August 2006

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The Ami Simms Newsletter
August 2006
Copyright by Ami Simms

Welcome Everyone! Just in case you were wondering how many people read this newsletter every month, I took a peek at the membership list this morning and there are 18,055 of you! Just for fun, would you all wave to me? Just face your monitor and give a wave. Cool! It's nice to know you're here. (Did you see me wave back? Please don't all of you hit reply, OK?)

In case you're new to this newsletter, I've been writing them for a LONG time. I started back when I was hosting chats in the AOL chat room and the newsletter was called The Afterchat. I can't even remember how long ago that was!

I can tell you that since October of 1999 I've sent out one of these things every month, sometimes twice a month. Since February of 2002, they have hurled through cyber space at lightning speed to appear in the mailboxes of subscribers promptly on the first day of every month, without fail, I might add. (I think.) Only time will tell if I can get this one out by midnight tonight.

As long as I'm bragging, the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) has hit the $10,000 mark. Actually, we're a little over. All profit, that means anything over what is spent to keep the Initiative rolling, will be (or has already been) donated to Alzheimer's research. And, just so you know, nobody writing this newsletter takes a penny for salary, office space, phones, rent, heat, light, or nuthin'. So far the AAQI has spent $77.42. In other words, that means 99.3% of all the money raised so far is going to Alzheimer's research. Show me the money!

I will be spending more money to get Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece out the door and on its 3-year tour (shipping totes, swim noodles, foam core, sticky paper for signs, etc.) in the next few weeks, but you'll know where every penny goes. And, my goal is for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative to never spend more money than I can personally generate through the auction/sale of Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts that I make myself. That way, all of YOUR money goes directly to research.

The answer to that one, my friends, is simple: YOU! By far the greatest contributors to this effort are the readers of this newsletter who continue to make Priority: Alzheimer's quilts for auction and sale (over 300 so far) and continue to bid on them. THANK YOU! Guess what, there's another auction already underway right now,

To get the money to Alzheimer's research faster, if you're the highest bidder (we'll email you) you'll call the same friendly people at Mallery Press on our toll-free number to give your credit card information, but your credit card will be processed by the Alzheimer's Association beginning this month. We won't ask if you'd "like fries with that" but we will ask if you'd like to "Super Size" that auction bid because now, every dollar above the purchase price of the quilt, except shipping/insurance is tax deductible. My little elves and I will still package your quilt securely in a USPS priority mailer, but the Alzheimer's Association will cart it over to the post office.

These generous quilters have donated the quilts up for auction this month: Betty Donahue, Lisa Fiorini-Ahmad, Brenda Groelz, Marla Stefanelli, Lynn Flynn, Laura Stone Roberts, Melody Crust, Pat Jensen, Audrey Arno, Jean Van Bockel, and Ami Simms.

If you haven't seen the wonderful paper pieced patterns Linda Worland creates at Paper Panache, it's time you head over there. Why? In addition to all the great patterns she has for sale, she has created a paper pieced MYSTERY pattern especially for the Alzheimer's: Priority Quilt project and you can get it for a limited time for FREE.

Of course I can't tell you what it looks like because it's a MYSTERY, but follow Linda's instructions and you'll see soon enough. When you're finished, register your quilt, and then send it to me so that I can turn it into cash for Alzheimer's research. She has all sorts of helpful guidelines on how to paper piece on her web site too, so you've got no excuse. If you'd like to paper piece something exciting, look for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative logo when you head on over to Paper Panache.

There is a new twist to the electronic gizmo shopkeepers in Britain are using (July 2006 newsletter) to keep teenagers away. Robin writes to say why bother with the electronic stuff when all you have to do is play Barry Manilow music.

Last month I suggested pre-washing fabric with a white washcloth to check for running colors. Shari wrote in and suggested using that lone white sock without a mate. (What are you saving it for?!) Naturally, as soon as you wash it with fabric that bleeds, you'll find its mate.

Several people also suggested rinsing fabric in white vinegar.

We just had dinner last night at Fazoli's. Since I gave up cooking, we eat out a lot. Fazoli's is close, it's not horrible, but it's not real Italian food either. I used to live in Italy; I know. We don't even consider their spaghetti "real" pasta, which is one of the few things I will still bother to cook, but I should just shut up because I didn't have to walk in the kitchen last night and the marinara tasted good.

So why am I whining? It's the Breadstick People. I'm sure the franchise requires the dining room staff to offer breadsticks every so often, but if you linger over your meal, as we like to do, and spend more than 12 minutes eating dinner, you will be interrupted 14 times.

"Would you like a breadstick?"

"Mwo," I say, my mouth full of noodles gesturing to the two breadsticks already abandoned on my tray. We always ask for dry breadsticks, but they forget and stick two greasy ones on top of the food at the counter. They should really wring them out before they serve them.

Then somebody from the kitchen delivers the 6 dry breadsticks we ordered with our meal (we asked for 4) and we have a total of 8 on the tray. I take my second bite of food and she comes over again, "Would you like breadsticks with that?"

I roll my eyes. Instead of talking with my mouth full again, I tilt my head in the direction of the tray where they are stacked up like Lincoln Logs and I shake my head "NO!" forgetting that I have spaghetti ends hanging out of my mouth. Three strands stick to my cheek.

I clean up, take another mouthful and she's back again! Before I can bite off the ends and swallow, she has deposited 4 more breadsticks on the tray. Thank you. We now have a total of 11. (Steve ate one of the greasy ones by mistake.)

I am seriously thinking of quilting a small sign for next time that says: "This Is A Breadstick Free Zone."

So how are they coming? Are the kids naming objects and colors as you sew patches together? Are you having fun together? If you're just joining us, it isn't too late. Picture Play Quilts don't have to be gargantuan, and I'm positive you already have some conversational fabrics in your stash. Find a kid that needs a quilt and start pulling fabric. The book will guide you step by step through the selection, auditioning, cutting, and sewing process. (It's still on sale, and I'm still autographing them to all the special kids in your life who are going to help you make your quilt.) Click here to learn more.

This month I thought I'd get you fired up for the quilting. Yes, you can do this! Remember, you're making this quilt for a child that loves you. The Quilt Police are busy arresting people who are trying to win those blue ribbons over at the quilt show. You're safe. No matter what you stitch, you will be loved and adored for your efforts.

So, let's get busy. You can machine quilt many of the Picture Play Quilts with an even-feed foot. Check in the little box of attachments that came with your machine, or call the place that sold it to you. An even-feed foot allows the backing, batting, and quilt top to pass under the sewing machine needle at the same rate of speed. Otherwise, it's very possible that your fabric sandwich will shift. It's like one of those triple-decker monsters at the local deli piled so high with meat and veggies on the inside, one bite and everything is misaligned. No matter how hard you try (or how big you can open your mouth) you run out of bread on the top or the bottom before you're finished.

Having said that, it's probably time you learned how to drop your feed dogs and learn how to free-motion quilt like the Big Girls. With free-motion quilting the machine won't advance the fabric for you. The quilter has to take a more active role moving the fabric sandwich under the moving needle. If you haven't tried this before, it's usually fear of failure that relegates most quilt tops to the pile for the local long arm machine operator, and that's fine, but a Picture Play Quilt is the perfect top to practice on. Remember the loving kid, the pre-occupied Quilt Police?

Turn to page 14 and read the section called Doodle Quilting. This is your opportunity to experiment. You really can't screw up because it just doesn't matter if your quilting isn't perfect. It just has to be there. This is totally no pressure. You will be adored whether your stitches are exemplary or barely holding on. The point here is to practice a little and FINISH THE QUILT!

Next month I want to share some of the games you can play with your FINISHED Picture Play Quilts.

"With These Hands" is a cute little traditional pattern designed by Susan Fuquay, editor of American Quilt Retailer. You'll get it free with every order we ship out this month. Cleverly combining two blocks (Left and Right---get it?) you'll have several options for setting your quilt together.

I'd also like to take this time to complain about our mattress. I was suckered in by those commercials where they put a glass of wine on one corner of the bed and a salesman jumps up and down on the other end, and the wine hardly sloshes in the glass.

Forget the jumping salesman. Plop a dog on the bed, a 70-pound Golden retriever dog who is terrified of thunder storms who will either walk from one side of the bed to the other, not so deftly avoiding the two occupants trapped under the covers, or sit bolt upright in the middle and pant. The walking is bad enough (he will eventually stop), but the panting goes on for hours. The bed jiggles so hard we have been vibrated dangerously close to the edge and have almost fallen out. Let's see the wineglass test hold up to THAT!

I don't know why Madison is so frightened of storms. We've tried ignoring the behavior and we have tried to comfort him, all with limited success. The only thing that seemed to work, at least for a while, was dressing him in one of Jennie's t-shirts. Let me tell you it's a tight fit getting a size small t-shirt on an extra-large dog, but he does look cute. When the t-shirt alone became ineffective, I'd hold a towel over his eyes and ears and cuddle him in bed. That meant no chance of sleep for me. So now I just use my bra. I stuff his ears inside the cups, cross it under his chin and fasten it to the top of his head to muffle the sound. Then I added eyeshades. Poor, pathetic dog.

It could be that he just wants to wear more women's clothing or his phobia is getting worse. Thunder 20 miles away sets him off. Don't even talk to me about fireworks. The mattress people were no help at all, but the vet gave us tranquilizers. During a string of storms last month we learned that half a pill did nothing at all, even when the dog took it. A full pill didn't decrease panting frequency or intensity. Two pills were as effective as nothing at all. The vet said to give him three.

Nothing. For the first six hours he panted like always. Steve slept downstairs and I held onto the dog for dear life just to stay on the bed. I finally got to sleep, eventually so did Madison, and Steve came back to bed. But, when I woke up there was Madison stretched out between us, his tail under the pillows. And he wasn't moving. His jaw was at a peculiar angle and his tongue was plastered to the percales. I called his name. He didn't stir. I screamed, "Madison!!" Not even a twitch.

By now you must realize that I love this dog way more than I should. I thought he was dead. I pulled on his ears and shouted his name over and over again. I tried to roll him over, thinking I might be able to attempt mouth-to-mouth. Halfway over, he opened one eye and stared at me through a drug-induced doggie hangover. "Mom? What did you do to me??"

He was alive! Oh happy day! He acted like a sot all day. He almost fell over doing his business outside even though he pees like a girl, he tripped on his own feet, and he slept a lot. He wasn't himself for a good 24 hours. Back to the vet.

We traded in the tranquilizers for a dog-eopathic remedy from "HomeoPet" specifically for Travel Anxiety, or thunder storms or visits to the vet or groomer. We all experienced relief only 20 minutes after Madison has his first dose, when the dog curled up on the couch and actually slept through a thunder storm. Re-dosing later in the storm took effect in only 10 minutes! It was amazing. For more information, call 1-800-555-4461.

Have you read Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini yet? I did, and it was one of the best novels I've ever read—because I'm in it! No fooling! I had no idea. Somebody told me I was in it so I ran right out and bought a copy. Sure enough, I am thanked in the Acknowledgements, but wait, there's MORE! My page 251 is dog-eared and I think you should open up your copy and see why! My head is so fat I'll have trouble going through doorways for a while. (Thanks Jennifer!)

I got this unsolicited email from Julie in NM:

"Dear, dear Ami!
Just had to send a quick note to THANK you for writing Invisible Applique. I would like to say I'm an experienced quilter since I've been playing with fabric and making quilts for about 5 years. I've even managed to finish some quilts and they are either on the walls or on beds. Anyway, I've always shied away from applique but saw your video on QNN and decided to order your book.

My life has been changed forever! I tried needle turn and my work looked like crap and I tossed the sample away. Don't like the ridges when I used iron-on interfacing. Your method is so much fun and now I too can create beautiful appliquéd stuff. I did something I haven't done in a long all the instructions before starting a project! Used my yellow highlighter while reading info I thought I may need to refer to later.

Unfortunately, I have now added at least three appliqué projects to my To Do list and I have a feeling they may jump to the top of the list...isn't that wonderful?"

In honor of Julie saying such a nice thing, Invisible Applique is on sale until August 10th.

I've tuned in a couple of times to AMERICA'S GOT TALENT, but I missed this episode. Check out these amazing quick change artists!

Thank you, Gloria, for sharing this website with me. It is also amazing, but in a different way. You can see inside the men's room at the airport in Amsterdam where function meets Art. And Hans, and Maartin, and Jost…

The purpose of the fly is to improve aim, and reduce clean-up costs. What will they think of next? Perhaps some indication of when the stall in the ladies room is occupied so you don't have to bend over and look for shoes!

And, believe it or not, they are installing interactive video games in urinals, a new way to "boost the entertainment value." I guess that's a good thing. Maybe women will be able to get in and out of a rest room faster than their male companions for a change.

Show Me Your Stash
Twisted Sisters Quilt Gallery
Picture Play Quilts Gallery

My buddy, Helen Marshall from New Zealand has just published a book with That Patchwork Place. Wheel of Mystery Quilts has nine different projects all made from the Wheel of Mystery pattern. By varying different color schemes and sometimes adding complimentary blocks, you get some surprising results. Optical illusions happen when some of the circles appear and disappear. Add fussy-cut patches and the end result looks like a kaleidoscope! There is also a gallery of quilts for your inspiration. Check it out at your local fabric store!

I will be at the premier of the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" exhibit in Nashville at the AQS Show at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Please come and say hello after you see the quilts.

I'm also trying to get to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Harrisburg, PA to stand with the quilts for the second time the quilts will be shown, September 7-10, 2006. From there I'll be visiting the Annapolis Quilt Guild and the Baltimore Heritage Quilters Guild. If anybody from that area will be driving back from Harrisburg on Sunday, please email me.

Ginny just told me about another web page that lets you send a free printed postcard to a US soldier overseas. Pick one of the cute kid-designed cards, type in your message, and Xerox does the rest. For more details, visit

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 I'll see you around the block.
Ami Simms

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