The history of the American SEwing guild

This summer, the 2016 ASG Conference  will bring members to the birth place of ASG, Indianapolis, Indiana. 


The idea for ASG was conceived in the late 1970s by the American Home Sewing Association (AHSA), which at that time was the trade association for the sewing industry.  AHSA hired Young & Rubicam (Y & R), an advertising agency who conducted research about the state of the sewing industry. One of the things this research “institutionalized” was the fact that sewers perceived their hobby as a solitary activity, rather than a social one. AHSA set out to change that perception!


Y & R recommended a national consumer “guild” and created the original ASG logo, a pinked-edge fabric patch with “The American Sewing Guild” on it. Based on the areas’ demographics, Indianapolis, Ind. and Denver, Colo. were selected as the first two test markets. Although these two chapters debuted almost simultaneously in late 1978 with a series of fashion shows/sewing events, Indianapolis was the first stop for each event. Fabric retailers in both cities (including venerable names like Stretch & Sew, Minnesota Fabrics, Fabri-Centers of America and Cloth World) and local media enthusiastically embraced the idea. Hundreds of sewers turned out for the first fashion show in the Indianapolis Convention Center. Susan McKee, sewing and stitchery editor for The Indianapolis Star, was one of ASG’s biggest fans, consistently writing about the Guild’s activities in the area.


At the very beginning stages, AHSA thought that one of its staff members could oversee the Guild in addition to her existing job responsibilities. It soon became clear that ASG was a major endeavor that needed almost full-time attention. AHSA hired Anne Marie Soto, our current Notions editor, to serve as the consultant national administrator during the start-up years of the Guild. Anne Marie made many trips to Indianapolis and Denver (remember, this was before Facebook, Skype and all the other things that make interaction easier today) to work with a core group of founding members in Indianapolis and Denver. These ASG pioneers helped shape the bylaws and committee structure (including Neighborhood Groups) for our chapters. Although this structure has been tweaked and improved over the years, their early input has proved to be enduring. 


In 1980, Houston, Texas and Minneapolis, Minn. joined the ASG family, followed by Orange County, Calf. and Greater Washington, D.C. (1981), Seattle, Wash. (1983), and Syracuse, N.Y. and Boston, Mass. (1984). Several of these (in particular, Washington, D.C.- now the Maryland Chapter - and Seattle and Boston) were initially very successful, then petered out to be reborn later as vital ASG chapters.


During the beginning years of ASG, there were still many fabric retailers. The Denver Post and The Indianapolis Star produced advertising supplements with the entire content, including ads, devoted to sewing.  When ASG expanded, The Houston Chronicle and The Minneapolis Star followed suit.


As part of the start-up program, each local guild had a chapter administrator who worked closely with Anne Marie and the AHSA offices in New York. But as ASG grew, it needed a full-time national administrator who worked exclusively for ASG. AHSA hired Edie von Kamecke, who had been Indianapolis’ chapter administrator. Although Edie was employed by AHSA, she continued to live and work in Indianapolis . . . another reason Indianapolis is so important to ASG’s history! Edie served as the national administrator until 1992.


ASG continued to be under the umbrella of AHSA until the early ‘90s. However, ASG’s long-term goal for many years was to be an independent, self-supporting organization with its own headquarters. We accomplished that in 2001 . . . a move that included establishing our national headquarters in Houston, Texas.


Indianapolis had another first: in 1996, it was the location of ASG’s first independent national conference. And now, 20 years later, we return to Indianapolis for ASG Conference 2016!