Old Dog #1

OldDog#1FullHere’s the first quilt created in the “Old Dogs, New Tricks” series.  Pretty basic stuff. I’m just getting my feet wet. I added a blue border and bound it with a 1/4″ binding. It measures about 14″ square.

New Tricks
1. Believe it or not, I don’t ever recall making a bias binding using striped fabric with the stripes at an angle. I love striped binding, but I usually run the stripes perpendicular to the edge of the quilt. So, I figured if I couldn’t remember doing a bias stripe binding with the stripes at a 45 degree angle, it was about time I did it again. Or for the first time. Amazing how much more waste there is cutting bias strips. I do like the way the hot pink binding pulses around the quilt.

2. I wanted to see if I could stop quilting exactly 1/4″ from the edge of the quilt, so that the binding would touch the last stitch but not go beyond it. Not sure why that was a goal, but it’s not a very good one. I would have done better to sew off the quilt like I usually do. (I was “off” in as many places as I was “on.”) Discovering what doesn’t work is also learning.

3. I rarely quilt along a color change in a piece of fabric, but I knew I had to try with the blue on green stripe in the background. In the picture below you can see where my quilting strategy left a bit to be desired, but you can see I did OK quilting right next to the line in the border fabric. (Click the picture to enlarge it.)Olddog#1-UpperRight

Old Tricks
I’ll be including these also. What’s old to me might be new to you.

1. I pay special attention when I join binding strips (both to grow the binding long enough to fit all the way around the quilt, and where I join the two tails). I try to camouflage the joins by putting the seam in the same stripe or color on both pieces of fabric.OldDog#1-bindingjoin
Below is the final join, sewing the two tails together. I leave about 6 or 8 inches un-sewn and fold one tail up and the other down to form the miter. The ruler helps me make sure that the folds are really at 45 degree angles.

I fold and re-fold, moving the folds in the tails along until I get to a place in the fabric in both pieces that is the same color.

Binding join-A
When I’m satisfied, I bring the folds almost touching and hit them with the iron. Binding Join-B
(The weight of the iron compresses the folds so they do touch.) Then, I mark a line in the valley of each crease (sewing line) and another line 1/4″ away toward the end of each tail (cutting line).

Binding Join-C
Then I pin the ends…
Binding Join-D
… and stitch on the marked line that was in the crease.
Bindnig Joine-E
I know there are other ways to do this, but I like the control of positioning the seam exactly where I want it with regards to the color in the striped fabric.

By the way, when I make cross-grain binding (not bias) I butt my joins. It’s much easier to camouflage the seams when they are not at an angle. I don’t mind the extra bulk and I’ll tell you why in a future post. (I’m running out of room!)

2. All my Old Dogs will be wearing buttons for eyes. Buttons with shanks look more like eyes, but after you sew them they tend to flop around quite a bit. So, I don’t sew them. I safety-pin them on.

The safety pin draws the shank into the quilt so it won’t wobble. And I get the added benefit of changing my mind and swapping out one set of buttons for another, or just repositioning the eyeballs.

July 30, 2015 at 6:57 am 18 comments

Old Dogs, New Tricks

I’m developing a new workshop called Beautiful Basic Binding for Beginners. I know; that’s a lot of B’s. Apparently I’m into alliteration. In preparation for my “guinea pig” class this spring I needed samples. I had originally thought of putting some really nice bindings on pre-quilted muslin squares (ick) but I just couldn’t bear to waste my time on it. So then, naturally, I went into “overkill” mode and thought I’d make five or six new quilts just for the class.

After a shor while my sanity returned and I decided to pilfer blocks from a UFO and turn them into some smaller quilts, which I thought I might actually be able to finish in time for the class. Great plan! I got most of the mini quilts done, showed the rest “in progress,” and pulled about 75 pounds of quilts from around the house for a killer Show & Tell. (I was teaching in my @Home Classroom, after all.)

Well, the class came and went, and I learned a lot! More on that some other time. Today I want to share the deconstruction of the UFO, what has become of the blocks, and why I am so excited about this project.

PuppusDoggusDeconstruction'Those of you who took my Puppus Doggus workshop at Houston Quilt Festival way back in 2002 might remember this quilt top. Still not quilted after 14 years, I figured it was fair game.

At first I thought it was a little sad. I had spent quite a bit of time making the blocks, and sashing them together.  I had also gone a little around the bend painting all the white dots in the border fabric purple. (The white stuck out.)  Plus I had the backing fabric already pieced and the batting cut to just the right size. Should I have let sleeping dogs lie? Not with a seam ripper so close at hand. Besides it fit no known bed and was too large to hang on a wall. And, remember, I was on a mission.

I may have backed into this particular project for all the wrong reasons, but it is turning out to be quite exciting. At first, my plan was to take one block, border it, and bind it. Done; next? But, as I sewed I kept thinking what a great opportunity this was turning out to be.

First, I was working in a “series,” like all great artists are supposed to to. Variation on a theme and all that. I’m sure it’s in the Great Artist Bylaws somewhere. I have never worked in a series. (Sitting up a little taller in my chair as I write this now.)

Second, it was so much fun thinking of all the different ways I could bind each little quilt that I started thinking of all the different ways I could border the quilts too! YES! This is getting REALLY fun now!

Third, as long as I was going to bind them and border them I realized that I should probably quilt them too. How many different ways could I come up with to quilt them?

Finally,  I could share all the quilts one at a time here on the blog so that I could challenge YOU to play along with me. Aren’t you glad you’re reading this?

So lets recap, what do we get to learn, practice, experiment with, and have fun doing? Bordering, Quilting, AND Binding! Why am I so jazzed? We’re talking small quilts here. Small is “do-able.” Small is manageable. Small is why not take a risk and try something you’ve never tried before. What’s the worst that could happen?

Comment below if you want to join this Old Dog and learn some New Tricks with me. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you to anything and, as with all my challenges, you can embrace them or ignore them—no guilt either way.

The Old Dogs/New Tricks Challenge will begin officially with the next blog. If you have any suggestions, let me have them in the comments below. Just remember I get to embrace or ignore them too. Fair is fair.

June 23, 2015 at 5:00 am 214 comments

In Search of the Perfect Bib


My granddaughter spits up a lot and might be starting to teethe. She goes through a lot of bibs. Most bibs are too small, too thin, and the plastic backing rips and tears after multiple trips through the washing machine and dryer. Fastening a bib at the nape of the neck requires a third hand. Velcro is nice, but the hook part sticks to everything in the wash if the dirty bib isn’t closed before it hits the washer. Cheap/fake hook and loop closures lose their “stick” pretty quick. A good bib is large, absorbent, waterproof, adjustable, easy to put on and take off, and easy to wash. Good luck finding one that meets all the criteria. It’s a good thing we can sew!

The “Perfect Bib” Tutorial

Bib1. Find a bib with a good shape. I found this one at Baby’s R Us. Great shape, good size, side closure, crappy hook & loop, too thin, and the plastic on the back cracked and tore.

Bib Tutorial -32. Trace or photocopy the bib to get the pattern. I used the copy button on my printer and then copied the bib in two sections. Then I taped them together. Two sheets of Sticky Template Plastic covered the pattern with some to spare.

Bib Tutorial-3Just peel off the release paper, place the sticky side down on the photocopy, and press. When using two sheets, as in this project, butt the long sides of each sheet together so there are no gaps. Cut two rectangles 1/2″ wide from the leftovers and stick those over the join to keep the template from bending. If I were making just one bib, I would use the paper pattern, but making a sturdy plastic template means I can trace the shape instead of pinning the paper to use as a pattern. It’s faster and more accurate. (Replace the release paper on the sticky part of the template plastic not touching the paper pattern to save it for another time.)

Bib Tutorial-43. Cut out the template with a sturdy pair of paper scissors and purchase a chunk of PUL fabric. PUL stands for Polyurethane Laminate. It will make your bibs waterproof. See more.

      4. Place the plastic template on the wrong side of the PUL fabric and trace with a ball point pen. Easy peasy.

Bib Tutorial 55. Place the PUL fabric on top of bib front, right sides together. You can purchase terrycloth  by the yard for the bib front or up-cycle hand and bath towels. The higher quality the terrycloth, the more absorbent the bib. Pin all the way around. (Don’t worry about pin wholes in the PUL fabric. A hot dryer will close them.) Don’t forget to mark an opening through which you will turn the bib right-side out.

Bib Tutorial 66. Sew on the marked line, leaving an opening. I backstitch several times at the beginning and end so the stitches won’t come out when I turn the bib right-side out. Cut 1/4″ from the stitching. Bib Tutorial-clippingClip inside curves.

7. Turn the bib right-side out and press. Turn under the opening and clip. Baste opening closed.

Image-2 Image-3

Image-48. Topstitch 1/8″ from edge using matching thread.

BabyVille Snap Plierssnaps9. Attach snaps with Babyville Boutique Snap Pliers and snaps. I put two snaps on the neck strap so that it could be adjustable. Embellish with iron-on or sew-on appliques if desired.

March 27, 2015 at 4:45 pm 10 comments

Scooter Did A Bad Thing

Scooter (The Wonder Dog)It’s me, Scooter. I did a bad thing. I wanted to go out last night, you know, to be OUTSIDE. There are things outside that I like. One of them was furry and soft with a long tail. Mom couldn’t see it, but she didn’t know where to look either. I was barking at it through the “slide-y” door. Mom wanted to go to bed and that means I had to go out one last time. She was afraid I’d chase the thing out there so she hooked me up to the 50-foot leash. We do that sometimes.

The other end of the leash is hooked to a big eye screw in the part of the deck that isn’t attached to the rest of the deck. It is just a platform to step on because the deck is lower than the house. There’s a handrail on it. Dad is the only one who can move it because it is very heavy.

As soon as Mom hooked the leash to my collar, I did the bad thing. I took off running. She tried to hold the leash to slow me down, but I was running real fast. She let go because the leash was going through her hands so fast it was starting to spark.

Fifty feet is a long leash. Mom yelled the whole length of the leash at me to STOP!  But I wanted to visit with the furry soft thing that has a long tail. And it was running away from me and that made me want to run faster.

Then I came to the end of my leash.

Mom was standing on the deck part that isn’t attached to the rest of the deck and now it isn’t attached to the rest of the deck even more than usual. About 3 feet more than usual. Dad estimated that the deck that isn’t attached to the rest of the deck plus Mom has to weigh at least 200 pounds. I weigh about 70. (There is a math story problem in there somewhere.)

Deck SurfingMom was still standing after I dragged the deck. But the furry soft thing with the long tail started to run again. So I ran again too.  Mom wasn’t expecting to surf the deck a second time so she kind of fell backwards. Luckily, “Old Flamingo Legs” caught herself in time and was still vertical when I remembered, again, that I was still attached to the part of the deck that isn’t attached to the rest of the deck. Her left foot stepped back and then down. Way down. To the part of the deck that didn’t move. Now her left leg doesn’t move like it used to.

Most importantly I am fine. I can still bark as loud as ever. Neither of my eyes popped out of my head. My neck isn’t kinked. There are no black and blue marks between my fur hairs (Mom checked) and I seem to be as perfect as I was before.

I am hoping my friend is in the back yard again tonight!

November 19, 2014 at 11:13 am 82 comments

Baby Watch

Grandmotherhood awaits!

As a quilter, I think it’s appropriate that I’m “on pins and needles,” don’t you? At this moment, we are Due Date Minus THREE Days. We’re having a baby!

No idea if it’s a boy or a girl, we’re just praying for healthy with the full complement of fingers and toes. Sweet anticipation. Jennie and Craig, you’re going to be a wonderful parents. I can’t stop smiling.

And for the record, the quilt was finished before the baby arrived—with matching crib skirt, assorted crib sheets, puddle pads, and receiving blankets.

TLCB-overall-lowrezI did have help. Inspiration for the baby’s first quilt came from a tutorial by Jennifer Grigoryev. I used 6″ white squares, so the scale is a little larger.

I used gray thread for the quilting (to match the walls). And, I’m particularly happy with the little sliver of turImage02quoise in the binding. It’s sewn in, not a flange. (Images get bigger when you click them.)

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions on what to make for the baby. I’ll share what I learned soon. And if you don’t hear the shrieks of delight when the baby is born, I’ll blog and put it in my newsletter for sure.



Zoey Bea was born on October 12, 2014. She weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces. She is just a smidge over half a yard long–my little Fat Quarter.



October 10, 2014 at 5:04 pm 91 comments

DIY Pencil Pocket

Bohin Pencil PocketI love the ceramic Bohin marking pencils. They make a thin, perpetually sharp line that I can see. The line stays on just long enough to quilt or applique through. And, it totally comes out with a light wash or by erasing.

With Bohin refills (6 of each color per pack) I have my choice of white, gray, pink, green, and yellow, depending on the fabric I’m marking.

I’m including a BIC mechanical pencil with each color refill I sell on my web page until I run out.

Here’s how to make Pencil Pocket to keep them all organized. (Click images.)

Step #1: Remove the Pencil Lead
Push the eraser on top of the pencil several times to advance the lead that comes inside the pencil. When you’ve got enough poking out the tip to grab onto, about 1/2″,  push the eraser down and hold it down. Yank out the lead. Gently twist off the eraser and dump the other two leads out. Then insert the Bohin ceramic leads from the container. The pencil will hold all 6. Replace the eraser.

Step #2: Cut Fabric
Find two coordinating fabrics, one for the outside of the Pencil Pocket, and one for the inside. (I picked a funky black and a wild pink.) Layer them right sides together. Cut both fabrics at the same time into two 5″ x 5″ squares. They’ll be ready to sew in the next step.

SewStep #3: Sew
With right sides together and raw edges even (you just cut them like that so they should be perfect) stitch 1/4″ from the raw edges with thread that matches either one fabric or the other. Leave a 3″ opening so that you can turn them right side out. (Backstitch at the beginning and ending to that the stitches won’t come out in the next step.

TrimStep #4: Trim & Turn
Trim all four corners to reduce bulk. You’ll be cutting off a teeny tiny triangle from each corner. Then, reach into the opening and turn the two stitched squares right sides out. Push out the corners with your finger. If there is still fabric stuck in there, take the BIC mechanical pencil, push the eraser down, hold it down, and push whatever lead might be sticking out at the other end up and into the barrel of the pencil. Use the pointy end of the pencil to gently coerce the fabric out. Be careful not to poke the pencil through the fabric. Make sure the sides are fully turned as well. If they’re not popping out, stick a straight pin in the seam and carefully lift them out.

PressStep #5: Press
Once the corners and sides are fully turned and straight, turn under the seam allowances at the opening. Press.



Fold labeledStep #6: Fold Twice
With the opening at the bottom (you’re right, it has not been sewn shut yet) fold the Pencil Pocket in half vertically. Then fold over the upper right corner diagonally until it meets the vertical fold as shown. Press.




ButtonStep #7: Sew Button
Open the long vertical fold, center the button, and sew it on. (It’s easier to sew the button on before the next step.)



DoneStitchedStep #8: Sew & Finish
Refold the long vertical fold. Line up the edges along the bottom and right side. With thread that matches the “outside” fabric of the Pencil Pocket, stitch close to the edges, backstitching to secure ends, as shown. The stitching will complete the pocket as it closes the opening.


Bohin refill BACKStep #9: Move In
Clip the BIC mechanical pencils to the back of the Pencil Pocket so they won’t fall out.

Now that you know how to make a Pencil Pocket, order your Bohin refills here. They come with the colorful mechanical pencils like you see here.

September 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm 4 comments

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 18 comments

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