August 2005

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The Ami Simms Newsletter
August 2005
Copyright by Ami Simms

AOL Users, please see end of newsletter for hyper-links. Removal instructions are at the very bottom. (Go ahead, break my heart.)

Thanks for opening your mailbox and double clicking, it was getting lonely in here. Lots to share this month, so I'll jump right in.

ON UFOS I got a lot of mail about last month's UFO confession, and before we go on I want to mention that I've been quilting 2 or 3 hours every night for the last couple of weeks on the Big Green Monster. Alas, I've miscalculated again. I think I had 15 of those dumb flowers to go, and now I'm down to seven. I thought for sure I would have been done by now. I even had extra motivation, a chance to show it off on a taping of a show for QuiltersNewsNetwork. (See below.) When the show airs (on this very same computer monitor) look behind me. There's "Big Green" with a needle stuck in her and thread hanging out, mid stitch!

Amy shares a trick she picked up for finishing projects: "It's called Fab-4. Make a list of four items that you want to finish most. List them! Now, when you have 30 minutes more or less, grab one of the Fab-4 and work on it. This way if you are like me, you can ignore the other 50+ UFO's." I'll tell you, Amy, there was a time when I wanted to grab one of the Fab-4. but now I just listen to their CDs. Seriously, that's a great idea.

Garland L. writes: "I just thought I'd tell you that I have a box with the UFOs which I know will never get finished. It's labeled "For Bill's Next Wife." I've put the box in the back of the closet and feel guilt-free."

I found the most wonderful jewelry made out of old typewriter keys. Amazing! Take a look at:

My mother used to make all my clothes when I was growing up. She’d clear off the dining room table after supper, spread out the fabric, and pin the pattern pieces to it. Then she’d use the big heavy shears to cut out each piece. I’ll never forget that sound as the scissors resonated against the wood: deep and solid. Those scissors meant business. Go ahead, grab your Ginghers and a piece of cotton, run over to the dining room table, and make a few cuts. Isn’t that wonderful?

Quilters hardly use scissors anymore. We’re all about rotary cutting. Sure, it’s faster and more accurate, but every once in a while we should cut something "by hand." Just for the sound.

I remember designing my first quilts on graph paper. That was way before I got my first computer, the one with the 6" floppy disks. (One "floppy" had the word processing program on it; the other was for data.) Graph paper was pretty magical way back then. Sketching a few squares and triangles with a sharp pencil unlocked the mystery of just how the block would go together.

I liked the smell of a freshly-sharpened pencil. I’d always sharpen more pencils than I needed. I wasn’t crazy about blackening the side of my hand with smeared lead (it’s a left-handed thing) or having the very tip break off if I pushed too hard. But, the sound of the pencil on the paper was good. The best was being able to outline each patch so my lines were EXACTLY on their lines. No wobbles; no strays. The pencil lines were straight and dark. Then I’d finish off the Master Plan by filling in all the boxes with colored pencils. I’d staple a little swatch at the bottom and make a "key" so I’d know which patch was what color. Never mind that we were only allowed to use three fabrics back then: a print and two coordinating solids. There was comfort in graph paper.

Now everybody designs on the computer. Electric Quilt can spit out perfect renderings and even calculates yardage. Your hands don’t even get dirty. I found one of my graph paper patterns the other day, with the colored pencil and the swatches. It was impressive. I think I’ll frame it.

When I started quilting everybody hand quilted. They were pretty snotty about it if you wanted to machine quilt. Machine quilting was almost as evil as running down Main Street without any clothes on.

I hand-quilted all my quilts and it took a long time, and I enjoyed it. I got good enough to get 14 stitches to an inch and hardly ever bled. I loved the feel of the thread in my hands and reveled in the little hills and valleys my needle made. I petted them constantly. I liked the sound the thread made as I pulled it through the fabric and the found immense satisfaction in pulling that thread just enough but not too much. Sewing by hand freed my mind to wander. The repetition was relaxing. It fed my soul.

Most everybody machine quilts now. So do I. I can hardly find the time to quilt at all, so I’m grateful that when I do sit down I can get a lot done. Getting in the in the grove of a free-motion motif is an absolute gas, and filling up a quilt with lots of quilting is very satisfying. I pulled out a hand-quilting project a few weeks ago and have been quilting for a few hours every evening since then. All those good feelings came right back. I guess it’s a lot like riding a bicycle you don’t ever forget. I’m think I’m going to make more time for it.

Things have changed over the years. It's been nearly 30 years since I first picked up a quilting needle, which his impossible because I'm not that old yet. Things have changed mostly for the better. I’m not giving up my rotary cutter any time soon. I’m a much better quilt designer with a mouse than I ever was with a pencil. With all the quilts I want to make I’d be nuts to stop machine quilting. Still, it’s nice to use my "rear view mirror" every now and again to revisit my past. Having a history is good. It gives you options. What a happy discovery!

Looks like there will be a great crowd for the AQS 2005 Quilt Exposition in Nashville later this month. I hope to see a lot of you there. Please come and say hello. I'll be teaching for the Log Cabin Quilters in Kalamazoo, Michigan in September and for the Naples Quilt Guild in Naples, Florida in November. For my full schedule, please see:

Usually around this time of year guild officers change and those poor souls stuck with being Program Chair are chosen, usually when they're out of the room. Judging by the emails I get in August and September, the search for teachers is in full swing by early fall. If you've been tagged and you're "IT," or if you've always wanted to visit web pages of some of the national quilt teachers, you can start your search here:

McCall's Quilting magazine has asked me to host a European Cruise next May aboard the Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Sea. Wanna come?! We'll sail from Barcelona, and leisurely make our way to Marseilles, Nice, Florence, Rome, Naples, and then back to Barcelona! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. As you may remember I lived in Rome for several years, and have traveled to Florence and Naples many times. I was also in Marseilles and Nice, but I was seven years old at the time, so we'll have to count on the "official" tour guides for accurate information on those cities. To learn more about the cruise and subscribe to my free European CruiseLetter, see:

Four of the six Simms sisters-in-law, plus my Mom and Madison, attended a performance of Menopause The Musical at the Gem theater in Detroit in July. Oh my, what a show! I had no idea what to expect, but I laughed until I cried. Non-stop. It was fabulous. I even went up on stage to dance with about 50 other crazies for the finale. What a gas! I highly recommend it. Madison, on the other hand, wasn't impressed. He thought it was going to be a show about dogs, you know: "Many Paws The Musical." For more information visit:

QNN (Quilter's News Network)
Last week I taped three segments and a commercial with Jodie Davis for QNN. Debbie (of the famous team of Debbie and Judy who package all your orders) went with me to pick up my head every time it fell off. (These things still unnerve me.) Madison also came as it was a local shoot (only an hour away) and he was a "guest star." He wasn't anxious in the least. In fact, when he wasn't on camera (and sometimes when he was) he just slept on the studio floor.

I was invited by the nice guys at Surgeon's Skin Secret to be in their commercial and that was a hoot. The tall dapper gentleman I'm standing next to is Jim Kaiser. He had this clever idea to show how well SSS protects your skin by writing Surgeon's Skin Secret on a handkerchief, stretching it in a hoop, and coating the word SKIN with the SSS. Then he pours bleach over the hanky. You guessed it. Everything disappeared except for the word SKIN which had the Surgeon's Skin Secret on it. It was so impressive.

Anyway, my role was to just put on some Surgeon's Skin Secret, which I did. Expertly. I think I may have babbled something about how quickly it is absorbed into the skin and how other products I've used left me stuck in the bathroom because I couldn't turn the doorknob to get out, but other then that, I believe I behaved myself.

I also taped two shows with Jodie, one on Invisible Applique and one on hand quilting, which is why Big Green came along. QNN is going to be offering two of my downloadable patterns and Madison brought one to Jodie on cue. He also showed off his tuxedo during an interview Jodie and I did together. I would like to tell you how all of that went, but my brain had a choice of either making my mouth move during the experience or remembering everything to tell you about it later. I can't do both, so I guess you'll just have to watch.

I am QNN's Degisner of the Month for September, so the two "how-to" shows will air some time then. I think the interview show will be shown mid-August, perhaps sooner. How can you see it? Simple. Head over to and wait a few moments for the streaming video to begin. You may have to download a simple program, but it's very easy. See me at:

A student brought one of these babies to class last time I taught my How To Improve Your Quilting Stitch workshop and I tried it! Pretty impressive, especially if you're learning to quilt the way I do, with a rocking stitch guided by your thimble. Plus, they're so darn CUTE! See:

Thanks to Pat P. for sharing information about the ICE program. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency, a program that originated in Britain by a paramedic with the East Anglican Ambulance service. The idea is to program the word ICE into your cell phone along with the person's name and telephone number. That way, should emergency personnel find your phone they would know who to call, assuming that you cell stayed with you and it still worked.

For fancy phones with a programmable image that pops up when you turn them on, consider putting a picture of YOU there. That way, if your phone fell off and landed nearby, people trying to help could connect you with it. (That was my idea.)

If you survive but your phone did not, a lower-tech option (a piece of paper with emergency contact info) would probably be better.

I still think ICE is a great idea. Even if you don't get into an accident (and I hope you don't!) if you're like me and can't keep track of your own head unless it's nailed on, wouldn't this be a handy way to get your cell phone returned to you if you accidentally left it someplace? (Not like I've ever done THAT!) I think the photo thing would help too. For more details about the ICE program, see:

The 2005 Memory walk is September 17 at Mott Community College here in Flint. Please join me, either at my side, or in spirit, to help me raise money for research to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Mom and Madison are going to walk too. Free doggie kisses to all! Please see:

What?! Is this an imposter?! No, Amy Simms is my new niece through marriage. She and our nephew Jack were married last summer. So now we have an Ami and an Amy. We also have two Jacks Simms' (both lawyers), two Deborah Simms' (both teachers), two Bruce Simms', two Jennifer Simms' (Jennie and Jenni), and two Jims. Out of just 30 people, that can get mighty confusing!

But, I digress. Amy and Jack have joined the Peace Corps and are in Kazakhstan awaiting final assignment. With access to a computer at their Kazakh school they are sending weekly reports about life in the former Soviet Union. For a taste of the exotic, you'll enjoy:

I've been making purse-sized tissue holders ever since I discovered Linda Halpin's adorable pattern. Madison gives them away when we're out in public to people who ask good questions about service dogs. (His are made out of dog footprint fabric.) Anyway, Linda has allowed me to offer her pattern to my students at St. Luke's. They are making tissue holders to sell and raise money for the program. And, Linda has given me permission to share the pattern on my web page. They take no time at all and you'll be amazed at how easy they are to make. See:

Louise Young is finalizing plans for another Mola Tour to Panama. This is an amazing trip for anyone who appreciates needlework. Contact if you're interested, or for more information visit

For pictures of the tour I took with Louise, see:

Janice Johnson got sick and tired of ironing tablecloths and having them fall, crease-free… to the floor! It's not that her floors were dirty, there just had to be a better way. So she invented it! Her IronPal is an adjustable aluminum “arm” that attaches to any standard ironing board (even a big board) and catches what you’ve just ironed so it doesn’t fall on the floor. The arm can be adjusted (close to the ironing board or farther away). A separate stand and sleeve can be purchased to fit over the arm and extend the length to a supported 42” How slick is that!

So why should quilters care? Ever iron several yards of fabric and as soon as you finish you pick up the first part (from the FLOOR) and it's re-wrinkled! Yick! Now everything stays the way you ironed it—wrinkle free! Plus you can use it for ironing anything: borders, binding. Use it to drape your pressing cloth when you're not, well, pressing!

Janice didn’t stop there. She’s also developed a really slick quilt hanger for quilts with tab hangers. You can actually match the hanger to your quilt by inserting a bit of fabric from your quilt into Janice’s Lucite quilt hanger. WOW! She calls it a QG. Smaller sizes are perfect for quilt name badges and for displaying mini quilts (very mini) around your neck. See her cool inventions at your local quilt shop or at:

Kim Eskelund shares her stash:

Marge Fine Shares her Twisted Sisters:

Susan Konvalen made a "Sunshine" Picture Play Quilt:

Thanks to Beth B. for sharing this interesting way for sewers to help the homeless:

I should have told you about Judy Martin’s new book, Knockout Blocks and Sampler Quilts (Crosley-Griffith: 2004 )last year after I got my personally autographed book from Judy. I was out of town at the time and I had tucked it into a tote bag for safe keeping. I just realized, after only 9 months, that I had forgotten to completely unpack! (It happens.)

Knockout Blocks and Sampler Quilts has over 100 block patterns, all but a handful have never been published. They’re all made with basic squares, rectangles, and simple triangles and Judy provides plenty of diagrams to guide you step-by-step to construct them. She also gives you multiple block sizes and color schemes. There are patterns for 9 sampler quilts (my favorite is on page 13) plus 34 additional quilt plans. Or do your own thing with her mix-and-match block families, yardage, and quilt planning charts. You’re gonna love this book. BIG WARNING: These are NOT boring sampler quilts. If you’re thinking “sampler quilt” and the image of your first quilt class comes to mind, forget it. Judy’s “sampler” quilts are works of art, not 12 blocks that found a home together just because you had to learn how to piece, how to appliqué, and how to make a Sun Bonnet Sue. Trust me. Or see for yourself at

I just learned of this web site. Very cool if you want to know which are the best seats by carrier and aircraft. Visit:

I’ve been a huge fan of Judy Mathieson for decades; ever since I saw her “Nautical Stars” quilt back in the mid-80s. It totally blew me away. Lucky me, she’s included a photo of this awesome quilt in her new book, Mariner’s Compass Quilts: Setting a New Course (C&T Publishing: 2005). I always wondered how in the heck she could get all those blasted points to come out perfectly. Now I know: freezer-paper foundations, but with a twist. She doesn’t sew through the paper, which means she doesn’t have to tear paper away, AND she can use the foundation several times. Smart cookie. Wait until you see exactly how she does it. This could change the way you make quilts! Judy takes you through planning, drafting, fabric selection, and construction. She offers 13 full-size patterns (with variations) plus two projects. Get an autographed copy from Judy by selecting the “Order Books” tab along the left hand side when you visit her at:

Please do. Forward the ENTIRE thing to all your friends and even some of your enemies. Everybody enjoys a laugh or two. Please do NOT forward just part of it. Somehow my name gets dropped off when these things float through cyberspace and since I’m writing them for free, I should at least get credit for writing them. If you write a guild newsletter (real paper or online) and would like to “reprint” a particular part of the newsletter you must ask first. Here’s how:

Be good to each other and have a great quilting day! (Or several!)
Ami Simms
Professional Quilter's 2005 "Teacher of the Year"

Typewriter Key Jewelry

Ami's Teaching Schedule

National Teacher Directory

Cruise Europe With Ami

Menopause The Musical

Quilters News Network

Soft Plastic Thimbles

ICE Program Explained

Walk with Ami

Amy & Jack's Peace Corps Adventure

Almost Free Tissue Holder Pattern

Mola Tour

Ami's Mola Adventure with Louise


Show Me Your Stash

Marge's Twisted Sisters

Susan's "Sunshine" PPQ

Help The Homeless

Knockout Blocks and Sampler Quilts

Best Airline Seats

Judy Mathieson's New Mariner's Compass Book

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