Quilt Labels: Make It Personal

ThLee'sQuiltLOWreZe tradition continues, but this time with a twist.

I’ve shared that I make quilts for nieces and nephews. Now we’re on the second generation, quilt #2. This is Lee’s Quilt and I added something a little different. I “signed it” with a QR code. A what?!

A QR code, or Quick Response code, is a type of bar code.  It is read by a machine and contains information about the object to which it is attached, like this quilt. W-H-A-T?!

qrcode.23776260This is a QR code for AmiSimms.com. Great. Now what? Well, if you had a smart phone, you would download a free app like QR Reader and you would hold it up to the computer monitor, line up this little black and white code through your smart phone camera, wait for the little beep, and you would magically be taken to my website.

(Don’t ask me what to do if you are reading this blog post on your smart phone, although there is probably an app for that too!)

My website. Big deal.

Wait! There’s more! You can purchase a QR code professionally printed onto a fabric label. They are called  Story Patches and they come  in “sew-on” or “iron-on.” Incidentally, while I appliqued this onto the quilt after the top was finished, I could just as easily have pieced it in. And, it would have lived just as happily on the back of the quilt as on the front of the quilt. Watch the video to see how the QR code works and to see close-ups of the quilt.

The hardest part is deciding what you want the QR code to do. In addition to linking it to a video message, you could link it to a photograph, an audio message, or a written document. Best of all, you can change the video, photo, audio message or document any time you want. The QR code can be “read” by scanning, or by entering the letter code into a web site.  There’s no expiration on the QR code either. They’re also washable.

StoryPatchesIf you’d like to try a Story Patch (QR code) on your next quilt, I carry both the sew-on and the iron-on in my online store . Click here. If I’m coming to your quilt guild I’ll be happy to save you shipping and hand deliver these and/or any other lightweight items to you when I come. Just give me some advance notice.

Ami Simms
(810) 733-8743

August 11, 2014 at 7:04 am 16 comments

Back to the Beginning

From inside the buggy.

My quilting career began almost 40 years ago in an Amish home in  northern Indiana. I thought the women gathered around the quilting frame in the living room were sewing on a trampoline. I was clueless. They asked me if I wanted to quilt too. Of course I said yes. I wanted them to like me. I figured if they liked me they would invite me to come live with them and then I could learn about Amish culture by participating in it. And then I could write a really long paper with lots of footnotes and graduate from college.

They asked if I wanted a thimble. I declined. They giggled. I bled. Not only did I jab my finger on the underside of the quilt with the point of the needle, but I rammed the eye of the needle into the top finger too—the one that should have been wearing  the thimble.

I made huge ugly stitches but I didn’t give up.  They assumed I could sew. I didn’t tell them that my sewing was limited to the apron I butchered in Home Eck, and the Superman outfit (complete with cape and tail cozy) that I had sewed for our cat. Years later, my Amish friend told me they ripped out all my stitches after I left. I don’t know what they did about the blood.

As luck would have it, my Amish friend invited me home for dinner after the quilting. She probably thought if I was as good a cook as I was a quilter I would starve to death without intervention. That day changed my life. There’s just no other way to put it. I began visiting the family, staying a few days at a time, and have been blessed with a friendship that not only enriched my life, but nurtured a passion for quilting. I did get better at quilting. It would have been hard to get any worse.  I never got very good at milking or driving the buggy. In fact, when my friend Ida let me take over the buggy reins (above), the horse knew a total amateur was at the helm. Joe (the horse) turned around, looked me in the eye, and then marched off the side of the road!

del_Shipshewana_logoI’ll be going back to Amishland again at the end of June. This time I’ll be teaching for the Shipshewana Quilt Festival. I hope you can come. I’ll be giving two lectures, a workshop, several Schoolhouse lessons, in-store demonstrations, and I’ll be part of a panel discussion too.  Come! You will feel right at home. See the quilt show, visit the vendor mall, check out the local quilt shops, and events. Don’t forget to come by and say “Hi.”

For more information and registration information, click here.

Don’t forget to bring your thimble,

Ami Simms



June 5, 2014 at 4:23 pm 14 comments

Piecing Sticky Template Plastic

Carol's Bear Family

Baby Bear from Carol’s Zoo

Piecing Sticky Template Plastic couldn’t be easier. And that’s great because once you use Sticky Template Plastic for small shapes, you’re going to want to use it on large shapes too.

I just finished making Carol Cruise’s Baby Bear (www.CarolsZoo.com) and thought I’d show you how to piece Sticky Template Plastic for the larger Mama Bear pattern, with Carol’s permission, of course.

Step 1:  Iron the paper pattern on low heat. You will still be able to see and feel the fold lines because Carol uses sturdy paper for her patterns but it’s important to iron the creases out and make the paper FLAT.

02Step 2:  See how many sheets of Sticky Template Plastic you need. It looks like I can do this pattern with 3 sheets and a small piece leftover Sticky Template Plastic from another project. I want to make sure I cover every bit of the design.

Click the images to see them larger.

03Step 3:  For small shapes the release paper is removed and the Sticky Template Plastic is placed sticky side up on a flat surface. For larger shapes and multiple pieces of Sticky Template Plastic, the pattern is on the flat surface, right side up.

Peel the release paper off the first sheet of Sticky Template Plastic and place it on the pattern. Make sure you know exactly where it needs to go before you lower it onto the paper pattern. ( Line it up by looking at the top and the left side of the pattern.)

04Step 4:  Remove the release paper from the next sheet of Sticky Template Plastic. Hold it at an angle against the edge of the piece already in place with just the edge touching, not the sticky surface. Make sure the edges align at the sides as well. Then, lower the rest of the second sheet onto the pattern.

05Step 5:  Peel and stick the next sheet of Sticky Template Plastic, holding it an an angle against the edge of the sheets already stuck to the pattern.  Lower it to the pattern.


06Step 6:  Here’s my scrap piece of Sticky Template Plastic. It was a “corner” so I knew it was a perfect right angle with two straight sides. If it wasn’t a corner I would have made sure that the left side, the side touching the previously placed sheet of Sticky Template Plastic, was perfectly straight. Notice that I dropped it down a little. Because there was space between the back and the front pattern pieces, no sense wasting the Sticky Template Plastic. I also had slid a corner of the release paper underneath as I placed the sheet in Step 5, again so as to have some leftovers for other projects. You can see the release paper way over on the right.

07Step 7:  To keep the entire template (composed of several pieces of Sticky Template Plastic) rigid, cut scraps of Stitch Template Plastic about 1/2″ wide and stick them over the “seam.” They don’t need to cover the entire seam. (The other lines you see in the image are fold lines. Those are secure under the Sticky Template Plastic.)  The joins won’t interfere with the performance of the template in any way, in fact they may help when templates are flipped over to cut the reverse shape (for the other side of the bear) because they will keep the slippery side of the plastic from sliding on the fabric. If you want the template to fold (so you can store it more easily) skip this step. Just know that over time the original paper pattern will tear at the fold. And, the more pieces of Sticky Template Plastic you use, the more difficult it will be to fold.

08Step 8:  Now all I have to do is cut out the pattern pieces!


 Sticky Template Plastic isn’t available in stores yet, but you can order it directly from me http://www.amisimms.com/stickyplastic.html


Thanks for stopping by,
Ami Simms


April 17, 2014 at 9:23 am 6 comments

I’m Going to Be A GRANDMOTHER!

 ultrI’ve been sworn to secrecy until today, but now I get to spill the beans: I’m going to be a grandmother!

Our daughter Jennie and her husband Craig are expecting their first child in October. That would be our first grandchild. Just call me Grandma.

Let me first say that Babies R Us has seriously missed the boat with their lack of gender-unknown clothing selections. Within hours of receiving the news (that of which I could not speak until today) I drove right over to Babies R Us. Time to change the store’s name to Frustrated B Me. There were racks and racks of “girl baby” clothes and racks and racks of “boy baby” clothes, but there wasn’t even a section for “we won’t know until it’s born” clothes. I literally bought everything there was in the whole store for “either or” gender, size 3 months and under and I carried it out in one bag. Apparently ducks are big if you’re waiting to be surprised.

ultrasound Look right and you’ll see one of the first photographs of my grandchild. (Excuse me, of Jennie and Craig’s baby.) I was as mystified by the ultrasound as I was by Babies R Us. I pretended to see the little head, and the little limbs. It wasn’t until Jennie told me where to zoom in (3 weeks later) that I could actually see these things.

I am following along on my What To Expect iPhone app and we are now in Week 12, Day 6. Never having been pregnant, I find this all totally amazing. The baby has grown from poppy seed to blueberry, to raspberry, to green olive, to prune, to large plum, and now to peach! I’m guessing that grapefruit it next.

Baby HatsAfter the disappointing visit to Babies R Us, I hit JoAnn’s to check out the patterns. Not a single long sleeved, footed sleeper with the zipper that runs from neck to crotch and then down one leg. I checked all the pattern books. I’m just going to have to reverse engineer one! I did meet a woman at the airport who showed me how to knit baby hats on a loom. I think I’ve made 27 so far. Poor little kid has nothing to wear but hats!

I think I’m OK in the quilt department, but I’m going to need your help with other things I can sew, along with your coolest ideas for baby shower stuff. I probably won’t have a chance to moderate/read your comments until Wednesday, but please share all your good baby advice where it says COMMENT.

Ami Simms

April 6, 2014 at 10:00 pm 355 comments

Scooter’s Close Call & The Turkey That Got Away

01Hi! Scooter here. I know you’ve missed me and I have important news.

So last week Mom and Dad went to see Maizie in Ann Arbor. She is my niece dog. (I am Uncle Scooter.) I had to stay home. Anyway, I’m not sure when or how I did this, but I flipped or scrunched, or did something and my dog tags got twisted and caught in my kennel, near the bottom, just by the door.

The picture above is a reenactment. Since I couldn’t see what happened I asked Mom. Mom said she really didn’t notice. She just couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t coming out when she opened the kennel door. I love my “house” but I love Mom and Dad more so when they come home I always come out, shake, and then greet them, showing them my tail and attached rump, which are my best features.

Well, I didn’t come out. Since I was facing the other door, Mom opened the other door. (My house has two doors.) When I still didn’t come out, Mom saw what happened and clicked off my collar. We don’t have a reenactment of that, but she was super fast. Then I came out and shook, and you know, showed them my behind.

Mom was really freaked out. She loved me up more than usual, which is a lot. And she kept staring at me all day and followed me around. This is hard to do because usually I follow her around. So we went in circles. She wanted to see if I was traumatized. My illustrious predecessor, Madison, went a little nutso after a thunder storm zapped the power and set the alarm off in the house when he was home alone. He was never the same since. As Mom has mentioned before, I am different. Way different. Nothing bothers me. I went in my house several times, just like normal, so Mom was reassured I was OK. I am nutso in other ways. The same ways as before.


That night Mom invented a special thing for my collar. It’s called a Tag Restraint. Or a Sock Collar. Maybe we should call it the No Jingle Thing.

02She cut up a piece of microfleece that just happened to be on the floor and just happened to match my collar exactly. (The sewing room is a magical place.) My collar is 1.5″ wide, so she cut the strip 3″ wide and about 9″ long. The straight of grain ran the long way. I don’t know what that means except that the material stretched more sideways than longways so it would stretch to go over my dog tags.

03 Mom doesn’t know how to use a serger, so she picked stitch #12 on her Bernina which moves the fabric up and down as it sews. The seam is stretchy that way.  She sewed a 1/4″ seam and then turned the tube right side-out and pulled it over the part of my collar that has my dog tags.


04 So now my collar looks like a snake that ate a mouse. I have never met a snake before, but I would like to lick a mouse, and I know it’s not really a mouse in there, so I like it. Plus it makes me silent. Except for the gallumphing when I run. After all, I am a big beast with thundering paws!

05 Here I am posing with my tennis ball. The snow is melting now and the lawn is growing balls. Spring is wonderful.

Anyway, I am now Stealth Dog. Except when I bark.

That reminds me; I have a funny story to tell you. So I noticed a wild turkey in the back yard yesterday. They fly in from time to time. They have to fly in because the yard has a big fence around it and they are not incredibly intelligent and they can’t find the gates to open and walk in. Come to think of it, neither can I. Oh well, continuing….

So I spot the turkey. I bark and bark like a maniac, you know like when we have a home invasion. We have those all the time, mostly squirrels in the yard, the UPS delivery, visitors, the dog three houses down, loud birds, wind if there is nothing else going on. Mom tells me to shush. And this is where not paying attention to her really pays off. So she comes to the slidey door to see why I am berserking. She sees the turkey at the back fence about 100 feet away. Then she tells me it’s a bird and birds are our friends. Then I think she segued into a recipe for lemon meringue pie. I really wasn’t listening after BIRD. I think she said I could chase it but it would just fly away, I don’t know. Like I said I wasn’t really listening.

Then she opened the door! I was out like a shot. I chased the turkey back and forth across the yard. First we went fast, then I just loped after it. Then we sped up again. Then Mom was running after us. What a great game! I’m barking, Mom is yelling, and the bird is loving it because he’s not flying away! We have GREAT birds here. The turkey is just running as fast as his little legs can carry him, just like Saturday morning cartoons except for the background music.

By time Mom caught me by the Stealth Collar, the turkey had taken a header in some leaves. It just fell over. I was trying to revive it by sniffing it vigorously in all its places but Mom pulled me into the house. Then Dad went out to investigate. I barked from inside. Dad looked for it by the leaves but it was gone. Then we all saw it walking around by the back fence again! So Dad opened the gate and it walked out. I have looked everywhere for it, but I think Dad scared it away.

That was all very exciting. I think you should watch my video so you can rest a little. I will bark if you don’t. Come to think of it, I might bark if you do!


Scooter Simms

Pleases remember: if you get this blog in your email box, click the TITLE of the blog post (in blue) to get the video to play and to enlarge the images. Clicking the TITLE will take you directly to my blog, where all the good stuff happens.

March 30, 2014 at 1:53 pm 54 comments

Another “Opportunity”

Ami & Niki

Ami & Niki

My cousin Niki is one smart cookie. There isn’t a lot that gets her down. Just look at that smile. That’s us at the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative booth last year in Houston.

I was thinking a lot about Niki the last few weeks. I was in need of an attitude adjustment.

Way back, when the AAQI had just started out, Niki was one of our quilt registrars. She had never seen the “back end” of a web page before. That’s the part where all the editing goes on. She quickly learned, as we all have, that one bad keystroke can cause a major problem. Except that Niki doesn’t have “problems.”  She has “opportunities.”

Recently I decided to channel Niki. My recent “opportunities” have all been associated with writing and designing the pattern for my new Amazing Puzzle Ball pattern. I won’t bore you with the details as they were all computer and software related issues (er, “opportunities”), except to say that I have learned a bunch of new things. As soon as I started flipping out, I tried to re-frame the problem as an opportunity. It really helped!

Shana's Quilt

Here’s a quilting example. Do you remember the quilt I made for my niece? It was Lesson 4 in Five Things That Will Help You Become A Better Quilter. I had a major “opportunity” with this quilt as I put it in the frame. I didn’t call it that at the time, but looking back, my attitude was in the right place. Had it not been, I don’t know if I would have ever finished the quilt.

You see, I was putting the quilt in the frame, and I accidentally pulled a little too hard. Oops!

I sewed the rip shut, but I needed to hide my mending. I covered it with prairie points.


That created another opportunity: I had four prairie points sitting in a lump on one side of the quilt all by themselves. That looked pretty silly. So I added more prairie points all around the outside edge. That made it look like that was the plan all along. Not only did the prairie points give me a secondary design element, but it suggested a quilting motif too. Win-Win!

Life is full of problems, large and small. “Opportunities” abound.  It’s all in how you look at them.

Ami Simms


March 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm 24 comments

The 2014 Crumb Quilt Challenge

Diana wrote in after the January 1st newsletter asking about sewing room organization and we got into a nice discussion about fabric storage. Ultimately she was looking for a way to store and USE UP tiny scraps leftover from other projects. It got me thinking.


Sew through a little scrap of fabric to hold top and bottom threads out of the way. Particularly useful for machines that seemingly unthread themselves at will, make “bird nests” unless you hold the thread tails, or chew fabric edges of each new seam.

I suggested that, like some quilters, she sew two quilts at once. The first quilt would be the “real” quilt, and the second would be a scrap buster. It could be a miniature 9-patch cut from leftovers, for example. The idea would be after every seam in the “real” quilt, she’d sew a seam in the stash buster. The second quilt would anchor her threads as she sewed the first, much like a “parker” (photo at left) would. A little more time at the sewing machine, but ultimately another quilt is born.

scrapsThen, last week I met Megan Null at the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild. She was in my Twisted Sisters workshop and shared that she had found a way to use up the little scraps going from “chunks” to “wedges.”  (Too technical here. Sorry.) These are the narrow triangular scraps I’ve been telling students to just throw away.  I know. Feel free to smack me upside the head next time you see me.


Well, Megan got me thinking . (All this thinking!) Back in the 80’s I had made a quilt with my hand-dyed fabric and didn’t want to pitch the scraps. Instead, I crazy patched them together for a border. I also added tubes (empty, stuffed, and elasticized) to add some dimensional interest. Because of the border, I called the quilt “Confetti” (left).

Click the thumbnail for a close up of the border.Confetti Border Detail

I used the technique again in Picture Play Quilts, calling it O.T.F. Patchwork (Off The Floor Patchwork). See pages 12-13. This time I didn’t want to throw away scraps leftover from fussy cutting conversational fabrics. Click the pictures below.

Outer Border Inner Border

So, let’s put this all together. Back to Megan! She was kind enough to let me shoot a video of her showing her “Crumb Quilt” strategy. When you watch the video below, note how small her patches are. She also has a plastic box with a lid right by her sewing machine to put the little scraps in until she’s ready for them; it’s to her right and not on camera for very long. Also, be amazed that she wastes nothing! (Check out the pillow!)

And here’s the challenge: Make a Crumb Quilt!

1. It has to be completed by the end of 2014. Send me a photograph so I can share your work online.

2. Crumb pieces can be any size. They can be the focus of the entire quilt, a design element, or part of the back.

3. You have to piece it at the same time as you piece another quilt. (I will never know.)

That’s it. Hit the comment link and let everyone know you accept the challenge. Let’s see where this takes us!

Happy “crumbing,”

Ami Simms

February 1, 2014 at 5:20 am 187 comments

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  • Thanks Scooter Simms for a great walk this morning. I'm loving the new harness. I guess you are too. Good Dog! 15 hours ago


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