with summer projects so members would have time to complete the projects. In between finishing up last year’s work list, I decided what the first summer project would be. I have the fabric and a specialty tool ordered and this afternoon I’ll start to cut the project—it is a project that will be good for all skill levels and will have a couple of options for more experienced sewers. From there, the Summer issue will have fall things, the Fall issue winter things and so on.

By FOCUSing I honestly feel a renewed energy—it’s going to be a GREAT year for sewing!

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












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We Love Men Who Sew!

December 12, 2016

I have been neglecting the blog and I didn’t mean to. I felt I had nothing noteworthy to post. My sewing has been routine (at least in my world) and I had to play “catch-up” on some things due to a family member’s bit of an emergency. All is well now, so my mind has […]

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The Story Behind the Notions Story – Fall 2016

October 11, 2016

Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild   A subscription to Notions magazine is one of the members-only benefits of belonging to ASG. If you are reading this blog and aren’t an ASG member, I hope that this peek into its contents will inspire […]

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How to Approach a Yoked Shirt Reconstruction–part 4 of 4

August 8, 2016

Note: click on each picture to be taken to a larger view in a new tab. This is the final installment of the 4-part reconstruction of a yoked shirt for our daughter’s friend. In this section you’ll learn the steps to finish topstitching the shirt front and re-assembling the shirt to look about as good as […]

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How to Approach a Yoked Shirt Reconstruction–part 3 of 4

August 3, 2016

The stitching on the band could have been done with a zipper foot for the machine, but this machine does not have a zipper foot that could work around the snaps while stitching–this machine also has a stationary needle with no other options for the needle position. Your machine may have a zipper foot (with needle […]

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